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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.

Getting Away Amid Barking Alligators
April 24, 2009

ygone”, the Sea Pearl that showed up near the Town Dock in mid-April is a play on words. By the time you see the name on the slender aft of his 21-foot sailboat, By Miller has gone.

“Bygone” .

He’s been gone quite a bit. For a few years, it was long-distance bicycle trips. Then he switched over to sailboats, most recently the double-masted Sea Pearl.

By — it’s short for Byard — lives in Arkansas and usually sails on a Corps of Engineers lake there. But early this spring, he trailered “Bygone” to Palatka, Florida. He took off in late March, bound for Delaware.

Early in that trip, he had what he called his “day of days.” There was still awe in his voice, a few weeks later during his stop in Oriental, as he described sailing down the St. John’s River, past Jacksonville and out on to the ICW. It was 40 miles, he says, without ever having to tack.

By Miller.

For a small boat, By’s made great time, arriving in Oriental just 2-1/2 weeks after starting out. That’s due in part to his traveling style. He doesn’t stop much to sightsee. By says he generally gets in as many hours moving north on the ICW as he can, drops anchor for the night, and then is on his way early the next day.

There were two exceptions. He stopped in Charleston, took a walk around town, and left the next day. And in Georgia, an early morning rain — the forecast said it would drop 3-1/2 inches — led him to tie up at a marina for the day and wait it out. He says he used it as a chance to shower, do laundry, get rid of garbage. He collected 8 gallons of rainwater.

It was another foreboding weather forecast that brought him to Oriental on a dreary Monday morning. Several days of windy and stormy weather were in the offing that week. By decided to wait that out too. The chop and rain in the forecast for the Pamlico Sound might be punishing not only for his boat, but even more so for the pontoon boat his brother Carl was traveling on.

Brothers By and Carl Miller.

(The two brothers had been moving up the ICW together for a few days. Around the time By took off from Florida, Carl left his home on the Chesapeake and plied his way south to meet him along the way. That reunion of brothers was delayed after Carl’s pontoon boat didn’t take kindly to some of NC’s waters. — the two brothers finally met up at the Cape Fear River, a few days before tucking in at Oriental.)

The snappy yellow dodger and double masts of the small Sea Pearl brought a few folks by the railing to take it all in and ask some questions.

By Miller and the Sea Pearl, “Bygone”.

To the query, “Where do you sleep?” By had a concise answer: “Inside.” With a boat drawing less than a foot of water, there is not much inside inside. Preparing for sleep means moving some plastic bins of gear out in to the cockpit. The stove too. That clears up some space for the Thermarest mattress and By’s lanky frame. (Carl, meanwhile, had a pup tent set up on the deck of his pontoon boat.)

The Sea Pearl is 5-1/2 feet wide. “It’s very tender when you get on,” By says. For some more stability while under sail, there are lee-boards that put about three feet of counterforce under the water.

Making do with the small boat is an evolution of a mindset By adopted after retiring early 13 years ago. “I was really in to bicycling and would do trips by myself.” Then 5 years ago, he says he lost interest and turned to small sailboats instead. He had a 17 foot Harpoon but says he wanted something he could handle easily all by himself. Enter, the Sea Pearl.


This trip has allowed him to remove himself in ways he otherwise couldn’t. By talks about the nights he anchored in marshes. “You get down in southern South Carolina and Georgia. No sign of electric wires. No houses. You may be just a couple miles from a major highway.,” he says, but it feels like you’re much further away.

His favorite moment of the trip so far? It was one night in a marsh in South Carolina. He says he’d gotten in to a patch of water thru a swamp. It about 40 feet wide and half a mile long. A short distance away he says that he “saw something down in the water.” It was an alligator. He laughs now at his surprise that he should find one of them in a place that the chart clearly labeled as Alligator Creek. But it wasn’t just the sight of the alligator that stuck with him.

It was the sound.

“They barked,” By Miller says.

Barking alligators? By tried to explain. “Not like a dog’s bark,” he says. It was “louder. A grunting noise.”

He and Carl took a few days break from traveling before setting out again on their way north. Delaware, where By’s daughter lives, is the destination.

And after that? Any more travel plans after trailering “Bygone” home to Arkansas?

“Bygone”. Gone from Arkansas and sailing up the ICW. (It was one of two boats from the middle of the country in Oriental that day. Behind it, a cruising sailboat from South Dakota.) .

“Once I get home,” By says, “I want to sail the Arkansas River to the Mississippi.” It’s a trip that involves 17 locks before reaching the big river. Once there, By quietly notes, he can be gone to anywhere in the world.

Posted Friday April 24, 2009 by Melinda Penkava

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