Southport Generosity and Alligators

Southport. Southport is a town I will never forget. It gave me new friends, new memories, and surreal adventures. We docked at the restaurant The Yacht Basin Provision Company in the afternoon after navigating Snow’s Cut and the Cape Fear River. Thankfully, we timed the tides well and zipped into the harbor at a solid seven knots. After docking at the restaurant, we grabbed a meal, wandered around town, and paid for a nights stay at the dock. The restaurant was a beautiful spot, and it was quite the experience being docked virtually on their outside patio.

That evening, a couple watched us as we exited the boat. We were quite a sight I’m sure. Four beleaguered, dirty sailors, looking to grab a beer (or maybe a coffee) and find a cafe with WiFi. As we stood on the patio discussing our plan, the couple waved us over.

The man at the table smiled and asked us if we planned to leave the dock that night.

“You’re going to have a tough time of it in this current,” he remarked.

We agreed wholeheartedly and explained we were docked there for the night. After talking for a bit we learned that the names of this couple were Larry and Gretchen McCracken. Gretchen had once been a boat captain, with experience ranging from navigating hurricanes to making a thousand trips up and down the ICW. Larry was a veteran of Vietnam, who had gone on to be a very successful businessman and consultant with his HR firm. They are now joint business partners, traveling between their different homes.

This was our best stroke of “luck” yet. Larry and Gretchen invited us to a beer at a nearby open air dockside bar, and we acquiesced. We continued to talk and exchange stories. The couple learned we hadn’t seen showers in (X) days. (Too alarming to actually document.) We were talking and laughing when Larry finally said, “You know what… Our summer home is here in Southport and we have two guest rooms with bathrooms and laundry.. Why don’t you guys tie up the boat and bring your laundry and get a good night’s rest.”

We were shocked at their generosity. We had joked about meeting a couple that would invite us to use their home. This was actually happening. Dom stayed on the boat that night, since we didn’t want to leave it unattended at the restaurant dock, and Matt, Bobby, and I all piled into their suburban and headed to their home. And what a home it was. The place was once a sample, model home for the beautiful neighborhood complex with everything one could desire. They gave us food, and we did our laundry before relaxing and chatting over scotch and cigars on the back patio overlooking a picturesque pond. The ponds were connected and seemed to be man-made with perfectly proportionate circles. Each pond was connected creating a series of figure eights glistening and reflecting the full moon above our heads.

After exchanging more stories and getting to know the Larry and Gretchen more, they offered us to stay another day, saying we could use their van for transportation.

“We are going to go into town, but you are welcome to the van and the house. If you want to let out the dogs that would be great, but just don’t let them out the back door, since they could get eaten by the alligator.”

Oh, the alligator! Of course!

Sure enough, in the morning when we arose from our amazing sleep in king-size beds, a seven foot alligator was roaming the pond twenty feet from the back patio. Apparently this alligator was somewhat of a legend in the neighborhood, as he grabbed geese off the shore, or approached houses with his mouth wide open.

We watched the McCracken’s dogs Annie and Barney, and then we headed back to the boat, moving it a mile down Southport into Indigo Plantation Marina. Here we found a transient slip, and I paid for two nights stay due to bad winds and rough weather.

We returned to the McCrackens with even more surprises awaiting us. The couple had bought a vast amount of delicacies and delicious food as they geared up for their Fourth of July celebrations. Southport is apparently the statewide location for 4th of July festivities in North Carolina. Fifty thousand people began to stream into town at the beginning of our stay.

Some of the Larry and Gretchen’s family reached the house along with host of friends. Gretchen generously offered us to be a part of their family and friends’ celebrations. Next thing we knew, we were golfing with Larry at an amazing North Carolina golf course. Matt and I were in one of the golf-carts in golf clothes rolling across the green. We looked at each other, wondering how in the world we got to this point. It was one of the most amazing but ridiculous experiences of my life.

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After golfing, we met some of their family friends including some awesome marines and some all around amazing people. We enjoyed thanksgiving worthy feasts every day, watching fireworks at night and going to the beach in the hot afternoons. The beach we went to was the same beach where shark attacks occurred earlier this summer. Maybe we shouldn’t have been body surfing thirty yards out…

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I can never thank Larry and Gretchen enough for their hospitality, friendship, and boating advice. I look forward to seeing them again along with all the people they introduced us to!

And now, for my feature of the week, I present to you…. Barney.

Barney is the most sensitive dog I have ever met. Larry and Gretchen adopted him after he was rescued from being used as a bait dog for pit bulls. Now Barney mainly eats his food and studies Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. He occasionally indulges in some of Jean Paul Sartre’s works, and one can tell this is true from the way he stares off listlessly as he receives massages from every visitor to the home. Congratulations, Barney on being my animal blog feature this week!

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But I digress. We are continuing on, and have made hundreds of miles of progress already since Southport. Stay tuned for updates, as we are now in Florida!!

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