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August 28, 2016
To most ears, it sounds made up, a fictional place. But The Whortonsville Yacht & Tractor Club did exist. It sprang to life in 1990 about 10 miles outside of Oriental and had a 20 year run. There are the t-shirts to prove that. Membership cards and burgees, too.The WYTC burgee has made its rounds, day and night, along the eastern seaboard and to the Caribbean.And now, there is the book, The Whortonsville Yacht & Tractor Club.
The author, Nick Santoro, knows the subject well. Nick and his wife Jeannette was the driving force behind the WYTC. It based at Ensign Harbor Marina on Brown’s Creek in the backyard of their home in Whortonsville. They’d founded it a few years after moving to Whortonsville from New Jersey.
The back cover of the book calls it “an account of one man’s attempt to escape the harried, impersonal life of a New York commuter in hopes of finding a more fulfilling life-style in a tiny North Carolina coastal village.”
That man “survives a subway fire under the Hudson River on his way to a job he did not like, to realize that there must be a better way for him to spend the rest of his life. With no clear idea of what that better way might be, he decides to invent one.”Nick Santoro of the Whortonsville Yacht and Tractor Club.To those who know, Nick Santoro, this may sound familiar. Nick did survive a fire on a train while commuting to work one day in the 1980s – he was compensated for his ruined clothing. And that did set up his move to NC, all of which make up the core of his book. But he says it’s a ‘work of fiction’.
It’s in keeping with the spirit of the WYTC and its ficticious-sounding name… that the book isn’t quite non-fiction.
“The book is semi-historical fact, but the way I have written it,” Nick says, “it has to be called fiction.” For instance, the main character is not named Nick, but Walter Smithwick. Other characters from Whortonsville and Oriental and the county go by other names in the book as well. But they all are readily identifiable, particularly for the reader who spent time in Whortonsville a few decades ago.The book: Whortonsville Yacht and Tractor Club. The TownDock copy is now looking well read. You can get your own copy – click here.“There were several things behind the book.” Nick Santoro says. “First, it is sort of a retrospective on Whortonsville back when I first moved here. Whortonsville was such a magical place then. In some small way, there was an intent to capture and preserve those days. This was a welcome change of culture for me. I wanted to preserve that time.”
So how did Nick Santoro, New Jersey commuter in to Manhattan, wind up in Pamlico County in the 1980’s? “I grew up in a tiny little Jersey town where everybody commuted in to New York in the morning and then at home at night. I saw that was happening to me.”
“Jeannette and I have known each other since grammar school. We got married, we worked across the street from one another in New York. Our pre-nup was that we were going to quit our jobs and get out of that life style.”
They went across the country, “We ended up in Oakland,” Nick says. “San Francisco was too expensive.”
Nick went to work for a Bay Area ad agency. Then, around that same time, Jeanette’s father suffered a series of heart attacks and she was traveling back East often to see him. Nick says it became “too much, so we moved back and I was back in the trap.”
Back in Manhattan, Nick says, he lost one job “because the word got out I was interested in another. I moved to another company, but then that company decided to move to Connecticut. I did not want to move to Connecticut.”
“We started looking for a quiet place in the South.” Being able to have a boat nearby and sail it often was a priority. He had in mind the idea of running a marina.Nick Santoro at his Ensign Harbor Marina. Tractors once had a quantitative edge, but now sailboats appear to be more common in Whortonsville, home of the Yacht and Tractor Club.
If things had panned out as he initially wanted, there may’ve been no Yacht and Tractor club, at least not in Whortonsville. Whortonsville was not his first choice. As Nick tells it, “we found Vandemere. I put in an offer for Vandemere Marina but they chose another bid.”
“So we came to Whortonsville.”
Posted Sunday August 28, 2016 by Melinda Penkava
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