Harkers Island , NC Music
When the Booze Yacht Ran Ashore
by Grayden and Mary Paul
Back in the days of prohibition, “bootlegging” was a big business. Whiskey was brought over from England and other countries in ships, but they dared not come inside the three-mile limit for fear of being sighted by the Coast Guard, so a thriving business sprang up known as “Rum-running.”
Around all United States ports small boats would go out and get a load of whiskey and try to sneak into port, past the Coast Guard, under cover of darkness; but sometimes they got caught, and the cargo was confiscated, the crew put in jail. But in some cases the “Rum-runners” had specially built boats with powerful engines which could outrun the Coast Guard boats. Such was the case of a yacht named the “Adventure,” which was intercepted at the Beaufort Bar, but she turned tail and headed up the beach toward Cape Lookout with the Coast Guard in pursuit.
She soon outran the Coast Guard, and they thought they had escaped; but about that time they hit a shoal and stuck fast. So they threw the whiskey overboard to lighten the boat and did manage to escape.
The next day some fishermen from Harkers Island were making a haul for mullets and found several cases of whiskey in their net. The crew decided to keep it quiet and make another haul the next day; but one of their members drank a little too much and spread the news all over the Island.
The most famous gathering place was Cleveland Davis’ General Store and Post Office. In fact it was such a busy place that the natives referred to it as the “Beehive.”
The whiskey was in bottles with a “King Lock” stopper, which old timers will remember. It had a wire spring latch on it, which you pulled up to open and could reseal the bottle by pressing down on the latch.
At this time there was a man from New York living on Harkers Island by the name of Ralph Sanders. One of the popular tunes of the day was “The Sidewalks of New York.” He must have been somewhat of a composer. He wrote a ballad called, “The Booze Yacht,” and sang it to the tune of his favorite song.
The late Ivey Scott, famous fiddler, began playing and singing the song all over the county. It soon spread over the state, and Ivey was invited to sing at many occasions far and wide. In fact, I received a letter shortly after Ivey’s death, from the National Folklore Association of Philadelphia asking Ivey to come there and sing.
There may have been many verses to “The Booze Yacht,” but the following are all I have been able to find.
Sung to the tune of “Sidewalks of New York.”
Source: Carteret County, NC: Folklore, Facts and Fiction By Mary and Grayden Paul; Sponsored by Beaufort Historical Association;1996; pp. 37-38.
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