Column: Unlikely fishermen friends

Published 9:43 am Friday, January 31, 2020

I had the unique opportunity to spend my Monday morning with local fishermen from the Outer Banks Anglers Club and Oregon Inlet charter captains.

A division of the OBAC, known as the Oregon Inlet Artificial Reef Committee, had been working for almost five years to create a new fishing spot by adding an artificial reef outside of Dare County’s coast. To do this, the committee had to find the funding and get ahold of the resources to do so.

After hearing that their hard work had paid off Friday afternoon, we got a call at the office that the members would be heading out to sea on the Crystal Dawn to watch the first of three tugboats be submerged to start physically creating the reef.

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I was all for the opportunity to head out on a boat; I had spent many days at sea while in college. Never in my life have I experienced a day like Monday.

The sun was starting to rise as I arrived at Pirate’s Cove Marina. Most of the men were already on boat and greeted me with big smiles as I approached the Crystal Dawn. I hadn’t met any of them before, but by now, I’m used to meeting people for the first time on a regular basis.

The guys were all thrilled for the day’s events. Many of them told me that they had been up since 4 a.m., all excited like it was Christmas morning. They gathered around boxes of Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins while they drank their coffee and watched the sun lighten the sky.

The captain and his young son walked up to the bridge and we set off for a two-hour ride out to the site where the tugboat would be sunk. On our way, I tried to talk to as many of the fishermen as I could and get their take on how they were feeling about this big day.

The funny thing is that pretty much all my conversations with these guys veered off course at some point; we began talking about their lives and the crazy stories they had from their own boats and fishing days. I learned a lot about where most of them were from and why they were here and what made them passionate about being on the water.

I even had some deep conversations, where we would talk about what life has in store for us and all the things one can accomplish if they have enough faith in their abilities. Needless to say, time went by pretty fast for me as we headed further out to sea.

Once we actually arrived on site, it wasn’t long before the tugboat, which will one day hold an entire fish biomass, was being filled with seawater. As we watched this massive boat get engulfed by the waves, the guys were in awe. So was I.

It was definitely a first for me, not only seeing that boat sink, but also spending a day with many individuals that were willing to share their stories with me. They even invited me to their meeting that took place that night, sharing that even though it was a meeting, they would usually bring food and just conversate as though it was a group of friends reuniting.

I think my biggest takeaway from the day was that yes, I got to witness something many people may never get to, but I also made some new friends.

What do I have in common with a group of fishermen? Not much at all. I don’t fish a lot; I’ve never been on a charter boat and I haven’t experienced half as many things as they all have. But I found myself looking past that and realizing that you really do meet some of the best people in some of the strangest of circumstances. And despite whatever crazy events take place, it’s really about the people you’re surrounded by that make your experiences some of the best they can be.

Danielle Puleo is a staff writer for The Coastland Times. Reach her at


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