Where? That’s what Nick and I thought at first too. We had never heard of Ocracoke before until some folks we met in Marathon told us we would love it there. When we got to Oriental, NC we found out more and decided it was definitely a place we needed to visit. So glad we did!
Ocracoke is part of the outer banks of NC and most of the island is part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore Park. The lighthouse on the island is the oldest in NC and the second oldest on the east coast still in operation. The village is home to less than 1000 residents and has a unique and varied history. From Blackbeard’s last stand (and ultimate place of demise) to its roles in WWII and now tourism. The folks on this island have become experts on ‘recycle and reuse’ and adapting successfully. You will still find many of the original families there today.
Tourism is now what sustains the local economy, but fishing still plays an important role on the island. As the land became more valuable for vacationers, many of the fishing houses sold for private residence. True to the tenacious nature of the villagers, the fishermen/women banded together to form a co-op and now operate a market open to the public on Silver Lake -saving the fishing industry on the island.
You can reach the island by ferries operated by NC, private boat or private plane. More information can be found at http://www.ocracokevillage.com or http://www.ocracokecurrent.com. However you get there, it will be worth your while.
We spent a week in Ocracoke anchored in Silver Lake. We finally found the town dingy dock on day 3. While there we walked all through the village in rain and sun. We rented a golf cart one raining morning to expand our exploration and go to the beach (2 miles away from the anchorage). The beach was beautiful even in the rain and we practically had it to ourselves. We found tons of shell pieces that have been tossed and tumbled into smooth, multicolored shapes (I think will make beautiful jewelry). We made our way back to town – then found out there was a town ordinance that golf cards can’t go past a certain point into the park . . . oops!
We met Bob at the local surf shop and he gave us a deal on a used surf board. Nick has had the urge to mess around with surfing and Ethan loves the idea of using it as a paddle board. He loves it! He sits on his knees and paddles with a small wooden paddle he had to bring on his big adventure! Later that week we met Rob and his family. Rob and his wife own a gift shop and run charter sailing tours out of Silver Lake. They also write for the Ocracoke Current (possible article on Nick and I in the near future??). Rob said we needed to learn how to clam, so the next day Rob and his daughter Mariah took us out on their boat and taught us how to clam. I’m hooked! It was so much fun and so like treasure hunting I instantly loved it. We came up with a pretty good mess and Nick made a Manhattan style clam chowder. It was delicious!
We also spent time on Springer Point which has a small beach with shallow waters. We could dinghy to it and let Ethan play and ‘paddle surf.’ While there we met Jenny and her nephew. We had a great time talking with her – her family sailed into Ocracoke when she was 5 and just never left! She also writes for the Ocracoke current and when we got back to the boat I realized she was co-author of the book I was reading on Ocracoke . . . small world!!
We met others in the small anchorage too – Ron on Chiquita (a bright yellow trimaran he built himself) who has been a long time boater came over to meet us. He was traveling back to Florida from Maine. It was great to speak with him and glean knowledge on trimming sails, handling storms and making the best use of gear on the boat. Later in the week another family arrived on Affinity! and we had great fun with them! On board they had three of their children – Dominic, Sophie and Tristen. Tristen and Ethan were a great pair – just the same age and similar personalities. They had great fun running around and before our time was over they referred to each other as ‘brother!’
Our time was fun and relaxed in Ocracoke . . . matching the village rythm and enjoying the many fine folks we met. It is a wonderful place to visit and offers so many options for those with differing budgets. You can even bring a camper over on the ferry to stay in the national seashore park!a
Ocracoke is about a 45 nautical mile sail from Oriental and while our trip there was very calm with the threat of thunderstorms just as we arrived, our trip back to Oriental could be best described as being in a washing machine. It wasn’t bad – just uncomfortable. Seas were rough and winds were growing. Ethan did get sea sick and I have to say I had picked out a rail just in case . . . but then I was the most comfortable with the movement and roll of the boat as I have been the entire trip. I was not full of anxiety as I had been all these months before. I don’t know if it was that I’m finally getting my ‘sea legs’ or just an answered prayer for peace, but whatever it is I’ll take it! Our friends on Affinity! were also traveling back to their home near Morehead City so it was fun to talk with them over the radio as we both bobbed up-and-down, side-to-side in the crossing of Pamlico Sound.
We stayed in Oriental again for a few days before heading to Beaufort where we are anchored now. This is a great little town from what we have seen so far. We plan to meet up with our friends from Affinity! while here, then wait for a good weather window to make the two day trip down to Charleston. This will be our longest passage yet on the open sea. For now we are settled in with a tarp over the cockpit waiting on all the rain coming from Issac.