North Carolina – Ocracoke

Since we have no particular itinerary, as we made our way through Hampton Roads and into North Carolina, we decided to take a side trip to Ocracoke from Oriental. We had spent a few days in Portsmouth, took the passenger ferry and revisited Norfolk.  Because our last few trips were late in the season, we only stayed overnight, anxious to escape the cold for warmer southern temperatures, so it had been a few years since we had last visited. We spent some time visiting the Chrysler Art Museum, took in a glass blowing demonstration, and enjoyed a few hours in the museum. It’s an interesting place, and despite the fact that we aren’t real art aficionados, it was an enjoyable excursion. Norfolk’s Waterside, the model for Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, was years ago a bustling destination, with a waterfront mall filled with shops and restaurants. Today, the building stands empty, currently under some sort of renovation, although it’s unclear what plans are in store for the facility. The docks are all but deserted, with a few transient boats moored there, but very little activity. Downtown Norfolk, like most downtown areas, is not much of a destination, but still has interesting areas to explore.

We made our way south on the ICW, stopping at Coinjock where we enjoyed what has become a traditional stopover with a meal out at the Coinjock Marina Restaurant for prime rib! The prime rib was excellent, living up to their reputation!

Oriental is always an enjoyable stop, they have added another free dock, and we were able to secure a spot there for Thurday night. We decided that since we had no particular agenda, and with the promise of great weather, to make the run to Ocracoke Friday. 

Ocracoke is about a 40 mile run, an easy day’s cruise that had us anchored early enough in the afternoon to dinghy into the Park Service dinghy dock for a long walk around the town. To our suprise, the Park Service docks were filled up, unbeknownst to us, the annual Pirate Jamboree was taking place. It’s always fun to happen upon these events, and with the spectacular weather, the turnout was huge! We learned that this was the 4th such annual event, and the first that wasn’t beset with either a hurricane, nor’easter, or non-stop rain. People came out in droves!  Probably more people in town than we’ve seen in all the time we’ve been visiting. (My first trip to Ocracoke was in 1969! Yes, that dates me!) There have been remarkable changes, with tourism now taking over the island. The local population seems to be prospering, with countless new shops, restaurants, bars, and huge new buildings. Lots of new, rust-free vehicles! “Berkley Castle”, at one time one of the largest buildings on the island, is now barely visible for all the development that has sprung around it! Some of the homes are beautifully landscaped, simply not done years ago! Now golf carts replace much of the automobile traffic, and the roads are nearly all paved, fire hydrants are abundant, there’s a jail, and even an occasional siren can be heard. Progress! Still, the village retains its charm, and the visitor population is clearly working family centered, and the pace is still pretty laid back, although even in November, the traffic was astounding!

We enjoyed the pirate festivities, there were a cadre of about 100 pirate re-enactors camped on the grounds of the Berkley Manor, which, incidentally has undergone a major renovation after having been derelict for a number of years. For those unfamiliar with the history, Sam Jones, a Virginia industrialist, was a frequent visitor to Ocracoke, having built 4 large buildings around Silver Lake. His influence and philanthropy are legend on the island. The Village Craftsmen, a gift shop dating from the 70’s has a newsletter article with interesting insight into this remarkable man’s history on Ocracoke.  It was gratifying to see the Manor restored to its original splendor.

The end of the Pirate Jamboree was marked with the start of rain. And more rain. We moved from the anchorage to the docks on Sunday as departures opened some space. We were able to enjoy a long bike ride, covering nearly all the roads on the island in a few hours! The fish house is back in operation as a cooperative, and we made two visits, picking up some fresh tuna, some little neck clams, and some trout on different visits. Yum! The rain came in earnest Monday, so it became a maintenance day. Oil changes, some injector pump work on the genset, and non-stop laundry. Despite our Splendide combo washer/dryer’s small capacity, it is very convenient to be able to do it all on board when the weather’s crappy! Rain Tuesday as well, not as persistent, but more maintenance along with some excursions. Wednesday began fairly calm, so we slipped lines and made the run back to Oriental. No free dock this time, we opted for a marina stay since the rain persists.

Tomorrow we head to Swansboro.

One Response to “North Carolina – Ocracoke”

  1. Andrea Varnai on 06 Nov 2015 at 2:59 PM #

    Wow. I definitely need to get back there one day. I don’t even recognize Ocracoke. Looks like a great time though. Would love to show it to David and Kyla.