18 April, 2012

Welcome to Bath

Position: N 35 28.552 W 076 48.973
Location: Bath, NC

It seems we've just broken our own already badly scored non-Khronicle-ing record. We started this one in mid-April and are just now getting around to sending it out. Sorry!!

As we were in no hurry to get to the Chesapeake before the end of April we decided to take a little side trip up the Pamlico River in North Carolina. Washington and Bath are two historical towns that we'd been wanting to see but somehow have managed to miss so far. It seems we've always been too busy or too much in a hurry passing through on our way north and south to take the time to go up there. So this time we decided to take a little detour off the Intra Coastal Waterway and do some sight seeing.

We arrived in Washington, NC on Saturday afternoon. The public waterfront was covered with tents! Turns out it was the last hurrah of a week-long bicycle fest (called “Bike NC”). There wasn't a whole lot going on as most of the festivities took place on Friday. But it was nice to see so many people in this small town and it was pretty cool watching the tents come down and the throngs melt away on Sunday.

Washington has several free docks, although the Rachels chose to anchor out, it being much quieter on the hook over the busy weekend. We had a really nice historical walking tour, a lovely chat with Visitor's Center lady and managed to recycle every bit of the copious amount of literature she provided us by returning it against her protests. Washington also has a nice, long boardwalk along the waterfront, great for boat and people watching.

Washington is bigger and we enjoyed wandering around, but we loved Bath, mostly (as always) because of the people we met. Bath is the oldest town in NC and, at it's biggest, had a population of around 350. According to a (new) local friend, the current population is 132. The state has kindly installed a dock there that is free for visitors to tie up to for 3 days, to encourage boaters to stop here and explore. Due to the size of the town everyone knows you are visiting and as we wandered around everyone we met said “Welcome to Bath”.

As you can imagine there isn't THAT much to do here. Our first day we went to the Visitors Center, which was closed, but true to form, we picked up a walking tour brochure and wandered around the streets checking out everything of historical significance. There are some great views of Bath Creek and the Pamlico River and lots of benches to sit on and enjoy said views.

The next day we found the visitors center open. There were 3 bus loads of school kids on a field trip, 6th graders (age 11-12), with several demonstrations dotted around that we were encouraged to join in on. We saw sawing, rope making, toys, and quill pen demonstrations. The kids were having a lot of fun. We watched a film showing the history of the town and then wandered around again. Not sure of the order of what we did but we enjoyed personal tours (just us and the guide) of 2 of the historic houses for only $1 each per house – what a bargain!

There's a great little library with WiFi that was open every day we were there, surprising for such a small place. We went and hung out there one morning, as we had some internet business to take care of, and really enjoyed chatting with the librarians and other library patrons. Everyone was SO friendly. They made sure we didn't leave without giving us some paperback books (they were well aware that new reading material is very important to us cruisers).

Julie bought a birthday card but had to return to the boat to address it, not very forward thinking of her. At 6pm she realized we would be leaving the next day and it needed to be posted. Rather than walk the 45 minutes each way to the post office she tried to flag down a car to see if they would give her a ride. After almost getting run over and almost causing an accident she finally asked someone sitting on their porch if she could put it in their mailbox. “Of course, help yourself”, they said (not surprising since they'd witnessed her near-death experience with the traffic).

One afternoon we met and had a nice long chat with a nice woman out walking her dog. She had grown up in Bath and told us lots of stories about it and her childhood. The next day she came by the dock and invited us for cocktails at her house overlooking the river. During our visit she and her husband offered us the use of their spare vehicle for a day of sightseeing and to do any shopping we needed. Having already made plans to leave the next morning we gracefully (and gratefully) declined. But we were impressed. This offer served to underline the openness and generosity we found in these people in this small town “off the beaten path” in North Carolina. Needless to say, we'll be going back to Bath.

Be nice to each other and those around you,

Mark & Julie