Cornered in Oriental

Town dock in Oriental
Sirocco med-moored to the end of the free town dock in Oriental, NC

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…

Sirocco at Deaton's yard in Oriental, NC
Sirocco docked in Deaton's boatyard, Oriental, NC

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.

Firing cannon
My friend, Christian, salutes the sunset and Sirocco with a black-powder signal cannon that he made from scratch from a bronze propeller shaft


Merry Christmas!

Just a quick few words to spread good cheer! I send my best and warmest wishes to all on this Christmas eve for a wonderful and joyful Christmas day!

SIrocco will spend the holiday snugly tied up in Oriental, NC and I will likely pass the day in quiet reflection.

Much love to all!


Cape Cod to New York

I left from Little Bay, which is right next to Monument Beach, MA, in two stages–First, I pulled up both of the anchors and exited the bay, and then I re-anchored just outside to clean and stow the rodes and dinghy and make the boat properly ready for sea.  I needed a couple of hours to clean off all of the marine growth that had decided to attach itself to my anchor rodes during the weeks that I had been anchored in the area.  I scrubbed all of the nylon (rope part) with a brush and rinsed it with buckets of saltwater.  The chain only needed to be swished in the sea to remove the mud.  I removed and stowed all of the chafe gear and put the dinghy on the cabin top.  It was just after sunset when I finally got underway on my way out of Buzzard’s Bay even though I had arrived on the boat at 0830 that morning.  The wind was light and out of the southeast, so I had to motor down the bay.

The wind continued to lighten throughout the night, soon leaving me motoring over a flat-calm sea bound for the Race at the eastern end of Long Island.  I would have gone around Long Island but for the strong westerly and southwesterly winds predicted to arrive in 24 hours, which would not have been enough time for me to make port on that coast.  With a fair current helping me down Buzzard’s Bay, I made good time.  Slack water found me just off of the mouth of Narragansett Bay with the current soon to change in my favor again.  That made for picture-perfect timing of the run down that body of water, as the fair current would then carry me through the Race, where a 4-knot push would be most welcome–doubling my speed over the ground instead of stopping my progress completely.

I decided that my first port would be North Cove in Old Saybrook, CT.  I would get an anchor down well before sunset and then ride out the next day’s predicted foul weather.  Instead, as I sailed up the Connecticut River past the first marina I saw a familiar boat tied to the dock–it was Dominion, the boat that belongs to Tim and Andrea, who had sold me their old hard dinghy a few weeks earlier.  They had left Marion a couple of weeks ahead of me, so I was surprised to see them so soon.  They waved me over, so I started the engine and pulled in to the marina behind their boat.

After getting Sirocco tied up I decided that I wouldn’t be comfortable there overnight due to a strong current pushing on her and straining her lines even in the relative calm of that evening.  With the front that was due to come through that night I was sure to regret staying on the dock, so over Tim and Andrea’s slight protest I departed for North Cove just as dusk settled over the river.  When I arrived at the narrow channel entrance to North Cove I found that the markers had been removed.  I knew that the channel was very narrow and subject to shoaling.  The sky was almost completely dark now and the ebb current was running strongly.  I would have to “feel” my way in slowly.

I turned away from the main river channel where the entrance to the North Cove channel should be and slowed to dead ahead.  With 12 feet of water showing on the sounder readout I continued forward.  My method for staying in the channel was to wander slightly north and south until I saw the soundings begin to drop.  If I was on the north side of the channel when the water started to shallow I would turn slightly to the south, and vice-versa.  This kept me roughly in the deepest part of the channel.  I was prepared to turn around or start poking in different directions if I ran out of water, but that didn’t happen.  I had at least 9 feet of water all the way in, which was good for my nerves, as the tide was falling and bad weather on the way.  Once I was safely inside North Cove I continued just until the water started to shallow, and then set the anchor.  I know that North Cove is very shallow in places, so I didn’t want to push my luck.

The wind and rain arrived as predicted that night, but I slept soundly with the CQR anchor buried firmly in sticky mud.  I estimate the maximum wind that night at around 30-35 knots, so it wasn’t terrible, but the weather change brought a blast of cold weather to remind me that winter was chasing me down the coast.