For several decades Capt. Rob Temple of the Schooner Windfall II and the Skipjack Wilma Lee has been composing piratical poetry and nautical nonsense which he enjoys reciting on stage at various venues, including Ocracoke’s Deepwater Theater and porch talks at the Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum.

Earlier this year Capt. Rob joined up with illustrator Patti Phelps to publish a 40 page booklet containing a dozen of his original creations. The booklet is available for $15 by contacting Patti Phelps at 252-495-2444 or the Ocracoke Preservation Society at 252-928-7375.

Scroll down to read Rob’s piratical, parodical poem, A Pirate’s Christmas.


‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the ship
The pirates were stirring rum punch for a nip.
The guns were run out to their maximum clearance
Just in case ye old navy should make an appearance.

The lookout was passed out cold on the deck
Dreaming of a hangman’s noose round his neck.
Blackbeard in his hat and I in my bandanna
Had just settled down to smoke a Havanna

When out on the sea there arose such commotion
We knew there was something out there on the ocean.
Away to the rail I flew like a flash
And leaning far over I threw up the hash!

I heard Blackbeard laughing. He bellowed out, “Aahhrr
You always get sick when you smoke a cigar!”
The moon on the breast of the glittering water
Made us all feel that something was quite out of order.

A guy with a beard and a furry red coat
Was approaching our ship in a jolly row boat.
So we realized that Christmas had finally caught us
And we cried, “Ahoy Santa! What gifts have you brought us?”

But the scowl on his face and the shake of his head
Soon told us all we had something to dread.
He said, “No presents for you, you mean sons of witches!
I’m bringing you nothing but ashes and switches!

“You dare expect presents?  What’s wrong with your brains?
Your ship is all loaded with ill-gotten gains!”
As soon as Santa’s anger was spent
All of us pirates began to repent.

We begged and we cried till our eyes were all swollen
And we swore we’d return all the loot that we’d stolen.
We said, “If you’ll only forgive us, dear Santa
We’ll give up the sea and all move to Atlanta.”

But he laughed and he told us, “What fools you all are!
Don’t give up the ship.  That’s going too far!”
Then he winked through the smoke of the pipe he was smoking
And we saw with relief that he’d only been joking.

Then opening his bag which he’d placed on the hatch
He presented Blind Pew with a double eye patch.
For the rest of the crew he had wonderful things:
New swords and daggers and golden earrings.

A new peg and crutch were for Long John our cook
And for one-handed Wally he’d brought a new hook.
Then stepping to the rail and shouldering his load
He said, “Always remember to live by the Code.

Only take from the rich as it’s them who can spare it.
When you get back to shore just remember to share it.
We pirates loved Santa; he’s so full of fun
So we all sort of hated to do what we done

But seizing his bag we stole every last gift
Then we bound him and gagged him and set him adrift!
If these dastardly actions seem shocking to you
Well – hey!- we’re just pirates and that’s what we do!



By Rob Temple, April, 2010

Leave her, Johnny, leave her
Oh leave her, Johnny, leave her!
The voyage is done and the winds don’t blow
And it’s time for us to leave her!

—-An old sea chantey traditionally sung at the completion of a voyage.
When I sailed the Windfall from her homeport of Ocracoke up to Scott’s Boatyard in Buxton on Easter Sunday with my son and a couple of friends for annual maintenance and a Coast Guard dry-dock inspection, I knew I was in for some costly repairs to a section of the hull which had deteriorated from fresh water intrusion, but that was not so unusual for an old boat constructed mostly of wood planking, along with plywood, epoxy and fiberglass.

(Photo by Tom Borneman, courtesy of Captain RobTemple)

As the yard crew and I began to dig into the hull, it became apparent that a proper restoration would exceed the cost of a new vessel.  On Wednesday, April 7, I notified the Coast Guard that I planned to retire the Windfall and cancelled the scheduled inspection.  By the following week, I was in New Jersey looking at another schooner that may soon become Windfall II.

Some folks have expressed surprise at the alacrity of these events, but those who know me best were not surprised in the least.

Sailors have always imputed varying degrees of human consciousness to their boats.  The fact that boats are usually referred to in the feminine gender is evidence of a prevailing affection felt toward them. But, love them as we might, we guys can never be sure we understand our women. And, strangely enough, that’s a big part of what makes them fascinating to us.

With Windfall, I guess I always wondered which of us would survive the other.  If she’d held on six more months, we would have been together a quarter of a century!

(Photo by Tom Borneman, courtesy of Captain RobTemple)

And I must confess (rascal that I am!) that, suspecting that this time might come, I’ve sort of had my eye on another shapely creature. Couldn’t help but admire the “cut of her jib” as they say.  I’m sure my uncle Pem, who (inadvertently) taught me to sail long ago, is rolling in his grave.  He wasn’t a schooner nut like I am but he was a devotee of wooden vessels.  I remember a placard on the saloon bulkhead of his Dickerson ketch that said, “If God had meant for us to sail fiberglass boats, He would have given us fiberglass trees.”

Windfall II, although somewhat smaller and constructed of fiberglass, will (from a distance at least) look very similar to her namesake. Instead of 30 passengers, she’ll only be approved for six, but I’m not getting any younger myself and could use a change. The smaller capacity will require a price increase, but I don’t want to do that without adding value so I’ll be offering longer cruises where we can really do some sailing.

Of course, we’ll grieve for the old girl. In nearly 25 years of service, Windfall carried tens of thousands of passengers from all over the globe without a single accident. And she sure didn’t owe me anything.

For years, people who understand business (and especially the charter business) asked me why I didn’t sell her at the top of her game and buy a newer/bigger/better boat. From a business standpoint it only would have made sense.

But the fact is: I loved her. Every time I took the wheel of someone else’s boat, it only made me appreciate how much I enjoyed sailing that schooner.

(Photo by Kitty Michell, courtesy of Captain RobTemple)

Old gaff-rigged schooners are no longer considered competitive performers. That’s why the annual Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race is strictly limited to the schooner rig.  In 2008, five of us sailed Windfall up to Baltimore and took third place in our division.  She maintained speeds in excess of nine knots for most of the race and finished ahead of many of the much larger vessels. The vessel that will become Windfall II took second place in the schooner race in 2000, and I hope to take her back up there in the fall.

One of the boat yard guys said to me the other day, “Well, Rob, it’s the end of an era, isn’t it?” And I said, “Yes, and it’s the beginning of a new one.”

I’d like to thank all the people who’ve crewed on Windfall over the years and helped with her never-ending maintenance. Thanks, also, to those who’ve sailed with us and recommended us to others. Thanks for the photos and all the compliments about how pretty she looked with her red sails in the sunset.

But life goes on!  The new vessel should be here in the next few weeks, sailing in Windfall’s wake.

(Rob Temple lives on Ocracoke and has sailed the Windfall on charter cruises from Ocracoke and Florida ports for several decades.)


Welcome to another edition of Village Craftsmen’s on-line newsletter!

For those of you who missed last month’s posting you might want to see some of our  January snow pictures.  As beautiful as it was, it didn’t last long.  In a few days the weather turned mild again and the melting snow left only fond memories. Ocracokers were quick to return to their regular winter-time routines. 

This January Amy Howard organized a revival of one of our newer island traditions, the community auction. 
It was designed primarily for local residents, not only as a form of ultimate recycling, but also as an opportunity to visit with neighbors, catch up on local news,….and raise money for some good causes.

For weeks she collected boxes and pickup truck loads of assorted knick-knacks, kitchen items, appliances, furniture, clothes, toys, tools, and clothes.  On Saturday, January 26 the Community Center was overflowing with merchandise and people.  A preview was organized for the morning hours, and sandwiches, drinks, and desserts were sold.  The bidding started at 2 pm and lasted past dinner time. Auction
When the final tally was done, over $3,600.00 was made and donated to the Ocracoke Fire Department, Ocracoke Preservation Society, and Ocracoke Girl Scouts.

But a community auction is only a once-a-year event.  What else keeps us busy during the cold and dark days of winter?  Every summer, one of the most common questions visitors ask of us locals is “What do you do during the off-season?” 

There are many advantages to living on this beautiful strip of sand.  One of them is getting to know all of the other talented and interesting folks who call Ocracoke home.  And often it includes fun times and mini-adventures.  This winter I had the good fortune to accompany Captain Rob Temple of the Schooner Windfall on his annual trip down the Intracoastal Waterway to his winter headquarters in Flamingo Florida.  Rob was kind enough to make room for me, and to chronicle the trip. I share his account with you below. 


Every November when the tourists have mostly gone and the scent of wood smoke fills the air, I fill the Windfall with erstwhile pirates and point the bowsprit toward South Florida. Without any womenfolk aboard to keep us in line we have a tendency to resemble pirates in some ways — eating and drinking stuff that ain’t good for us, lots of political incorrectness and off-color humor, not much bathing or shaving. What follows is a brief account of what it was like to have Philip Howard aboard for the most recent trip south.
Aaahhrrr — Philip Howard. No sooner had he stepped aboard me schooner in Savannah than his pirate ancestry began to show through. He stood his trick at the helm with a steady hand and a roving eye — always on the lookout for a prize (perhaps no more than a glimpse of a scantily-clad lass on a passing vessel but the instinct was there all the same).

Although Philip had often talked about making the annual voyage south on the schooner Windfall, his innate lust for gold had always kept him firmly rooted to his cash register at the Village Craftsmen. Once a couple of years ago he’d managed to pry himself loose long enough to join the passage from Ocracoke to Savannah, but since that time, although he’d continued to show interest in future voyages, he always backed off from specific departure dates until I finally stopped mentioning the matter to him.

I was therefore surprised and pleased to receive a message shortly after departing Ocracoke last fall that Philip wished to join the cruise at Savannah. Aboard at the time were only myself and me old swashbuckling quartermaster Jim Tomkins, a semi-retired shipwright from the Buffalo area. This was good since Tomkins and Philip had been shipmates on Philip’s earlier voyage and had proven compatible in their liberal political leanings. I was somewhat relieved that me old shipmate Bob Geh was not along on this passage as he tends to inhabit the other end of the political spectrum — out there with Jesse Helms and Attila the Hun — and there’d have been little sleep for me with the constant dueling on deck.

Windfall Deck

Due to a late-season hurricane offshore (Olga) which, while posing no direct threat to land was generating large swells and breakers around inlets, I followed ye old “chicken o’ the sea” approach and plotted me course down the Intracoastal Waterway. There wasn’t much sailing to be done on this route. There’s mostly motoring at six knots waiting for drawbridges and watching birds. Each time I make this trip I’m shocked and distressed anew at the revolting development along the waterway. One mile-long stretch of shoreline on Edisto Island where I once counted five bald eagles was recently clear-cut and was being bulldozed for a golf course. Looks like today’s pirates are plundering not the sea but the land.

Our first day out of Savannah was spent winding through the Georgia salt marsh — a beautiful part of the world so long as you’re not in a hurry. The waterway in these parts twists and turns like a drunken eel and quite often the compass will show that we’re actually heading northeast or northwest as we work our way gradually southward.

After two days of this we fetched up at Fernandina, Florida where Tomkins’s skilled Irish nose sniffed out an authentic pub for dinner. We all feasted on shepherd’s pie washed down with mugs of draft stout. Aaaahhrr!

Irish joke: Q: What’s Irish and sits in the back yard?

A: Patty O’Furniture.

The next day we stopped at St. Augustine. Concern was mounting about Philip. While he was doing as well as any of us in developing the pirate skills of overeating, oversleeping, lounging on deck and spinning yarns, he repeatedly failed to consume his fair share of the daily grog ration. We considered making him walk the plank, but just as Governor Spotswood had done with his ancestor in 1718, we granted him a reprieve and in St. Augustine we introduced him to some of Florida’s finest taverns to catch up on some shoreside drinking practice.

The next evening found us at New Smyrna Beach where we went to dinner with me old shipmate Bill Maden and his wife Pat. The fried shellfish and beer made a memorable impression on the skipper in the form of a major gout attack that had me gimping around the deck like Long John Silver himself for the rest of the voyage.

Below New Smyrna, the waterway offers good sailing down the Indian River and we gave the engine a rest for most of the day as we barreled along under a full press of canvass all the way to Melbourne where Jim’s son J.T. joined our crew. Finding himself the junior member at 46, J.T. didn’t seem to know what to make of us old geezers at first but it didn’t take him long to adapt. The next day offered more good sailing down to Peck Lake, a serene anchorage surrounded by mangroves where we dinghied ashore and took a walk on the beach.

The morning we left Peck Lake we began a two-day ordeal of motoring through South Florida’s most densely populated stretch from Palm Beach through Miami. We had to pass through twenty drawbridges each day, most of which only opened at half-hour intervals which required a lot of waiting. By the end of the second day we had emerged from the sprawl of canalside mansions with screened swimming pools and manicured lawns and anchored at Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne. Ahead of us lay a day and a half of smooth sailing through the clear blue-green waters of the Florida Keys. As we raced along before a fresh northerly breeze, the vessel functioned like a true pirate ship. Every man knew his duty and performed it with little discussion.

Windfall Rigging

A few miles out of Flamingo a pod of dolphins met us and escorted us to the channel entrance as they have every year as far back as I can remember. After docking up at Windfall’s winter berth, we swabbed the decks and generally tried to make the vessel look as little as possible like pirates had been aboard for the past two weeks.

As for Philip: all in all he made definite strides toward getting in touch with his pirate roots, but it may take him another voyage to earn his full approval rating of “aaahhrrr.”

Windfall in Silver Lake


Next time you visit the island, be sure to scout out the Schooner Windfall and consider spending part of a relaxing afternoon or evening enjoying a unique view of Ocracoke from aboard a traditional schooner, sailing in Blackbeard’s wake.  I think you’ll be glad you did!

Hoping to see you all before too many more months pass.

Philip and crew at Village Craftsmen