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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.

"Sunrise" in Oriental
Here Now After Oregon Inlet Pounding
December 10, 2010
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ortola. That’s where the crew of the sailboat “Sunrise” had planned to be by now. That was the idea when the 38-foot Halbert-Rassy left Norfolk on November 8 as part of the recent Caribbean 1500 rally.

Instead, Bill Calfee, his wife Lara and their 22-month-old daughter Isobel are in Oriental and the boat is undergoing some repairs to the hull and rudder.

The keel of “Sunrise”, which bounced again and again in the Oregon Inlet.

They came to Oriental by way of — and because of — the Oregon Inlet. This is the point in story at which more than a few people have said, “The Oregon Inlet? Why would someone come in thru…” That passage, at the top end of the Pamlico Sound has a well-earned reputation for being treacherous.

At the time, for the crew of Sunrise, it seemed to be a better alternative than what the Atlantic was offering.

Bill, Lara and Isobel Calfee in September, two months before their detour to Oriental.

On the Sunrise’s first day out in the Caribbean 1500, the boat and crew were getting knocked around by 30 knot winds right on the stern. That made for a lot of swells and, in general, uncomfortable sailing.

The family had done a few overnights in the previous year of living on the boat, but this was to be Lara’s first long offshore passage. Ditto for Isobel, not quite 2. There were also two crew members. After 24 hours of running downwind, and wind chop, Bill says that most of the adults were exhausted. On top of that, “the baby was sick.”

“Sunrise“in the yard at SailCraft.

So, to the Oregon Inlet it was. “Normally, when we do something like that,” Bill says “we try to get some local knowledge.” He says he knew the inlet was notorious and before heading in, he wanted to get more info than what the chart showed. He got on the radio “over and over,” but he says no one responded.

Sunrise and crew entered the channel of Oregon Inlet and learned quickly that it had shoaled. The keel hit. And then hit again. And again. “We bounced repeatedly off the bottom.”

Bill Calfee on the deck of “Sunrise” in the more stable surroundings of the SailCraft boat yard.

Bill says he thinks it may have been 3 or 5 minutes of the boat hitting the channel floor. “It felt endless.” A huge concern was that at some point the boat might not bounce back up but rather go hard aground, and then would break up in the waves.

The Sunrise called the Coast Guard to report their trouble. They were ultimately able to get underway and limped in to Wanchese. There, they had the boat pulled out of the water to have a look. Sure enough, the rudder and rudder post had been damaged. The bottom of the keel also was damaged and inside the boat, in several places, Bill says, the tabbing where the bulkheads meet the hull showed signs of the stress from the boat pounding.

The rudder needed work.

Instead of staying in Wanchese for the boat repairs, Bill says he called around and learned that Oriental had good boatyards where sail boat repairs could be made. They arrived at the SailCraft yard in mid-November.

At SailCraft boat yard, Turtle Midyette has been working on the rudder and making other repairs.

Looking back on what got him and his family to this point, Bill says that had he been simply cruising and not part of the Caribbean 1500, he wouldn’t have left the Chesapeake with the weather that was forecast.

“I would have never gone out in that situation.” He says he second-guessed himself when he learned that other boats — 65 in all — would indeed be going despite the weather. At the time, he says that he thought, “‘Maybe I missed something.’”

Part of the nav station and the binder from the Caribbean 1500.

He says he and Lara and Isobel don’t usually travel with other boats and may have gotten, for a moment, into a “pack mentality.” Bill explains he joined the Caribbean 1500 because while he’s sailed a lot, his wife and daughter had not done much offshore. This would be their first. He said it had been a “weight on my shoulders” to “have a good passage for them.” With sailboats with more experience taking part, he says, he thought it “would make the experience even better.”

Instead, he says, “I got myself in to trouble.”

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Posted Friday December 10, 2010 by Melinda Penkava

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