It has been almost two weeks since I arrived in Oriental, NC, with the idea that I would rest and refuel and wait out a strong southerly wind that was predicted for the day after I arrived.
I don’t have a good track record of making it out of Oriental quickly. The last time I was here I came for a week and ended up staying more than two months. A local diver here named Ralph says that it is because of one of Blackbeard’s curses. Whatever the reason, Oriental seems to be one of those placed that just holds onto me when I come.
I can’t say that it is at all an unpleasant thing to have happen, as I enjoy this little town as much as almost anywhere else that I can think of. The people here are friendly to visiting sailors–an overall attitude that I find to be the exception among the places that I know. The town has everything that a sailor could want–good, protected anchorages or marinas; free town dinghy docks that are safe and convenient; marine supply stores (including a marine consignment shop, a West Marine, and the supplies available through the local marinas); a grocery store that is a comfortable walk from the harbor; some good restaurants; a local gathering place in The Bean coffee shop where sailors from all over the world can swap stories over a fresh cup of brew… The town is very pleasant to walk and one can see many people out enjoying the quiet, friendly atmosphere of Oriental’s quiet back streets. There are also a couple of well-kept parks, including one stretching along the town’s waterfront on the Neuse River, which is a wonderful place from which to watch sailboats come and go.
Oriental bills itself as the “Sailing Capital of North Carolina”. I can’t argue with that, as it may very well be true, but I think of it as more of the “Sailboat Storage Capital of North Carolina” for all of the boats that are here that don’t get regularly used. It is true everywhere that most boats spend the great percentage of their time tied to a dock or mooring or on the hard, but for all of the hundreds of boats in this area I am regularly surprised at just how few are ever on the water on any of the many lovely afternoons that I have passed in this pleasant city. On an absolutely gorgeous day it is common to only see one or two boats sailing out on the wide Neuse River. On a weekend I would put that up to 4 or 5. I don’t recall ever seeing more than a half-dozen boats out sailing on the river at the same time except for a special event or race. Dinghies from the sailing camps are the exception, of course. Maybe everyone is just enjoying the welcoming atmosphere ashore, as am I…
Today I took advantage of the unseasonably warm winter weather, with a high of about 55, to put a coat of varnish on the tiller and a coat of white paint on the inboard end of the bowsprit and the mooring bitts. Sirocco is thanking me, I am sure. The bitts had seen some abuse in the past months, including having been tasked with holding Sirocco fast during hurricane Irene, and the tiller can always use another coat of varnish because of the constant wear that it receives during regular use. I didn’t think that I would be painting and varnishing at this time of year at this latitude, but I’ll take it, thank you!
The plan now is to stay here for the New Year’s celebrations before moving on. Northerly winds are forecast for next week, along with much cooler temperatures, so that will spur me on. It was a fine day today for moving south, but I wasn’t ready yet to say farewell to friends here in lovely Oriental.