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
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
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