The North Carolina ICW

The sail from Ocracoke to Oriental was one of those “Sailing Adventures” that we (sailors) sometimes talk about with that far away look in our eyes, lots of deep breaths, and long pauses that end with a head shaking sigh… In other words, it was hard. After the gales eased, we saw a tiny window of opportunity that promised 10 to 20 knot winds from the northwest, which according to our travel direction put the wind on our starboard beam for most of the expected 9 hours it would take to cross the Pamlico Sound and transit the Neuse River to Oriental from the Outer Banks. We woke long before light, hoping to get underway around sunrise. There are two ferries that run to Ocracoke Island from the North Carolina mainland, and the channel leading out of Ocracoke is treacherous enough on its own without having to dodge a giant ship. We called the ferry (which was running at the dock) on the VHF to find out what time they were taking off from Ocracoke so we could follow them out without having to worry about them creeping up our asses in that channel. They told us that the first ferry would be taking off at about 0700 and the second one at 0930. Now when you consider that most VHF communication is sketchy at best and add a North Carolina-ferry-boat-captain accent on top of that, that second estimated time of departure could be a little off. Anyway we weighed anchor and followed the first ferry out of the channel with bare poles. Once we got out of the protected boat basin in Ocracoke the seas were in a full-on churn with white caps from the cold wind (directly in our faces) and steep, choppy growlers left over from 3[…]

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