Mike Parker: ‘Breakfast on the Boat’ is Saturday, April 13

Mike Parker: ‘Breakfast on the Boat’ is Saturday, April 13

From left, Bob Gaddis, Jim Gaddis and the author perform aboard the CSS Neuse II for 'Breakfast on the Boat.' Submitted photo

No April foolin’!

I have the official answer to a question I am asked repeatedly: “When are you doing the next ‘Breakfast on the Boat’?”

Saturday, April 13, will mark the Neuse Foundation’s first “Breakfast on the Boat” for 2019. The event is one of  the foundation’s smaller fundraisers to help raise money to operate and maintain the CSS Neuse II, the full-scale replica of the original CSS Ram Neuse.

In 2018, the Neuse II hosted more than 5,000 visitors during regular hours on Saturdays and during private showings by appointment. In 2018, volunteers from the foundation opened the replica gunboat 26 times to accommodate “private groups” as small as one and as large as 110.

I have heard some area people describe the CSS Ram Neuse as the gunboat that never fired a shot in anger. Such a comment demonstrates a serious lack of historical knowledge.

The original CSS Neuse, put into service in April 1864, played a significant role in supporting Confederate forces during the Battle of Wyse Fork in March 1865. Fragments of exploded projectiles from the CSS Neuse’s Brooke Rifles were discovered a mile and a half from the Neuse River.

Those fragments give us an idea of just how far those 6.4-inch rifled cannons could reach out and touch someone. Fragments of canister and grape shot were also discovered along the banks of a different part of the river.

On the last day of the battle, March 10, 1865, Confederate forces realized they could not stop the Union army’s westward movement. The Neuse’s commander gave orders to scuttle the boat. An explosion in the bow sent the CSS Neuse to the bottom of the Neuse River, where the boat lay for 96 years. In the 1960s, local people figured out how to resurrect the CSS Neuse from its watery grace in its namesake river.

Fast forward 154 years.

On April 13, “Breakfast on the Boat” will feature a full country breakfast: scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, grits, biscuits and beverages. You can eat on the gunboat itself or, if the weather permits, you can eat on the dock and enjoy the sunshine.

“The Gunboat Boats” will be back to perform both bluegrass and Civil War period music. You may even see some folks dressed in period clothes to add to the atmosphere.

This fundraiser is especially important. During the past couple of years, the Neuse II faced serious maintenance expenses for both the dock and the boat itself. One of the improvements was a new seat-coating for the outside. The repairs and improvements drained a good deal of the foundation’s resources. The CSS Neuse Foundation must raise nearly all of its budget through fundraisers and donations.

Since the foundation has a number of plans to improve the onboard experience of those who visit the Neuse II, rebuilding reserves is crucial.

From the beginning, the Neuse II has been a labor of love by those who placed the boards and drove the nails to help construct the 158-foot replica. We are grateful for those who, through nearly two decades, have given of their time, energy and money to keep the Neuse II … afloat, so to speak.

Your next opportunity to assist the Neuse II begins with a biscuit, a scoop of eggs, a plop of grits, strips of bacon, a couple of links of sausage and a cup of hot coffee or glass of milk or orange juice. “Breakfast on the Boat” is profitable only when we get strong public support. We set our attendance record a couple of years ago – 315 supporters. We hope to break that record April 13.

We will begin serving at 7:30 a.m.

I hope to see you there.

Mike Parker is a columnist for Neuse News. He also serves on the board of directors for the CSS Neuse Foundation, the caretaker of the CSS Neuse II. You can reach him at mparker16@gmail.com .

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