Thanks for the advice. Do you have any idea what the sailing is like near-coastal in the Atlantic out of the Pamlico Sound and down to Topsail? Do people do day-sailing beyond the inlets, either out of New Bern or, farther south, out of the New River? When you say gnarly, what do you mean? Are there breaking waves across the entire mouth?
I don't know any sailors who sail out of New River Inlet or around the southern end of Topsail. My buddies and I have windsurfed there on windy days and I can tell you, like 90% of the inlets around our barrier islands, it ain't worth taking a sailboat through for just a day sail. Sometimes the sandbar does break all the way across. Just depends on the day.
People sail out of Beaufort Inlet (Morehead City) all the time. It's beautiful and easy (it can get choppy right at the inlet). Once out of the inlet you can sail until your heart's content.
I keep my boat in the Pamlico Sound. No tides, very minimal currents, if any at all. Protected, and sandy, as opposed to rocks. Easy to gunkhole. You can sail out of New Bern into the sound of course.
Do a google search on their maps and view the satellite imagery of Topsail Island and New River Inlet. You'll see what I mean about sandbars.