Beaufort might want to take a look through rose-colored glasses as it scans the horizon for more boaters to stop and shop.
Those would be glasses filled with Merlot.
That's how Elizabeth City, N.C., does it. Someone greets most boaters who tie up at the town dock with a freshly clipped rose and an invitation to a dockside wine and cheese party.
This is old news to those who ply the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, like my friend from North Carolina who docked in Beaufort last week on his way south to "see where it ends."
When I arrived at the Downtown Marina for a visit, he was dangling from a rope to repair a light on the mast of his 32-foot sailboat, Live The Dream. He had been winched into the blue sky and bright sun by a stranger, a grunting and grinding fellow boater from Virginia.
The Virginian and his wife said they were fascinated by Beaufort as they, too, ambled south. Between these two boats, the contribution to our economy included a dash for groceries and hardware in the complimentary vehicle at the marina, breakfast at Blackstone's Cafe, lunch at Lowcountry Produce Market and Cafe, and a much less interesting and more expensive motor part.
I told them Beaufort may upgrade its "day dock" to encourage more short-term stops by boaters who just might buy a hamburger, or a historic mansion. The first two words out of their mouths were Elizabeth City.
It offers free dockage for two days at the 14-slip Mariners' Wharf. It is first-come, first-served with no reservations. It can handle boats up to 50 feet, but it is simple dockage with no services.
Mariners' Wharf was built in 1983 through donations from businesses and individuals.
And then came the "Rose Buddies," now apparently known by boaters worldwide.
One Sunday after church, two men decided on a whim to host a wine and cheese party for the visiting boaters. One went home and clipped one of his prized roses for each woman aboard, while the other rounded up wine, cheese, chips and cups. A tradition was born, and even though both of those gentlemen have died, volunteers and the small staff at the Elizabeth City Area Convention & Visitors Bureau still try to personally greet each new boater with a rose, wine, cheese and information.
They realize not everyone drifts down the Intracoastal Waterway to "see where it ends." So they heavily promote a regional loop to get more locals out on the water and into quaint Elizabeth City. It has even trademarked the brand, "The Harbor of Hospitality."
It all started with the people -- people who were proudly guilty of seeing their world through rose-colored glasses.