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Trips & Meetings - We Had Fun!!!
April 28-29 - Lower North Carolina
by Joyce Holland
As my husband Robert and I were driving to Southport, NC Thursday evening, April 27th in the rain, my mind was focused on the weather forecast that this system was going to move out during the night and we were to have dry days and sun for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I was praying that the weatherman was right for a change. AND, he was, except for the wind, as I will digress later.

Even though the boats to access Price's Creek fell through at the last minute, it did not stop 33 lighthouse lovers from having a great time on our first lighthouse tour for 2006. We all gathered at The Lakes Country Club in Boiling Springs on Friday evening for a Caribbean "Tin Grill" of mojo chicken, tuna and shrimp, oh yes, those shrimp. Some of us dined on the deck overlooking the lake and even though two small clouds drifted over and sprinkled on us, we were still treated to a beautiful sunset. This evening "The Loft" was available with some new merchandise, and we held a fundraiser for the H.E.L.P. Fund. Our winners that evening were; Linda Herman, Carol Sampson, Hobie Statzer, Suzy Brummer and Kathy Peacock.

Early Saturday morning, everyone gathered at the Oak Island Coast Guard Station in Caswell Beach for a tour of the facility and its boats. This current facility was built after a fire on February 1, 2002, destroyed the previous building which was built in 1992. After the fire, their maintenance shop was converted into a make shift station house complete with radios, telephone lines, computers and all the necessary search & rescue equipment needed for daily operations; "Semper Paratus – Always Ready." Among the crew that we were to meet that day was "Maverick" the station mascot. Although getting up in years, he didn't hesitate to get to the door for duty when they sounded the SARS alarm for us.

After the tour of the station, we were met by Larry Welch of the Friends of Oak Island, who opened the doors to the tower and we climbed in groups to the mezzanine of the light station. This lighthouse is not opened for climbing due to the ships-ladder-style stairs that go all the way up to the top. But, it was a real treat to be able to go inside the lighthouse and see the interior and its steps. Our next stop was the Maritime Museum of Southport where our guest speaker was Larry Maisel, who gave us an overview of the Maritime History of Southport. Some participants decided to skip the Maritime Museum to take the Ft. Fisher ferry to view and photograph Price's Creek.

Free time was then available to everyone to tour and/or sightsee, shop, relax and have lunch before we were to all meet on the dock at the Bald Head Island ferry. When we reached Bald Head Island, Ann Mills and Larry Pacer met us with trams, and an 8-passenger golf cart, which needed a volunteer driver, and we nominated Robert. Lets just say, the fun began. We headed across the island to the Cape Fear Country Club where Larry gave us the history of the Frying Pan Shoals and explained the dangers of these shoals and the entry to the Cape Fear River and the need for the lighthouses. Our next stop were the remains of the Cape Fear Light Station, and then off to "Old Baldy." Those of us riding with Robert in the 8-passenger golf cart, bouncing up and down the hills were suddenly parked on the side of the road when the battery died. Ann Mills vowed to come back and rescue us, but Wil and Cecil jumped out and pushed us up the hill, and we began to coast our way back across the island. Our journey ended as 8 legs hung off the golf cart peddling us up to the lighthouse. The golf cart was readily named by everyone "The Flintstone-mobile."

After everyone had the opportunity to climb and photo "Old Baldy," our dinner, which was to be eaten inside the base of the lighthouse, was ready. It was a tight fit for the tables to accommodate 33 of us, plus Ann and Larry, but no one cared that it was cramped-quarters; we were eating inside a lighthouse. This was definitely a highlight of this tour. Not many people can say that they had dinner inside a lighthouse. What a perfect end to a perfect day in Southport.

Sunday morning everyone was to regroup at the Harker's Island Ferry to taxi over to Cape Lookout. But, the wind, remember I mentioned the wind in the beginning of this article. Well, because of the strong wind and the white caps, the ferries were not running over to the island. As Robert and I pulled in, we were greeted by an anxious group. But our savior, Richard Meissner, came through for us. He arranged for the "Lookout Express", a large boat that leaves from Beaufort, to take us over. Taking us off schedule, several rescheduled their ferry reservations to Ocracoke, and off we all went to catch that boat. Richard at that time was sure he could open the tower for us to climb, but because of the fierce wind was not sure we would be able to step out onto the gallery. However, not only did we climb, we were allowed to step out on a portion of the gallery. What a view from the top. This was the highlight that ended our tour of the lighthouses of Lower North Carolina.

I want to close this part of this article and thank all of the participants of this tour for being courteous and arriving at all of our destinations on schedule. I told all of you at the end of the trip that you were a great group, and I meant it. Thanks, Karen McMichael, for bringing “The Loft” and making it available to everyone on the trip. I want to thank those of you that helped the Chapter with carrying "The Loft" merchandise in and out, and helped me along the way. A special thanks to John MacFarland for the initial contact to Richard Meissner on Sunday morning. I look forward to seeing all of you again on future Chapter tours.

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