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And we go to sea once more…

It has been a while since the last set of notes.  In part due to a loss of heart, and due to the advent of crawling (my second daughter, not my heart).  It seems appropriate in some cyclical manner that the 2012 Fisherman’s Post Inshore Challenge would be a small impetus to return to punching the keys.  This weekend the crew of Sonny Days will once again ante up in an effort to bring home a cash worthy flounder or drum.  But that is only a small and somewhat superficial excuse to return to shelling out words for free.  The other is infinitely more twisted and complicated.  I hate it, I love it, and I missed it.  So you’re stuck with it.  Thanks for returning to waste your time.

What will follow from here may be a bit different then in the past.  You can expect more for the Wall of Fame, the feature stories under pages and posts, but also some new stuff.  You will find some reviews of gear,  travel accommodations and adventures as well as the occasional mindless rambling from a mid-life dad on, well, anything.  From spending time in the garage, to pulling weird bits of food out of your daughter’s mouth that she found on the floor, to the presidential race, to fishing, to the approach of kindergarten, to good slip-n’-slides, to…anything.  And, of course, you can find the surf articles and photos you are used to as you apparently have been looking.  Thanks for that.

In fact, we recently had a bout of surf.  Good surf.  Regular surf.  Here on the east coast.  There was Alberta and Beryl and some good strong long period swell for more than a week straight.  As photos have dwindled in from the local photographers, as well as more national coverage like Surfline, I’ve had the chance to stand behind the lens as well as in front and chat in and out of the line-up regarding our good fortune.  The number one comment? “It’s so much easier to surf when it’s regular and good…”  Hard to argue.  From guys my age, to those older than myself, to those still invincible, all of ’em said the same thing.  Or some version of the same thing anyway.  The old adage is true.  If you can surf on the east coast, you can surf anywhere.  And when it’s good at home, you know you want to be right here.

Thanks for returning to “the notes”.  Keep checking back in for more ways to waste time, and just maybe something useful.

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The term waterman is used quite a bit.  In the tightly controlled clique that is the surf media it means someone they really like.  In the group of men and women who may be the subject of such lore it means seniority and guts.  In the group of men and woman who are watermen it means nothing.  Just some made-up term so that us folks can have something to write and we can have a model for product companies.  Still, we know it when we see it.  Men and women salted, crows lines at the corners of eyes from squinting against the sun and glare, a range of ability on or in the water, which along the east coast is a necessity as much as a convenience of the west coast.

Chris Tolhurst. Debating.

Let’s face it, there just ain’t all that much surf over here from day-to-day.  Still, there is plenty of ocean and plenty of fish.  Ask the Hobgoods or Malloys or Currens or…  In taking a note from the pages of those in the stories or those we know locally, A few guys I know have been in and on the water while we wait out the flat spells.

Ryan Tolhurst

April and May have been quiet for surf.  Though there has been some decent groundswell and clean winds, there have been far more days of nothing.  When it has been there my youngest brother has been on it, making up for lost time.

Ryan Tolhurst hooks a small one.

When it hasn’t been there he has still been on it-fishing. My other brother has been out in his own boat, drifting the rock walls and steering with his feet or skimming over sandbars and fishing low tide drum holes.  And we’ve gone together, chasing Spanish Mackerel, slaying Bluefish, and recently hoisting a few flatfish.

Ryan and Chris. Off the coast between swells

We put all this water time together and all three brothers and our father entered the Fisherman’s Post Spring Inshore Challenge.  Normally a flounder and trout tournament, this year’s dead period for trout chased out the division and ushered in the Drum division.  While we were in it for the flatties, some of our same spots hold good sized drum.  We ponied up the dough and entered, made things interesting on the boat with a friendly wager among us, and made ready.

Ryan Tolhurst. Sonny Days crew

Fred Tolhurst. Sonny Days crew and balladeer.

Chris Tolhurst. Sonny Days crew

Tournament fishing is tense.  As any captain will tell you, there is always the pressure to put your boat on the fish.  And, as any captain will tell you, there is the very real possibility of getting nothing, which is why the call it fishing, not “catching”.  Add in the limited time frame, 80 some odd boats all hunting the same thing you are, plus the money and you can be certain that words spoken on the boat are few.  This year the dawn greeted the fleet with an east wind, late rising tide, uncooperative bait and a slow bite.  Three years ago The Sonny Days placed third with a 4 lb fish.  The same weight won this year as well with 1st and third being separated by 1/100th of a pound.  At the captains party Dennis Durham, a local waterman and world-class flounder fisherman, barely made the board with a 2.77lb fish.

Weigh-in. Wrightsville Beach Marina

Chris Tolhurst makes for the boat after weigh-in.

This year The Sonny Days came in with a 2.34lb fish which fell for a peanut pogie 50 minutes before the deadline to weigh-in.  While the fish didn’t make the board, we did make the weigh-in and the party.  In fact, Sunday afternoon beer on the beach was courtesy of the boat wager for biggest fish.  Ryan took home the winnings for first fish and Chris took home the prize for most fish (2).  Ryan and Chris are timely, experienced and certain on the boat.  I am lucky to go to sea with them.  My father is as patient a teacher and soul as I could know.  I will always go to sea with him (he also knows a wide array of singing material; 1950’s television ads, folk songs, ballads, rock classics).  Though I couldn’t put them on the fish as well as I would have liked, I can say with certainty that they are all fine watermen.  Next year fellas.





Fisherman's Post Spring Inshore Challenge

Family and crew of Sonny Days.








Now, how about some damn surf.  sheesh.

Pleasure Island,NC

dia tres

Bienvenido a Cabrete matey. Cuidado, alli es piratas.

After two days of celebrating my friend’s boda, relaxing with amigos old and new, and a hasty plan for a weekend in Vegas, it was time to move on.  For “the notes” this meant hiring out a taxi and riding some 6 hours to the north for 6 more days.  The wedding party said goodbye over coffee and caught taxi’s to the airport.  Their waves goodbye said, “yeah, we saw them climb into the cab and that was the last time we saw them.”  We asked the concierge about our taxi and got a increasingly familiar look.  The look is similar to being given the bill at a nice restaurant when you knew it would be big, but not really that big? Muddled shock.  Followed quickly by, “ay, that’s a long way.”  Heavy emphasis on the long and muddled shock.

Having done a fair amount of traveling at this point, neither Mrs. Notes nor I were all that concerned.  The biggest obstacle to overcome was the opportunity to relieve oneself.  Mrs. Notes has a bladder the size of a pea even when she is not 5 months pregnant. The continued look of shock to our requests for transport had me believing that an actual bano would be, shall we say, escasos.  There were other concerns as well, like taxi size relative to boards and the sorry state of my Spanish.  The taxi arrived-an Astro Van-with Gregory, Jose-Luiz, and Jared.  Ci, Jared.  No problemo, the boards and all the luggage fit in the van and the three drivers sat side by side in the front; leaving all kinds of room for us to sit together and stretch out.  In broken Spanish I explained my wife’s delicate position and even that was of no concern.  The only concern?  Jared.

Gregory and Jose-Luiz both had company yellow shirts on.  Jared sported fingerless black gloves, amber sunglasses, black pants, black leather jacket and a black fanny pack.  Full of?  Phones.  Broken ones, cracked ones, chipped and begging to die with each desperate incoming ring; flip phones, touch phones,and even an iPhone. In Bahia we stopped for a bathroom break, to check the parade of the national holiday and see the Basillica.  And unload Gregory.  Mrs. Notes insisted one of us stay with the van.  Probably wise but after a couple of brief chats we learned it was just Jared’s sense of style, and perhaps a dealing in stolen phones, that made us nervous.  Really he was quite a personable guy.  He had been hired by the Rio to sing almost 16 years ago and 4 years ago had opened his little tourista company.  All his calls were around setting up new drives and tours.  Still can’t say for certain about all the phones, but he was harmless enough.  He was overjoyed when a third of the way into our trip he lined up a transfer from Cabarete back down to a ferry for Santa Catalina island.  He would drive us six hours through the heart of Hispaniola and turn around and drive 8 back.  A hustler but one with a family to feed.

Eight hours was mind-numbing.  The roads are not so much a worry as the traffic.  We had our brief scare with car versus bovine, but the sight of a motorista (of which there are hundreds) driving along with a gas canister balanced on the back seat was a bit unnerving.  Worse than the guy we saw somewhere in the mountains painted silver, wearing blue jean shorts, a cowboy hat and boots and carrying a machete. Ci, blue jean shorts.  Short ones.  It’s this kind of thing that slows you down.  Through the plains in the middle Jose-Luiz opened up the van and we hummed along with little to no interruption in view.  One stop at the surreal Don Franschesca travel stop and its two seguridados accompanied by chihuahuas. Ci, chiuahuas.  Cleaner bathrooms than Bojangles and an array of hot plate lunches or candy bars and tourist gifts.

The mountains crept closer and to either side the flat stretch of land occasionally interrupted by a palm tree or small village.  In the small towns kids played baseball with little more than sticks, rocks, and some torn paper cups as bases.  Or they sat in small corrugated-metal houses peering out into the day from the cool darkness within.  While Sadie only experienced the trip via the occasional jolt from a brake check, she and her sister will travel again if for no other reason than to learn life and simplicity.

Several stops for directions and we made our way into Cabarete and the Hotel Kaoba.  The place is best described as a Dominican version of Tamarindo, CR.  It’s a backpacking stop for some, a world class kite boarding beach (hey, if you’re into that-from my notes it looks like as much work as SUP-ing, gracias pero no gracias), it’s a European family vacation, a Dominican vacation, a prostitute hot spot, a final resting place for ex-pats and just seedy enough in the daylight to give pause.  Jared helped drag our stuff into the lobby and vanished, a phone to each ear.

We stood in a lobby with two ex-pats complete with bad Hawaiin shirts, dog tags, and tank top undershirts draining the life from their eyes through the bottle in their hand.  A simple hello disappeared before ever being acknowledged.  A peak inside the moldy room and I knew we weren’t staying.  We asked the receptionist about a taxi and she got a number from the resident prostitute on late day shift.  All was well, this was the introduction to Jose, our personal chauffeur and ambassador to Cabarete for the rest of our stay.  He picked us up and drove us to several spots closer to Encuentro, the surf break, since we would be walking it and the town of Cabarete is actually a five to ten minute drive.  We settled on the Val-Mari condos on the crest of the hill above the break.  Up in the trade winds and surrounded by open pasture, no problems. Rum por favor.

Más a venir, especialmente la historia de las olas y photos.

Gracias por perder su tiempo.

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Siete Dias…dias uno y dos.


Bienvenidos Republica Dominicana

A trip planned as nine days became seven.  Not a one was left without some story or view of interest.  So, over the next several posts you can read some of the notes for the seven days spent on Hispaniola as well as check out some of the pictures.  Starting with the first…


While at UNCW I played ultimate frisbee for the university team, the Seamen.  This is how I met Boling.  From there things became increasingly feckless, away from the field anyway.  Like the time we visited Charlotte on the tab of my brother (then with the Carolina Panthers) and ended up knocking out another teammate with us on the trip with a well thrown spiral in the parking lot of my brother’s apartment complex somewhere just before dawn.  There was the challenge to eat the full American breakfast at 2002 College Ultimate Nationals.  Or perhaps the spitting shower-of-cheese incident in NY Pizza at 2am which first made it clear his fiance would be the perfect compliment to our friend.  She gave him the cheese to reload after his first volcanic blast.  For his bachelor weekend in Folly Beach, SC…well…I am relatively certain I was there.  On the field Boling’s play was dominant and my trust for my teammate was unfaltering.  He never gave reason to expect otherwise.

So, when he emailed to say he was having a destination wedding in the Dominican Republic there was no question.  We were going.  Sorting of funds revealed that the budget would be tight, but for Boling we would make it happen.  Like jumping in an unlocked car to drive the remaining four blocks back to the beach house from “downtown” Folly (there were no keys, fortunately, a fact which did not prevent Boling from the attempt or the immediate backing from a mutual friend-couldn’t let our man go to county alone.  “Uh Jill, we’ve lost Jon…”).  The Excellence at Punta Cana is an all-inclusive resort.  The attending members from families, the bachelor weekend and several graduating classes of Seamen players and their wives spent two and a half days making back the $300 nightly charge with Mammajuana (a spiced rum not a typo) and Presidenté beer.  The resort was beautiful and the ceremony classic and, given all other noted anecdotes, surprisingly classy.  Boling and his beautiful new bride Jill, as well as their families, were incredibly gracious and we counted ourselves lucky and honored to have been invited.  To “day one”.

Since there will be new addition to “the notes” soon, it only made sense to take our friend’s bodé and tag on a few extra days before the now mandatory Disney excursion (read, find surf and go there after).  The flights which were the most accommodating meant traveling through Miami.  Here at the notes, Miami is avoided like connecting through Philly-a guaranteed disaster-or the removal of your fingernails by tweezers.  There was the time “the notes” flew out of Miami when the travel bag was loosened by the cabbie and landed in the middle of I95 resulting in a near fatal stabbing with a broken fin.  Another exchange resulted in a detaining in TSA security for questioning the sanity of one line of passport checks despite three podiums and four more attendants simply watching the first-a specter with both feet in the grave.  Miraculously the little nod to the gods before boarding this time worked.  The travel bag, with all clothes-lucky since “beach chic” is different from naked- were actually waiting under the thatched roof of the arrival baggage claim.

So, the first and second day?  Well, I could bore you with tales of the limbo, Bo the friendly pooh bear and Iraq War gunner with seriously nice style, the complete upheaval of one wing of the resort resulting in non-wedding party guests dancing on their balconies surrounding the reception.  There was also the snorkeling trip aboard a catamaran with Captain Valentino and his apron slogan “I may be shy, but I have a giant penis”.  In the last case I would be lying since one look at the transfer pangas was enough for “the notes” to slip off and sleep it off under a palm-thatched beach hut.  However, if you’re a reader here then you’re not interested in such trifles.  You’re here for the surf and the travelogue. If you’ve travelled for surf then you know the on-time and ding-free arrival of your boards, especially when connecting through Miami, is a story.  But just to tempt…

Punta Cana is resort filled and beautiful.  Clean and well-kept for its target audience, the only danger  may be the airport transport.  The roads are actually better than say, Costa Rica, but the bravado of the drivers and their complete disregard for any sort of driving regulation often leaves the front seat passenger to close their eyes and wonder how bad this will hurt.  Before leaving there were numerous warnings, “don’t leave the resort”.  The transport to the resort would prove such advice unwarranted.  Other than nearly blasting into a cow broadside around a blind turn, there was not even the danger one might find on the DC Metro.  Third world yes, but no different from any others labeled such, excepting only the piratical hangover still present in the characters of some of the Dominican people and Hispaniola’s norms and morés.  Excellence at Punta Cana even has a rolling wave reminiscent of Poipu Beach in Kauai if you want to cool off or work off a (several) Presidenté. While the rest of the days feature the stories of travel and surf, this one covers the first and the second and is really just to honor my friend and his new life with his now better half. Without them there would be no others and “the notes” would have still been stuck at work and in a 4/3 wetsuit with booties and gloves.

One last piece of advice…while staying at Excellence at Punta Cana be certain you do not draw a full sip of hot coffee before turning on channel vente-uno.  What you will see will really scramble your head at 7:30am.  Cuidado amigo.

Thank you Jon and Jill.  Congratulations.

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Hasta Luego

There have been plans for an accumulated story on a devotion and passion, a few longboard sessions, some do-it-yourself trailer repair with the help of 96 Charters (check the blog under blogroll) for spring fishing and swells.  Ultimately, little has actually been accomplished other than remaining afloat as North End Landscapes comes into the summer season and the classes I’m responsible for at the high school have been knee deep in their studies.  So, chuck it all.  It’s warm south.  So, the Notes is headed south and then slightly north of there.  A true amigo is set to wed and for that we load up, call in favors for babysitting and hop a flight towards the Dominican Republic.  After a weekend of helping our friend celebrar su bode, the notes moves to the northern Dominican in the area of Caberete for lounging with Mrs. Notes for a week.  Sold the whole idea as a last chance for a get-a-way before the new little niña arrives and all saving goes towards the inevitable Disney pilgrimage.  Unfortunately the data rates for the web card just aren’t in the budget for a trip funded on unpaid bills and juggled credit.  So, follow along with the tweeted notes (northendnotes@twitter) and check back here for photos and words on return.  Be sure to grab a copy of Local Sessions for some new pieces coming soon.  Till then, here are some shots to tide you over.

Thanks for checking in.

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A couple cold ones…

January has had some decent swell activity.  And unlike closing the pub with your brother, these haven’t hurt the next day.  Here’s a couple cold ones till you can get yours.

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Surfing. Better than the mall.

And, perhaps, it is even better than the merry-go-round.  After all that thing gives a serious queasy feeling if forced to ride on the top level and, what is more, you deserve it for being in the mall this close to Christmas.  So any time you are able to steal in the water is cherished indeed.  As evidenced by the recent post count, there has been little surf to speak of.  What has been around has been fun, but has needed a little luck, a little groveling for the time, and a little more rubber.  The last swell or two right before Thanksgiving was done in water hovering right around 60 degrees.  If the sun was right or the wind quiet then you could steal an hour or two without the booties.  Now, at 53 degrees, the heavy rubber comes out and the boots are dug out of their storage spot and have begun their stink anew.

What follows is a random collection of shots taken in the last few swells.  Apologies for the shaky focus as most of them are snapped at the very same time as the photographer is racing to jump into a full suit of rubber in the anxiety created by a small window of daylight, wind and responsibilities begged off.  In short, chaotic and childish at best.  In these swells we had barrels, noseriding, and fun.  It also saw the end of long, trusted soldier.  Rest in peace trusted Bill Stewart.  Thy time was cherished.

The down time in between has been spent chasing trout and finally putting together the newest Wall of Fame page featuring Jeremy Robinson of CB Surf Shop.  Be sure to check it out.  And, in the spirit of bragging on solid surfing and good guys, Bo Raynor was recently featured in Transworld Surf Magazine.  It was only yesterday where he lumbered after his two brothers (exceptionally talented surfers and nice young men in their own right) and was not much more than 2 feet or more of runny nose.  While little Bo-bo may not remember, “the notes” does and it is brought to the attention of you readers because before long it may be the only way left to keep that little man in check.  “the notes” sure won’t be doing it from the water.  Like all the Raynor boys, Bo is humble, kind, genuine and talented.  He and his brothers are on the surf any time and any place it’s good.  It shows.  A recent string of top places and contest wins as well as an ESA All-Star selection earned Bo a spot with Billabong and he isn’t looking back.  Bo and his brothers are beginning to follow the trail made by their father.  They exude the simple life of being a surfer and loving the gift it is.  They are good surfers and good men.  Here at “the notes” we have nothing but love for Bo and cherish watching him go after his dreams in and out of the water.  Good on ya Bo.

Bo Raynor. The Cove at Fort Fisher. Photo: Robbie Johnson of Surf Carolina Magazine

New Addition to the Wall of Fame

New addition to the Wall of Fame entitled “Diligence”.  Check it out on the Wall of Fame page if you want the story and definition for the wall.  Otherwise use the sidebar or click here. Enjoy.

PS. Congrats to local standout Drake Courie and all others on their nomination to the UNCW surf team.  Good luck ladies and fellas.  Tear ’em up.


Conditions can look great on forecasts but be completely different in the water. Fortunately this is not the same swell.

The days and hours leading up to the arrival of new swell are rivaled by little else.  Like Kaiser Sosa, you need only whisper its arrival “and like that, [it] is gone”.  You are left with only the promise of what might have been and the swell report that changed so unfavorably overnight now looking you in the face as if it had told you all efforts to clear your calendar and call in favors were futile from the very beginning.  Too bad birthdays are not the same.  As far as just disappearing anyway.  There is no warning or forecast.  You just sort of stumble along till someone reminds you that “your birthday is Wednesday”.  Crap.  This year was different though.  There was cake.  Two of them.  One chocolate chip cookie and one double fudge, chocolate heart attack special.  In fact, as things go, the time around the 34th birthday here at “the notes” was not so bad.   Just before June really started laying on equatorial type heat, there was a solid Nor’easterly swell which broke on a local barrier island as well as it has in a long time.  Since the camera is still somewhere in California or crossing the country, “the notes” only had to negotiate a strong head wind aboard the Sonny Days and then surf without guilt.  And it was worth it.  The outer shoals of the island were breaking at head high to 3 feet overhead.

The crew of the Sonny Days

When “the notes” made its home on Whiskey Creek, a solid Nor’easter was easy to note since the sea buoy would ring and the direction of the wind carried it back up the creek and into the still neighborhood.  I told my brother that once as we sat around his fire drinking beer.  He thought that was the kind of thing I should write about-there ya go man.  Now, down here on the river it takes the right conditions and wind and you can still hear the buoy at this end of the barrier island.  Before this swell rolled in the buoy could be heard all day.  A faint reminder to get my plate clean and have the boat at the ready.  Sitting in the line-up, the sets would show on the shoal, toss around some of the SUPs or longboards and then slide back under water.  From there you only had to wait as it jacked up over the inside bar. Clear blue-green water and solid overhead and clean surf.

The old launch before it was idiot proof. The same knowledge can get you past the idiots still managing to foul up the idiot proof ramp. Ryan Tolhurst and "A Little Therapy"

My brother joined me for the third evening and we ditched work leaving from the trusted old dock.  By then the swell had dropped and the crowd increased but we stayed till the last light disappeared and the crowd dwindled back to school or to jobs.  We rode home in silent exhausted satisfaction.

Then the Bermuda high steamrolled in with its 11o degree heat and the surf has all but disappeared. A few mornings on summer time shapes or longboards have kept us sane but basically its been a good time to go fish.  Some good trout and a couple solid flounder made it to the boat as a recently-turned-12 Sonny joined “the notes” for a birthday fishing excursion.  On top of that there was the birthday loot.  My daughter gave me a pirate costume for rescuing her when she is a princess.  My parents gave a similar gift, a costume, pirate playing cards and a pirate themed painting.  Either Jimmy Buffet is right and I’m just discovering it too late or my family believes I’ve taken a wrong career path and are encouraging a change.  Hopefully there will be rum.  It is said to embolden the spirit when rescuing princesses.  The eye patch stayed at home for the fishing since the squinting was giving me a headache and makes tying and baiting hooks while at sea a bit precarious.  Good thing too as it might have encumbered the fight with the shark we caught (check the video below.  All apologies to Hemingway and Hans Zimmer).  Really not a bad birthday.

The view on the ride home. Southeast NC. Not too bad.

Now we roll into July.  In the spirit of new changes, the site now has a new look.  Let me know what you think.  The pages for the wall of fame can be found at the top (more additions coming soon).  And, hopefully, you will find a little more regular posting here at the notes (next up a late, but heartfelt, follow-up on the UNCW surf team, perhaps an interview or two.  And if the camera ever returns from the left coast, more pics.  For a review on the Digital Wunderland  Ding Repair DVD by yours truly, grab a copy of the new ESM.) But not this weekend.  On the same weekend that everyone in the country from the midwest and east is driving to the coast, Mrs “the notes” has us travelling to visit friends in Ocean City Md.  What? Traffic worries no pirate.  Avast ye minivan-lubbers or I’ll run you through.  Arr.


Stupid groundhog…

and his 6 more weeks of winter. Some winter shots laying around.  While the winter was pretty darn cold and pretty darn flat, there were a few sessions to be had.  Out f the corner of your eye you may have begun to notice the water temp is climbing.  Yea, only 50 but that is warmer than 46.  Things will be heating up so don’t forget to check “the notes” for swell coverage and more photos.  Enjoy