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Carteret County Maritime Culture In NC – History Of Boat Building And Fishing

We want this to be a community discussion centered around maritime culture and the history of boat building, commercial fishing, living off the land and ocean, harvesting shellfish, shrimping, and other traditions in the Carteret County NC communities of Morehead City, Beaufort, Salter Path and Indian Beach, and certainly in down east communities near Harkers Island, Sea Level, Smyrna, Bettie, Otway, and Cedar Island.

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Our definition of maritime culture relates to customs, traditions, and means of living centered on the ocean and accompanying barrier islands and waterways. Additionally, much of this topic is engrained in the ways of living for those who work on ships which travel across oceans, but for the sake of this article we’ll focus on local shrimping, fishing, ship and boat building, decoy carving, building homes from coastal resources, making music using local resources, and working off coastal lands.

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Additionally, we imagine many conservationist and those concerned about climate and the environment will have interests relating to this topic and we encourage their contributions as well.


For those reading this article and who do not live in Eastern NC, please consider briefly noting this document on the “High Tider Accent” as it denotes people living in the down east portion of Carteret County NC from which many of the maritime culture phenomena originates.

While it may not be immediately noticeable to those visiting the county, much of this area’s boundaries belongs to a portion of the community we call “down east” and it’s every bit of land EAST of Beaufort extending to Cedar Island.

If you travel to this area, you’ll notice an abrupt change in scenery than you find in more populated areas in Morehead City and Beaufort. If you happen to interact with locals in this area, you’ll notice a very different accent or dialectic being spoken by them, and for those speaking this high tider accent, you’ll likely find they and their family are deeply embedded in commercial fishing, harvesting of shellfish, shrimping, decoy carving, other means of living off the land, and building boats specifically used for work.

And, upon further interaction with these families, you’ll discover traditions and customs very different from mainland areas within the county.

For this article, we’re interested in hearing from historians on the Old English dialect these people speak, and how this developed.

And, we’re interested in hearing from historians and locals who’s heritage encompasses the people living off the land in Harkers Island, Cedar Island, Sea Level, Otway, and Bettie.

Continuing, there is one portion of land in Carteret County which has direct roots to people living down east, and this area is Salter Path (On Bogue Banks) where families are very much built around fishing the ocean and living off coastal lands while cultivating seafood.

Please use the form below to engage in conversations around this topic.

Tell us more about the history of maritime navigation in the treacherous waters off Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras, along with the history of the high tider accent, decoy carving, specialized ways of harvesting shellfish and shrimping, boat building, fishing, and other customs and traditions.

Michael Sharp

Native of Carteret County NC, Father to Makayla and Savannah. You can add me on Facebook. Interest include web development, encryption, and other technologies.

2 thoughts on “Carteret County Maritime Culture In NC – History Of Boat Building And Fishing

  • May 29, 2021 at 4:24 pm

    What’s amazing about the boats built by local folks is they are built from solid wood versus a fiberglass boat you’d buy from a dealer. While the locally built wooden boat might be heavier and not as fuel efficient, boy they are sturdy as anything you can put on the water which I’m sure helps these craft in choppy waters.

    Isn’t there a place across from the museum in Beaufort that is especially devoted to wooden built boats which highlights the history of the area?

    • May 30, 2021 at 11:08 am

      Yes, it’s the Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center and it sit’s directly across from the museum on Front St in Beaufort. It’s a neat place that actually offers courses on building boats using traditional methods local to the area.


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