Mid-way between Virginia and South Carolina, this small coastal village, Oriental NC, is a well-known and frequent stop for cruisers traveling the Intracoastal Waterway and a popular destination for fisherman. It is the kind of town that gets under your skin and keeps you coming back for more. It is pet, bicycle and most of all, boater friendly. It is a year-round hub of activity for boaters, but especially so this month. Oriental NC boasts more boats than residents by a huge margin and the ratio will swell big time during August for regattas, dragon boat races and world-class fishing.
“If you own a boat, have a friend with a boat or just enjoy watching on-the-water events, Oriental NC is the place to be in August,” said town Mayor Bill Sage.
Oriental NC Sailing
The annual Invitational Dragon’s Breath Regatta Aug. 4-5, is an Inter-Club Racing Committee, or ICRC race and is open to all PHRS rated mono-hulls with a minimum of 20-feet in length.
Tom Lathrop, who started the regatta in the early 90s, chose the name Dragon’s Breath because “most names were already taken and I just thought it was a good name,” he said.
Originally, the Dragon’s Breath Regatta was an overnight race.
“We would leave Oriental about 5 p.m. and sail to the Pamlico River and arrive back somewhere between 3 and 4 a.m.,” said Lathrop. “This was before the days of the GPS and chart plotters, so it was a challenge, especially with nighttime navigation.”
The Dragon’s Breath Regatta is the biggest event of the year for the Oriental Dinghy Club.
“It’s is a great racing event made better with a fabulous banquet and party with live music Saturday night,” said Ken Small with the Oriental Dinghy Club. “And the Sunday afternoon awards ceremony is always a hit.”
Visit OrientalDinghyClub.com for complete details and registration forms.
Oriental NC Dragon Boats
Dragons are synonymous with Oriental NC. They’re everywhere. Painted on the sides of buildings and fences and adorning lawns and ponds. Dragon eggs nestle safely under bushes and trees throughout the village. The Running of the Dragon, a 30-plus year celebration of happy noise-making, welcomes the New Year each December 31. So it is no surprise to see dragon boats converge at the town’s beach for what has become an annual event of racing for points and coveted prizes.
The Oriental Dragon Boat Festival is Aug. 10-11. Experienced, organized teams from as far away as Miami will vie against local teams, some of which have raced in prior years and others competing for the first time.
Dragon Boats are the world’s largest flat-water racing canoes. The standard crew of a contemporary design is typically 22, which comprises 20 paddlers, one drummer and one sweep or steerer. Full or partial teams and individuals may register for this event.
Paddlers sit in pairs facing forward toward the drummer and use a specific type of paddle, which is not attached to the watercraft. Synchronicity is more important than strength as dragon boat paddlers move in unison, putting teamwork ahead of everything else.
“We have invited members of our armed services to compete as teams,” said Festival Chair Flora Moorman. “Last year we had two teams from Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station from across the (Neuse) River and it was a huge success.”
Moorman said the Festival Committee welcomes corporate and individual sponsor donations to pay for the military teams.
“This is just a small way we can say ‘thank you’ to those who serve our country and to offer them a great time in Oriental,” she said.
The official kickoff is Saturday morning when the teams gather to parade, vying for top honors in several categories, some of which are created on the spot.
“This is one of the cool things about Oriental. The awards change every year,” said committee member Kathryn Garcia. “Last year we awarded Best Team Spirit, Most Creative Team Headquarters, Best Team Song and Best Drummer Hats.
“This year they might include Best Dog Costume,” she said. “It is all about the spirit and the paddling and everyone has a lot of spirit.”
For more information, visit OrientalDragonBoat.com
Oriental NC Fishing
The Oriental Rotary Club hosts the 20th Annual Tarpon Tournament and 1st Inshore Slam Aug. 17-18.
Tournament Director Charles Skinner changed the 19-year format from an all-release tarpon event to include the inshore slam as a result of input from local fishermen.
“We want to create an opportunity for fishermen of all stripes,” he said.
Flounder, slot drum and speckled trout, three of the top eight sport fish in the world, will be weighed in at the town dock next to tournament headquarters at the Oriental Marina, to determine the winners of the Slam Tournament.
Tarpon anglers must take a date and time-stamped digital photo of their catch for verification to determine the big purse money winners. One trophy is given to the fisherman who catches the most “Pancake Tarpon,” or Skates, which go after the same bait as real tarpon.
“We would like to build the Expo and Tournament into a major East Coast inshore fishing event,” said Skinner.
Money raised by Rotary during these tournaments and other fundraising events provide academic scholarships to local students in addition to supporting area charities. A substantial amount was donated to the Disaster Relief Fund, which assisted folks who were hard hit when Hurricane Irene battered Pamlico County and Oriental NC Aug. 27, 2011. The recovery effort continues.
For more information about the tournaments, email Charles Skinner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
…And More Oriental NC Sailing
Labor Day weekend offers sailors three days of racing between New Bern and Oriental. The 29th Annual Oar Cup Regatta runs from New Bern to Oriental Saturday and the companion Michelob Ultra Cup Regatta is from Oriental to New Bern Sunday.
For the first time, a return race to Oriental has been organized by the Oriental Dinghy Club for Monday.
“Adding the third leg makes it easier for local sailors to participate in a round-trip race,” said Ken Small with ODC. “This way we can make the trip to New Bern and back once instead of twice.”
“It is a great chance to try out new crew and equipment,” said Marsha Paplham of Marsha’s Cottage. “It’s also another one of our fun, social events for which we are known up and down the waterway.”
Oriental has just about everything anyone needs and wants for a boat. This eclectic fishing village is home to marine craftsmen with a vast variety of skills who can handle most repairs for all types of boats, including mechanical, electrical, carpentry, painting, electronic, stainless steel welding, rigging, fiberglass, sail making, canvas work…the list goes on.
“Oriental is the best mid-Atlantic stop for anything having to do with boats,” said Mark Weinheimer of Inner Banks Sails.
Power and sailboat handling courses and a Youth Day Camp teaching sailing techniques on Opti, Sunfish and FJ boats are offered in August. Day, weekend and extended cruising charters of power and sail boats are readily available in addition to kayak and canoe rentals. With a half-dozen yacht brokerage firms, Oriental is an ideal place for selling and buying the perfect power or sail boat.
“There is never a bad month to be in Oriental,” said Mayor Sage. “It’s just that August has a wealth of activities for boaters and everyone who enjoys the water.”
Kathy Enzerink writes regularly for All At Sea Southeast.