September 2, 2016, a tornado came from Cape Lookout and headed toward Harkers Island. It actually skipped the Island and then landed in Straits. The tornado skipped many homes in the vicinity of Straits, but it did do significant damage to a boat storage owned by Down East Kayaks - Christopher Miller. Once the sun rose the next morning and the full impact of the tornado could be realized, it wasn't just the boat storage that was damaged. Pecan trees were ripped apart and a couple cedar trees were twisted at their base totally destroying them. But out of the devastation, Heber Guthrie was able to teach a great lesson about natural knees as well as honing the wood from that cedar tree into a beautiful "natural knee." Below is the story Heber wrote about the wood rescued from the cedar.
1526 Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon’s ship wrecked along what is now the southern coast of North Carolina. His men went ashore and found an abundance of Live Oaks, Cedars, and Pines. It was common to use timbers with the shape you needed. A tree limb with these characteristics are referred to by boat builders as a natural knee. What makes this a natural phenomenal is the wood grain continues around the curve of the knee. A couple days after the tornado touched down in Straits, I went there for a look at the cedars that had fallen. Lillie Chadwick Miller said she had planted that cedar about 30 years ago. A few feet just above the bottom of the cedar, there was the knee I was looking for. The sequence of pictures shows working the wood down to the heart. What was surprising, it actually fit in the bow of my old skiff.
Captain Ayllon built two ships. Did they use natural knees on those ships? We just don’t know. We do know it’s the first recorded instance of ship building near the mouth of the Cape Fear River. It’s amazing that the very trees we use are also our architects.