Oriental, North Carolina
After spending a little over a week with Ed & Evelyn in New Bern it was time for us to say goodbye and head out down the Neuse River to Oriental, NC. We got up slowly this morning, had coffee and said our final goodbyes to Ed & Evelyn and left their dock about 10:30 am. It’s a 4 hour trip from New Bern to Oriental. The canal system in the Fairfield neighborhood in New Bern is large, narrow, shallow with lots of twists and turns. Lots of beautiful homes to see along the way. Here is some of the view as we headed out.
Here is Mark in his native environment! Good to see him behind the wheel doing what he loves!
Of course when we see another Island Packet, which is the model of our boat, we feel a certain kinship with other Island Packets and are obligated to take a photo or try to meet the owners of other Island Packets. No owner this time as we were passing by but got a photo at least. She is a beauty!
The small canals open up to a marshy area along the banks of the Neuse River which is several miles wide. The river is fairly shallow with a average depth of about 8 – 12 feet throughout the whole area. There was little to no wind today, so we motored our way down the river to Oriental.
We docked at the Oriental Marina and Inn right in the heart of town. Oriental is known as the sailing capital of North Carolina. Being such we both expected a bigger town that it really is. It really is a small rural town of about 900 people with a sailing emphasis. The town of Oriental was originally called Smith’s Creek. In 1862 a steamer by the name of Oriental sunk off the coast of Cape Hatteras. The ship was destroyed but the entire crew survived. The post master’s wife of Smith’s Creek thought the town needed a better name. She was walking along the outer banks one day and found a name plate from a ship washed up on shore. The name plate read “Oriental”. She brought the name plate back, hung it up and the town has been known as Oriental every since.
This is our view from the boat at the dock.
After we got settled we decided to explore the town of Oriental. We stopped by several restaurants to check things out for dinner later in the evening. Stopped by a local marina store to browse all the items a sailor might be in need of. We finally found the local brew pub called the New Village Brewery. Everywhere we walked and people we past were extremely friendly and said hello and how ya doing? The brewery was no exception and as we entered the brewery there was a couple sitting on the front porch who said hello and immediately asked us if we wanted to join them. Of course we said yes and we spent the next hour and a half getting to know Joan and Pat Allen who also live aboard their boat and a stuck in Oriental while they are having their fuel tanks replaced on the boat. They are from Kansas and have been boating around the east coast for the last year or so. We had a great afternoon but we needed to head to dinner and get some warmer clothes on.
We had an awesome dinner at M&M’s restaurant. It was recommended to us by some of our cruising friends who are currently in Key West. Thanks for the recommendation Rick and Shauna! It was a great dinner. Over dinner Mark and I were recounting how lucky we feel to be back on the boat, how we will miss socializing with Ed & Evelyn. After we arrived back at the boat after dinner we noticed we had a new boat neighbor. As we walked down the dock, the gentleman on the boat said hello and then immediately recognized us. We had met he and his wife several days before at a restaurant in New Bern. They are friends of Ed & Evelyn and just happened to be on the dock here next to us. In the cruising world, if you meet someone and then see them a second time later, it is like a reunion of long lost friends. We were immediately invited aboard for after dinner drinks and a boat tour. Les and his wife Susanne regaled us with stories of their boat restoration, his work as an author and working in movie production and we admired the beauty and the decor of their well kept boat.
The next day the Oriental Women’s Club had an event on the grounds of the Inn right in front of our boat. It’s the annual Chowder Cookoff! Chowder sounds good to me! There were tents set up and crowds of people to try all 9 chowder entries and vote for our favorite chowder. There was live music and a festive atmosphere. 9 small cups of chowder is just the perfect amount for lunch. We submitted our ballots and listened to the final judging. We all agreed the winner was the chowder from Yawl’s Cafe.
Les and Susanne invited us to dinner with them and several of their sailing friends who were coming to Oriental for the evening from New Bern. We met Stewart and Stephanie who have circumnavigated the globe aboard their sailboat. Joe and Nancy who are newer to the sailing lifestyle and also Matt and Lori who we all just met on the dock in Oriental. We had happy hour aboard Two Peas which is Les and Susanne’s boat and then headed to dinner at a restaurant called the Silos. The restaurant really is in an old converted grain silo. There was a live band playing in the yard in back with a big bonfire going on. It was a fabulous dinner with great new friends. We had a night cap aboard Painkiller. Most everyone was heading out the next day (Sunday). Mark and I were staying another night in Oriental before moving on.
Sunday was a lazy day aboard Painkiller and we did a bunch of nothing. We took the time to settle into the rhythm of the boat and life back aboard.