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Friday, January 20, 2012


Eric has been going over the boat with a fine-toothed comb and along the way he discovered that the headsail (a 110% Genoa, that we often mistakenly call a jib) had stitching on the cover that was coming out.  It was in no danger of falling off, being stitched in three long seams on two sides, but the stitches were completely gone in foot-long stretches and looked raggedy in others.  Some action seemed necessary.

We settled on a sail maker couple in Oriental, partly because we like the town, which is by all reports the sailing capital of NC and partly because we knew we could receive other services there if we needed them.  It’s also closer to Potter’s Marina near Bath, where we plan to keep the boat this year, than the sail maker in Wilmington.

The weather was outstanding for January, a clear sunny day predicted to top sixty-five degrees, which made us feel kind of twitchy about having left the boat in the driveway instead of putting her in the water.  In New Bern we took a left over the bridge and marveled at the brilliance of all that water, glinting in the sun.  I had to roll the windows down to try to get a whiff of the sea.  We squinted downriver to the right and enjoyed fond memories of sailing Eric’s eleven-foot Phil Bolger car-topper sailboat, Carol and Zack, on the Neuse River last summer.  It had been so hot back in July.

Coming into Oriental, we took a right on Hodges Street, just before the bridge, and found the sail loft a few doors down.  Inside the bright lofty space, we found the very friendly and welcoming couple of Laura Turgeon and Gil Fontes of Hodges Street Sails (  Laura threw her long ponytail over her shoulder and greeted us with a big smile and much enthusiasm.  Gil was quieter, but seemed pleased to see us.

Nervous, we laid our folded up sails on the long wide counter for inspection.  At fifty dollars an hour, we hoped there was not more than a few hours work to do on these babies.  We know that boats are holes in the water into which you pour money, but we’re saving our pennies for a GPS.  But we know she don’t go without sails, either.

Both Laura and Gil descended on our main sail, running their fingers over the still-crisp sailcloth and peering closely at seams and edges.  We stood by like anxious parents at the pediatrician.  Would the patient survive?

Turns out our sails are in good shape and we brought the head sail in just in time to re-stitch the cover without a ton of expense.  If the cover had come completely off, it would be a much bigger deal.  Both of our sails needed anti-chafe patches replaced, the Genoa would benefit from reinforcement at the clew and the leech line on the main had been shortened to uselessness and needed lengthening.  We didn’t even know what this was for, but Laura and Gil filled us in.  Apparently in a light wind, the leech line can be cinched in to improve the curve of the sail for better performance.  We made note.

After the sails had been gone over, we stood back to admire the artwork on the walls and to talk sailing.  Gil’s sculptures and paintings were everywhere.  On the wall going up the stairs was a truly marvelous painting of a little boat partly concealed by huge waves curled like shark fins.  It reminded me of my adventure two hundred miles offshore in the North Pacific in a storm.  If I had the money lying around, I’d buy that one.  It’s really something.

Turns out that in addition to painting, Gil also does woodworking.  He disappeared into a back room and emerged with a gorgeous wooden rocking chair he had made while Laura proudly showed off his benches and baskets.  His work can be seen at: unless you’re visiting Oriental, in which case you can stop by and see it for real.

Gil was quick to show off Laura’s artwork as well, beautiful pen and ink drawings of Oriental scenery and sights.  Check it out:

We tried to get them to join us for lunch so we could talk more about sailing and boats, but they demurred, saying they had a deadline on someone else’s sails.  Starved, we headed out to the dock to eat at the Toucan Grill at the Oriental Marina and Inn.  They have a lovely grassy area overlooking the docks and a covered porch dining area.  It was a little bit chilly in the shade, but we bundled up and enjoyed our meal.  Eric got the tuna burger, which was perfectly cooked and huge, with a pile of crispy fries.  I got the award-winning chili, which was delicious with cheese and sour cream balancing the spiciness.  The salad left something to be desired, but the view more than made up for that.  We’re looking forward to sailing in here for a meal one day!

Before we left town we sat in the car for few minutes looking out at the mouth of the river and watching the sailboats with jealousy.  On the way back to New Bern we stopped on the side of the highway at the Old Tater Barn, which had a fascinating variety of items in the yard, including a dog pen, a collection of ancient outboard motors, grubby weedeaters, a tour bus (for sale?) and well-worn stained glass windows.  Inside we found an even more dazzling array of just about everything, including books, chair legs, life jackets and Depression glass.  A hat rack caught my eye, welded metal painted green with river rocks instead of hooks.  Eric admired it and we ended up getting it for five dollars, rather than the marked price of twelve, because, the owner said, we appreciated it.  Can’t wait to hang my hats on it.

We stopped outside of New Bern for a coffee and were rewarded with the last drop of the great red ball of sun, book-ended by the rising near-full moon to the east.  We’ll be back for more of that, I thought.  We’ll be back.

1 comment:

  1. This reminds me of sailing with my dad when I was a kid! So many good memories of jibs and genoas, starboard and port. I learned so much. Good to hear that you caught the sail "injury" early on.