Thursday, April 28, 2005 Beaufort to Oriental
Provisioned with large lattes and pastries from The Big Mug across the street from our dock, we pushed off
at 7:55. Our coffee was still hot when we saw our first daily dolphins. We had a short cruise and an easy passage,
arriving at Oriental Marina a little after 11 a.m.
The marina is in a sheltered cove at the end of a narrow channel off the Neuse River. The channel
is lined with working docks and shrimp boats. The marina docks sit across from shrimp boat docks and in front of the
meticulously landscaped grounds of a resort motel where you can just imagine Jimmy Buffet would love to stay.
The motel owners operate the marina, and its rest room and shower facilities reflect that -- squeaky clean,
with baskets of complimentary shampoo, body lotion and soaps, plus towels stacked by the shower for guests to use. This
is the first marina we have visited that supplies towels. Traveling on a boat with no washer or dryer, this
is a very meaningful amenity!
The marina is in downtown Oriental, as far as we can tell. The main street (and there is just one)
has the best marine store we have been in--located just a half block from the marina, a local hang-out coffee shop right across
the street, and a general store. The grocery is a mile away--a very pleasant walk.
Oriental got its name from a ship wreck. The wife of the town's founder, Becky Midgett, was walking
the Hatteras beach when she spotted the name plaque of the ship Oriental washed up on shore. She picked it
up and took it home as a souvenir. When it came time to name the town, she suggested they call it Oriental. So
it has been ever since.
Building on the theme, the local mascot of sorts is a dragon. A very impressive dragon statue floats
in the town fish pond.
Many brightly colored Adirondack chairs are scattered about town, all with fancy cut-outs on their backs.
The chairs definitely send the message that this is a place you should sit back, relax, and enjoy.
Friday, April 29, 2005
Oriental to Dowry Creek Marina (Belhaven)
The Day We Pass 1,000 Loop Miles
We've noticed that dogs seem to hold a special place in the life of towns where boaters congregate.
They are greeted by name, walk about unfettered by leashes, and seem to claim all the rights and priveleges of any other
citizen ,except, maybe, the right to vote.
So it is in Oriental. The same dog who was hanging out on the porch of the bean coffee
shop yesterday afternoon was in his chair on the porch again this morning. Several other dogs stopped by to visit him
while we were inside getting lattes. As we were leaving, the porch dog meandered out to the road, where he
sat on the center line and watched the passing traffic a while. This must be a regular habit of his, because the drivers
of the few cars that passed him by hardly slowed down or showed any consternation about finding him in the middle of the road.
Today was an open water day most of the way. All but about ten miles of our travels were on the Neuse
River, which is about six miles wide where we cruised, and the Pamlico River and Sound, also wide waters.
We started out at 7:20 (with our lattes and pastries from the bean on the flybridge, of
course) in light winds and calm waters. By 9 a.m., the weather was deteriorating, with winds increasing, clouds building,
and rain spitting. By the time we got to the Pimlico Sound we were in full-fledged rain and rollers. We only had about
an hour of the rolling waves--they diminished as we got out of the sound and headed up the Pongo River--but the rain continued
all morning and into the early afternoon.
We followed what seemed like a parade of boats into Dowry Creek, and found ourselves tied up to a spot with
what is probably the most serene view we have had from a dock ever. It was anchorage quality landscape, begging to be
explored by kayak.
When the skies cleared later that afternoon, we answered the call of the kayaks, and spent a couple hours
exploring Dowry Creek. We followed it as far as we could before the stream became so narrow we could no longer pass
through the tall grasses lining the shore, looming six feet over us.
After we turned back and got out of the narrows of the stream and the shelter of the tall
grasses and trees, we discovered that the wind had changed both direction and force while we were exploring. To
get back to Starsong, we had to paddle straight into winds blowing at about 20 mph. Needless to
say, this was a bit more of a work-out than we planned on when we set out for our pleasant little paddle, but we made it back with
a true sense of accomplishment and exhaustion.
Saturday, April 30, 2005 Dowry Creek Marina
Beer Can Chicken Night
Although the day dawned clear and calm, the weather radio predicted hellacious winds, so no one left the
dock. Within hours, the wind started to pick up, and by early afternoon, the marina wind guage had clocked gusts
up to 42 mph. It was a great time for beer can chicken!
Dowry Creek Marina is six miles from the nearest town, Belhaven, and, except for the Food Lion grocery store,
there really isn't much reason to even take the courtesy van there. Still, Dowry Creek Marina is a must-stop destination,
recommended by everyone who has ever been there. The reason is the lively social atmosphere generated by owner/operators
Ted and Mary Klapperich. In particular, they are famous for their beer can chicken nights.
Everyone brings their own beverage and a dish to share, and Ted and Mary provide the plates and utensils
and chicken. This was our first experience with beer can chicken, but we learned that it is a specialty of
this region, just like Frogmore Stew is the Beaufort, South Carolina specialty.
Here's the recipe: Take half a can of beer (some say the recipe begins with the instruction
to drink half a can of beer -- however you do it, the can is half full or half empty), place the cavity of a large chicken
over the can, carefully balance the can with the chicken on top of it inside a kettle grill filled with a bed of hot
coals, then put the lid on the grill, and cook the chicken until it is golden. There are many variations on this
recipe that include putting spices in the beer can or on the bird, but they all begin with the can half empty
so that the beer boils--that's what makes the chicken moist.
The chicken was tender, moist and flavorful, the potluck dishes plentiful, and the fellowship of stranded
boaters delightful. If we had stayed another night, we could have had oysters and shrimp, we heard later, as fellow
Loopers caught up with us in Elizabeth City. But, we were anxious to be on our way.
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