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Lots of boats come to Oriental, some tie up at the Town Dock for a night or two, others drop anchor in the harbor for a while. If you've spent any time on the water you know that every boat has a story. The Shipping News on TownDock.net brings you the stories of the boats that have visited recently.
May 12, 2016
When they bought their boat her main feature was that she was still floating. That was the beginning of a journey that, 2 years later brought her crew down the ICW.
Chris Smith and his wife Ryan Babarsky, new to cruising, stopped in Oriental on their way South last fall and again on their way home this spring. That’s when TownDock.net touched base with them about living an adventure that others dream of.
First, by way of introduction, Chris and Ryan.Chris Smith and his wife Ryan Babarsky. Having spent a few days in Oriental on the way south in November, they stopped again on the return trip at the town’s new town dock in late March. Far more than a trip down the ICW, they describe a journey that began three years ago, on land.
He’d been raised in New Jersey, and learned to sail in small boats – Sunfish – on visits to Long Island Sound.
She grew up in Loudoun County, in Virginia horse country, just outside Washington, DC. They met in college at William & Mary. He was a biology major; she majored in English. They settled in Gloucester, Virginia where he was working as a biologist breeding oysters in an aquaculture operation. Ryan was working for a firm as a database analyst.
And then in the fall of 2013, they bought the boat, a 50-year-old 26-foot Pearson Ariel. A classic sloop, she has an 8-foot beam, draws 3 feet 8 inches, and weighs about 6,000 pounds. The Ariel was designed by renowned naval architect Carl Alberg in 1961. Their boat was hull #412, built in 1966. When they took ownership it was almost 50 years old and a “project.”
They had the boat hauled, started saving money, and did the “project” work themselves.This couple re-named their 1966 Pearson Ariel, hull #412, Firefly.
Chris explained, “We bought her in the fall of 2013 and had her hauled out. She spent 2 years on the hard. We stripped the hull down to the gelcoat, did new paint, new rigging, a new rudder, and ended up after a lot of sanding and grinding. She had an inboard diesel, but it wasn’t working, so we took advantage of the well in the boat and installed an outboard engine.”
With money saved and the boat restored, they were ready for their first cruise down the ICW – destination, the Bahamas or the Keys. Ryan quit her job in October of 2015 when Chris managed to obtain a 6-months leave of absence. They gave up their rented home and put all their household goods and furniture in storage. On October 27 the young couple set out on an expedition others just dream about.
This would be quite an adventure, especially for Ryan. “I had not been on a sailboat before I met him.”
When asked, “Have you been converted?” she replied, hesitantly, “I don’t know if I’m converted yet; I’m still a novice.”The Pearson Ariel 26. Specs: LOA: 25 ft 7 in, Beam: 8 ft 0 in, LWL: 18 ft 6 in, Draft: 3 ft 8 inRyan was surprised that living in a small space was not as difficult as she thought it would be, even if it meant a hammock swing stored groceries in the “parlor” of their living quarters.
“We bought the boat with the idea of taking such a trip, but we had no idea of what the reality of such a venture would be.”
Of this new experience, she said, “There were some things that were surprisingly easy. I thought living in a small space would be a problem, but it was not. On the other hand, I am a control freak and dealing with uncertainty that comes with weather was a big challenge for me.”
In particular, she recalled, “It was scary in the Chesapeake when we left and we had not learned patience yet.”
When they made a stop-over in Oriental in November, snowbirds were roosting in all the available slips. “The weather was not good.” Chris says, ‘We anchored in Greens Creek. Knowing that we were going to be here a couple of days waiting for the weather to clear, we kept our eye on the HarborCam. As soon as we saw a boat depart, we slipped in and got that spot.”Reading in the “parlor” helped time pass when in port.
Ryan said, “Even waiting out the weather, it was beautiful here, and we met a lot of nice people.”
The nearby waters she remembers less fondly. “The Neuse is one of the scariest waters for me. When we were heading down, we had to head right into the wind. We probably should have just waited.”
Chris spelled out what could make the river and Pamlico Sound act up. “There is just a lot of open water here, from all the way out in the sound. I understand it’s 30 miles to Ocracoke and that’s a lot of space for the wind to build. In North Carolina, the open stretches were intimidating for us.”Downtime in Oriental for cruisers usually includes a trip to the Bean to chat with sailors, even those retired from the Navy like Harry Jordan.
Ryan and Chris’s next notable stop was Charleston, a city whose charm made an impression. So did some of the more out of the way settings farther south on the ICW, for a range of reasons.
“Some of the sounds in Georgia were unexpected, especially out in the remote places, but it was beautiful there,” Chris said, while also recalling, “We ran into strong currents in Georgia. I had difficulty figuring out what the current was going to do when the wind seemed to be coming from all different directions.”