After last year’s day-long deluge, the organizers of the Day at the Docks on the waterfront in Hatteras village welcomed a warm and breezy late summer day with only occasional clouds interrupting the sunshine.
A crowd estimated at between 1,500 and 2,000 people enjoyed the day, which is a celebration of Hatteras Island watermen and the culture and traditions of the island’s fishing community.
The day started with the Fishy 5K and Dock Dash Fun Run around Hatteras village. The “stingray”-shaped 5K course departed and ended at Hatteras United Methodist Church. Runners had a nice easterly breeze to help cool them as they headed towards the finish line. The Dock Dash 1-mile Fun Run course was a bit shorter — a half-mile or so.
Jordan Price won the adult men’s division with Keith Gray in second and Joe Caroppoli in third. The winning woman was Evan Scall, followed by Angela Gray and Scout Dixon. In the youth division, winners were Katie Barnett in first, followed by Chloe Flythe and Kaitlyn Setree for the girls and Noah Ranno, followed by Dylan Gray and Ayden Throne for the boys.
The 98 runners came from North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Participants ranged in age from 2-76 years old. Cape Hatteras Secondary School’s Cross Country Team participated.
Much of the day, as you might expect, was about seafood — and, specifically, about cooking seafood.
One of the most popular events each year at Day at the Docks is the Seafood Throwdown, which pits two island chefs against each other to create a winning menu with a “mystery” seafood ingredient that isn’t revealed until just before the start of the competition.
This year’s Seafood Throwdown was a battle between the islands, an inter-island showdown. Hatteras Island’s Taylor Rawl of the Mad Crabber restaurant in Avon took on Eduardo Chavez of Eduardo’s Taco Stand in Ocracoke.
The mystery seafood was spiny dogfish, also known as Cape Shark.
The judges reportedly had a really difficult time choosing the winner, but came down on the side of Ocracoke’s Chavez.
His menu consisted of pan-sauteed dogfish seasoned with salt, served with salsa, avocado, poblano pepper, steamed vegetables, and a freshly made corn tortilla and garnished with kale tossed in a citrus vinaigrette. Rawl presented pan-sauteed dogfish, crusted in coconut chili panko, over orzo and eggplant with a sweet potato, beet and curry soup made with fishstock.
Another favorite attraction each year is the Chowder Cook-off, sponsored by the Hatteras Island Cancer Foundation. Seven restaurants provided chowder this year with the winners chosen by the vote of those who made a donation to cancer patients and sampled each one.
Lighthouse Sports Bar of Buxton was voted best chowder, followed by The Wreck and Dinky’s.
Three seafood cooking demos followed the Seafood Throwdown. Local cooks featured favorite recipes using shellfish and finfish from our waters.
Steve and Beth Bailey made a true Hatteras style clam chowder and displayed tricks for
opening clams as they shared tidbits of clam information. Teacher Evan Ferguson and two students from her Food 2 class at Cape Hatteras Secondary School, Delaney
Johnson and Caitlyn Setree, cooked dolphin (mahi mahi) in a spicy rub that they served with a colorful mango salsa and coconut rice. And Sharon Peele Kennedy presented her Shrimp 101, the basic technique of well-cooked shrimp.
Around the site this year were several food tents selling seafood to benefit their churches and North Carolina Watermen United. Most had sold out at day’s end.
The Concrete Marlin Competition was a big draw again this year as young anglers “fought” and “gaffed” a heavy block that replicated the weight of a blue marlin.
“Tall Bill” Van Druten brought his boat, Net Results, to the docks with a fresh catch from his nets and demonstrated the skill involved in picking fish from the net. It offered him the opportunity to educate the audience on the species as well as fishing techniques.
There was a large decoy display set up where Sam Green explained their creation and their use and talked about hunting traditions on the island.
Of course, the colorful fish print T-shirts drying on lines attracted attention and enticed little children to drag their parents over so they could paint a fish for their own shirts.
The Coast Guard drew larger than usual numbers to their 47-foot motor lifeboat, where they conducted tours, regaled visitors with tales of daring rescues, and allowed children to “pilot” the boat. Nearby was their wet-trainer used for exercise in boat repair at sea. Children concentrated on hammering and plugging as leaks suddenly popped up and soaked them.
A favorite at Day at the Docks is always the children’s fishing contest, and this year was no exception.
This year, 104 children participated and won prizes donated by local businesses. The youngsters caught pinfish, hogfish, oyster toads, flounder, sand perch, filefish and croakers. Grand-prize winners were Emaleigh Hamblin for the heaviest pinfish and Addie Vayette for the longest fish, and many other youngsters took home prizes.
Children also participated in the hard crab races, where they are assigned a crab in a lane on an inclined board and with a light switch and the youngsters gently prod it to the finish line.
In the dunking booth, a number of Hatteras folks volunteered to get plunged in cold water in the name of raising funds for the Hatteras Medical Center. Dennis Robinson, Beth Midgett, Ted Midgett, Allen Burrus, Adam Murray, Mary Ellon Ballance, and Bill Ballance all offered themselves up.
Young fisherman Todd Ballance set up a pound net and was there to explain its use. He also displayed the art of net hanging.
The Education Tent was well attended and people were offered opportunities to discover information about all aspects of the watermen’s world – from the preservation of the waters and species to effects of storms on their livelihood, to recipe ideas to history and the value of the estuary to books filled with sea stories.
In the Community Tent, people could learn about the organizations that support our island community.
The grand finale is always the Blessing of the Fleet, and this year, the event was even more special than usual. The Rev. Charles Moseley returned to officiate at the solemn rite and brought to it a sense of the sacred.
Moseley was the pastor of Hatteras United Methodist Church in Hatteras village during Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and officiated at the first Blessing of the Fleet.
Jon Kelmer announced each boat and captain as they paraded through the breakwater. There was only one song this year, “Jesus Savior, Pilot Me,” and it was movingly sung by Clifford and Billie Swain, Cora Ballance, and the Smith Island women.
A memorial wreath of golden sunflowers and mums, created by Ginny McBride, glowed as the sun came out just as it was delivered to the Albatross by Dan and April Oden and their daughters, Clara and Alice.
After the formal blessing in the harbor, the Albatross slowly made its way out into the sound to the accompaniment of “Amazing Grace” by Andy Borgoa, U.S. Coast Guard bagpiper who has been transferred from Hatteras but who returned specifically for the occasion.
The wreath was lowered in the waters of the Pamlico Sound as the sun set by Rev. Moseley and mate, Wheeler Ballance, to the accompaniment of the bagpipe.
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