A weather window finally opened up so it was time to say goodbye to Belhaven until the next time. And there WILL be a next time. After doing one final load of laundry and taking our last unlimited hot showers for awhile, we set off on a nice, sunny morning to get as far as we could towards our next destination – Oriental. We were side tied and had to back out of the fairway which was entertaining, but Jeff ably fended us off from the power boat behind us that had a raised outboard partially blocking our way.
We had been looking forward to visiting Oriental for literally years. Several years ago I read about the town on one of the internet sailing forums and we had done a bit of research into it to see if we might want to retire there someday. Calling itself the “Sailing Capitol of North Carolina”, Oriental has a population of approximately 900 people and over 2,000 sailboats. An entertaining and informative website, www.towndock.net, gives a glimpse of the local flavor, so after all of this time we were primed to finally check it out.
We didn’t have quite enough daylight to make it to Oriental, so we decided to anchor in Broad Creek. It was a peaceful, quiet spot and a good place to drop the hook for the night.
From Broad Creek it was a quick hop to Oriental, and we pulled in around 9:30 a.m. on Sunday. Not only were we excited about seeing Oriental, we were even more excited to see our friends Anita and Tom from s/v Lone Star. They had arrived the previous day and called us on the VHF to let us know that there was a space in the anchorage near them, but just as we were dropping the anchor one of the boats pulled out of the free town dock so we decided to take advantage of it. The free dock has a 48-hour limit which was perfect for our planned stay.
It’s probably understandable that after such a long build up, plus coming right on the heels of spending 5 nights in our new favorite town, Belhaven, Oriental didn’t quite live up to our expectations. It was cute and the people were nice, but it wasn’t as cute and the people weren’t as nice as Belhaven. Not that they were unfriendly – far from it. But Belhaven set a pretty high bar. Unfortunately Oriental gets hammered by frequent hurricanes, most recently Hurricane Michael in mid-September, so perhaps that was affecting the feel of the town a bit, although recovery seemed to be moving along quite well.
Regardless, we had a nice time there and had great fun with Tom and Anita. We all walked over to the local Piggly Wiggly for provisions, and we spent both evenings hanging out on Lone Star enjoying dinner and games with much laughter and fun. Tom and Anita also came over to the dock and showed us how to warp our boat (which is turning it around at the dock using only two lines), so now we won’t have to reverse away from docks again which is fantastic!
In addition to hanging out with our friends, Jeff and I visited the Oriental History Museum and spent some time walking around town and finding dragons. Dragons seem to be Oriental’s unofficial mascot with an annual New Year’s Eve parade with a Chinese dragon, and other dragons hiding around town. It was actually quite a bit of fun seeing how many we could spot.
An added bonus of our stop was that we were able to have breakfast with our friends from S/V Duchess. We met them at Shenny after they had just purchased their boat from SYC members. They took Duchess down to the Bahamas last winter and had left her in Oriental for the summer. We had a fun time catching up with them and picking their brains for what they had learned last year. We discovered that they were planning to leave Oriental the next day, as were we, so we are looking forward to seeing each other again this winter.
Finally, we enjoyed a visit from M/V Eventide. We have mutual friends at Shenny who had suggested that they look us up, and they happened to arrive in Oriental on the same day as we did. We had a lovely time chatting and are hoping to see them again down the road.
One of the things that Jeff had been looking forward to doing in Oriental was having coffee at The Bean, a local hangout across from the town docks. It had suffered major hurricane damage and wasn’t yet open when we arrived, much to his disappointment. Luckily, however, the morning we were going to leave I glanced across the street and saw that they had just opened for business! We couldn’t leave without checking it out, so we delayed our departure for a bit so we could experience this very local and friendly business while enjoying some coffee and tea. It was a nice way to say goodbye to Oriental – until our next visit.