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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.

Annie
A Son's Adventure Criss-Crossing The Sound
May 20, 2011

T
he last time Curt Bowman sailed in to Oriental, it was 1979, he was in his twenties and had just started living on a 24-foot Alan Buchanan-designed Spartan.

Curt Bowman at Oriental’s Town Dock wharf the day after sailing from Ocracoke in his 21-foot Drascombe Coaster, “Annie”.

On his most recent stop, he sailed in on a wooden boat even smaller than the Spartan. “Annie” is a 21-foot Drascombe Coaster and on it, Curt a two-week long meander across the Pamlico Sound (several times) and Neuse River in early May. On the second to last stop of his trip — and after a somewhat arduous 10-and-a-half-hour passage from Ocracoke — he tied up to the Oriental Town Dock wharf and answered questions about the unusual wooden Drascombe that caught more than a few eyes.

Under sculling motion. Curt Bowman takes “Annie” for a quick turn around Oriental’s harbor, using only the sculling oar.

Though it looks traditional and from another time, the boat is just a few years old. Like all Drascombes, the Coaster was designed by the late John Watkinson in the 1960’s and 1970’s in England. They had names as purposeful as their lines: Drifter, Gig, Scaffie, Scaith, Longboat, Peterboat, Caboteur. Most Drascombes were open boats, but some, like the Coaster, had small cabins where a crew of two could sleep. Curt Bowman has built boats before, but John Watkinson’s family retains the licensing rights and so “Annie” was built in Maine about 5 years ago at East-West Custom Boats, by Ted Perry, the one person in the US authorized to make them.

The Coaster is 20 feet, 9 inches long and about 6 and a half feet wide. She displaces, Curt guesses, about 1500 pounds. She’s shallow draft with a centerboard. Up top are three sails — a main, a mizzen and a foresail.

The handsome transom of “Annie”.

While the boat has British ties, her name has roots much closer to home. Annie was Curt’s mother’s name. “She had an adventurous spirit,” says her son, but “she didn’t get a chance to act on it.” Annie Bowman lived her life in Hickory, NC. Curtis was with her when she died last summer and vowed he’d do what she couldn’t. With that in mind — and in that spirit — he set out on the Pamlico Sound trip this spring.

Annie takes a rest at Oriental’s Town Dock.
An anchor is ready.

These days, Curt designs museum exhibits and lives in St. Augustine, Florida but, like his mother, he also grew up in Hickory, far from open water and sailing. In the late 1970’s, though, there was a chance encounter. While coordinating a museum exhibit at the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island, a colleague invited him on a sailboat. In that one sail he was smitten. Especially by small boats, traditional designs, boats of a certain character. He looked for a boat of his own. By the following year, he owned a Buchanan Spartan and sailed it from NC to Florida where he lived on it for a time. He then sold that to buy a lot in Florida.

In late April of this year, he drove up from St. Augustine, trailering the pea-green “Annie” behind him. His first night of the trip, he slept on the boat in a campground in Lumberton, NC. He says many of the others in the campground were living there while working on a pipe laying project and that he was given a heaping paper plate of fried catfish and deep fried bacon.

Home for two weeks. Down below on “Annie”.

The next day, he put Annie in the water at Paradise Cove Marina, near Whortonsville and set out on a trip that would cross the Pamlico Sound numerous times. He sailed over and down to Beaufort and Core Sound and past Cedar Island. Stopped at Cape Lookout and at the town of Atlantic (he recommends the shrimpburger at a small place on the waterfront.) There were still many more miles to cover.

“Annie” at Cape Lookout. (Curt Bowman photo)

He made his westward way across the Sound to Vandemere on the Bay River to visit naval architect Graham Byrnes. Then it was back east across the Sound to Ocracoke for a few nights before making yet a fourth Pamlico Sound crossing, down to Oriental. That leg took him from 5:30 in the morning til 4 in the afternoon, some of it in 3-4 foot seas with 20 knot winds.. He covered 45 miles that day, and took a day off the following day.

Staying in one spot. Annie in a more restful moment at the wharf near Oriental’s Town Dock.

Overall, he figures he sailed 255 miles by the time he pulled “Annie” out of the water at Oriental’s Wildlife Ramp. When he set out, he had some idea of where he wanted to go, but ultimately decided to “go anywhere that the wind would take me. It’s silly to buck the weather.”

“Annie” and reflections of much bigger vessels sharing a corner of Orieintal’s harbor.

It wasn’t just weather that affected travel plans. He’d hoped to venture down the Pamlico River to Bath, but the smoke from the Alligator River Wildlife Refuge fire dissuaded him. (He says he’s seen worse in Florida, where sitting in the cockpit, he wouldn’t be able to see the outboard motor a few feet away.) Fire of a different sort presented another concern; in his passage from Vandemere across the Sound to Ocracoke, conditions pushed him near or over the military bombing zones. On the way back from Ocracoke, he says he used his battery powered GPS to skirt its edges.

During some of those passages, he as taken by the extensive marsh lands throughout the region. Especially so as he passed through a canal near Isle of Marsh and Cedar Island where he found himself amid an ocean of the green, with nothing but grass as far as he could see.

Leather bound sculling oar.

“It’s way out,” he says, “and a little lonesome.” To get out of the wind he tucked up a creek, and it too, had that edge-of-the-world sense about it. “I felt,” Curt says, “like I was the first person to go up there.”

One of the rewards of acting on an adventurous spirit.

After a day in Oriental, Curt Bowman put Annie on her trailer to take home to St. Augustine. She might be seen this summer on the favored waters of Florida’s Gulf, or the St. John’s River, near Jacksonville.

“Annie” under sail in Florida waters. (Curt Bowman photo.)

A boat is more than the sum of her parts. That said, here are some of those parts.

Aft end of “Annie”.
Oar lock.
The wooden Coaster also has wooden masts.

Posted Friday May 20, 2011 by Melinda Penkava