Sure, there is some hyperbole if I said sailing for me is like breathing for the average lubber. But, you get the point. I needed to go sailing and an overnight trip on the Far Reach seemed like just the ticket. With the southern US under what seems like constant threat of hurricanes this year and homeschool in full operation we have to fit sailing in when we can. But, we finally we had a window of opportunity and grabbed it.
We departed our small secluded marina about 1030 on the 16th of September. It was gorgeous out. The winds were SE at 10 kts. Our destination was the picturesque town of Oriental, NC. Its a unique place, more a village than a town–the self proclaimed sailing capitol of NC–located on the left bank of the Neuse River not far from Pamlico Sound. The Neuse River is a little more than 3 miles wide at Oriental. The sailing on the Neuse is quite good. Most of river has good sailing depth so there is plenty of maneuver room. It’s more like a long bay than a river.
After clearing the channel we hoisted sails, shut off and raised our little 9.9 outboard engine on the custom made swing-arm bracket. We beat down the river with the genoa and main. The Cape Horn windvane worked perfectly after he cleaning I gave it the previous week. The wind was increasing so we took a reef in the main. The helm was well balanced, almost neutral. We crossed the wake of the Cherry Branch Ferry working our way ENE. As the wind climbed to about 17 knots I unzipped the bonnet on the genoa, transforming it into a working jib, and raised the staysail. So we swooshed along with the working jib, stays’l, and a reefed main. We were heeling about 20-25 degrees–about right for the Far Reach. We made a half-dozen tacks to extend the 10 mile trip to about 15 miles. As we entered the harbor, I sounded with the lead line while Gayle steered. We anchored in about 7′ of water near the 28′ Triton Pelican, also designed by Carl Alberg. In short order the crew of three dinghied over to chat. They had departed from Baltimore and were bound for Key West with the plan to look for work there. They were a delightful crew and seemed to be enjoying their adventure. Meeting interesting people is one of the great pleasures of sailing. Doesn’t seem to matter if you are marina bound, anchored for a night locally, or cruising to distant shores. There are a lot of interesting people out there and sailboats seem to easily link them together.
Like many waterfront towns in NC, Oriental is in many ways still a working fishing village. The commercial fishing fleet seems to have grown over the last few years. We counted 19 large fish trawlers in port. The harbor is getting tight for anchoring as the fish trawlers come and go at all hours. I am happy to see the commercial fleet growing though. That is a good sign for the economy of these small NC towns. I also like the fact that the working fishing industry provides a continuum to the legacy of working fleets, once all built around sailing craft. The fleets provide honest hardworking outdoor jobs.
After the crew of the Pelican departed we used the main halyard to launch Sweet Pea, our 9′ Fatty Knees dinghy, and rowed ashore. We had a fine meal at the M&M Grill followed by a short stroll along the waterfront. The temperature was about 75F–perfect for shorts and a short sleeve shirt. Neither warm nor cool. There was a sailing regatta that weekend and an excellent live rock band was entertaining the crowd. We had a short row back to the boat enjoying the muted sound of oar leather working in the bronze oarlocks and the burbling of water along the hull. By 2100 we were back aboard with the Sweet Pea nestled astern. It was a lovely night. A soft breeze waffed through the open hatches and port holes.
Next day, after a trip ashore to stretch our legs, we were ready to get underway. Hoisting the Sweet Pea aboard was a simple process which makes having a hard dinghy superior to an inflatable if you don’t like dragging the dinghy behind you under sail.
We had very light winds from the SE. A series of large thunderheads were marching east to west just north of us. For a while it looked like they might remain on a parallel course and slip past. With one eye on the clouds we configured the rig for down wind sailing with the whisker pole keeping the jib nicely filled on one side while we used a preventer to keep the main out on the other. We rigged the 5’x5′ canvas as a sun awning over the cockpit. We sat in the shade and leisurely chatted. It was slow going though, about 2.5-3 knots. We would pay for the slow progress later when those thunderheads decided we were not to be left alone. In short order we were holding station in 20-25 knots of wind near the marina entrance with a double reefed main and stays’l. Gayle made lunch while I remained in the cockpit nervously watching the lightning and dumping rainwater out of the bunt of the reefed mainsail. An hour later the thunderstorms had passed and we easily made our way into the marina and our slip, B-9.
It was a great weekend. We got a little of everything–tacking, gybing, anchoring, launching and recovering the dinghy, sunshine, and rain. We met interesting people. And, we were reminded how much we enjoy the simple systems on the Far Reach.