[Photos: just a few of the many decorated bears in New Bern, NC. More pix at Life Afloat on Facebook]One of the things that fascinates me about traveling by boat is the magic of seeing the world without ever leaving the comforts of home. And sometimes, having your home with you can invite more in-depth exploration of places you wouldn’t ordinarily spend that much time at. Let’s face it – while you might shell out for a 2-week stay to explore a nationally-recognized destination like Denver or Seattle, you might not be so inclined for a lesser-known location like, say, Morehead City, NC. But we had our home with us, so that’s exactly what we did, using the city marina as a base, renting a car and exploring.
We sampled the local “flavor” at the Havelock Chili Cookoff Festival, drove to the barrier islands and watched the Atlantic Ocean crashing on the beaches out of season, visited historic Fort Macon and the town of Beaufort. We saw cotton plants growing in the field (a first for me). We noticed lots of houses with roofs missing shingles and lots of damaged billboards, giving the region a grubby, down-on-its-luck fell and then I realized that this was part of the legacy of Hurricane Irene, which made landfall here before coming to the Annapolis area last August. We did boat chores, of course, the most frustrating of which happened when we spent almost a day trying five (five!) different places before finally finding one with someone on duty who could refill the propane cylinder that fuels our stove. We learned a lot from chatting with the other boaters in the marina. For some, this area was home; others were just passing through, as we were, on their way south; one was refitting a new-to-him boat for a solo trip around the world. We explored the little towns: back in the days when my Federal career had us relocating often, we used to joke that we judged a town’s livability by the ratio of bars to bookstores … in this part of the state, we learned that both bars and bookstores seemed to be outnumbered by churches. But the most fun we had all week was in New Bern. The nearby town of Oriental, we learned during our last trip, has a dragon for a mascot; New Bern has bears. Joyously painted, with lots of personality, bears; and we made a game of driving and walking around town trying to spot them.
After a few blowy days, the forecast showed lovely high pressure and fair weather settling over the region for days, and we were off further southbound. Five or six travel days through pretty country would bring us to Charleston, SC.