One week. One broken strut. Two thousand town-folk. Five games of pool. Twenty trips in a golf-cart to one of the only stores in town. One Dock master. Five pocketbooks. One new strut. Four happy, broke sailors. Thirty dolphins (One good omen.) Ten miles of perfect sailing. One lightning storm of imperfect motoring. Seven knots into harbor. One free dock. Thirty feet to the nearest coffee house. One unplugged gig. Five coffees. One new route. Three new friends. One new anchor. One storm. Eight hamburgers. Ten days that I will never forget. But on to the details…
I will leave the details of our Belhaven visit to a more detailed report. I will try, however, to summarize our visit. This town was one of the smallest towns I had ever visited. The first couple days were enjoyable. We had a golf-cart lent to us by the shipyard once the boat was dry-docked, and we used that to roll around town. We quickly built up a reputation as the four homeless-looking sailors as we cruised through the town multiple times a day. Most of the available stores or restaurants in the town closed before 8:30pm, leaving limited activities for us. We ended up finding a Pool Hall where we played pool almost every night we were there. People would recognize us in many of the places we went. I couldn’t tell if we were celebrities or intruders being welcomed with Southern hospitality. The townsfolk were very welcoming either way.
Halfway through the week as we waited for a new strut to come in the mail, a man came up to us as we sat by our boat in the shipyard. “Watch out for the dock-master,” he said shifting and looking around suspiciously. “You better keep one eye open when you’re around (Joe).” (Keeping his actual name out of the post.)
This was not the news we were hoping to hear. I felt wary and tried to stay on top of the contract and financial details as much as I could. Joe’s mechanics would come over and ask to look at our boat and then leave. We did get some good advice, but something was suspect. Everywhere we went, if we needed a part for the boat, we would get the same response.
“Only Joe has that! He is the only one in town with those marine parts.”
Sure enough, when the bill was presented, it was pretty back-breaking for post grad life. We needed to get out of there. It seemed that no matter how hard we tried, we could not make any progress fixing the boat. We finally had a new strut arrive in the town only to have it not fit properly. We drilled new holes in the hull and made it work. I never thought we were going to get the boat in the water. After a week of waiting and working we finally had Eagle Wings ready for sailing again.
We motored out at around 11am, and we headed for the Pamlico Sound. The weather cleared and dolphins began swimming with the boat coming from all directions. We decided it was a good omen. In the Pamlico Sound, we finally had a chance to let out the sails. We cruised at 7 knots through the sound. This was a stellar moment, but I was wary, since storms always seemed to creep up on us when we were sailing with blue skies. Sure enough, a storm began surfacing on the horizon heading straight for the sound. A severe thunderstorm warning rang through the radio.
Now “veterans” of this situation, we battened down the hatches and pulled down the sail, revving up the engine and heading towards Oriental Marina. Winds picked up to over thirty knots, but we kept Eagle Wings at full throttle and headed for the inlet. It seemed as if we were going to get caught in the middle of it, but once again it seemed my prayers were answered as we were able to move out of the lightning storm’s way, finding safe harbor at the town docks of Oriental, North Carolina. Here we were docked right in front of a small coffee-shop called The Bean. We met an assortment of awesome people, namely a man named Sean Finn who had been sailing his twenty seven footer for a year. His story was fascinating, and I informally interviewed him to kick off my “People of Sailboats” feature that will begin next week. Wes stayed an extra day due to stormy weather, and people walked by intrigued as we and our new sailing friends grilled burgers on the dock, even as the winds picked up to 20 knots.
We purchased a new anchor and enjoyed the pleasure of having a coffee house and access to WiFi within walking distance.I also had the opportunity to play some unplugged music in the coffee shop, which was an absolute joy for me. It has been a while since I have “gigged” and even just being able to play some music in that setting was therapeutic.
After some more maintenance for the engine, we are once again ready to head South, hoping to at least make Swansboro today.