Ocracoke

Well, my dears,

Now that I have taken the time to set up the blog (www.sophiasailing.com), which took a surprisingly long time, I have a moment to write about where we have been for the last few days and what it’s like here.  I know some of you, at least are curious.  “She just quit her job and went down to North Carolina with her boyfriend to go sailing!”  Yes I did.  And very happy to have done so, in spite of the hundred bug bites and lack of laundry facilities and numerous bruises and scrapes all over my body.

Traveling aboard a sailboat is like a dance. The first, essential steps that come only with pain, allow you to move about without banging into lines, cleats, hardware, booms, and other dangerous metal objects.  With time, these steps become routine, but for now, well, just look at my legs.  Or don’t, as they’re not pretty.

North Carolina is lovely.  The dialect is lovely and lilting and slow.  But on Okracoke Island, its unique.  You’ve heard of the place where the locals have been so isolated that the locals speak an English closer to Shakespeare’s than anywhere in England?  We are there.  It’s not quite right to say that the dialect is closer to the original late 16th century speech, since all dialects change over time and this one has, too.  Still, it is true that many of the words used here, such as “mommuck,” which means to harrass or bother, and “quamish,” queasy, are found in the bard’s plays. Commonly referred to as the “high-tide” dialect, locals pronounce “high” as “hoi” and “tide” and “toi.”

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The first English explorers of the New World arrived on Okracoke in the late 15th century. They couldn’t have navigated the treacherously shallow waters of what is now called the Pamlico sound without guidance from the natives, who, it seems, never settled on the island they called Wokokon and used as a hunting and fishing ground. While searching for Roanoke Island in 1585, Sir Walter Raleigh’s navigators ran aground on a sand bar and stopped to make repairs. The first mention of the island in Sir Richard Greenville’s report to Sir Walter indicated that white settlers had shipwrecked there and were saved by locals:

And after ten dayes remaining in an out Island vnhabited, called Wocokon, they with the help of some of the dwellers of Sequotan, fastened two boates of the countrey together & made mastes vnto them, and sailes of their shirtes, and hauing taken into them such victuals as the countrey yeelded, they departed after they had remained in this out Island 3 weekes: but shortly after it see∣med they were cast away, for the boates were found vpon the coast, cast a land in another Island ad∣ioyning: other then these, there was neuer any people apparelled, or white of colour, either seene,…

From The principal nauigations, voyages, traffiques and discoueries of the English nation. made by sea or ouer-land, to the remote and farthest distant quarters of the earth, at any time within the compasse of these 1600. yeres:  By Richard Hakluyt preacher, and sometime student of Christ-Church in Oxford.

Wococcon was once an island that served as hunting, fishing, and herbal grounds for the Native Americans.  White people never stepped on its sandy shores until the late 16th century.  White people have taken it over now.   White people flood the island.   Indeed, one of the strangest things about being on Okracoke is the absence of people of color.  I’ve seen one Black family vacationing and one Black man taking care of the trash, one Latin man serving in a restaurant and another working as a dockhand.  Everyone else is white-white and most everyone here speaks with a Southern drawl.  It’s not unpleasant but eerie.  What is unpleasant are the confederate flags that seem to be so common, still, around here.  They’re ugly.

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