Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina – Planning

Now that the temperatures are starting to warm up, I’m looking to do a bit of sailing. We kept our last boat up the Neuse River in New Bern, NC. We chose not to put Tahina there for two main reasons: 1) It’s too far from the ocean for easy access to blue water sailing (about a 6 hour trip minimum going down the ICW to Beaufort); 2) Tahina can’t go under bridges unless they are at least 75 feet clearance (most bridges are 65 foot clearance around the ICW, including the one at New Bern and the one down the ICW from there).

I’d like to sail in the protected waters of Pamlico Sound (behind the Outer Banks), and maybe do some “gunkholing” in the many places along the Pamlico Sound and Neuse River. We’d also like to visit Oriental, NC which is a sailor town.

So, I’ve been looking at the Ocracoke Inlet as a way through the outer banks into Pamlico Sound. Naturally, I’ve looked at Google Earth’s satellite photos. And, I’ve checked charts. The charts all tell you that the inlet is under constant change – and the charts recommend seeking out local knowledge before attempting the inlet. The NOAA charts are most likely based on data from at least a couple of years ago. See this NOAA chart from the Google Maps mashup by Peio at geogarage.com:

Ocracoke Inlet Chart

I also looked at the navigation data updated every few months by the US Army Corps of Engineers out of the Wilmington office for coastal inlets in the region. They have survey data for the Ocracoke Inlet from November 2008 which is helpful. I’ll also ask around and try and get some more local knowledge before we head up there. This is all part of the process to researching a location for navigational data before taking your boat into unknown waters.
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