blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Trip south: fourth day

We just came in from a memorable supper on the riverside deck at Persimmons: an organic / local-sustainable foods / gourmet restaurant by the marina on the Neuse (pronounced Newss) River, one of the widest in North America. Usually we don't eat out in such exclusive places, but since our lunch at a coffee shop had only cost $11 for the two of us, we treated ourselves tonight. Persimmons' bread basket was in a class apart, never mind the rest. I chose a Mother Earth Endless River Kolsch beer to drink with the THREE PREPARATIONS OF NOOHEROOKA FARMS PORK --- SWEET POTATO AND PISTACHIO PUREE| PARKER FARMS KALE |GRILLED PEACH AND CHERRY CHUTNEY (gluten free) for my entrĂ©e, after which I didn't need any dessert. All the same, the waitress brought us four complimentary hand-rolled home-made dark chocolate truffles to finish off the meal.

As we dined, we watched the slow progress of the black sided yacht (ketch?) called the Bolero on her sunset cruise. Earlier today Chris and I were the only two passengers on her afternoon cruise, Captain Paul showing Chris the ropes in a sailing lesson that mostly had to do with tacking and jibing and keeping her into wind on the right heading. The wind blowing at 9knots at best today was not a difficult wind to master. Our vessel was an elderly, 41ft yacht that had originated on the Isle of Man and had been sailed across the Atlantic at some point. Her Captain intends to take her out on the Atlantic again, this winter, with a three-man crew, because he has his eye on a very attractive property in the Caribbean (the American Virgin Islands). I don't know whether the crew will include Scupper, the ship's dog, an affectionate little chap of mixed pedigree, with one ear usually up and the other ear down, who barks when the sails are hoisted because he doesn't like that noise, but gets a ship's biscuit thrown onto the deck for consolation. He also barks a greeting at the dogs he sees on shore. Otherwise he snuggles up against the people on board on the ship's cushions and goes to sleep.

I asked Paul questions about how boats like this behave on the high seas. Capsizing, he told me, is usually due to pilot error. You have to avoid broadside waves by sailing at 45 degrees to the wind and into the waves. In rough weather he wears a harness at the helm which he clips to hooks on the wall behind. He also uses two very small sails to help with the steering and closes all the hatches in case of misfortune. If the boat were to "turn turtle" (turn upside down) she is designed to right herself. This reminded me of the most exciting chapter of Paul Guimard's novel Le Mauvais Temps --- I regaled Chris with the whole story at supper time.

It has been so much cooler today that New Bern is a different place from what it was yesterday. The sun has stayed behind the thinnish layer of grey stratus so that the bricks and painted clapboard house fronts seemed to take on different colours. When we weren't eating or sailing, we were generally ambling around the streets looking at the plethora of churches and other buildings, and their lovely gardens, or the parks lining the waterfront. Magnolia trees bloom in September, here. On our way, we passed a fireman's museum, a British looking palace with Buckingham Palace-like gates, and a red brick former academy that had doubled as a hospital for the severely wounded (Union) soldiers of the Civil War, after the Battle of New Bern. The Confederate casualties were dealt with in houses on the other side of the street. Nowadays these are peaceful properties, with wooden rocking chairs under the shade of their verandas, hanging flower baskets and green lawns.

We were by no means the only people walking around. We got talking to a local lady with a very strong southern accent who told us how the mail coach from New England used to go by (before her time) on its way to Florida. She told us how tunnels beneath the city had been discovered during recent excavations that had served as secret escape routes from the Palace, for Union soldiers to hide their uniforms in after their defeat at the battle, thence pretending to be civilians, and then also as burial grounds, during the war. Mid-afternoon hundreds of walkers went by, all finishing a sponsored walk called the CROP Hunger Walk, accompanied by two police motorcyclists with flashing blue lights. CROP stands for Christian Rural Overseas Program, an initiative that has been going strong since 1969. A quarter of the money raised goes to local foodbanks and shelters. Many of the people taking part were struggling to keep going down the last street, obviously not used to walking as far as 3+ miles; they were lucky it wasn't as hot and humid today as yesterday.

At the end of the day, live music was playing on the hotel's deck again, a band with a female singer, specialising in swing and rock and roll, and a reunion party of retirees was dancing to it.

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