Monday, October 4, 2010

Maritime history in New Bern takes on new life

I've just returned from the N.C. Maritime History Council's annual conference in New Bern, N.C. Despite the torrential rains and slight street flooding, it was a wonderful experience.

A small disclaimer: I'm partial to New Bern anyway, so visiting there is always a treat to me. Add to the visit great speakers and like-minded people who share my enthusiasm for boats, history, and coast, and such an event could only be fantastic.

Of course, we toured Tryon Palace, the Stanley House, and the Dixon House. Those are mandatory on such a trip; but we also stepped aboard the Ada Mae, a skipjack that has a new lease on life as an educational vessel for children.

A second off-site tour was to Hatteras Yachts, and the final cherry on top of the sundae was a tour through the soon-to-be opened History and Education Center.This highly interactive space was built on the site of the former Balbour boats shipyard. The building's design bows to that history, with architecture reminiscent of a boat shed (allbeit a fancy, light-filled contemporary design). The Center has one of the best views right on the water, and the new exhibits beg to be touched (we couldn't do that since it wasn't quite ready). it will be open in a few weeks and I will definitely go back.

During the conference, I stayed with Camile and Joe, owners of The Hanna House Bed and Breakfast. Talk about your perfect hosts -- and what incredible food! A cheese souffle for breakfast one morning, shrimp and grits another ... I want to tell you that this is the place to stay if you ever go to New Bern. I'll be back in the spring (if not sooner) for a book signing of The Pirate's Bastard and the launch of another novel set in 1943 -- I won't tell you anymore about that one now, but let me just say, New Bern figures prominently in the story.

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