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Voyages: Neuse River to Outer Banks

Frank Leister (Puff, #691) describes a voyage from North Carolina's Neuse River to the Outer Banks village of Okracoke.


Ocracokeís most famous event occurred in 1719 with the death of Blackbeard. However even up until recent times, probably the early 1900s, Ocracoke and the neighboring village, Portsmouth, earned their livelihood as a transshipping point.

Pamlico Sound and the myriad of little villages around the sound were only connected by water and not much of it! (One of the reasons we are so pleased to have the wing keel!) Sea going vessels would off load in Ocracoke and Portsmouth and then reload on shallow draft vessels for distribution around the sounds and rivers. That all came to a halt after one of the hurricanes wiped out the anchorages and all but closed the inlets. Portsmouth today is a ghost town unless you count mosquitoes and if you count them I am told it is the busiest and most lethal air field in the World!

Ocracoke though is very much alive indeed. Thriving as a tourist and fishing center it justifies a journey to get there. One can fly in, take a ferry or sail.

Pamlico Sound has but 20 plus feet depth for the most part and runs NE to SW. The trip to Ocracoke is almost due East. The shallow depth translates to steep, square and frequent waves especially if they are coming from the North. They build very quickly and die just as quickly. If they are East or West you will have a rough beat one way or the other. So pick your time and wind direction carefully.

Puff, (1988, hull #691), rides that stuff pretty well -almost no slamming and very little wallowing.

It is but 25 miles from the Neuse River to the opening in the larger of two channels into Ocracoke. In good weather the marks are easy to pick up. There are few if any landmarks as the land, when you do see it, is a thin, unremarkable ribbon on the not too distant horizon. Plan on taking between 5 and 8 hours for the trip, again depending on the wind direction.

Ferries run regularly into Ocracoke so following them helps verify the direction. The channel into the inner Harbor, Silver Lake, is well marked. Do not mistake the two poles sticking up as the channel entrance. They are the stacks of a foundered dredge! The channel into Silver Lake will consume about a half hour. The only tricky part to navigating the channel comes right at the end. You must sail on by the harbor entrance, swing around a mark and double back on the other side of a bar to get in. The chart right there is a little complicated so take the time before getting there to understand it.

The cut into the anchorage isnít large. Avoid meeting a ferry there! Silver Lake is really just that. No surge, and small enough to keep the chop down. We like anchoring at the far end as there is less traffic and you are not too far from the dink dock at the grocery store. The bottom is gunk but seems to hold. Pulling the anchor is messy.

The grocery store is worth a visit. You can get most of what you might need in a place that looks as if it could have sold Edward Teach a pull. The remainder of the island has lots of little touristy shops, (pottery and hammocks), more than a handful of good but pricey restaurants and some interesting things to see. Unlike the other seashores we have lived on, they have fresh fish! You can buy it off the boat!

In the things to see category are the old cemeteries dating back to the 1700s, telling tales of storms and shipwrecks.

Rent a bike and ride out to the beach. They are big, open and lots of fun. During the fall they are lined with four wheelers trucking anglers to the surf.

The people are friendly, accommodating and if they have a moment they relate interesting stories about their island and many of which are about the folks who visit there.

On major weekends, we are told the place is crowded and the anchorage tight but we haven't heard any negative stories about Ocracoke even then.

Itís a nice dayís sail to an interesting town. Relating this has made me yearn to do it again and we will! After another dreary Ohio winter, we leave in two weeks for Oriental and Broad Creek. Out goal, winds and weather permitting, is to traverse to Ocracoke again but this time on the way to Roanoke, maybe even up to Elizabeth City. See you there.

37  visitors since May 15, 1997. Last modified by Bryan Pfaffenberger, June 19, 1998. Copyright © 1997-1998 by Bryan Pfaffenberger or the individual contributors to this page.. All rights reserved.. 


Last modified by Phil Imhof, Monday, August 09, 2004 . Copyright © 2001 by Catalina 34 International Association.  All rights reserved.