We have leaned towards the Oriental area as well for overall flexibility. If we stay in Oriental, any recommendations about marinas for a 2-3 day slip rental? We're traveling with our dog (a Portuguese Water Dog who loves boating), but I assume most marinas are used to that.
Thanks for the portable GPS idea. We'll definitely take a look.
I sail this area all the time. You will be in a perfect area for learning, the river is very wide and you wont hit any weather you can not handle. The ground in this area is very soft (sand or black silty dirt) and will not harm your boat if you run aground (I speak from experience, haha)
Do not be scared about your 5' draft if you want to go to new bern. It is located where the neuse meets the trent and there is plenty of room. I draw 4'6 and have no problems. You can sail there from oriental in 4-6 hours and its a very nice beginner type trip. Ocracoke would be several more degrees of difficulty, but if you have experience and your boat is seaworthy you should be okay if you have nice weather.
If you go to new bern, I highly
suggest you stay at the sheraton marina. (do NOT stay at the bridgepoint marina**) From the sheraton, within 10 minutes max walk, you'll have your choice of several very good restaurants, lots of shops, and historical attractions. (birthplace of pepsi, tryon palace) Great place to sail one day, stay the night on your boat, then sail back the next day. The sheraton has a bar and has live music frequently.
Feel free to message me if you want more information. I very much like this area.
**This is a fine and reputable establishment, but it is oppsite the sheraton on the trent river, and the trent bridge is closed till christmas for remodelling. You'd save $10 in docking charges, but you would not be able to walk anywhere!