Inspired by the water: Albemarle Plantation Dockmaster J.E. Darnell shares his love for the Albemarle Sound
J.E. Darnell is no stranger to the water. He has spent his life enjoying the Albemarle Sound. Introduced to the water by his family when he was very young, J.E’s love of the water began early. Taking part in sailboat races, bass fishing tournaments, and eventually working in offshore fishing with his own charter boat, J.E. has experienced the magic and reward of Albemarle Sound in every possible way.
The breathtaking expanses of water here define the Albemarle Plantation experience. From setting out on a quick jaunt to historic Edenton for a day exploring, to heading out to the Gulf Stream for a day of fishing, this place is the launching point for fun on the water. J.E. is uniquely qualified to share this with others. A water lover by birth and a dockmaster by profession, he loves helping others embrace life on the water at Albemarle Plantation—for work, and for fun.
“I have never felt more welcome and proud to be a part of such a community,” explains J.E. “A lot of people say, “I love my job,” but I am here to tell everyone that I really love my job,” he smiles. “I am very fortunate to have found this milestone in my life and career.”
In many ways, it’s a job he was born for. His lifetime of unique experiences on the Albemarle Sound and an extensive knowledge of the surrounding waters, boating, fishing and the area’s maritime history make him an incredible resource for Albemarle Plantation residents.
The Importance of the Sound
J.E.’s knowledge of the waterway runs as deep as his passion for it. He explains that this body of water is more than just beauty, it’s a way of life for many.
“Commercial fishing has been a mainstay for decades for families along the Albemarle Sound. Gill netting and crabbing are big businesses on the Sound,” says J.E. He says that starting from the east end of the Sound to the west end of the Sound, there are thousands of crab pots and nets spread out from the back side of Nags Head to the Chowan River Bridge. “Blue crabs and flounder are abundant, right in front of the Plantation here,” he says. “The blue crab market prices are often set based on the Albemarle Sound and the Pamlico Sound harvests.”
“There’s also the farming industry,” he says. “They depend on the Sound waters to irrigate their crops. Depending on rainfall and wind directions through the summer months, the salt content in the Sound and rivers may be ideal—or disastrous— for farmers to use for irrigation. Their understanding of the water and how to work with it is key,” says J.E.
These waterways are important thoroughfares, too. “Tons of recyclable steel is transported on these waterways daily to be fabricated into building supplies,” he explains. “World-renowned boat builders test run their vessels on these waters to tune them to perfection. Companies like Regulator Marine, Albemarle Boats, Layton Boatworks and many others call this their testing grounds,” says J.E.
The Water is for Everyone
“The Intracoastal Waterway runs through the center of the Albemarle Sound, north to south. This is a vital waterway for transients and a big boost for visiting boaters at the Plantation traveling north to south in the fall and returning south to north in the spring,” says J.E. The ‘Albemarle Loop’ is a route linking marinas and waterfront towns. It’s nearly 200 miles and covers 450 square miles of water.
“Thanks to the Albemarle Loop, we have seen a lot of visiting boaters through the last three years,” says J.E. “The Albemarle Loop gives boaters a chance to visit different local marinas. Right now, there are 10 marinas participating in the network,” he explains. The “Loop” compliments mariners with two free nights at each location. “This provides each visiting boater a chance to see what each stop has to offer,” says J.E., “and it may entice them to want to harbor their vessel or possibly invest in the community.”
J.E. and the staff at the Marina want everyone at Albemarle Plantation to be able to fully experience and enjoy our waterfront. He and the marina staff enjoy serving the residents and guest of Albemarle Plantation, and are experts at making getting out on the water easy.
While his role as Dockmaster puts him at the helm of marina operations, J.E.’s relationship with Albemarle Plantation is multi-faceted. Having played golf and done service work at Albemarle Plantation for many years, J.E. has gotten to know residents and enjoys his time with them. What does he want most for them, here, in this unique waterfront community?
“I would love to see residents witness the beauty of the Albemarle Sound and the mysteries it conceals. It tantalizes the imagination and keeps you wondering each day what the next view will produce,” he says. “I personally want to invite residents and guests to come walk or ride the docks and begin their next adventure.”
“To all residents of Albemarle Plantation: this marina facility belongs to you,” says J.E. Indeed, when you live at Albemarle Plantation, this incredible resource, one of the largest private marinas on the east coast, is yours for the enjoying—as is the vast, awe-inspiring Albemarle Sound and the ocean beyond.
What could be more inspiring than that?
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