Thursday 07 JUN 2018 – Oriental, NC
By the time I get out of the bed this morning I am relieved to find that the trawler that was tied up to the other side of the public dock has left. I am pretty sure they heard my tirade last night and so, I am happy to not have to make small talk with them while we all knowingly not make eye contact and pretend nothing happened. Marinas, and docks in this case, inadvertently put a lot of people very close together and my business probably became their business. Often on a dock, I too, catch glimpses into private lives being enacted. I don’t mean to say that I see or hear things I shouldn’t. I just catch fragments of scenes and conversations in cockpits, galleys, and salons that in a land neighborhood would normally be more deeply buried.
What was my tirade about? Last night at 10:30PM, all three of us well asleep, a loud siren-type alarm started blaring. This was the kind of alarm meant for an entire town to hear, and from the sound of it, it was located only inches from my head the public dock. Back home in our Midwestern town an alarm like this would be indicating an oncoming tornado. I know this because of the monthly tests every second Tuesday of the month at 1 o’clock, but only now – for the first time – wonder just how much information these siren screams are meant to be imparting when they go off in an actual emergency. Still in sleep mode and too lazy to find out more about the noise, I lay in bed, body still and eyes closed, willing its silence. Glenn, I could sense from his breathing, was equally alert and motionless. Each of us was waiting out the other one’s action.
Anyway, what was this alarm? North Carolina doesn’t have tornadoes, but it does have rough thunderstorms. In fact, just two hours prior we had weathered a mean pummeling from a line squall that ripped through town with wind speeds we estimated to be as high as 50mph. This storm’s strength had caught us by surprise, the sky had looked innocent just before. Within minutes though, as we watched from the companionway, a rage of water and wind blurred out everything beyond the edges of the boat into a mottled, melting gray. The boat’s motion had built very rapidly. Soon she was bucking violently against the many leashes that secured her to the dock, jerking us along to the wild pulses seemingly coming at her from all directions. It went on like this until we got chased indoors by the lightning. Door down. Hatch closed. Fans on. We couldn’t watch anymore. Glenn lounged on one side of the setee, Ava on the other, and I lay on the sole making sure to not touch any metal parts that could conduct an electrical charge from outside to in. Blindly we bronco-ed and waited for the slow-down, which was imminent. Intense summer storms around here are short-lived we know from experience and, well, from our weather app, though that no longer worked, the storm having knocked out our (public docks) wifi. About then, it dawned on us that we had left the basil plants outside in the violence. The flashes of lightning wouldn’t let us retrieve them, so instead we dreamed up plans for our maybe felled basil. How about a basil and rum cocktail? I asked naïvely. Pizza, of course, was the answer as they rolled their beady blue eyes back at me.
To accommodate this later in the day today, Glenn and I will walk to the Piggly Wiggly a half mile north on highway 55 to pick up tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. We won’t know it then, but we will not eat pizza tonight. Because sometime this morning a boat named Kodachrome pulls up to the (now) empty space on the other side of the public dock. The owner of this boat, Roland, who is a photographer, (obviously) from Philadelphia (not obviously), has been to Oriental before and so tells us about a local fish market, which interests us much more than pizza. We won’t realize it during our first chat, but we have met him before and even shared a meal aboard Michael and Sheila’s boat in St Augustine back in December. And so it will be that late in the afternoon when I am eating sugar-free toasted almond ice cream and journaling this very entry while sitting in The Bean, the local coffee shop, that Glenn will rush in holding a pound of scallops to tell me his realization, “We know that guy!” and I will say, “Oh, yeah!” adding, “Is a pound of scallops really enough for three people?” because I will still be somewhat annoyed at him.
Annoyed from last night I mean, when I finally did drag myself out of bed and he didn’t. At Ava’s (and the siren’s) whingeing, I got myself into some shorts and a jacket and went on the quest for alarm-knowledge. A quest which, by the way, Ava quickly abandoned and left to me alone. As I prowled around the empty Orient hoping to find an open establishment or a drop of cell signal that could tell me if I should be worried, I got more and more worried. Then the alarm stopped. More than quiet, the silence in such a small town became a spooky void. Was the threat over? Or was it assumed that by now we were all in basements? I kicked onward through the puddles in the dark streets, my anxiety still building. Obviously then, back at the boat, when I found Glenn and Ava sleeping soundly, I lost my head a little.
Friday 08 JUN 2018 – Cedar Island, NC
Mostly sailing and a little motoring, mostly east and a little north to Cedar Island’s West Bay for about 23 miles. Cedar Island is directly west of Portsmouth Island, a place that has always loomed mythically in my mind. When Glenn and I were young(er) we used to come to the Outer Banks for camping getaways. We always got as far as Ocracoke, typically considered the southernmost point of the Banks, and pitched our tent on the dunes of the National Park there. It was wild and isolated with beaches so empty I used to go illicitly topless. Still, the tiny touristic town of Ocracoke with its bars and ice cream shops was only three miles away and thus our isolation was always a little under threat. Then I heard about Portsmouth Island. Just south of Ocracoke, Portsmouth offered even more isolation. Once a settlement of 700 people (in the 1860’s), Portsmouth, an uninhabited ghost town with only ruins and wildlife now, was the most remote point on the American eastern seashore. I dreamed of going there, but never did. This may be just as well as I have also heard that the mosquito population was equally mythical to the place itself.
Saturday through Tuesday, 09 – 12 JUN 2018 – Ocracoke, NC
A beautiful, fast sail 25 miles northeast to Ocracoke’s Silver Lake. We anchor next to Patrick’s boat Hope by 1PM. Annie and Patrick come to welcome us and we make a plan to meet up after naps for the prosecco we have both been chilling since Beaufort. As it turns out, we run into them in an outdoor restaurant and have our drinks there while they give us all sorts of tips about the path northward. They will leave ahead of us again tomorrow.
During lunch on Sunday we decide to stay on Ocracoke through Tuesday. The weather will be against us until then and rather than motor into headwinds for days taking slips at marinas along the way, we will wait for the wind to change and do a long sail on Wednesday to Manteo, where we can tie up to their docks for free for a few days.
We rent bikes for the days we will be here. Our bike renter is a young man from Croatia who is here, like so many university students from eastern Europe, on the Summer Work Travel program, but he is the only one on the island.
Our days here are a blur of nothing much: bike riding, beach walks, swims, scorching sun and summer storms, reading books, eating out, cold beers, and ice cream. These days feel, strangely, like a vacation. This may be because Ocracoke has always been a vacation spot for me. I’ve been here countless times with Glenn, and even before him, as a place I went when I left the cities I was living in order to breathe a bit of sea air. It’s peculiar to me that after so much sea air I would still be refreshed by more of it, but I am. I spend these days feeling rested and content knowing that soon all of this will end sooner than I can now fathom.
Wednesday 13 JUN 2018 – Manteo, NC
We pull anchor and leave at 5AM. It’s a long day, and, though good winds are predicted, we want to make sure we beat the sundown. As it happens it’s one of our best sails in a long time. The winds are out of the south/southeast at 10 – 20kts all day long. We arrive in very good time at 3PM and pull up to the free dock at Manteo, NC.