Set a Course and Go

This Macomber 15’, built by Larry Heckner and John Olsen of the Masonboro Skiff Company, garnered the 2012 People’s Choice Award from the Southport Wooden Boat Show. Photo by Peter Kurki

This Macomber 15’, built by Larry Heckner and John Olsen of the Masonboro Skiff Company, garnered the 2012 People’s Choice Award from the Southport Wooden Boat Show. Photo by Peter Kurki

What: Southport Wooden Boat Show
When: Saturday, September 28th
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Southport Yacht Basin,
Yacht Basin Dr.
Cost: $25 to show; free to peruse

The annual Southport Wooden Boat Show will propel into its fourth year this month, not only showcasing the best powered- and non-powered boats brought from across North Carolina, but also celebrating a culture that results from Southport’s long fishing and boating history.

In conjunction with Downtown Southport, Inc., the Fourth Annual Southport Wooden Boast Show (SWBS) is sponsored by the SWBS steering committee, and will be held Saturday, Sept. 28th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

As a steering committee member, Bert Felton reports the show has hosted a number of boats that are very well crafted in their own rights. From small skiffs to shrimp boats, as well as his 1938 Orcas Island sailboat, Felton said the diverse variety can’t be beat among other area boat shows.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for people to talk to boat builders and see boats of all kinds, not just a beautiful boat in some fancy magazine,” he muses. “These are examples of boats in these small communities [like Southport] …  we think it’s very important for people to have an understanding of the history of these boats.”

For the show, only boats whose main structural strength is made from wood are allowed. While external applications of materials like fiberglass, plastic or canvas are acceptable, they require pre-approval of the committee.

“When we started out with that first show, we had about 15 boats. This past year we had 35 or 40, and we’re hoping to have about that same number again,” Felton discloses.

Felton has been with the boat show since its inception and says the event has grown from about 1,000 spectators to several thousand expected this year. However, like so many outdoor events, attendance usually depends on the weather.

“It’s a one-day event, rain or shine,” he asserts. “All we need is just a little bit of sunshine and we’ll get a good turn out.”

While the boat show pays homage to the boats and their direct connection with local history and culture, Felton shares it’s a time for boat enthusiasts and aspiring builders to meet with mentors and peers.

“You’ll be able to talk to some owners like myself, but there are plenty of people here who are boat builders and … it gives the guy who wants to build a boat in his garage a place to come to ask questions and get advice,” Felton explains.

In conjunction with the Southport Maritime Museum, there will be children’s activities to round out the family day of nautical history, as well as music by the band Out on the Ocean. With its Celtic, French-Canadian and bluegrass elements, Out on the Ocean’s musical mix will be heard from morning to afternoon, amidst the activities and boats around the Old Southport Yacht Basin.

Last year’s event also marked the addition of the Southport Wooden Boat Show Seafood Chowder Cook-off. Sponsored by Brunswick Catch and Captain Pete’s Restaurant and headed up by local chef Patrick Kelly of Fishy Fishy Cafe (106 Yacht Basin Dr., Southport), up to 12 teams will compete for the title of “SWBS Chowder Champion for 2013,” voted on by the crowd.

But what does chowder have to do with boats?

“It’s a very straightforward connection,” Felton details. “We’re a seafood town. We’re all about working the waterfront, and for years the wooden boats were tied to families, and that was the way this town was able to survive.”

Tickets, or ballots to taste all of the entrants’ chowders and vote for the best-decorated booth, will be on sale at the chowder tent for $5 (children under 6 are free) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The tasting and voting period will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with winners announced at 3 p.m.

“We get people that come down each year that have just never been to Southport before, and they can come down for the afternoon, get a meal, and enjoy the boat show, fulfilling several interests that people have,” Felton concludes.

Boats still can be registered for the Southport Wooden Boat Show, and Felton says folks will be allowed to register their boats up until the day of the show. One boat costs $25 to enter, which includes lunch, and additional boats by the same owner will cost $10 each. To register for the Boat Show, Chowder Cook-off or as a vendor, call Bert Felton at (910) 457-5302 or visit

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