Pamlico Pleasures

Katman and Little T met us in Oriental, NC ‘s public ramp next to the Route 55 bridge on Midyette Ave. About a dozen parked trailers indicates it is heavily used by fishermen in the area. This ramp is concrete and flanked by two nice floating piers. For the next three days, the winds are predicted to be out of the NE, shifting more easterly on the third day. Our goal, 40 miles away as the crow flies, was Ocracoke Island. That puts the wind on the nose outward bound. Around 10:30 we were rigged and under way.

The wind was crisp at 10 kts with gusts to 12-15. The NE direction was steady and only a few headers made tacking necessary with the inevitable Neuse River shoreline. It is a wide river with as much as a 5 mile girth in places. Once at the mouth, the wind dropped out. We anchored behind Swan Island on the north shore for the night. The evening gave a wonderful sunset while rafting and brilliant stars once we set tents for the night.

Una and Little T
At Swan Island
Katman (aka KMac)

At some point around midnight a motor boat roars into the anchorage which is protected by 1 foot shoaling at both ends of the island. I grabbed the flashlight, ready to point us out when the speeding boat was stopped as they dug up the bottom. Some choice country words were heard as the boat then slowly proceeded t the back of the small bay. They were out for the fish and could be heard having success as they came back rowing along the far shore. The mosquitoes were also out all night and only a towel over the head kept them at bay.

Morning was cool with winds strengthening. After coffee and rice cakes with peanut butter. We haul anchor, put in a reef, and head on out. Where the sound and river met was a confused sea state. It looked to be a rough and wet day. UNA did fine and gave no concern.  At one point a stacked wave 5-6′ in height caught us off beat and UNA pierced the top to bring on a few gallons of water over the bow. Once past Brant Island Shoal Light, the waves became uniform as we rolled over the 3-4′ waves. I risked the phone for a video once waves and wind slowed.
Other than a few shrimpers and the occasional ferry, we saw no other boats. Not able to fetch Ocracoke  we tacked above Cedar Island and again several other times negotiating the shoal waters along Portsmouth Island south of our destination. I don’t know if the waves had churned the waters to murky or if the cloudiness was typical, but even in 12″ of depth you couldn’t see the bottom. The centerboard took soundings. Winds abated as we sailed in the lee of Ocracoke and waves dissolved as we slipped in to survey Silver Lake. Once around the harbor and we tied up to the Community Pier  which has an old shack housing an interesting waterman’s museum. Across from the pier was tied a Skipjack.
Skipjack “Wilma Lee”

Named the Wilma Lee, she is over 70 years old, donated to Ocracoke Alive, Inc. ( a non-profit), and is for hire to sail. She happens to be one of only 32 skipjacks left afloat out of a fleet of once 800. More of her history can be read here.

I hose off the salt from UNA, put on dry clothes, and we head to Dajio’s for a good dinner. Back at the pier we enjoy chatting with several of the locals. Like most small towns, Ocracoke is also suffering in this dismal economy. However there remains a strong pride int he locals who are hard working and now that Labor day has passed, may feel that their island is theirs once again. I suspect our mode of travel is our passport of acceptance by them.
Eventually we cast off and sail downwind under mizzen to the SE corner of the harbor for the night. New snaps for the tent have replaced the difficult velcro webbing and rusty “stainless” loops under the gunnel. Setting up is now quicker and much improved. With bedroll over army blanket and armatures, sleep for night number two comes easy.
Next morning we’re up before sunrise. Kevin motors around the lake before we head to Pony Island Restaurant for a good breakfast.
Morning motoring
We see a green heron at the pier.
heron

After a final roll around the harbor, we head out under full sail. Winds are 10 kts from the east.

 

Little T forges across the shoals bumping along (and she needs 8″). UNA reaches more northerly to save her ruder in deeper water along the entry channel. They meet again a mile or so out and we run for hours across the Pamlico.
Marsh Cat and Cedar Island ferry.
The ride is a dramatic difference from the day before. No spray and we slip along on a gentle sea.
Once in the Neuse again, we go wing and wing with the main to weather. Thankfully the day has been overcast, keeping the sun off yesterday’s burn. Around 16:00 we pass the shrimp boats resting at the foot of Oriental.

 

We choose to anchor off Dewey Point near our beginning. Kevin notes we’ve sailed over 95 nautical miles. That is a record for UNA. Knowing that she can and in those conditions is reassuring.
We tour the harbor marinas in Little T. Few of the hundreds of sailboats seen are of interest. Its mostly miles of neglected plastic. The sunset is spectacular.
Oriental
UNA at anchor.
Back at anchor, a swim is refreshing. Dinner is good grilled chicken and rice. Night three is the most restful.
Morning is cool. A slight breeze beckons. Breakfast is coffee and pan made biscuits with butter. The sail to the ramp is short. We’re already planning for next time.
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