Visitors to the Outer Banks are often fascinated by the history of piracy that surrounds these barrier islands. Bluebeard and Blackbeard both hid out along the Outer Banks and legends still abound about buried treasure that has never been discovered. These days, although stereotypical peg-leg, patch-eyed pirates no longer sail the seas off the North Carolina coast, every now and then something happens on these remote islands that makes us wonder whether pirates of old left more than buried treasure on these barrier islands.
Consider, for example the saga of a 50-foot, double-masted sailboat that got caught in the surf off Hatteras Island two weeks ago and washed ashore. True to their tradition, Outer Bankers rushed to the rescue. The owner of the boat was safely assisted from the distressed vessel by the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Park Service, and Hatteras Island Rescue Squad. Volunteers with the Avon Volunteer Fire Department cooked him dinner and allowed him to take a hot shower. One local business owner even let the sailor use his Jeep, allowing him to sleep on the beach in front of his boat where he could keep an eye on it.
Because the boat was sitting upright and appeared to be undamaged, with only its keel buried in the sand, a marine towing service in Hatteras attempted to move the boat using a system of anchors and winches at high tide. When that didn’t work, they tried to turn the boat sideways and tow it out to sea. Still the boat didn’t budge. Next, a local dredging company was hired to attempt to free the boat by digging a trench around the buried keel.
Before the dredging operation began, the owner met Murray Clark (“Frisco Mo” to locals) who agreed to dig the boat out for less money so he canceled his arrangements with the dredging company. But with another Nor’easter on the way, those rescue attempts had to be put on hold. By the time the storm passed, the boat was lying on her side with several cracks in her hull.
It was clear that the boat was no longer sea worthy. That’s when the National Park Service intervened. Worried that the boat would begin to break apart, becoming a hazard for beach goers and a potential cleanup expense, the owner was given an ultimatum: move the boat or the Park Service would do it for him.
Another islander, Buxton resident Barry Crum, subsequently contacted Steve Steiner, a licensed house mover who happened to be working on Hatteras Island, and told him about the boat. Steiner assessed the situation and prepared a bid to move it but the owner couldn’t afford the fee, so instead Steiner agreed to move the boat in exchange for ownership. Last Sunday morning, the boat was signed over to Steiner and the extraction process began. It took all day and well into the evening, but the boat was eventually freed and the next day she traveled to her new home, Steve Crum’s stables in Buxton, where Steiner said he would start taking bids on the boat.
God bless the neighborly traditions of the Outer Banks pirates.