A Unique Treasure: Will Guthrie's Cast Net Christmas Trees

Harkers Island native, Will Guthrie, 82, retired as a full-time boat builder when he was 72. Injuries caused by falling from scaffolding while he was building a large vessel forced what for him was an early retirement. He did not go home to lick his wounds; he went home to continue a craft for which he had become a DownEast icon – in addition to boat building – making cast nets that performed flawlessly.
 
Four years ago, he told his wife Sybil, “I’ve got a crazy notion.”     “What?     “I think I can build a Christmas tree out of a cast net.”     “Well, if you do, I want the first one.”
 
Countless trees later, after making many for family members and selling them locally on Harkers Island and at nearby Smyrna, the secret is out. But time may be limited. He says that it is harder for him to move about now; he may not start the new year stockpiling an inventory of materials.
 
The trees can be ordered in 1, 2, 3, and 4 ft. sizes. Every part of the tree is handcrafted from raw materials, even the weights found at the base of the tree. Pictured above is a 3 ft model, decorated with scallop shells and white mini lights. The cost is $75.
 
Crabpot trees, also a DownEast original, are popular outdoors. Cast net trees, ideal for interiors, have value beyond their delicate beauty. A Will Guthrie hand-crafted cast net tree is a treasure. Learn more, contact Ben Casey to order a tree. Do not wait. With physical mobility becoming an issue, Will’s not sure about next season.

Yesteryear ... Yesterday ... Today ... A Patriotic Exhibition


Heber Guthrie, NCCHA's Miss Frances, big hits at Pamlico County Heritage Day, Saturday, September 30.

Visitors to the annual Heritage Day at the Pamlico County Heritage Center & Museum in Grantsboro, NC found 2 attractions of significant interest, Heber Guthrie, who built the Core Sound work boat, Miss Frances, and a static display of Miss Frances.
 
Heritage Day opened with Nancy Prescott Potter’s rendition of the national anthem, accompanied by the MCAS Cherry Point band. Following a concert of patriotic music by the band, visitors surveyed a cornucopia of exhibits featuring varied components of the area’s heritage.
 
Seeing a traditional rack-of-the-eye built workboat was a treat, but attendees found the opportunity to converse with the boat’s lone builder to be an added bonus. Heber Guthrie explained rack-of-the-eye, strip planking, and how different parts of the vessel were hand shaped. He also explained that workboats would have different styles and features defined by the differing functions for which an owner would use the boats.
 
Those viewing the exhibit enjoyed touching the hull to see if they could feel the strip planking lying beneath the very thin coating of epoxy resin and glass.
 
Next scheduled exhibit of the NC Coastal Heritage Association’s Miss Frances is November 18 at Pamlico Community College. Before that event, formal christening of the vessel will take place at a yet to be determined date.

NCCHA 's Presence at Wilmington Boat Show

The Frances Mae, a 21 ft, Core Sound work boat, will become a traveling educational exhibit this fall for the North Carolina Coastal Heritage Association. The Evinrude – BRP USA Corporation sponsored the first major public appearance of this particular project since its completion at the Wilmington Boat Show, September 8 & 9. Bud Belangia of Arapahoe, transportation coordinator for the Frances Mae, is pictured with Evinrude’s Tom Riemann, as they position her first in line by the stage of The Shell at Wilmington’s Port Marina early Thursday morning, September 7.
 

Built from a combination of juniper and cypress by Hackers Island native Heber Guthrie, it illustrates traditional rack-of-the-eye methods, no formal plans or blue prints. This centuries old technique is rapidly disappearing from coastal landscapes as more and more boats are constructed from fiberglass molds. A decline in the demand for commercial fishing vessels has also impacted on this once thriving industry. The NCCHA will exhibit the vessel in parades and area festivals in addition to making visits to schools and non-profit groups. A program combining photography of its construction and a presentation by Guthrie can be arranged for sponsoring organizations. At the Wilmington Boat Show, tentative plans were made for NCCHA to present a program for Pender County Schools.

 
Common throughout the fishing industry, fishermen try to use the best technology available for engines that can endure heavy loads and rough waters. The Frances Mae is powered by a G2 Evinrude E-TEC installed by PowerCraft Marine of Oriental, NC. An official launch of the vessel will take place this fall in local waters.
 

During the boat show, pirates of the Caribbean, Captain Jack Sparrow and friends, visited the Evinrude/NCCHA exhibit. Learn more about documenting and preserving coastal heritage; become a member and help; visit nccoastalheritage.org. Other projects of the organization include assistance with the production of the book Sound People, a speakers bureau, and a series of boatbuilding classes and workshops.

NCCHA Eclipse

In terms of current importance, the following NCCHA story eclipses the eclipse, but to see a 92% eclipse over Core Sound, scroll down.

Important NCCHA Update - Time Sensitive

Though boat construction has occupied an enormous amount of time and resources, that is drawing to a close. NCCHA can begin focusing more on an expanding cultural/heritage education agenda. In the NCCHA charter issued by the NC Secretary of State, the mission of the organization is cultural and heritage education.
 
There is one more critical need before the boat can fulfill its mission as a traveling educational exhibit, a trailer. It’s first day on stage as an exhibit preserving the fast disappearing wooden boatbuilding industry on our coast will be September 8 at the Wilmington Boat Show; its entry fee is provided by Evinrude. Evinrude donated several thousand dollars in the form of a much discounted version of their newest E-TEC engine. The boat is scheduled to leave for Wilmington on Sept 6. NCCHA was preparing to raise money for a trailer, but was not anticipating the immediate need for one.
 
The Immediate Trailer Need: The borrowed trailer has to be returned as soon as possible, sooner if we get any tropical weather next week, a possibility depending on development of current activity in Southern Florida A fund-raising campaign has already begun. Bud Belangia has been investigating re-building used ones with the conclusion that a new tandem trailer with trailer brakes is best. Jack Lee of Arapahoe has generously kicked off this campaign with a $500 donation. A ballpark figure for a suitable trailer is $4,500.00
 
As the boat project comes to fruition, another NCCHA educational program is in the final planning stage. NCCHA will work with Carteret County Schools for Heber to teach a boatbuilding technology/heritage class at DownEast Middle School. This course will span two semesters. Heber, while teaching boatbuilding, explains the history of wooden boatbuilding and its role in the formation of our coastal heritage.
 
Meanwhile, the writing part of Sound People is taking shape.
 
Another need: NCCHA, working through Heber, needs a new space for expanded boat building educational opportunities. The shop in Marshallberg which has been available to NCCHA is being re-purposed by its owners. We have been advised to investigate the old school bus garage in Alliance. Please help in this search. It is believed that Heber operating from a very basic building in Pamlico County would generate participation across a broad spectrum of citizens. Long range, a sizeable grant could help acquire permanent facilities.
 
NCCHA President Barbara Pearson pleads, “Please join the fund-raising effort; Carolyn and Ben have beaten the bushes so much, shrubbery shrivels up when they approach. Getting more people to join will help also! Share this email with potential supporters to help get a trailer to put the boat on the road. On the water will come later.”

Eclipsed on Core Sound

Snapshots at a beach, one of NC's best kept secrets

Quick trip to a beach off the beaten path. A couple of shots grabbed coming and going. A clean beach, more gulls than people. No bath house, no fast food joints, no tourist gift shops, no sharks, no rip current warnings. Just sand and gentle surf.

A cruise ship docks nearby. It traverses the Pamlico Sound but offers no lavish buffets, no live entertainment, no casinos. Also, no known existence of crippling illnesses evolving among passengers, no murder mysteries, no record of half of a honey-mooning couple disappearing overboard.