Monday, April 13, 2020

Oriental NC, a Sailors' Town

The town of Oriental brags that it has three boats for every human being. So as expected the town is set up well for cruisers. The local grocery store is a Piggly Wiggly and it has a shuttle van: for now it delivers groceries to the dock, in better days it shuttles cruisers to and from the store.

The OiNC shuttle

The adorable restaurants along the waterfront, shuttered for now, have wooden patios that look quite dog-friendly. I can't wait for the day they are populated and I can taste the goodies listed in the window menus. Everybody we meet around town shares a friendly wave. I imagine they are smiling beneath their masks.

The wind here is fairly constant; we're not that far from KittyHawk after all. I can see why the Wright Brothers chose this region for plane development.

The whole town follows a central essential website daily. It's a tidy way of keeping a community together, something I have not seen anywhere else in the nation. Check it out for a glimpse into this small town life:, it's got everything from the local gossip, to restaurant and business hours, to swap meet locations, to weather reports with a slant towards boaters' concerns. This morning a neighbor told us copperheads have come out of hibernation and are being seen around town, he read it on "the website". 

Here on the East Coast there are two tides to worry about. The normal moon tide that we are already familiar with, and also a wind tide, the latter of which being far more prevalent here. The wind blows water in and out of the rivers and since Minerva draws over 6'6" of boat draft when fully loaded, this greatly affects the windows for getting her into and out of the repair yard and some marinas. For now she is low on fuel and low on water so she can make it around town to her various appointments, she looks a bit cork-like riding a full foot or so above her usual waterline.

Minerva at rest in her Oriental Harbor Marina slip 

Buying a boat is a process, and we are now in the phase where repairs are being made to satisfy the insurance company, pursuant to surveyor recommendations. The things the insurance company is concerned with have to do with safety of vessel and crew, Lance has his own checklist above and beyond that. He loads the daily tools into the Mini almost every morning while I work at my desk and spends the day alongside the owner wrenching on this or that, both of them decked out in stylish N95 masks (we dug ours out of  the first aid kit). Later this week a different surveyor will come by to approve completion of the insurance company's checklist, next will be the sail test. Assuming all of that goes smoothly we will be trading keys and signed documents for our life savings. Hopefully soon.

New Friends in Times of Plague

We found covered storage for Loretta in nearby New Bern. Lance still wants to drive her home to California so my Dad can keep an eye on her but considering the state of the nation the trip might not be wise. We have completed quarantine here and there may not be services to support Loretta on her journey across the nation now, also he may not be able to make it back by public transport. Importantly, we'll lose sailing time while he makes the round trip, which becomes more precious as hurricane season approaches. So we'll wait and see on that for now. Oriental is a good spot to ride out the plague, and it would be safe and dry enough under cover for Loretta to wait out the summer while we sail up to Maine and back. Mr. Toad is not part of our long-term picture so we'll be looking for a new home for him soon, it makes more sense than storing him.

The RVers' world is beyond crazy right now. Some states have simply closed parks, cancelled incoming reservations and kicked everyone out who was already there. While this makes sense if you have a home to go to, or if you are just camping for fun when you should be sheltering at home, it doesn't make sense at all for full-timers. Forcing someone to move around who had been safely quarantined in place is the opposite of helpful, but that is exactly what has happened in many places. We barely made it into Oriental before the lockdown went into place by order of the NC governor, the park we left made it clear we couldn't come back once we had left, and we were one of the last allowed in before the town locked down on this end too. It made for a stressful transition, others haven't been as fortunate as us. Many full-timers we know have been bounced out with nowhere to go, roaming between WalMarts and private parks, always in quarantine since they are never allowed to stay anywhere for long. I'm grateful we made it into this private park just in time, it's within bicycling distance of most everything we need, which right now is an endless loop of boat,  chandlery, and groceries. The RV faces a huge lawn area, Lance thinks it is sod being prepared for sale. Chloe and Stewie frolic daily on it with the neighbor dogs and I enjoy the stunning green view outside my office window.

Chloe frolicking on the lawn beside the RV park. The light is magical here.

This is probably the last view I'll be enjoying from this window for a while. The next round of stunning views will all be from the water: Annapolis, New York, Maine. Maybe the fjords of Nova Scotia if we can get moving in time.

Internet Speed Comparison
Oriental RV Park, Oriental, NC
Sampled 3/31/20 at 11:41 am

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Calyx (Sprint)
Google Fi
Jetpack (Verizon)
Park wifi

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Minerva, a real head-turner

A few weeks ago we were driving to meet another boat broker. This time we were headed to Brunswick, GA, a town that we liked, to see a catamaran we had high hopes for.

Prout Snowgoose 37

Here's the thing about catamarans. Yes they would be better for Lance's lame foot and balance issues. Yes they often have sliding doors and are easy to get around for the pets. Yes they have lots of top-side sunning area, room for wrangling dive gear, staying out of the sun, etc. Yes they are shallow draft and can therefore skitter into really shallow water places where the monohulls can't get. All of that is true.

They also don't sail as well as a monohull, all that space does not shake out to efficient living space like it should, and the bottom line is...

they are ugly.

There, I said it.
I hate the way they look.

The catamaran vs mono subject will be debated to the dying breath by any sailor who has owned one or the other. If you think I'm exaggerating, ask any sailor you meet. Type catamaran vs monohull into YouTube, pull up a chair and relax. You're going to be there for a while. You might open a beer, better yet... drag over the cooler.

Stern deck of the Endeavor

Anyhoo... we were driving to Brunswick to look at the Endeavor catamaran. I was hoping she would change my mind. From every logical standpoint, an Endeavor would make the perfect liveaboard  for the shallow waters of Florida, the Carribean, and the Great Loop. On the way to see her we crossed a bridge and drove along the high road next to the marina and my head nearly snapped right off my neck.

What was that... down in the marina... there with two masts and two roller furlers... what a beautiful boat! I have never seen one like that before. Focus... we have a date to keep.

Somehow I managed to keep the Mini on the highway and we met the broker as agreed. The catamaran was exactly what I expected. Large. Inefficient. Plenty of dive gear space. No actual living space. Kitchen impossible. Sigh.

The broker sensed us slipping away. He started talking faster and faster, and I suddenly realized he wasn't talking to me at all, he was solely focused on Lance, so I used my new superpower.

Didn't I tell you I have a superpower? I just discovered it recently. Here's how it works... people that talk loudly without pausing for air and don't invite a word in anywhere are really just talking to hear themselves talk. They are not interested in a conversation or an actual exchange of ideas at all, and they can simply be ignored. My presence is not required; I can walk away. People talking like this don't get upset about it, in fact they don't even seem to notice. How did I make it to age 47 without figuring this out before? Now it's my new favorite thing.

So... with the broker speed-talking at Lance who seemed to be enjoying the opportunity to engage, I took a big step backwards, and then another, and when nobody tried to rope me back in I started speed-walking down the docks. I had to see what that boat was. The beauty from the bridge. It's like she was calling me.

She was 10 docks down. She had a sister parked alongside. They were unbelievable.
The name rolls off the tongue.
It felt like wine. And good cheese. And stunning sunsets.

I stood there gawking for a little while when a curious face popped up from down below. Barbara said "are you oogling my boat?" and then started giggling.

She told me all about Amels. How the company was built by a Henri Amel and when he died he bequeathed the company directly to the employees and how they still make boats today. And how they are popular in Europe but rare in the USA, and against the odds somehow there are 6 in Brunswick marina on any given weekend, all of them world cruisers which probably represent the sum total of all the Amels in the USA. She told me how the company brags that their boats will hold 400+ bottles of wine.

I was totally smitten. Then Barbara started spinning yarns about the places her Amel had taken her. I was still standing there on the dock mesmerized, perhaps hours or days or maybe even weeks later, when Lance came to fetch me and reluctantly dragged me home. Barbara's Amel is 53 feet long. It's called a Super Maramu and it's way more boat than we need.

I could hardly bring myself to focus on the catamaran we'd gone there to see that day, or the other boats we had lined up to see afterwards. It's like getting a glimpse at a Rolls Royce then going back to a Ford existence.

A few stops later we were close enough to reach Wilmington, New Bern and Oriental NC. We toured an impressive Gulfstar 44, which was in excellent condition but too short for Lance. He waved his bloody hat at me with a frown. Hard no. I cancelled the other tour scheduled that day - a small catamaran in which I could not muster up any interest at all. I just couldn't imagine seeing it in the marina and being proud to call it mine, it made me sad just to think about it. So we thanked the broker and went home. It was Saturday.

We had lined up some serious contenders on Monday, and found ourselves with nothing to do on Sunday. I was musing over breakfast to Lance about the Amel we'd seen back in Brunswick, and said "too bad they don't make a smaller one". He poked around on the internet for a minute, and guess what... Amel did make a smaller one; an Amel Marimu 46, with standard sails instead of roller-furlers (another neverending debate, hope you dragged that cooler over). And there was one in Oriental being offered for sale by its owner, which is how it had escaped our search efforts before which had been primarily focused on YachtWorld, a brokers' website. We called the owner. He was keen. So we popped down there at Sunday midday.

Minerva on the hard in Oriental NC

From the moment we pulled in and saw her on the hard we were in love. She was just like the one we had seen in Brunswick but a little smaller; but still frighteningly large with her whole hull exposed to the elements and a fresh coat of bottom paint. There was a huge ladder tied to the stanchions on her port side. It seemed to go all the way to heaven. Her name is Minerva.

She was under contract with another buyer at the time we met her. But that contract was contingent on the buyer selling his condo in Florida first. And the economy is scary... coronavirus and all... and we have cash stashed away from the house sale for this very purpose... I buckled in and did my very best negotiating while Lance paced nervously outside.

Our offer was accepted, and we are working through the process of making her our own. It'll take time. We are safe in Oriental with Loretta, Mr. Toad, and Minerva while we get it all worked out.

She is ours. The rest of the world can go totally haywire if it wants to, we found our boat and she is ours.

Enfin. Finally. Our long, long search is at an end.

Internet Speed Comparison
Goose Creek Resort, Newport, NC
Sampled 3/19/20 at 2:50 pm

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Calyx (Sprint)
Google Fi
Jetpack (Verizon)
Park wifi
Additional $ didn’t test