Tuesday, June 26, 2012
As we passed the sign at the side of the narrow road, I quickly read "Ferry Traffic Left Lane". Ahead , the road stretched out for a quarter of a mile, then curved left. As we rounded the wide curve, I saw the ferry dock. The road came to an abrupt end, as if it had been washed out in a storm.
We came to an easy stop and turned the engine off. It would be about 20 minutes until the next ferry arrived. There was a peacfull silence, interrupted only by the gusting wind and the occasional squawk of a sea gull.
A blast of a loud air horn announced the approaching ferry. She looked awkward , as if she did not belong in the water. She was a flat barge-like boat with a pilot-house in the middle that seemed slightly out of place.
It took ten minutes to complete docking and unloading. Slowly the line of waiting cars started to drive over the noisy metal bridge onto the ferry. The crew was busy directing them to park on either side of the pilot house for maximum use of the minimal space. Blocks were placed in front of the tires and a chain was hooked across the stern. The powerful diesel engines revved, and slowly we moved away from the dock.
We got out of our car and had started to explore the boat, when we noticed a commotion at the rear. About 30 sea gulls were following us. These birds are real scavengers, and whenever there is food around they know it. They were gracefully diving, soaring and gliding about fifteen feet above the boat. Some people had bought a loaf of bread form a bakery truck on the ferry and were tossing crumbs in to the air. The gulls would dive, catch and eat them in flight. Somehow they could manage all that and still keep pace with the boat.
As we were feeding the gulls, we noticed a small sand bar off to the left. It was occupied by twenty-five to fifty sea gulls and pelicans. As we passed , a few of them looked at us , but for most of them we went unnoticed.
Then we saw a very strange sight. There, sitting in the middle of the Pamlico Sound was a crane - not a bird -, but a steam shovel. It was balancing on the end of a sand bar, dredging up a road for itself. Looking as if it had been caught in high tide, it too went on working without noticing us. We made our way past a barren island , coming so close I felt sure we would run aground. I worried about it but decided to leave the navigation to the pilot.
We passed one of the sister ships that was on the return trip. Warm smiles and waves were exchanged. It was good to know that strangers could still be friendly to each other.
As we were standing in the bright sunshine feeling that great sensation of the tang in the salt air, the Ocracoke dock came into view in the distance. As it grew larger, a strange feeling came over me. That I did not want this cruise end. That we had left all our problems back at the dock, and being out here were somehow detached form it all. Standing at the stern watching the water churn was soothing enough to make anyone relax. Suddenly we were docked and unloading, and as we drove over another noisy metal bridge I realized that feeling of detachment would continue.
We had just arrived at Ocracoke Island and the last ferry until tomorrow had just departed.