We have been in Oriental NC now for a little over three months! We moved “down river” to be closer to our favorite weekend cruising destinations and perhaps a few new locations that we’ve been dreaming about. It was a very chilly Spring. I didn’t take the portable heater and electric blanket off the boat until mid May! But, we have made two trips to Morehead City, once to the Town docks and once to the Yacht Basin! Both were great overnight trips with fabulous dinners out on the town! One weekend we intended to anchor out in South River, but the winds were up and the horseflies huge….so we tucked ourselves back nicely in our home slip! It was really nice to only have been one hour away when we decided to sneak back home!
This past weekend we made it to Ocracoke Island! This was no small accomplishment. Getting across the Pamlico Sound is an experience that you truly can’t believe until you actually do it. We really had great weather!! On the cruise over we had a light 10mph WSW wind that actually felt more WNW. We had a following/quartering/beam sea that was really knocking us all over the place. At the halfway point we even considered turning back. When Skinny Dippin’ is getting knocked around in a beam sea, it is truly scary to me. And the return trip was forecasting to be from the NNE at 5-10 so we’d have the same conditions on the return leg. Tom decided we’d try “tacking” to ease the beam roll. It worked great! We decide to press on feeling comfortable that we’d make it okay!
Our return leg ended up being 5-10 from the WSW. This gave us a head sea the whole way. Head seas are much easier for me to handle than the beam, but the waves were short and steep and we “got air” several times. Skinny Dippin’ handled the seas just fine and got us there and back safe and sound. The spice rack however seemed to have had a tornado in the pantry.
The trip is approximately 48 miles from Oriental across the Pamlico Sound. The issue with the Sound is that the body of water is relatively shallow. This means that any amount of wind really kicks up a huge choppy mess of a body of water. Knowing the logic behind that statement did not fully prepare us for the experience itself. Tom once asked his cousin, a lifelong sailor, “what wind direction makes the Pamlico really nasty?” Andy replied simply, “any wind makes the Pamlico nasty”.
Tom fine-tuned his helmsmanship this trip! By experimenting with different speed variations and tacking through the roughest seas, he was able to find happy spots where both ship and crew were more comfortable for the long haul. And both ship and crew were happy he did!
As we came upon the entrance channel to Ocracoke Island, Tom called the marina on the cell phone to ask about any cautions to the channel, missing markers, shoaling and general conditions in Silver Lake. When we got into Silver Lake we hailed the marina on the VHF. The Dockmaster decided at the last minute to change our slip assignment. I was prepared for a portside tie, and had to quickly change over to a stern tie. This is not something we usually do because our dingy is on our swim platform making disembarking from the boat challenging. But with our usual awesome teamwork, we worked together to get backed in for a stern-to tie. Marco the master-dock-hand jumped onboard and with the blinding swiftness of a ninja had us tied in with a six point tie. I have never seen a bowline tied and looped over a piling in under 2 seconds! Although, I did quietly go behind him and changed all of the working ends to proper cleat hitches! (Don’t tell him.)
There it is! Our first Pamlico Sound crossing! We had great weather and the seas were still rough. Another friend said “there is no crossing the sound without getting beat up”. I couldn’t imagine even a little what winds above 10-15-20 would cause. I know that our little boat will not be attempting a crossing at those wind speeds! At least not with me onboard!
This was also our very first time to Ocracoke Island! As with all island vacations, it was a blast. We were with good friends who met us on their own boat from the Albemarle Sound. We rented a golf cart and tooled around. We visited the Lighthouse, the Civil War Cemetery, and the many many fun fun pubs and restaurants along the way. We shopped too much and ate too much and enjoyed pirate libations with abandon. It was a great great time and one that we will treasure always.
If you go, cross with caution. Make sure your vessel is sound and ready to take a beating. Even just a failed fuel filter out there would be a real challenge to get changed. We met three 22ft sailboats crossing as a flotilla at the Anchorage Inn and Marina. On the return trip one had a crack in the hull and was taking on water. The Coast Guard was called in and they got the little boat pumped out and towed back to shore safely. A Big time THANK YOU to all of the Coast Guard that stand watch along our shores to bring us all home safely. We were so happy to see the little Flotilla back in Oriental. A holy shit day for them and all of us listening on the radio that day.
Next up is a trip up the Alligator River to Manteo!! I promised more cruising tales this summer! I hope the weather holds so I can keep that promise! Until then, Fair Winds and Calm Seas!! Next time you see a Coastie, tell them Thank You for keeping us all safe.