River Rat History
Marsh grass on one side of the Creek and piney woods on the other. A place where blue crabs come to breed in late summer. Nearly secret isolated deep water just minutes off the ICW, twelve miles by road from the nearest small town. That's the spot Paul and Bonnie Waldrop found in the early 1970's and envisioned a small rustic marina where they could share their love of sailing with a few like-minded souls. They built their place by hand, Paul and Bonnie and their kids chopping down trees from the property, stripping them of bark, and hammering them into the mud. Those first pilings stood longer than anyone expected and Waldrop's Marina grew. By 1975, a cadre of 26 humans and 7 dogs spent weekends and every vacation day they could pry loose from busy work schedules to sail the waters of nearby Pungo River and Pamlico Sound or just to mess about on their boats. They were somewhat an unorthodox though decidedly fun-loving gang of folks, folks who loved the sound of sails filling with breeze and river water slapping the hull, watching blue herons fish along the river's edge and their children catching fish from the dock, their dogs chasing squirrels across the field. They shared picnics at rickety wooden tables, midnight campfires, sunset sails, and decided theirs was the very best of all worlds, never mind those other folks who sat around the pools at their fancy Yacht Clubs. One fellow made a clever sketch of a sassy rat in an oversized lifejacket and printed them on a batch of t-shirts and burgees and the group declared themselves The River Rat Sailing Association.
For several years, the "Club" was a loosely knit entity. Then in 1978, with a brand new dock with real salt-treated pilings, the Rats, in a fit of exuberance, changed their name to The River Rat Yacht Club. Now they would have a Real Yacht Club, just like the fancy folks on the other side of the River, complete with by-laws, dues, officers and races -- though most of these intentionally violated all the rules of Proper Yacht Racing. Some years later (circa 1984), just to poke a bit more fun at The Establishment, the River Rat Yacht Club paid dues and joined the Yacht Clubs of America. Members gleefully gloated over their listing in the official Yacht Clubs of America Registry and wondered where they might find reciprocity using their newly minted RRYC membership cards.
Although they eventually sold the marina property, Paul and Bonnie Waldrop were lifetime members of RRYC and remained actively involved in all the happenings until their final "bon voyage" for life's greatest reward.
From those precious but not-so-illustrious beginnings, The River Rat Yacht Club now claims 120 human members, both Full and Associate, and who knows how many doggie and kitty members. Picnic tables (of bit more substantial nature) still offer a good lunch spot under the hickory and pine trees, but nowadays meetings and frequent social events take place in a small but homey Clubhouse. Affectionately known as The Rats' Nest, it is complete with kitchen and bath facilities, television, and all the comforts one would expect in a proper Rats' Nest. From a spacious back deck, two huge wooden Rat Ears decorating the side, members and friends can enjoy a spectacular view overlooking what is now called Jordan Creek Marina and the ever-beautiful and peaceful Jordan Creek.
There are still only 36 boat slips, maintaining the original close-knit community feeling. The size of members' boats has gradually increased over the years, though, with many now in the 35-40' range, something Paul and Bonnie never would have envisioned! There are a few new houses in the neighborhood and Henry Gorham has built a new dock and club house next door, but the tranquility of the setting has changed little. Boats still ply up and down the ICW, actually in sight of the Rats' Nest deck, and never even know they are missing the loveliest spot of all.
Yes, Rats have gotten far more numerous, many of them older though perhaps not wiser, some of them now out rambling about the world in their boats, and little kid Rats have become grown up Rats with boats and babies of their own. But some things never change: you can't get rid of Rats and Rats will always be Rats. Come on by the Rats' Nest, sit a spell and have beer or a Coke. Maybe you'll get invited for a sail. And maybe, just maybe, you'll become a Rat, too.
by Mary Heckrotte
"The Rat's Nest"
Well Equiped Kitchen, 3 Bathrooms, Large Deck, Gas Grill, Ample Dining Space
Cable TV, Wireless Internet
Local Phone Service
VHF Radio, Dinghy Dock, Small Boat Ramp, Picnic Area, Firepit, and Incredible Sunsets.