There was a full moon over Bellhaven for our one night stay there. Although it was still raining during the night, it was a lovely sight to see from our cockpit enclosure.
We left Bellhaven in the early morning dampness, after a night of showers (I am sure you are as tired of hearing about rain and clouds as I am of writing and sailing through it all!) The day was partly cloudy with some peeks of sun. We had some nice breezes and were able to use the jib to assist the engine as we motorsailed through the Pungo River, the Pamlico River, and the Neuse River.
Over the past 3-4 days of traveling down the ICW, we have been very impressed and pleased with how incredibly courteous the other boats have been. There is a sense of camaradie and togetherness as you all navigate these waters. The powerboats have been especially sensitive to what their wakes can do to a sailboat if they barge past us at a high speed. They call us on the VHF and ask what side we would like them to pass on or let us know they will give us a “slow pass” with as little wake as possible. Three sailboats were all sailing along in a row through a narrow section of the ICW. We were the middle boat and realized that the boat behind us was named Sheet Music and the boat in front of us was also named Sheet Music, each from different ports. The power boat who passed all three of us made a comment on the VHF and we all enjoyed the moment of pure coincidence. One Sheet Music said they were the black keys and the other one was the white keys. And there we were, between two sheets!
During the canal portion of the day’s trip, we passed by the R.E. Mayo shrimping company. All of the shrimp boats were at the dock because it was Sunday. They are not allowed to go out on Sundays. They have space for transient boats to stay at their dock, but I wouldn’t try that on a Sunday! Tight squeeze.
Our next stop was in Oriental, North Carolina. We were excited to see (on the harbor webcam) that the free town dock was open and we headed for it. Al did an amazing job of maneuvering us parallel to the bulkhead because there were two boat already both sides of the t-dock. We were perfectly parallel, but about 8 feet away from the dock with no more room to go forward or backward. We tossed lines to a nice gentleman who just happened to be passing by so that he could help to pull us into the dock. No go. Literally. I missed reading the fine print that said there was only a 5-6 foot depth here! Before we were aground, we decided this would not work and headed back to the harbor to anchor. We must have been entertaining for anyone who was watching the harbor webcam. Let it be known that later, while eating his ice cream at The Bean, Al was approached by another sailor and highly complimented on his skills at the helm.
Oriental is a very small community of 900-1000 residents and 4,000 boats, mostly sail (I read this in a guide book, but I have no verification of the sailboat population.) It is known as the “Sailing Capital of North Carolina.”
Oriental was named after the sailing steamer Oriental, a Federal transport ship in the Civil War. A year after being launched, she ran aground in May 1862, when she was wrecked 33 miles north of Cape Hatteras. And thus, the town was named Oriental.
We walked around town for a bit after our ice cream. Shrimp boats lined the docks and dragons appeared to be the town animal. I found this curious until I learned that the name “Oriental” inspired the adoption of the dragon as the town mascot for this small authentic fishing village. It reminded me of the Norfolk mermaid. I think it is a cute idea.
Scenes from Oriental during our very brief stay —
The town is small, but everyone is very friendly. While we were walking, we ran into Tom and Joyce, whom we had met very briefly in Cape May. They live here in Oriental and are ICW-Bahamas veterans. Tom and Joyce have been the welcoming committee for our other Connecticut friends who have already passed through. We decided to have breakfast together at The Bean in the morning. What a nice time we had talking about sailboats, the ICW and the Bahamas. The Bean is definitely the place to be, even on a Monday morning at 7:30 am –what a busy little spot! According to one local gentleman, it is known as the adult daycare center. This same person also asked Tom and Joyce if they had told us that everyone in Oriental is in the witness protection plan? Cute.
We hope to visit Oriental and Tom and Joyce on our return trip in the spring!