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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.

Waiting for the Right Time
SV Luna Sea
November 4, 2020

n May of 2018, a newly retired Mark Weaver arrived in Oriental from the United Kingdom.

“The original plan was to buy the boat, have this [solar] panel made so I was self-sufficient, install my electronics, get my equipment all up-to-date and then sail off,” Mark said. He’d planned for sailing and scuba diving around the world. “I was going to be here three months.”

A man in sungalsses, a faded red shirt, and a gray neck gaiter sits forward on deck near the boom.
Mark Weaver sits on the deck of Luna Sea.

Mark’s plan did not account for Hurricane Florence. “Florence changed everything for me.”

SailCraft Service owners Jennifer and Mike Pawlikowski took Mark in during the storm. He’d been living aboard at the boatyard while Luna Sea underwent repairs.

“It was a very dangerous situation and we couldn’t allow anybody to stay on their boat,” Pawlikowski said. “He didn’t have anywhere else to go and didn’t know anyone else here and it turned into a great friendship.”

The hurricane brought wind gusts over 100 mph and more than 9 feet of water to Oriental. Luna Sea sustained some small damage. But the storm also gave Mark something he hadn’t expected: the opportunity to learn.

A man wearing a striped shirt sits at a table, holding a book. Behind him, held in place by a net, are several paperback novels.
Mark down below with his library of Clive Cussler novels.

“I say I’ve been held back but that’s really just a psychological thing,” he said. “I could have just gone but I’m a fair-weather sailor so I don’t want to take any unnecessary risks. I think it’s prudent to learn how to look after the boat and how to sail it properly.”

From then on, Mark became a fixture at the Sailcraft Service boatyard, learning everything he could about boat service and maintenance. He found a way to make the most out of his extra time in Oriental.

“I’ve learned so much about boats being here and made all the required changes to the boat and additions that I think I need,” Mark said. “And she’s ready to roll. She’s more ready than I am.”

Those additions included adding solar panels, extra batteries, a watermaker, a radar. He also replaced all of the electronics.

A older photo, probably from the 80s, shows a young man with a beard, wearing socks and tennis shoes, and a pair of dark color shorts at the tiller of a sailboat. The boat's cockpit is light blue and the day is bright.
Mark as a younger man, sailing in England. He began sailing as a way to test the navigational code he and other computer programmers were creating.

Oddly enough, a experience in computer programming was Mark’s first exposure to sailing. Early in his career, Mark coded navigation programs for PC Maritime.

“We had to write two software packages,” Weaver said. “One was PC Navigator which helped you get from A to B. Today you don’t need a separate software but back in those days – 25 years ago – this was all brand new and laptops were only just becoming popular. We would do the navigation plotting and wave mapping and all of that on the laptops before they go on the boat, and they would take the laptop with them and follow the course. The second big package we did was to help eventually convert flat maps to 3D models. In those days 3D modeling was still fairly new to laptops so we were sort of frontrunners then. We were actually taken up by the US Coast Guard and they used the program for training their staff.”

A coworker took Mark and other programmers out on his boat for real-world tests of the navigation software.

“That was the first real sailing I ever did,” he said. “We would go out once or twice a month on his boat in Plymouth, which was a very famous naval town in the UK. You can always tell a naval town because there’s a pub on every single corner.”

After leaving PC Maritime, Mark began coding for a small-family owned programming firm. When the company was purchased by a much larger corporation, he found himself at a crossroads with his career.

Inside Luna Sea, Mark sits at a table and watches a TV mounted on the wall. Gear hangs from the walls and nets. More gear can be seen through a cabin door.
Below decks on Luna Sea.

“I had a bucket list of things to do throughout my life,” Mark said, “and I did most of the major things, skydiving, scuba diving, all those sorts of things. My last one was sailing around the world scuba diving. And I thought, ‘well, there’s no time like now so let’s get on and do it.’”

Mark had spent his toddler years learning Cantonese in Hong Kong while his father was stationed there. His mother called him ‘an audacious child’ and he lived up to it.

“Most certainly I was an adventurous kid, some might have called me mischievous, a little bit of a rebel I guess,” Mark said with a smile. “I bumped off school so many times. I didn’t just get myself into trouble, I’d take my mates away from school with me and they hated me for that. God knows how I learned everything because I passed all my exams, some of them reasonably well.”

Mark spent most of his time as a child in the ocean with his younger brothers. When he’d skip school, he would run off to the beach and swim for hours. His illicit swimming trips escalated to racing his mother’s Monte Carlo Spider in his teens, bungee jumping in Australia in his thirties, and skydiving in the UK in his forties.

Mark wears a blue helmet and black and purple skydiving suit as he is suspended in midair. His parachute is not yet deployed.
Mark on one of his other adventures.

“I did all the dangerous things when I was older. I guess I was missing my youth,” Weaver said. “Nothing makes you feel more alive than being scared.”

In pursuit of the final bullet on his bucket list, Weaver searched for a boat and what would become his new home for this next adventure.

Mark set out on a global boat search, soon realizing he needed to search in sunnier climates to find the kind of off-grid boat he was looking for. He stumbled upon Eastern North Carolina.

“It’s my first ever boat,” Mark said. “I’ve done sailing over the years with friends but I’ve never owned my own boat and certainly never had to maintain one. It had to have certain requirements; I had to be able to step off the back of the boat for my scuba diving, I had to be able to sail it single handedly. In this particular boat, all the lines and everything come back to the cockpit so you can sail it single handedly.”

After three trips to New Bern, Mark finally found his prospective new home, a Hunter 340. Apart from a few trips back to the U.K. to ensure that his visa remained current, Mark stayed in Oriental.

Mark chose to keep the original boat name from the previous owner. “It had a great name to start with,” he said. “Luna Sea, because what I was thinking about doing isn’t normal.”

A boat is docked broadside in a creek. On shore is a small pavilion and behind that a house.
Luna Sea at dock in Whittaker Creek.

While Mark’s plan is not the average retirement track, he can’t imagine spending this next phase of his life any other way.

“My greatest passion now and for quite a while has been scuba diving,” Mark said. “I am at peace when I am down 10 meters or more. I absolutely love it down there. The world up here is crazy at times, but down there it’s just another level of peacefulness.”

The first stop on his list is the Caribbean. Mark hoped to leave in October at the latest to go south for the winter, but COVID-19 restrictions may have him staying in Oriental for awhile.

“I’m not one to shy away from a challenge,” he said. “Obviously as you get older you get a little bit more cautious, but I still have this adventurous spirit inside of me. I can’t help that.”

Like the majority of the country, Mark’s plans are still up in the air. He is eager to set sail on his journey but has found a makeshift home for himself in Oriental and wouldn’t mind staying a bit longer if necessary.

“I’ve enjoyed my time here and met some wonderful people and almost become family which is phenomenal when you consider I came here to buy a boat, have some work done and sail away. But it’s changed,” he said. “The dynamics have changed completely since I’ve been here.”

If he is able to leave, Mark looks forward to island hopping in the Caribbean and exploring as many diving sites as he can. But as he sits at the dock next to Luna Sea, a coffee in hand supplied by his neighbor, he explains he is in no rush.

“Now that I’m into retirement, age is not irrelevant but not so important,” Weaver said. “What is important really is what you do with the time that you’ve got and as long as you don’t waste it, do what you want.”

The name of the boat on the transom.
Luna Sea.

Story & photos by Katie Kane.

Posted Wednesday November 4, 2020 by Allison DeWeese

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