YES! Editorial: Boats? Seriously?

by YES! Weekly staff

The last time the state General Assembly overrode a governor’s veto was… never. But they did it last week after Gov. Mike Easley vetoed a bill that would allow boaters to tow vessels up to 10 feet wide without permits on North Carolina roads and watercraft up to 9.5-feet wide to be towed at night.

Our state senators and congressmen stood up for the state boating industry, which remains a stalwart business as tobacco, furniture and textiles recede from the big picture. Let’s put aside, for a moment, that while our state has a failing mental health system, a faltering economy, immigration and labor issues and a public education system that consistently lands in the back half of the national bell curve, our leaders are going to the mat for the state’s pleasure-boating community. Surely there are bigger fish to fry. But we should not lose sight of the fact that boating plays significant roles in our state’s economy and culture. North Carolina has 3,375 miles of tidal shoreline, more than the Atlantic side of Florida and almost as many miles as California. Boaters in North Carolina can run rivers, cruise flats, fish the sounds, skim the creeks and head out on open water for the Gulf Stream, less than 20 miles off our coast, where the big tuna run. And there are 370,000 registered boats. Boating — and its corollary, fishing — have been a part of the state character since way before Blackbeard evaded capture by playing cat and mouse on our jagged shoals, going back to the days when Native Americans paddled canoes up in Currituck and ransacked the clam beds. After the Army Corps of Engineers pledged to make 50 lakes in 50 years in the 1950s, our heartlands and mountain country became bejeweled with crystalline bodies of water, ripe for pontoon-boat cocktail parties, jet-skiing and wakeboarding. Denizens of Hatteras and Ocracoke (known as Hatterassers and O’Cockers) use their boats more frequently than their automobiles. And they’ve been building boats on Harkers Island since old Ebenezer Harker traded for the land in 1730 — with a 20-foot boat — and immediately installed a boat yard. The boat-building industry has flourished in the state: Regulator, Fountain, Grady-White, Albemarle, Carolina Classic, Gillikin, Jarrett Bay and Southern Skimmer have over generations established strongholds in our state and given us a formidable reputation in the market and we continue to attract more manufacturers each year, a number that topped 3,000 in 2007. About 30,000 North Carolinians work in an industry that generates sales upwards of $500 million. Gas stations, marinas, storage facilities, insurance brokers and state tourism all benefit from our healthy boating culture. And our boats are recognized — and purchased — the world over. It is an industry with considerable clout, as evidenced by the first-ever veto override in North Carolina history, one that should be protected by force of law, not endangered by it.

YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration.