Day at the Docks
A celebration of Hatteras Island watermen and local seafood
Story by Amy Gaw. Photos by John Gaw
There is no better way to get acquainted with the ins and outs of the seafood industry on the Outer Banks than by attending Day at the Docks in Hatteras Village. You can meet watermen, get on their boats, touch their equipment and hear their stories first hand. You can even eat the seafood they just landed.
This small-town festival began as a way to celebrate the “Spirit of Hatteras” when the village was recovering from Hurricane Isabel in 2003. A confirmation of the strength of community, heritage and living traditions of the waterman, Day at the Docks now features seafood cooking demos and competitions, fishing boats and gear, fishing industry skills contests and competitions, live music and games for children with a focus of life on the water.
This two-day event is the product of many hearts, heads and hands. Genuine, authentic and real, the organizers and volunteers are people who live their mission daily. On this weekend, everyone becomes a teacher as they entertain and feed and laugh and play.
Plan to spend the whole weekend so you do not miss a thing. On Friday afternoon, hang out at Sticky Bottom Produce and Lee Robinson General Store for a Taste of North Carolina. Local cookbook authors, artisan food producers and food fanatics will gather to break bread from 4 p.m. until sunset. This is a sacred location, under the trees with a view of the Pamlico Sound. Local beers, wines and tasty treats made in North Carolina are available, along with music by Blurky’s Quirky Friends.
After a taste of local food and beverages, head over to Talk of the Villages at the Hatteras Village Civic Center for a discussion about The Fish on Your Dish with local and visiting seafood experts. Join panelists Chef Tom Armstrong of Vinnie’s Steakhouse in Raleigh
Chef Keith Rhodes of Catch Restaurant and Food Truck in Wilmington and Chef Wes Stepp of Red Sky Café in Duck for a lively discussion about challenges faced in the restaurant industry as well as tips on how to source local, sustainable seafood when someone else is doing the cooking.
Saturday is a day full of events for food and fishing lovers of all ages. Captains and crews demonstrate the tools and skills working watermen use at sea. Exhibits feature pound nets, gill nets, trawl nets, tuna kites and circle hooks. Fishermen and visitors are invited to compete in a net-hanging contest and a survival suit race.
Taste your way through the Chowder Cook-off and vote for your favorite then head to the food-demo tent where the students from Cape Hatteras High School culinary program will lead a local seafood-cooking demonstration with samples for the audience. Led by their teacher Evan Ferguson, these young people always offer an entertaining and informative session and remind us that younger generations are informed, thoughtful and concerned about their food sources.
If learning a new recipe isn’t your thing, you can learn how to clean a fish with the good folks from Oden’s Dock or try your hand at the Concrete Marlin Contest. Professional captains and mates vie against each other and time as they “hook” and “gaff” a concrete cylinder that replicates the weight of a fighting marlin. It has become so popular that a new division, the Concrete Sailfish, has been added for the younger fishermen.
At 1 p.m., cheer on local chefs as they compete in the N.C. Sea Grant–sponsored Seafood Throwdown. Watch Scott Surratt, executive chef at Café Pamlico, and Ross Tolson of Owen’s Restaurant in Nags Head prepare dishes using a mystery local seafood ingredient that will be revealed only when the event gets underway. Last year the secret ingredient was dogfish.
Be sure to stick around for the Blessing of the Fleet at Hatteras Harbor Marina, in which a parade of vessels solemnly honor all the watermen who have “crossed the bar” for their final time.
There is no admission charge. Lunch featuring fresh local seafood is available at a modest charge. See you there!
Want to go?
Day at the Docks
Friday 9.16 and Saturday 9.17
Taste of North Carolina, Friday, September 16, 4 p.m. until sunset, Lee Robinson General Store
Talk of the Villages, Friday, September 16, 7 p.m., at the Hatteras Village Civic Center
Day at the Docks, Saturday, September 17, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Hatteras village docks