Patrick Harrison featured in article on Coastal Review Online

Patrick Harrison featured in article on Coastal Review Online

Bringing Back the Juniper

By Catherine Kozak

That’s John Kuser of Rutgers University, left, and George Zimmerman of Richard Stockton College of New Jersey standing next to the New Jersey record Atlantic white cedar. The tree grows near Nixon Branch in southern New Jersey. It’s 9 feet, 6 inches in circumference at breast height. This battered old tree, which may be 300 years old, grows not far inland from Delaware Bay and has lost its top at least once to hurricane winds. Photo: Rutgers University

WANCHESE — The juniper wood so prized for wooden boats and cedar shakes is tough to come by nowadays in Eastern North Carolina, where stands of Atlantic white cedar had once thrived in the coastal swamplands before logging depleted 95 percent of the population.

Two property owners in Hyde County have agreed to participate in a new program that’s the result of a partnership of the N.C. Coastal Federation and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. It pays private landowners to plant cedar trees on their property. About 700 seedlings an acre, each 6 to 12 inches tall, will be planted later this year on the landowners’ 54 acres.

For Patrick Harrison, who owns four of those acres, it fits perfectly with his lifelong appreciation for juniper.

“It’s really hard to find decent juniper,” said Harrison, owner of Harrison Boatworks in Wanchese. “Even if I was not able to harvest these trees, I’d still be in the program just to watch them grow.”

Harrison’s respect for juniper began at a young age. Renowned for its resistance to rot and insects, cedar also is bendable and has a straight grain. His father used to have a business in Columbia selling red cedar and white cedar at good prices.

“A lot of people were able to put juniper into their houses and cottages because of that little business,” he said.

His fondness for the wood is also revealed in the title of his blog, “Juniper Dust,” and the name he gave his wirehaired pointing griffon dog, “Juniper Jeke.”  Not to mention that a big barn on his land is sided with juniper.

As a boatbuilder, Harrison uses juniper in his boats’ cores, that is, the parts that define the lines of the boat. The wood “takes a pretty good bend,” he says, is lightweight and it “takes a screw nicely without splitting.”

Few woods can compare, he said, although Spanish cedar from Central and South America is even more impervious to rot but costs three to four times more.

Harrison plans to plant about 2,800 trees on four acres of his 20 acres of property near Engelhard. He acquired the land in a trade with Earl Pugh Jr., who offered the land in exchange for a boat Harrison built for him.  The property borders 400 acres of farmland owned by a close friend.

Harrison said he is in the process of clearing 20-foot wax myrtle trees off the property in preparation for the planting, which will be done by the U.S. Forest Service.  The shallow-rooted myrtle trees, which were nearing the end of their lives, will be snatched up and piled in rows on the land and allowed to rot.

The 50-acre parcel also in the program is owned by Wysocking Wildlife Sanctuary, near Engelhard. Established by Dr. Karl Busbee Pace, who died on June 28 at age 90, the non-profit organization is dedicated to the preservation of habitat for wildlife.

Ladd Bayliss

Ladd Bayliss, a coastal advocate for the federation, said that site preparation at Wysocking is also underway. Once cleared, both sites will be pre-treated with herbicides to prevent the seedlings from being crowded out by other plants. The actual planting, she said, will be done in the dead of winter.

Bayliss said that the landowners are in charge of getting the contracts lined up and for getting the work done. They will be reimbursed for 80 percent of the cost by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“It does take a lot of landowner initiative to keep the project rolling,” she said.

The federation is hoping to get help from sixth- to eighth-grade students at Pungo Christian Academy in Hyde County, she said.  The young people will learn a hands-on lesson about preservation and ecological balance, as well as help reduce costs.

The partnership to restore Atlantic white cedar in the Albemarle-Pamlico ecosystem is a part of an ongoing regional effort by the Wildlife Service. At the Great Dismal Swamp, for instance, hurricane-damaged trees had been removed in order to allow sunlight to germinate cedar seeds in the organic soil.

The largest area of cedar swamps are in Eastern North Carolina, southeastern New Jersey and northwestern Florida. When the European settlers first arrived, there were close to 500,000 acres of Atlantic white cedar along the Atlantic coast – probably half of it in North Carolina.  In 1995, biologists estimated that only five percent of that total remains.

Atlantic white-cedar grows in a narrow coastal belt 50 to 130 miles wide from southern Maine to northern Florida and west to southern Mississippi. Map: U.S. Geological Service

White cedar thrives in the boggy pocosin soils prevalent in Eastern North Carolina, said Kendall Smith, private lands biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

But the population did not bounce back well from the massive logging that took place from the late 1800s through the 1960s.

“The species is one that does not regenerate well naturally,” he said. “That is the reason that the forests that were here a century ago are gone.”

Cedar’s companions in the forest – maple, gum trees, bay – grow faster, and can crowd out cedar in the competition for sun.  At places in Tyrrell and Dare counties, cedar will grow together in thick stands, Smith said, “almost like a monoculture.”

Atlantic white cedar will tolerate flooded conditions, but only for a short duration.

The trees have reached as high as 120 feet and 60 inches diameter in North Carolina, and between 40- to 90-feet in other locations. Some Atlantic white cedars are reportedly 1,000 years old, but most stands are no older than 200 years.

White cedar stands are highly valued by ecologists because they provide food and cover for a large number of migratory birds. They also improve water quality, control erosion and reduce concentrations of mercury and nitrogen in the soil.

Smith said that cedar forests are vulnerable to peat fires, where the soil itself is actually burning – as it did in the Pains Bay near Stumpy Point in 2011.

“A deep peat fire will consume the food source – the seeds –for the Atlantic white cedar,” he said. “It’s going to kill the trees.”

Deer also present a challenge to survival of seedlings. Smith said that most strategies to discourage deer are expensive and impractical. The most reasonable solution seems to be planting extra heavy.

About 700 juniper seedlings like these will be planted on each acre. Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

As part of the agreement with private landowners to plant the trees, he said, the wildlife service will write a management plan and work with the owners to get the program off the ground. The agency pays for 80 percent of the cost of the site preparation and planting and two herbicide applications one before and one two years after planting. Landowner’s 20 percent share of the cost can be paid in in-kind services to plant and maintain the stand. Fish and Wildlife has provided $30,000 for the program.

Motivation is different for each participant, Smith said. Some landowners want the trees to benefit the habitat or fulfilling a conservation ethic. For others, it may be the idea of having a forest product in the future.

Although this is the first time the agency has partnered with the federation in white cedar restoration, he said, it has done similar projects elsewhere and hopes to continue the partnership with the federation in future restoration efforts.

“The landowners we’ve worked with are typically more conservation-oriented and they’re interested in wildlife,” Smith said.

Harrison, 43, said that he feels good that his land is being used to help the survival of juniper trees for future generations.

“By the time they’re mature, I won’t be able to use them,” he said. “My kids will be able to use them.”

This article originally appeared on Coastal Review Online at

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Catherine Kozak

Catherine Kozak has been a reporter and writer on the Outer Banks since 1995. She worked for 15 years for “The Virginian Pilot.” Born and raised in the suburbs outside New York City, Catherine earned her journalism degree from the State University of New York at New Paltz. During her career, she has written about dozens of environmental issues, including oil and gas exploration, wildlife habitat protection, sea level rise, wind energy production, shoreline erosion and beach nourishment. She lives in Nags Head.

New 19′ Tunnel Skiff

New 19′ Tunnel Skiff

I’m really excited about this 19′ design. It has an aggressive entry and a considerable amount of flare, as well as a similar tunnel to my other tunnel designs. The running bottom is similar to that of my 22′ in that it has a pronounced entry while still having a broad chine forward, which gives it superior stability and weight-carrying capabilities.

The layout can be configured to many different uses, and the owner can choose a variety of different options and degrees of finish.

Here’s one example.

19' tunnel skiff

19′ Carolina Tunnel Skiff with center console and open layout

This particular boat was designed for a man who takes duck hunting parties in the Currituck Sound. He wanted a boat that could haul a heavy load and still be comfortable and dry in a serious chop. I believe that this hull fits that bill perfectly for a 19′ long, 7.5′ wide skiff. It draws about 8″ of water and will run in less than 12″. He chose the console model with hydraulic steering and a 70 hp Yamaha, as well as the Dull Dead Grass hull color, solid rubber rub rail and a straightforward open deck layout. We see around 8 mpg and about 35 mph top end with this boat.

19' skiff with tiller

19′ Carolina style tunnel skiff with tiller.

In contrast, this 19′ tunnel skiff (same hull design), is outfitted with a 40 hp Etech tiller and totally open layout. This client wanted a shallow-draft skiff for fishing in the sounds but wanted big-water capabilities for heading out Oregon Inlet into the ocean. He chose a casting deck forward, which houses a 16 gallon fuel tank, anchor, PFDs, lines, etc. He chose aft seats, which double as storage and contain battery, panel, hydraulic pump, etc. He also chose a solid stainless steel rub rail and classic “Sportsman” paint scheme — Chevy white hull and decks, blue anti-fouling bottom paint and red boot stripe. The tiller version draws around 8″ at the entry and will top out around 30 mph.



“Classic Boat Bay”

“Classic Boat Bay”

The south bay of the shop has been filling up with historic and classic boat projects for maintenance and repairs. One of the things that makes my job so fun is getting to study these boats, whether they’re built locally or “from off,” while we’re working on them. There’s something to be learned from each and every project, no matter how big or small. And sometimes it’s just a privilege to touch a boat with such a history. Here are few of the interesting boats that have come through the Harrison Boatworks shop lately for one boat maintenance or boat repairs. Click on the image if you want to enlarge it.

New Boat Shop & New Projects

New Boat Shop & New Projects

Harrison Boatworks has moved to a new location in Wanchese at 952 Old Wharf Road. It was very sad to leave Sunnyside on the north end of Roanoke Island, where I built boats for more than a dozen years. But the new shop is proving to be a very good thing for Harrison Boatworks. The shop is well-lit, well-ventilated, dry, three times the size and only a block away from the haulout, Wanchese Dock & Haul.

Immediately after moving in, I was confronted by a few challenges, the first being installing a phase converter in order to enable my three-phase machines to work in a single-phase shop. This took weeks but we got it worked out with help from Jason Turner at Beacon Electric.

Within a week of moving into the new shop in January I began design and lofting the new 19-foot tunnel skiff. This new design is a smaller of version of my 22-foot center console, with the addition of a tunnel for running in shallow water. It will live in the Currituck Sound and be used for duck hunting and fishing. Click on the images to see a larger version of the photo.

After getting that boat underway, I assembled the jig for an 18-foot flats boat for a man in Florida. This boat will be a slicked-out, fast, pure flats boat, including poling platform, recessed push pole holders, live well, pop-up console, hydraulic jackplate, tunnel, casting platform, recessed cleats, etc.

I’ll be blogging more about these boats as they progress.

Also at Harrison Boatworks, we’ve been working on a 40-foot Hinckley. With this boat we’ve had work done to the jet drives, built a stow-able teak cockpit table, stripped and revarnished all of the britework, and done the bottom work (sandblasting, BarrierCote and antifouling paint). We’ve also installed a back up Garmin GPS and thru-hull transducer, as well as a new power inverter/charger.

Meanwhile, the Harrison Boatworks 39-foot Carolina Magic has sold and will be going to Port Aransas, TX. For the new owner, we’ve been re-doing the britework, refinishing the covering boards and bridge deck, adding spreader lights and under-gunnel LED lights, and redid the bottom. The new is Patrice Marie — keep an eye for her. She’ll be traveling TX in a couple of weeks.

These are just a few of the projects we’ve worked on since the Jan. 1 move to the new location. I look forward to starting the next 22-footer upstairs on the mezzanine this summer.

Feel free to stop by and check out what we’ve got going on.

Sea Trials on Harrison Boatworks 22′ Center Console

Sea Trials on Harrison Boatworks 22′ Center Console

We’re wrapping up the 22′ and this week we’ve been putting the initial 10 hours of break-in on the 150hp Yamaha. We’re finding that the 22′ hull in combination with the 150 and jackplate are extremely fuel efficient, plus we can sneak into less than a foot of water. As well, she is extremely dry and comfortable in a chop.  She’s also surprisingly easy to manage with a push pole because she’s so light and draws only 10 inches of water.

The new owner is extremely pleased with his boat. And I’m extremely pleased

with this new design. The 22′ has a wide range of capabilities. I’m convinced that I must have one for myself and my family. And I have to admit that the little taste of speed with the 150 is somewhat addictive.

Here’s what the new owner had to say after his first trip in the boat:

“Took the boat out this weekend. This boat over delivers and completely blew away my expectations. We are waiting on the leaning post to be cushioned and then she will be completed. We were fishing this weekend in eyesight of Oregon Inlet Fishing Center and the boat produces fish. Thanks to the Captain and boatbuilder (Patrick Harrison). We caught Speckled Trout, Flounder, Red Drum, and Rockfish. We had three adults and two children onboard and the boat is fishable in calf deep water. Simply Amazing for a 22’ boat that is capable of big water performance. The boat will top out around 39 knots. Jumps on plane. Turns on dime. As stable as any big offshore boat. Patrick, his son, and I all were standing and fishing off of the Starboard gunnel and the boat did not even tip the slightest. As you probably can tell the grin from ear to ear has not left!”

We’ve taken this boat out twice and had extremely good luck fishing. We got into some spots that 22′ deep-V production boats could not have accessed.

Designing and building this specific 22′ boat for Andrew and Suzanne Hampson has been a lot of fun.  I feel like he and his family wanted a little more sea boat than one of my tunnel skiffs and a little less than the 28′. They wanted to access shallow waters and yet still feel safe and comfortable going out of the inlet and into the ocean. I feel like this boat meets those needs to a T. I can’t wait to start the next one.

Custom Built Helm Chair

Custom Built Helm Chair

During the refit of the Bi-Op-Sea, I was asked to replicate the existing ladder-back teak helm chair. I began by making patterns of the individual parts of the chair. After construction and assembly, I wasn’t even halfway done. The majority of the labor was in the finish, not only on the teak but also on the glass buildup and primers on the actual seat. Then came the assembly of all the stainless hardware and the upholstery on the arms (done by Dagwoods).  The total cost for the chair was around $3,800. These are a few pictures that show some of the process.