Sunday, December 31, 2006

Oriental, NC

0 nm
Wind: NE 10-15 knots, building to 15-20

I’ve begun to get a little too long-winded and introspective lately, I think. Always my major fault. It’s important to think about what I’m doing, but it’s more important to actually experience it. What Karl, my ninja, is so good at.

So we stayed here another day, for the New Year’s Eve festivities, the running of the dragon. It was fantastic, amazing, well worth the time spent, but I still begrudge the loss of a day moving.

The local fish is called a croaker, and as part of the celebration, the town officials (who seem to be an ideal crew of casual ex-cruising sailor hippies) build a giant tinselly lit-up plywood croaker and drop it from the mast of a sailboat just in time for the new year, just after the dragon runs through the streets.

I woke up this morning hearing the crew of town officials ask our neighbors, fellow cruisers, if they would do them the honor of dropping the croaker from their mast. I am dismayed that our habit of sleeping in has kept us from having the privilege of dropping the croaker, especially because our neighbors’ boat has internal halyards and they can’t get the croaker all the way up the mast. Not that the town officials would have asked us, the dirty boat with the kids in it, anyway.

The town’s supposed to have a strict 48-hour limit on dock time here, but our neighbors, a Texan cruising sailboat called Gone with the Wind, got an exemption for the dropping of the croaker and we’re riding on their coattails. I feel a little guilty about it, especially because there are a bunch of local boats anchored in the harbor who I’m sure would jump on our spots, but locals, in a non-official capacity, kept begging us to stay, so we did.

We were even invited to a potluck pig roast! I made my soon to be famous chipotle-cilantro-cream cheese dip, but I think I may have put in too many chipotles for the locals, because no one touched it. Too much cooking for Karl, he of the burnt-out taste buds, I suppose. I swear if we took all the hot sauce off the boat, we’d gain half a knot of speed.

The pig picking was awesome, though. Best pig I ever had. Tennessee Ron, the Master of Ceremonies, a magical, grizzled, big-bearded, one-eyed sailorman, with a giant orange pig smoker he tows behind his truck, seems to have a Pied-Piper-like ability of making all the local townswomen make out with him. It’s rather astonishing. I brought my Tennessee hat to show him, mildewed though it is, and he was duly impressed. He told us tales of cruising through the Bahamas, and told us that the Azores, across the Atlantic, was where we want to be. He also went in for the kiss, when we said farewell at midnight, but I gave him the cheek. I don’t think Karl would have been too pleased with the alternative.

Then came the dragon run. It was an exuberant celebration, unlike any I have encountered since the millennial New Year in Germany. Not that there were really 20,000 people in the streets, as we had been promised—it was just a community of people who really liked each other and loved their town. Children raced through the streets banging pots and pans, anyone got under the dragon who wanted, loud music filled the air, and all was general chaos. It was great.

To top it off, we were invited over to someone’s house for Swedish glog, and we met a whole slew of amazing people: a solo circumnavigator who also walks thousands of miles with mules, an American-Scottish couple who crossed both the Atlantic and Pacific, and a bunch of community artists.

I think I’m half in love with this place. If there was any danger of us settling down, I might want to settle down here.

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