Frances Mae makes public debut

Frances Mae, a rack-of-the-eye Core Sound workboat constructed by Harkers Island native Heber Guthrie, made its public debut at the Croaker Festival in Oriental, July 1. She served as the transport vessel for parade Grand Marshalls, two young commercial fishermen, Zack and Keith Bruno, teenage sons of Keith and Marianne Bruno.
Frances Mae will be a teaching tool for the NC Coastal Heritage Association, documenting and preserving a centuries old tradition of Down East Boatbuilding.
Heber Guthrie stood at the soon-to-be helm during the parade. Rusty Daniels of Daniel’s Glass in Alliance will soon be fitting the vessel with safety glass. Frances Mae will leave the glass shop for a short trip to PowerCraft Marine in Oriental where Jeff Schwarzer and Donald Smithwick will install an Evinrude E-TEC G2 engine. The vessel will be ready to begin its mission Fall 2017.
NCCHA thanks Brian Ellenberg, Pamlico County Farm Bureau agent, and his son-in-law for providing ground transportation for Frances Mae in the parade.

Overdue for posting Core Sound winter sunrise

Sunrise sunset … sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly flow the days,
Sunrise sunset …

Wild cut from local woodlands ...

Wild Cut from local forests, red cedar, white oak, eucalyptus, crafted for form & function … profits support NC Coastal Heritage Association, Acquire a treasure that your heirs will show on the PBS program, Antiques Roadshow to discover its appreciated value. Cherish our coastal heritage, contact to purchase accessories for your home or office … hall trees, side tables, eucalyptus and red cedar wall hangings, table centerpieces, coat hangers, white oak carving boards, plain boards or butcher block styles, serving trays, Core Banks shells mounted on cypress, ceramic tile house numbers mounted and framed on red cedar or cypress.

Carolina Flare Personified

Harkers Island is reportedly the birthplace of the Carolina Flare in boat hull construction. This shop in Marshallberg carries on the tradition in the nth degree. This much flare created by strip planking does not come easily.

Nearing completion, Frances Mae needs a little more help

Rack-of-the-eye boat building, described below in detail, is one of the two main industries that set Harkers Island apart from the rest of the world. But it has almost disappeared as a full time career for Down East natives.
The Florence Mae, built by Harkers Island native Heber Guthrie for for the NC Coastal Heritage Association, is almost finished. It will travel to schools and functions all across the state as a tangible example of rack-of-the-eye boatbuilding. She will travel the ICW annually from the Dismal Swamp to Southport with pre-scheduled stops at towns and villages along the way. Residents can board her and examine photo documentation of how she was constructed using methods passed down through centuries.

But, she needs help before she can be launched. About half of the funds have been raised to purchase an engine. Please donate to NCCHA, a 501C-3 nonprofit, by visiting the donate page of this website or mailing a donation to NCCHA
3325 Hwy. 306
South Grantsboro, NC
Donors will be recognized on a plaque mounted in the cabin.

Frances Mae construction has a red day marker to starboard

The virtual collapse of the commercial fishing industry around Core Sound and the advent of all-fiberglass boats is projected to virtually end the centuries old rack-of-the-eye Down East boat building tradition in 10 – 20 years. Steve Gaskill gave it 25 years, Eddie Willis said 10 years. A tradition that has defined the area around Harkers Island is disappearing.

The Frances Mae, a project of the NC Cultural Heritage Association, NCCHA, will be an educational tool to demonstrate the old boatbuilding methods and techniques employed Down East, and, perhaps more importantly, help the public understand this part of Down East heritage. NCCHA is a 501C-3 non-profit association.
Heber Guthrie has constructed the Frances Mae using rack-of-the-eye techniques he has acquired from generations of boat builders in his family. That translates into building a boat with no formal plans or blueprints. Give a rack-of-the-eye boatbuilder a picture of a boat like you want, or simply tell him/her how big you want it, what you plan to do with it, and he takes it from there. During construction, the builder might make sketches on a piece of scrap wood, or a brown paper grocery bag.
These boat builders use the same process Ansel Adams employed in creating dynamic photographs, visualization. Adams would look at a scene and visualize how he wanted it to look when printed in a darkroom, then expose the film, develop the negatives, and make the print to achieve what he had visualized out in the field.
As 78 year old Jamie Lewis from Harkers Island said, “A fellow tells me what he wants, and I just picture it in my head, get the wood, and start measuring, cutting, and putting it together.”
Pointing to a stack of lumber stacked in his yard, the late James Allen Rose once asked his son, Rodney, what he saw there. Rodney replied, “I see a stack of wood.” James Allen replied to him, “I already see that man’s boat we are going to build.”
Frances Mae is 21 feet long, made from juniper, outside hull is glassed over. This boat, properly cared for, can serve the NCCHA for centuries, that’s right, centuries. Over the coming years, thousands upon thousands of North Carolinians will have the opportunity to board this vessel, learn about old techniques of building boats by the rack-of-the-eye, and more importantly, learn how this industry and fishing shaped the culture of Down East. I am doing a power point of the entire construction process and a video is also in the works. It will be featured in parades, at festivals, special appearances at schools, or for civic clubs, with Heber present to explain the process and show photographs of particular stages of the construction.
On a trailer, it can travel across the state to highlight a part of coastal heritage that is destined for extinction, except maybe as a backyard craft, not as an industry. These appearances will be sponsored by the NCCHA Speakers Bureau. I will initially help facilitate the boat’s travels to educational events.
Currently, the NCCHA is working diligently to raise funds necessary to finish construction so Frances Mae will be ready for spring boat shows, festivals, and school appearances. It is estimated that up to $3,500 might be needed to have her ready to launch, and that is using a borrowed trailer to get her to launch site. Fundraising for a trailer will come later.
Membership dues for NCCHA are only $25 per year for a single, $35 for a couple or family. One hundred new memberships will go such a long way to help preserve a lasting legacy of North Carolina’s coastal communities. Click here to visit the NCCHA website,, join, donate. Consider a significant donation for naming rights for the wheel house.
The boat is named for the late Frances Mae Carawan from Goose Creek Island in Pamlico County. She became a music educator, working primarily in the Charlotte area. Her estate made gifts to groups that promoted education, especially education projects related to the coast.

NC Down East Boat Building Heritage Shared with Fifth Graders

Fifth Graders from Atlantic Elementary School make field trip to Little Skiff Boat Boatworks in Marshallburg.
One part of the class assembled parts of a Core Sound workboat as others shaped and formed a traditional oar used on workboats. Heber Guthrie, veteran boatbuilder from Gloucester, had pre-cut the boat parts for the students to assemble. He provided hands on instruction for the two hour session. Guthrie, a member of the NC Coastal Heritage Association, will be conducting a series of summer camps for both and young and old to learn boat building skills presented within a framework of lessons on coastal heritage.

Editorially speaking, having been involved in photojournalism since 1967, a half century of experience, like Farmer’s Insurance, I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.
Over the last 50 years, I have either photographed events like today or actually been the person facilitating such an event. I have never seen better behaved 5th graders in my entire career, no noise, no rambling around, and this workshop provided more opportunity for rambling than one could imagine. Students remained together in a group and stayed focused on the instruction offered about the task at hand. Questions were sensible, no wisecracks.
I have concluded this is in part to be the consequence of Heber’s charisma, knowledge about the subject matter, and wisdom in his use of effective ways to communicate with the students, not just on the objective parts of the field trip, but also on the subjective references to heritage and Down East history. Credit has to also be given to the teacher and parents of these children.


Elvis, no, Sandburg, yes.

Sightings of Elvis are rare in Pamlico County, but the feelings of Carl Sandburg abound.

The fog comes
on little seagull feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.