2000 Sailfish Drive
Captain Allan Foreman expanded his love of fishing into a four decade career on the water.
By Fran Marler
The 1930s version of the Outer Banks was starkly different from what we see today. Those were the days of the Manteo Hatteras Bus line, little to no paved roads and gas for less than 30 cents a gallon. In fact, in 1937 there were only a handful of oceanfront cottages in Nags Head, one of which was built by the Foreman family.
“Originally my family is from Elizabeth City and was in the lumber business,” says Captain Allan Foreman. “My grandfather’s brother built one of the first cottages in Nags Head. We would always visit during the summers. The old bridge coming from Currituck was wooden and so rickety. I can still hear those boards clanging and banging as we would drive over.”
In those days entertainment was of a simpler variety and involved the water in one way or another. “My grandfather always had a beach launcher and a charter boat,” says Foreman. So it’s no surprise when he says, “Fishing is in my blood.”
In 1965 “Big Al,” as he’s known, purchased his first offshore boat, Al’s Gal, and by 1971 he bought his first charter boat, Gal-O-Mine. The boat was aptly named, as rumor has it he spent more time on that boat than with any other girl.
“The first summer I had the boat I was still in college so a buddy of mine ran her for the summer,” says Foreman.
It wasn’t long before the charters took off and a year later the business went full time. “It’s a great way to support a habit,” says Foreman.
As the business flourished so did Foreman’s desire to expand his fleet. In 1977, along with then-partner Otie Forest, he purchased the Crystal Dawn, a 65-foot head boat with the capacity to accommodate up to 150 people.
Instead of keeping the boat in Oregon Inlet, the duo decided to take a leap of faith and start working out of Pirate’s Cove Marina on Roanoke Island.
“For the first three years we were the only boat in the marina and the first one to offer tours,” says Foreman. “It was a good decision for a lot of reasons, one of them being proximity; if something goes wrong, you forget anything or need tools, it doesn’t take half a day getting to and from.”
In the very early days of Pirate’s Cove Marina, the only building on the property was the Drafty Tavern.
“When my mother used to drive us to the library in Manteo, every time we would pass by the tavern she would issue a warning: ‘I better not ever catch you going to the tavern because the only thing that happens there is fighting,’” Foreman remembers. “Funny thing is my partner and I ended up buying the entire property.”
The early days called for a bit of creativity. “When we first started we didn’t have an office so my ‘office girl’ would set up a lawn chair and umbrella outside and answer the phone,” says Foreman.
The marina grew and in doing so gave new captains a chance to start a charter business. “It’s a great place for a charter business,” says Foreman. “A lot of the Oregon Inlet captains started out at Pirate’s Cove.”
In 1982 Foreman sold Pirate’s Cove but continued building his legacy. In 1984 he married his wife, Vanessa, who was initially in charge of taking pictures of the daily catches, while at the same time raising a family. In 1990 Foreman and his father in law, boat builder Buddy Cannady, aka Capt. B.C., built the second and current Country Girl, a 57-foot charter boat that is licensed for 30 passengers.
While the days of taking photos from boat to boat may be nothing more than a fond memory, Vanessa keeps the boats on course. Never far from her phone, she is always available to her customers and is one of the pillars of the family business.
“I believe that it is important to treat your customers with respect,” she says. “Customer service starts with the phone call, and I want to give 100% because that’s what you have to do to make it work.”
Education is also important to the Foremans. Between the two boats, folks not only have the opportunity to fish for a variety of species, but also to take part in pelagic bird watching, dolphin watching and sightseeing.
“It’s a great opportunity to teach kids about wildlife,” says Foreman. “If you teach them to be patient and respectful they will have the opportunity to see parts of our environment you can’t see from the beach.”
During the warmer months the Crystal Dawn inshore charters and Country Girl offshore charters run full steam. By Thanksgiving business starts to slow, and by January Foreman takes the Country Girl to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, to offer sailfishing charters.
If Foreman has ever questioned his career path, his last trip down to Mexico solidified any gray areas.
“One of the local mates down in Mexico noticed a pelican close to our boat that had a treble hook stuck in the back of its neck,” says Foreman. “Naturally, we wanted to help it, so after a bit of work we wrangled the pelican close and relieved him of the hook.” When they read the band on its leg, they were floored. “That pelican had been banded six months prior, in Wanchese of all places, and somehow it made its way to our boat slip in Mexico. Funny how things like that happen.”
After more than four decades and hundreds of charters, next year Foreman will be passing the helm of the Country Girl to son Charles. “Between the competition, weather, fuel and drastic regulations, it’s a hard industry,” says Foreman. “However, it’s a good living and we are blessed to have such good fishing on our coast. It’s a group effort and I have full confidence in my son Charles as he has the experience needed.”
When the family isn’t busy making lifelong friends with their customers they make sure to set aside time to donate to community causes, including the Purple Martin Society, Dare County Friends of Youth and the Visually Impaired Fishing Tournament.
Crystal Dawn/Country Girl Charters, Pirate’s Cove Marina, 2000 Sailfish Point, Manteo. 252-473-5577; crystaldawnheadboat.com; countrygirlcharters.com