Memorial Day weekend was a huge weekend for travel all over the state. But here in the Outer Banks, travel was a little different for some. Many people fly or drive to their vacation destination but I had the privilege to travel with the North Carolina Ferry System.
I left Buxton in the early hours of the morning on Saturday to make the Hatteras to Ocracoke ferry by 5am. As I made my reservations for the ferry from Ocracoke to Cedar Island they warned me that I should be there thirty minutes before my reservation time. I decided it would be a good idea to do the same for the Hatteras to Ocracoke ferry as well. Arriving to the ferry dock in Hatteras at 4:30am, it was still dark outside and there were very few people around. As I went inside the welcome center to grab my $1 cup of coffee before they loaded the ferry, I was surprised at how friendly and awake the ferry employees were. Each person I passed made a point to say “good morning” and smile. While I waited in line, you could see all the employees, coffee in hand, scattered around the ferry dock, preparing for the first trip of the day. When we were finally ready to board the ferry, the line had grown from my one vehicle to about ten and the once friendly ferry employees had become very serious, directing cars to the perfect parking place.
As we departed from Hatteras you could see a glow of street lights over the silent village. The ferry was not much different. With the few cars that had boarded, there were even fewer people out of their cars enjoying the quiet calm of the morning waters. Where I stood, near the back of the boat, there were only three other people outside taking in the view. Although they were together, they remained quiet with very few words spoken between them. The calm, quietness of the dark water and the people was almost eerie but as the sky began to lighten that eeriness became a peacefulness that I have never experienced anywhere else. Originally from a big city, I have become accustomed to the sound of traffic and sirens and the typical hustle and bustle of the early morning. There on the ferry at 5am there was no such thing as traffic or hustle and bustle.
As we arrived in Ocracoke and unloaded onto the island the birds were still perched in the streets and the sun was beginning to rise. I drove across the island to the next ferry dock and saw no one on the streets walking from shop to shop like you would typically see in the middle of the day. The only other travelers I came across, other than those who had also been on the ferry, were two ducks making their way across the street towards the Jolly Roger Pub and Marina. The next ferry dock I came to, at the south end of Ocracoke Island was full of people and everyone there was twice as friendly as the people before. The man who came to my window and asked to see my ticket and I.D. stayed and talked to me for a few minutes about my home town and my travel plans for the weekend. He was very kind and welcoming. I have nothing bad to say about any of the people I came across, and coming from someone who is not typically a morning person, that is a pretty big deal.
The return trip on Monday evening was not quite as calm and peaceful as the previous trip. The employees were still just as friendly and even more talkative but the ferry from Ocracoke to Hatteras was much more crowded. There was barely space for us to open our car doors. There were several families and as you looked around kids were sleeping in the back seat while parents took the time to relax before their next driving journey. It was an exhausting holiday weekend for many and an exhausting day of travel for those who were just arriving. As for me, I slept as much as I could. The five hour trip from Harkers Island back to Buxton after a weekend of clamming and fishing was very tiring. But the ferry ride, with the hum of the motor and the constant rocking motion, made for some great sleep.