So having fought my way through the condos and trailer parks I arrived at the easternmost end of Emerald Island.

Fort Macon Confederate Civil War Fort Emerald Isle North Carolina

The reason for being right up here and out on a limb like this was that this area does in fact have something going for it. And this is a superb Civil War-type fort, called Fort Macon. You can find the fort out here at Bogue Banks.

Now I talk about Fort Macon at great length elsewhere if you are interested (and I sincerely hope you are) but one thing you can't get away from, whether you are or you aren't, is the view from up here on the ramparts.

And don't forget that this is only a cheap end-of-series digital camera, not an expensive DSLR.

You can quickly understand why there would be a fort on this end of the island, and even more so if you look at the photograph here, which was taken from up on the ramparts of the fort.

With a view like this over the town and harbour of Beaufort and Morehead City, a couple of long-range heavy artillery like the one on centre-stage here can put the ports out of action in half an hour.

view from Fort Macon Confederate Civil War Fort Emerald Isle North Carolina across Beaufort Inlet

The photograph here on the left also shows you another strategic reason for the fort's presence.

To the right of this photograph is one of the islands in the entrance to the harbour, with the mainland on the left and with the Straits inbetween. To the right of the island, out of shot, is another inlet that runs between it and Emerald Isle.

A couple of cannon holed up here in the fort can block the entrance to the bay and wreak havoc among the sailing ships that would have to slow down to manoeuvre their way through the inlets into the harbour.

This was the destination of the USS Monitor in 1862 when it sank of the coast of Cape Hatteras in 1862, and the base of HMS Bedfordshire in World War II, both of which I mention briefly elsewhere.

view from Fort Macon Confederate Civil War Fort Emerald Isle North Carolina across Beaufort Inlet

But if Civil War forts and the like aren't your cup of tea, then it was still worth the drive out here to look at the landscape and the sea, not to mention the beach, which wasn't at all bad.

This area is apparently well known for its cormorants, who thrive here, so they say. But this is more by good luck that judgement. They were almost hunted to extinction in the 19th Century, and the remainder were almost DDT'd into extinction in the mid 20th Century.

It was not until there was an almost-total ban on insecticides in 1972 that the population was able to recover.

As an aside, it should be mentioned that the wreckage of an 18th Century sailing ship has been discovered off the coast just here. It's curently being excavated, and there are some hopes that it may be the wreckage of Blackbeard's ship, the "Queen Anne's Revenge".

However, like most American ideas of this nature, this could merely be wishful thinking.


a pile of ships

But while we're on the subject of ships or boats well, one of us is have a look at all of these, all nicely stacked up on shelves presumably waiting for their owners to arrive once the holiday season gets under way.

So THAT'S what everyone does who comes here in the summer. There's nothing to do on land, so they all presumably go off and do nothing on the water.

But what I don't understand though is why these boat stores (and there were quite a few around here, not just this one) have roofs on them. I mean, the boats are going to get wet enough in the water, so why does the rain matter?

You live and learn.


So that was Emerald Isle out of the way. You can't go any farther than this along the offshore islands for the moment, so time to return to the mainland at Morehead City. By that rather nice, big and impressive bridge that I mentioned earlier.

I bet you were wondering why I didn't have a photo of it just there.

bridge between the mainland and Emerald Isle at Beaufort Morehead City North Carolina

I was absolutely certain I would be able to find somewhere to stop and take a photograph, and I was not to be wrong, even if it did mean negotiating a housing estate kind of neighbourhood where I stopped for a snap.

This was doubtless to the consternation of many of the inhabitants who obviously had me down as some kind of dangerous terrorist sizing up the bridge for a suicide bomb attack. Such is the paranoia currently sweeping the nation thanks to the politicians and the media hype.
And the USA's 2006 budget? More money for arms and less for the poor. And there you have in a nutshell exactly what this "terrorist threat" is all about. More money for the bushbaby's pals and less money for everyone else. The budget for 2007 is even worse.
The old, the sick, the poor and now education is paying for the bushbaby's megalomaniac war to outdo his daddy. And if you complain, then you are being un-American and a threat to the nation's security.
It's no surprise however to learn that the average American actually believes the hype. What you have to remember is that "all propaganda must be so popular and on such an intellectual level, that even the most stupid of those toward whom it is directed will understand it", as Adolf Hitler once said.
Never were Hitler's words more firmly applied than here in the USA, when you consider the style of the rhetoric of the 21st Century US politicians, aimed deliberately to appeal to the most intellectually-challenged.
Maybe someone should remind Americans of the words of the late Peter Ustinov - "Terrorism is the War of the poor. War is the Terrorism of the rich". Although at the start of the 21st Century, you can add the American economic power as the greatest threat that many emerging nations are facing.

But abandoning yet another goor rant for the moment, let's go back to the story of the bridge.

The current bridge was built to replace an older iron-girder bridge. When it was completed, the centre section of the older bridge was towed about 3 miles out to sea, to more-or-less opposite the Ramada Hotel just along the front at Atlantic Beach, and sunk there in 50 feet of water as part of North Carolina's artificial reef programme.

Out there, it is in excellent company of all kinds of derelict ships that the state has bought and sunk just there. I reckon it must be a diver's paradise.

Extricating myself from the housing estate, it was back down the main road following the railway line that actually ran down the centre of the carraigeway. And then over another bridge between Morehead City and Beaufort, crossing the Newport River.

newport river bridge north carolina usa september 2017

No photograph, though. My legendary "point and click" technique let me down and I ended up with a beautiful photograph of the car's licence plate.

But not to worry. By pure coincidence I found myself driving past here in September 2017 and so I pinched a photo from that trip and inserted it in here so you can see what you missed.

But back to 2005 again. There was nothing of note, in other words no big ships in the river, which was a shame. This prompted a quick lap around the inlet at the rear of the town to see what was what.

Coastal Mariner Beaufort North Carolina

And this was this - the "Coastal Mariner". And this was living proof that the camera can lie, because to my uneducated maritime eye, this vessel looked a great deal worse in the flesh than it does in the image.

I hope it sails better than it looks. I wouldn't want to be going far on board this. It's a coverted oil supply boat and is one of two vessels owned by Beaufort Fisheries Inc. and is used for fishing for menhaden.

This of course has surrounded the boat and its owners in controversy, as menhaden is one of the principal food sources for mackerel, for which this part of the coast is famous.

The local Republican state Representative Bonner Stiller is on record as saying "If there's no food source, then (the mackerel are) not going to be there", but he was not able to convince the North Carolina House Committee on the Environment.

The company's other vessel, the "Gregory Poole", holds the record for menhaden catch in a single season - some 92,977,000 I wonder who had nothing better to do than to count them all? so you can imagine the scale of the conflict.

But if the apparent condition of the boat is anything to go by, I reckon that the Mackerel fishermen can sleep more easily in their beds in the future as the "Coastal Mariner" doesn't look to me like it's going to be with us much longer.

Now, I wrote the above back in January 2006. I subsequently learned, quite by chance, that Beaufort Fisheries Inc. appeared to have ceased operations, and that the "Coastal Mariner" had been sold to a diving company, the "Long Bay Artificial Reef Association".

They intend to sink her offshore on the 18th June 2006 as an artificial wreck for diving purposes, in honour of someone known as Greg MicKey, who lost his life on a dive offshore on 18th June 2005.

Well, there you are. It seems I'm not alone in my opinions as to the condition of this ship. You've no idea how strange it was to find that article, I can tell you.


Now why I had come out here was because from Harker's Island there was a ferry out to Cape Lookout. This was ordinarily my intention - after all, ever heard of me missing out on a ferry crossing - so I had a quick thrash (and, believe me, it was quick too!) down to the terminal.

But disappointment. When I arrived, the place was all locked up, there was no-one about, and not even any evidence of an itinerary.

That was a shame. This had disrupted all my plans, as I was hoing to spend the late afternoon on Cape Lookout, and the night here around Beaufort and Morehead City. But no sense in loitering around. What to do now?

A quick referral of the map showed me that there was in fact another ferry at Cherry Branch twenty miles or so to the north of here over the River Neuse. This looked much more like it, so I hit the road again and set out to race for the river.

My route took me through the small town of Harlowe, and recalled memories of a conversation between Margot Asquith, wife of the former British Prime Minister, and the actress Jean Harlow.

"You must be Margot Asquith" said Jean Harlow, laying heavy stress upon the usually-silent "t" in Margot
"Oh no" replied Mrs. Asquith. "The "t" is silent, as in Harlow".

what the hell is this? Near Havelock North Carolina

Needless to say, I can't seem go anywhere at all these days without managing to get myself sidetracked somehow.

This evening was no exception. What on earth was this in front of me?? Forget the turning down to Cherry Branch and the ferry - I had to go to look at this extremely weird object.

Thus I chased this beast some way down the road hoping to find a place to pass it so I could lie in wait to take a snap as it trundled past.

But that wasn't so easy given the state of the roads round here, so I had to content myself with waiting for a sharp left-hand bend so that I could take a snap of it on the move, without trying to end up in the ditch at the side of the road.


North Carolina Ferries

Having vaguely managed to photograph yon machine without causing too much damage to the car, I had to retrace my steps back westward to the turning down to Cherry Branch to take the ferry over to Minnesott Beach.

The "Floyd J Lupton" in fact, said he, wondering if by any chance it might be related to his former colleague Arthur Lupton, of Crewe HMIT fame.

This was yet another occasion where a race into a ferry terminal, a slide across the carpark, a leap across a slightly raised drawbridge, and a handbrake turn on the deck of an already-departing ferry boat was called for.

I'm getting rather good at these on this journey, even if it's getting to be somewhat nerve-wracking and leaving me with this feeling of impending doom like I'm destined surely sooner or later to miss the ramp and end up giving both my car and myself an unexpected washing.

North Carolina Ferries

But all of this aside, it has to be said that I like the ocean and the maritime life, that's for sure. Quite nice and peaceful, not to mention relaxing, here on the River Neuse as we sailed into the sunset.

In fact, when I was listening to my dictaphone at home and copying out my notes, I could hear all the seagulls in the background. That has to be one of the most pleasant memories of the whole voyage.

But I broke myself away from this idyll and went in search of more practical matters, like the ferry timetable. Apparently this ferry runs until after midnight on most days - a useful piece of information if ever there was any.

Not that there is going to be much likelihood of my passing this way again (says he, being completely unaware of how events would unfold twelve and a half years later) but you never know your luck, I suppose.

Another piece of useful information was that the ferry crossing was free. That was handy to know, too.

But what is all this about the American insistence - at least in other countries in whose economies they intervene - of the benefits of the marketplace and free competition, and the ending of government subsidies? White man speaks with forked tongue, methinks.

Next time some American complains to me about any government "aid" in something like Airbus or whatever, I shall remind him about the North Carolina Ferry Service.

North Carolina Ferries

So here we all are, not sitting in a rainbow as the Small Faces would have you believe, but about to be decanted onto the north shore of the Neuse River at Minnesott Beach. This looked like a nice, pleasant place to arrive at at this time in the evening, as you can see.

Next stop, apparently, is the Aurora Ferry, some 37 miles away. But not for me.

Not that I'm not relying on it maybe sailing until midnight, but it's getting dark, too dark to see as Bob Dylan would say (or to photograph, anyway) and in any case I'm starting to become tired and hungry after my exertions of today.

Rather than go knocking on heaven's door, I'd rather go knocking on a motel's door. But then again, the way I was feeling, it amounted pretty much to the same thing.

Nearest town of any size is New Bern, about 20 miles north-west of here. This looks a likely place to find a bed for the night and some food. Have to get my priorities right.

The Aurora Ferry will still be here tomorrow whereas I might not be if I don't get some groceries down my neck sometime fairly soon.

A quick glance at the clock on the car dashboard showed me that it was already 20:05. I'm not usually still out and about at this time of night. I must be enjoying myself.

So much so, in fact, that when I was transcribing my notes, I came across the interesting observation that I had made at this particular moment about giving myself a rousing chorus of Steve Miller's Big Old Jet Airliner when I get back to Dulles, to underline the fact that I didn't want to go home.

That brought something of a pang to my heart on the freezing cold February night that I was listening to my notes.

I did in fact make a note to remind myself that I'd been here for a week already and I hadn't had a relapse into ill-health as is usual on one of my long voyages around North America. Even on my mega-voyage to the desert of South-West USA in 2002 I'd managed to be taken ill again. It's usually down to the lack of real, healthy food, the stress of rushing around, and the uncertain lifestyle of when I'm on the road, but there has to be something more to it than this. So far, anyway, my health was holding out. Maybe the docs are right and I am cured. You never know.

Well, I do now, and the answer is "no I'm not", as events of spring 2006 were to prove.

And, of course, not forgetting. Where does a ship go to when it's sick? That's right, it goes to the docks.

But I digress. I have things to do, places to go, people to see. A drive north for maybe 10 miles, and then head west at Grantsboro. This is quite a long way round, all things considered, when you take into account the direct route from Beaufort to New Bern.

But since when was I ever likely to care about that when there was the possibility of a ferry crossing to make?

I put the car in gear and set off towards New Bern.

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