Cruising down the Neuse River close hauled (a continuing theme aboard Temujin) the great debate began as to whether we should put in at Oriental proper, or continue down to Minnesott Beach, some 12 miles further West, where friend of the program, single hand legend, philosopher, and certified old salt, Lee Werth, was waiting for us. While the immediacy of showers, a juicy burger, and wifi was tempting, we decided that Oriental could wait, and continued SW down to Minnesott Beach, and the intriguingly named “Wayfarer’s Cove”.
Looking at the map in became abundantly clear that Minnesott Beach was more beach than township. There is no post office, and the nearest gas station is 5 miles North. More perplexing still was our inability to locate the entrance to the cove. It was clearly charted, with a red and green marking the channel, we have a map, GPS, and a very nice pair of 7X50 binoculars that were a most generous bon voyage gift, and still we could make out nothing more than sporadic houses and trees, and a lone person in a rowboat our for some exercise on a sunny and warm winter’s day. If Fayth Lee’s boat, was hiding back there somewhere, surely there would be other masts poking out over the shoreline?
It wasn’t until we were nearly on top of them that we spotted the faded red and green cans, and betwixt the two was an 8 foot half shell dhow, with Lee sitting contentedly in the module, oars cocked up, bobbing gently up and down. He was the very picture of a mariner. His cable knit sweater was covered by a black fleece, the collar pulled all the way up against the wind providing a ring in which lived a bushy white beard and bespectacled face, capped with a traditional all-black captain’s hat. He signaled for us to follow him, and his large gnarled hands covered his face with each backstroke in a kind of rower’s peek-a-boo.
He made pace for a squat and square ended dhow rowing against a the advance of Temujin, still under full main. Once alongside, we received directions on navigating the shallow and Sandy entrance, and proceeded through a narrow cut in the shoreline, no more than 20 yards wide, snaking back through a swamp of large trees with exposed roots and dangling vines. Emerging around the bend could be seen the masts and hulls of boats, connected by a vast network of meandering wood planked docks suspended nearly 6 feet above the water. This, was Wayfarer’s Cove. It was backwoods, it was shabby, and it was eerily still. We liked it immediately. This was a proper pirate hideaway. If there were an elevator on premise (there most certainly is not), it would play on repeat an instrumental cover of the Doobie Brother’s “Blackwater”.
If anyone reading anticipates needing to “disappear” for a while, for any reason, I humbly submit Wayfarer’s Cove as a strong option. For a few thousand (or hundred, even) dollars you could procure one of the various fixer upper boats in the yard, put it in a slip for less than a thousand dollars a year, and make provisioning trips to Oriental or New Bern every few weeks when the weather suits. Be polite, keep to yourself, and nobody will overly pay you mind. In fact, some months before our arrival a man was found dead in his boat, snuggly wrapped in his sleeping bag. His passing was noticed only when his cat, Top Hat, finally made enough racket to warrant inquiry. Top Hat is now the much loved ward of Wayfarer’s Cove. The man’s boat, a Choy Lee offshore rather bigger than a cat, and bereft of the innate ability to charm strangers with playfulness and affection, is proving more of a burden on the cove’s management.
We made fast in an empty slip a few past Fayth, and went over to see our friend Lee.
We had first met Lee some years before, at a Tartan 34C rendezvous. Temujin and Fayth are sister ships. The rendezvous was a very pleasant affair, held over a weekend in Solomons, MD, it featured a speaker from the Chesapeake Maritime Historical Society, ample time to snoop around on each other’s boats, and a BBQ dinner held on a perfect July evening –fireflies and all.
So it was that we found ourselves across from Lee Werth, at the bitter end of the long picnic table, separated from the general crowd both by proximity and profile. This is in no way a slight to the Tartan 34C Owner’s Association which is a fantastic group of people from which we have (and continue to) receive innumerable support and advice, and through which we have made many friends. This is only to say that there aren’t too many other members who singlehand in their 80’s, or are 20 somethings bent on crossing oceans. Recognizing our differences, and Lee having made many ocean passages previously on his 32ft Bruce Robert’s Designed Schooner, we took to each other immediately.
Lee’s reputation preceded him to the rendezvous, and the following story should give the reader a good indication of his spirit. Coming in to Solomon’s he took a knock from the boom that broke his glasses and left a nice bloody gash above his left eye. He radioed the Coast Guard to see if somebody could come on board to help navigate Fayth the remaining distance to her slip, as he could easily see large objects and the compass, but aids to navigation were taller order. The Coast Guard sent out a boat, but seeing a solo bloodied up octogenarian at the helm, they refused to put any man aboard, insisting that the only option was to immediately take Lee to a medical facility and send a tow boat for Fayth. Consulting the charts, and Lee figured the Coast Guard must have to pass near to the marina in order to get back to the station. A drawn out negotiation was held as Fayth followed slowly in the wake of the Coast Guard boat, the conclusion of which was a full refusal of aid once Fayth hit the turn off for the marina. Lee and Fayth then myopically limped into the marina without further incident.
In the years since, after sailing Fayth up the east coast and to Bermuda and back, a passage in which both the boat and captain took quite a battering, Lee had been camped out at Wayfarer’s Cove, plotting his next move.
Life in Wayfarer’s Cove was the perfect transition back into civilization after the calm of the Carolina waterways. We went out for pizza. We went to the grocery store. We went to West Marine. We got out adrenaline spikes from riding with Lee, who apparently learned to drive from Ayrton Senna.
We tuned the rig, we changed the fluids, we unhurriedly went over the boat bow to stern, addressing anything that might give us trouble in the Atlantic. And, after a few days of tranquil prepping, we bid Lee farewell, and we left.