The Old Bay Club is a confederation of sailors who resist rules and shun regulations. As a Traditional Small Craft Association Chapter, we probably agree on little other than, “let’s go sailing”. And, so some of us did this past week. Two Caledonias, a Whisp, one Marsh Cat and UNA hit the water in Beaufort, NC (pronounce Bow-fert. SC says Bew-ert). Our starting point was to be The Straits ramp approaching Harkers Island, but local advice dissuaded us fro leaving trailers there as they might not be there upon our return. Pirates apparently still ply these waters. Given that, we moved to Beaufort’s Town Creek ramp where overnight parking isn’t allowed (thus the reason for considering Straits). Due to a closed road on our approach, we met “Captain Chris”, a skinny hairy chested fellow who has beer for breakfast, not that there is anything wrong with that. He informs us about the museum’s event parking for leaving trailers. So, we thank him and as we head in that direction, the Capn’ adds that he was voted the “number one sailor in America” and that his vessel, a black hulled ketch is moored in the harbor. The only boat matching that description obviously hasn’t set sail in many years, but who’s to quibble?
A call to the museum’s director gains us access to their lot and the combo to its lock after hours. After an hour or so later 3 boats hit the water. With a third reef in the foresail and the only one in the mizzen, UNA and I sail in Town Creek for maybe 20-30 minutes. It is blowing maybe 25-28 kts in the gusts. As a group, we elect to hang off floating piers at Homer Smith’s Seafood. Sadly the waterman’s town is changing and Homer is getting out of seafood and into the marina business. That career change allows us to ride out the high winds in relative security. Cocktails and dinner are enjoyed.
Beyond the sunset, dredging operations continue into the night, all the way until 2:00 AM! Progress? The shovel dredges mud onto a barge, ambulates to the shore by pushing or pulling the barge by grabbing the bottom and off loads into a dump truck to remove the spoils. Primitive, but seems to out perform the dredge vacuum that also has a voice all night.
Late morning, 7:00 AM, the dredge begins again. Not a peaceful anchorage.
Breakfast is coffee and drop biscuits or, one large brick. With butter and honey, it fills a gap and 1/2 is saved for later.
Sailing about the harbor exhibits several boats in various states.
Crossing back to the harbor to meet arrivals John, Peter and Mike, we grow our numbers by 2 boats and head out towards Newport river. The morning breeze dies quickly and oars are broken out. Kevin motors out towards Beaufort Inlet. The rest of us tire from rowing and drop a hook for lunch.
A local kayakers passes in admiration of our fleet. He says the sea breeze would kick in within the hour. It does and UNA reaches with the current around Radio Island to meet up with Kevin and Little T to explore Beaufort’s waterfront. We’re greeted at the museum’s boat shop where we get a tour of the facilities by the director Tim and Grant. After taking in the exhibits, we catch a burger at Finz Grill and watch the waterway traffic from the deck.
Jumping back in the boats we sail down and back the cut along Front Street. “Wild” horses graze on the facing Bird Shoal.
We pass a Laser on the way back. He comes about and pursues UNA to windward. For 10-12 minutes he gives chase, but can’t close the gap. UNA continues to impress me, but not the bridge tender who at the end of the channel refuses to open per posted schedule when hailed by VHF. The tender’s sign offers openings on the half hour, but at 4:45 the gate keeper says they won’t open until 6:30. Dropping the whole rig and rowing through does not appeal. S0, we do an about face and sail with a small pod of porpoise back around Radio Island and roll with the current at 8.5 kts according to the GPS.
Once back at the ramp, we find all other boats have been hauled, but an excellent shrimp boil is on. Master chef Harris delivers with encouragement from the rabble. He made an excellent meal of shrimp clams, sausage, carrots, potatoes, onions, corn and Old Bay. Hardly a drop was left.
Tomorrow’s weather is forecast to be 30-40 kts. I too decide to pull my boat and take the long road home. All but Kevin leave in the morning. He stays on to sail out to Cape Lookout two days later. He gets the trophy. Until next time … here is a collection of short videos: