Southport's annual wooden boat show is a history lesson on the water

SOUTHPORT, NC (WECT) - There is no shortage of boats in the yacht basin at Southport, but a closer look at some of the vessels tells the story about the early days of fishing in the Brunswick County town.

Boats like the Alice Belle, unique boats that were the workhorses of their day, were used to harvest seafood, built by hand and the few remaining have been restored and kept in pristine condition.

They are the types of boats that will be on display at the eighth annual wooden boat show this month. Having a wooden boat show is a natural for Southport.

"All your first boats were wooden, and this town right here was a fishing village, and all of the boats that were here were wooden hulled. They were doing the fishing," said Chris Schnell of the Southport Wooden Boat Show.

The purpose of the Southport show is to promote interest in and spread knowledge of the craft and the art of making a boat out of wood and to help celebrate the region's maritime and boat building history. There is a lot of the extra work in taking care of a wooden boat, so people who own one have to really love them.

"Wood boats are a lot of maintenance, and they have some issues with leaking and trying to keep them calked," Schnell said. "Fiberglass does not have that to deal with, but you can tell the difference between them, so it depends on what you want as a boat owner."

One of the more popular wooden boats of the area is the Simmons Sea Skiff. From the 40s through the early 70s, T-N Simmons built nearly 1,000 of these wooden boats that some people say "danced on the water like a leaf or a feather."

Today, they are collector's items and are still a fairly common sight in the Carolinas, owned by diehard fans.

"A lot of the boats, the Simmons Sea Skiff, that come to our show, you know, that is a passion thing," Schnell said. "They love their boats. They are beautiful. They are pristine. People come and look at them and go, 'Wow,' including me."

This year's show will again feature the boat building program that is offered at Cape Fear Community College along with other displays highlighting the seafood industry in Brunswick County.

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