My Very First Sailing Adventure with Sail Outer Banks

The Sea'scape all docked at the end of our sailing adventure

Growing up by the Great Lakes, you would think that I would have spent a ton of time on the water. In actuality, I haven’t. As a land person, my opportunity to ride on boats was limited. However, whenever I did have a chance to go on a boat, I jumped on it. Little did I know that a recent press trip to the Outer Banks, North Carolina, would allow me to fulfill a bucket list item; to go sailing for the first time ever with Sail Outer Banks.

The Sea'scape all docked at the end of our sailing adventure

How did I end up on a Sailboat for the First Time?

I was offered to go on a press trip with three other travel writers to the Outer Banks. I was excited to see the barrier islands as I had never visited the Outer Banks before. The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau set up an amazing itinerary for all of us to experience the fantastic outdoor adventures in the Outer Banks, like kayaking, hang gliding, horseback riding, and sailing. Unfortunately, Mother Nature unleashed a Nor’easter on the Outer Banks that had houses falling into the ocean, our cottage shaking all night long, and our outdoor activities being canceled. However, we were lucky to have two of them, hang gliding and sailing, rescheduled to later times where we were fortunate to have a reprieve in the weather.

Leaving Manteo marina for the Albemarle Sound

Our sailing adventure with Sail Outer Banks was rescheduled to the following evening. We were so happy to show up at the Manteo marina and have the sun shining brightly overhead. I approached the sailboat and saw Dan getting the sailboat ready for us. “Permission to come aboard,” I asked. “Of course, come on up,” he said. We traversed the short gap over the water from the dock to hop up on the Sea’scape. Our sailing adventure was about to begin.

Dan getting ready to sail on the Sea'scape

Sail Outer Banks

Sailing into the sun on the Sea'scape

Sail Outer Banks offers private charters from the Manteo Marina on Roanoke Island for up to 6 people to sail on the Roanoke and Albemarle Sound. Katherine and Dan run Sail Outer Banks and provide sunset cruises that last 2.5 to 3 hours. Dan is a former US Coast Guard Captain and builds yachts when he isn’t sailing. Katherine is also a licensed Captain. Their 41-foot Gulfstar, the Sea’scape, is perfect for romantic couples, milestone birthdays, or a fun family night. And the Sea’scape is pet-friendly. You can also bring your own food and drinks on the boat to enjoy your sunset cruise.

Katherine at the wheel on the Sea'scape

Katherine had us in stitches with her sailing guest stories of bachelor and bachelorette parties, weekend girl trips, and the many proposals on the deck of the Sea’scape. Part of the private sailing experience is that if you are interested in learning to sail, they let you have a turn at the helm, you can learn to adjust lines, and they will even show you how to work the chart plotter and radar. Or you can choose to sit on the foredeck and enjoy the sound of the breeze through the sails as the water laps against the bow and the scenery racing by. If you are interested in booking your private sunset sailing adventure, rates are $70 per person ($250 minimum). Call (252) 473-2719 for reservations.

The bow of the Sea'scape


The main sail on the Sea'scape

The Sea’Scape is a 41-foot Gulfstar ketch (2 masts), originally designed and built by the Lazzara brothers in St Pete, Fl. over 40 years ago. Dan and Katherine have owned her for 20 years. When we arrived, Katherine gave us a tour of the cabin below, showing us where the two heads (bathrooms) were and how spacious it was. The traditional teak trimming and the nautical blue accents made the cabin so homey. I asked if they stay overnight on her, but they don’t do that very often as they both work full-time. I could stay here easily.

My First Sailing Experience

View of Washington Baum Bridge from Albemarle Sound

I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I had an inkling from listening to a friend who loves sailing. So, I was excited to be on this sailboat. The Sea’scape is quite large, with a big cockpit area and benches that comfortably fit all of us. We started slowly cruising past the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse as we left the Manteo Marina. It was neat to see all the crab pot buoys bobbing on the top of the water and the brown pelicans gliding along its surface. I kept thinking of the show Deadliest Catch and how it was only a couple of days before I ate my first crab dinner. This trip was full of firsts for me.

Our hosts were full of knowledge of the area and were willing to share it. There were two other sailboats out on the Albemarle Sound, and Dan teased that we would race them. We didn’t, but they pointed out how they had benches for their guests where they were all facing away from each other. I was really happy with the Sea’scape’s set-up as it was more comfortable and intimate.

Sailing on the Albemarle Sound

Once we were cruising along in the Albemarle Sound with the sails out, my friends, Robin and Teresa, and I headed toward the bow to sit and enjoy the sunshine. The wind caught the sails, and the sailboat started to lean over the water as it picked up speed. It was a bit disconcerting at first, but after a while, it was thrilling to see the sailboat glide through the water so effortlessly. And even more cool was Dan pointing out the sites that we visited earlier in the week, like Jockey’s Ridge State Park, where we went hang gliding.

Being a Sailboat Captain

One of the perks of being on a private sail charter is that we have free reign to roam the boat, and we did just that. We were hanging out on the bow, sitting by the stern, down in the cabin, and with Katherine urging us-all four of us captained the Sea’scape. With our hands on the wheel at the helm, we all had a thrill steering the sailboat into the wind. It was an incredible feeling how the pressure of the wind in the sails transferred down through the wheel. And how harder it was to keep the sailboat in the direction they wanted us to go when the wind picked up. But, the most incredible moment for me was having Dan allow me to change the direction (tack) of the boat. We were at the point of needing to turn around, and with his guidance, I could turn the sailboat in the opposite direction completely. So much power, and it was exhilarating!

Once we headed back toward the marina, I was lucky to catch the wind. We were flying, or at least it felt like it. With Dan right behind my shoulder, I had the sailboat up to 6.5 knots for a few seconds but averaged 5-6 knots (the average cruising speed for sailboats) for the duration I was at the helm. Katherine mentioned earlier that the two of them had got the Sea’scape cruising up to 8 knots once, but they wouldn’t do that with guests on the boat. I am so grateful that my first sailing experience was under Dan and Katherine’s guidance and expertise.

The screen while I was driving the sailboat

Teresa was next to me and was trying to get a photo of getting to 6.5 knots and failing miserably. We laughed so hard because the sailboat was heeling over; she was glued to my side. Although, she did get one good photo of the screen for historical purposes.

Enjoying the Sunset

Sunsetting clouds in the Outer Banks

Being on a sunset cruise in the Outer Banks, you are almost guaranteed to see some spectacular sunsets. With the Nor’easter still not officially gone from the area, there were quite the thunder clouds over the mainland. However, we were treated to white fluffy clouds tinted with rose colors as the sunset. And I even saw the moon come out to grace us with its presence.

Setting sun, clouds, and the moon in the Outer Banks
Setting Sun in Manteo

Sailing Lessons Learned

The Sea'scape's Mainsail full of wind

Now I have one sailing trip in, and I’ve learned some lessons already. First and foremost, I loved being on a sailboat and want to go on another one! Thank you, Sail Outer Banks! Some of the lessons I’ve learned are:

  • Be honest in your comfort level of sailing to yourself and your hosts. They won’t know if you feel uncomfortable if you don’t say anything.
  • It helps to understand the basics of sailing beforehand so you won’t be surprised when you are on the sailboat, especially when it leans over the water.
  • And lastly, make sure to know some sailing songs before you go as you might be asked to start singing one on your trip!

Starry Banner Vacation Yacht Rental

The Starry Banner Vacation Yacht Rental

After we returned to land, we were shown a fabulous Vacation Yacht Rental property in the Manteo Marina, the Starry Banner. The Starry Banner is a 46-ft Tiffany Motor Yacht available on VRBO. We were able to tour this vintage luxury yacht. The mahogany interior gives you a homey feel that would accommodate a couple perfectly with its queen-size bed, comfortable seating area, and kitchen. Rates vary between $199 – $225 per night with a 3-night minimum. It is also pet friendly. The Starry Banner books up quickly, so schedule your time soon if you want to stay on a luxurious yacht.


Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse at Sunset

For a while, learning how to sail has been on my bucket list, and I’m happy to cross off that item. But I don’t feel I’m done learning how to sail. There is much more to learn and experience, and I can’t wait for my next sailing trip. Thanks to the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau and Sail Outer Banks for hosting my fellow travel writers on this grand sailing adventure in the Outer Banks and me. And especially for Katherine, who gave us this beautiful flower bouquet from her garden.

Flower bouquet from Katherine

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Further Reading

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  • Rob Smith 7February2023 at 6:50 PM Reply

    Glad to hear you had a good time! I always love visiting the Outer Banks. One of my favorite restaurants, The Flying Fish Cafe, is located there. Would highly recommend if you ever go back!

    • Heather 7February2023 at 9:41 PM Reply

      I’ll have to look into the Flying Fish Cafe the next time I’m there. Thank you for the recommendation!

  • Teresa 30May2022 at 1:14 AM Reply

    Great article! Love the photos, too!

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