Ocracoke and Oriental, NC

Picture:  Fishing vessels in Oriental, where stories of Blackbeard abound

Disclaimer for our non-sailing readers: sorry for the technical jargon in this one. Some of our sailing friends will appreciate the details of the challenges we’ve experienced and how we overcome them.

The fifty-mile excursion from Wanchese, NC (on Roanoke Island) to Ocracoke, NC was uncomfortable yet necessary.   The latter because there are few choices of protected anchorages in the broad and shallow Pamlico Sound. We left at first light with a little help from the dock master. The west wind had us pinned to the dock.  Our normal backing down with an aft tie spring wasn’t working. Tom asked the dock master to move our one remaining dock line on the starboard stern cleat to the last cleat on the dock and we were able to back into the open space beside the dock and finally head out on our own.

After motoring about 10 miles down the eastern channel of Roanoke, we were able to set full sail and head southwest.  We have a small camber spar jib that is self-tacking; so, there is little need for us to be out in the weather tending it. We chose to leave with a windy forecast (West 15-20MPH diminishing to 10MPH as the day progresses) as we didn’t think we could make the 50-mile passage under motor alone in daylight hours.  Well, forecasts are not always right, it stayed windy!  Furthermore, as it had been windy for some time the waves although not big (1-3 feet) were confused.  This made for a very bouncy, corkscrew kind of ride.  Like riding a bronco, I imagine.  Picture things falling in the cabin and a lot of rocking and rolling in all directions.  The windshield was soon covered in salt and difficult to see through.  Solution: steer by instruments: chart plotter, compass, speed and depth readings.  The sea finally calmed for the last hour as we meandered through the approach channels to Ocracoke.  The trip took nine hours and we certainly didn’t eat very well: gingerbread muffins, peanut butter bread and snacks.  Too rough to make a sandwich or heat soup!

Ocracoke has a small secure harbor with an active ferry at the curvy entrance. Yes, we met the ferry right at the entrance and waited outside the channel in 5 feet of water for them to pass. Then we motored to the far end of the harbor and anchored near a couple other sail boats.  It took a few hours for our brains to realize the boat was no longer rocking.  Is that muscle memory?  It is a strange and somewhat unsettling sensation.

We checked the distance (36 miles) and forecast (favorable winds and sunny) to our next destination: Oriental, NC; and decided to forego exploring the local wild horses and vicinity in favor of returning to the ICW and our trek south.  Temperatures have moderated recently and we are seeing highs in the mid 60’s and lows in the low 50’s. Yet, New England is experiencing snow and freezing temperatures already.

Saturday, November 17th we motor sailed in light winds across the remainder of Pamlico Sound and into the Neuse River.  Meal preparation and cleanup not a problem. Much better day!

Oriental is a very small harbor with limited anchoring.  So glad we found a spot to anchor inside the breakwater!  The two free slips at the public dock were occupied.  The marina docks are mostly empty at this time of year, but we had just spent four days at a dock in Wanchese.

The next morning Pegu Club motored into the harbor and began setting their anchor right next to us when I noticed a spot had opened on the public dock.  They quickly hoisted the anchor and moved to the free dock.  We always enjoy spending time with Jeff and Kimberly on Pegu Club.  They also started their cruise from Shennecossett Yacht Club. We chatted animatedly as we walked together to the local Marine consignment and Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Later they came over for dinner, games and popcorn. This is the cruising lifestyle we truly enjoy! The below picture was taken by us as we returned to Lone Star at sunset.

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