Rob Lawnsby here enjoying the winter living aboard in New Bern, North Carolina. I wanted to write a piece about the trip down here from Barrington, Rhode Island and it can be summed up as miserable. Too much wind and uncomfortable waves plus chilly temperatures made slow progress; but that is not unusual in the fall headed south!
The Start of the Sailing Trip: From New England Waters to North Carolina
We arrived mid-October. I flew back to Barrington to deliver a Jeanneau 51 to Saint Thomas and then back to North Carolina in November. Handled a month’s worth of boat projects and then off for a week’s sail between Christmas and New Year’s. Normal mid-winter temperatures in coastal North Carolina is 55 degree days and 35 degree nights. No problem with a boat with a good heating system. We left New Bern just after Christmas heading for Oriental about 25 miles away. The forecast was 70 degree days and 50 degree nights with 15-20 knots of wind. How lucky can we get!
Stopping in Oriental: The Sailing Capital of North Carolina
Oriental has two free slips for transients, and one was available for us. Next to us was a young couple who bought a $5,000 catamaran and with no experience (and I mean none!) who are heading to Florida on the intracoastal. They have YouTube channel titled “9to5less”. Check it out if you want to watch a disaster in the making. But like most sailors, the gods usually smile on us and they will probably thrive and flourish!
In New Bern the town mascot is a bear. We were approaching New Year’s celebration and in New Bern they have a crystal bear that slowly drops from Town Hall to herald in the New Year. In Oriental the mascot is a dragon, and they have a dragon that drops from a tall mast at New Years! Oriental calls themselves the sailing capital of North Carolina and is a town with 800 people and 2,400 slips. Sailboats and sailing stuff is everywhere with a good harbor and very friendly people. A great stop.
Through the River and Over to Beaufort
We left Oriental December 30, crossing the Neuse River (widest river in the US at five miles) and joined the Intra Coastal heading down Adams Creek, which turns into a canal for about ten miles, bringing us to the Morehead City/Beaufort area.
We pulled into Beaufort town docks which are in the heart of the town. Wonderful restaurants and the NC Maritime Museum. This is Blackbeard country and is one of his home ports during the pirate era. They have a great New Year’s tradition here. The town has several fire pits on the waterfront with all the makings for smores. While the kids pig out on chocolate and marshmallow the adults write down their regrets of the last year and pin them on a mannequin all dressed up in pirate regalia. There is a long “plank” coming off a second story balcony going over the crowd and over the water. At the appointed time, the pirate is on put on a small dolly and out the plank to great fanfare and then into the water he goes! Such fun.
Returning to New Bern, North Carolina
Then came the 50 mile trip from Beaufort back to New Bern, which we took two days to do. I love New Bern. It was the colonial capital of the Carolina in the 1700s and was occupied by Union forces for the duration of the Civil War. The historical architecture is amazing. If you walk down the main street in New Bern every single person you pass will say hello; such friendly people. Not a speck of graffiti anywhere, even in the low-income neighborhoods. It is a magical place with a strong maritime connection. Plus the marinas are very inexpensive. We are at the nicest and priciest marina in the area right downtown and it is $8.50/ft/month. That’s $340 a month for a 40’ boat! We love this area!
We will be in NC through March and then head north in April arriving in Barrington mid-month. It takes about a week if we go offshore or two weeks if we follow the Intracoastal waterway. I look forward to another summer teaching classes and hanging around the docks at Cove Haven.
Meet the Author, Rob Lawnsby
Rob was the ASA Instructor of the Year in both 2011 and 2013. He has been sailing for 40 years and has accumulated a great wealth of knowledge. Today, Rob’s certified to teach several classes at NSS, including ASA 101, 103, 104, 105, 106, 114, 118, and 114 Mutihull, as well as Diesel, Boat Systems, & Marine Electrical.