Washington's expansive waterfront is a boating-lover's paradise

With a unique position on the banks of the Pamlico River, the docks of Washington are drawing in more and more boaters every year.

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Curtis Sprung
, freelance reporter
This article was written for our sponsor, Washington Tourism Development Authority.

It's undeniable that Washington's biggest asset is its expansive waterfront. Located right on the Pamlico River, the community has a bustling downtown just moments from the water.

This placement has naturally led to a strong maritime presence in the city, with travelers from all over docking their boats, while residents and visitors kayak and paddle board. The numerous docks and piers combined with the local marina make it easy to take advantage of everything the waterfront has to offer.

"The marina here is a bit unique in that it's not only municipally owned, but it's municipally run," Dockmaster Rick Brass said. "Our purpose is to offer hospitality and info to boaters to draw them into the city. It's a jewel of a destination for boaters because of the concentration of services and amenities and amusements in Washington."

The marina is a big draw for boaters from all over; and even in the slower winter season, it's staffed by five dock attendants every day (except Christmas) from 8 a.m. until sunset.

Their goal isn't just to check new boats in, it's also to help with everything from tying the boat to the dock to recommending the best attractions in town. The employees all have significant boating experience in order to aid even the most inexperienced boaters.

Thanks in large part to both its location and excellent resources, Washington has become a must-visit aquatic destination, with more boats arriving every year.

"Since July, we've actually had about 450 boats that have visited Washington," Brass said. "Some stayed for a day or two, some stayed a week or two. I've got a boat sitting here right now from Texas. They came to Washington because their daughter was starting at ECU. They came in July and are still here."

It's almost expected at this point that a percentage of boaters that visit Washington will succumb to its allure and become permanent residents. Despite being a smaller town, new, locally owned spots are opening all the time and residents are excited to meet visitors.

"The town is just very friendly," Brass pointed out. "It's a very social environment because of the park. One of the things I think attracts the boaters is people will come up and say, 'I see you're from Texas. What brought you to town?' And just strike up a conversation."

That friendliness extends to members of the community who love the water and want to share it with everyone. Boating isn't a pastime everyone grows up with, and access to the proper equipment can be incredibly expensive.

To try and spread the love of sailing, several Washington merchants started the Little Washington Sailing School.

Before many of the new renovations and docks were installed, the school sought to spread the pastime to the city's children. Today, the program attracts kids from all over the state for its weeklong sessions.

"The kids have to know how to swim," said program director Kevin Clancy. "It's a one-week class. Have an hour in the classroom in the morning, then sail for about two hours. Come back, have lunch, have another hour of lecture, [and] then two more hours on the water. By Friday, they will be sailing these boats."

A sponsor on each of the boats helps keeps the cost for the program down and accessible to as many people possible. It's become so popular that an abbreviated version of the class has just opened for adults — and Washington's commitment to the waterfront has grown with its popularity.

"There's parks and playgrounds and public docks, a pier with a gazebo on it," Clancy said. "When we started [in 2009] none of that was in place. We just had some water. We had to pull our docks out and store them."

Washington has re-defined itself as one of the premier waterfront destinations in North Carolina. The commitment to maintaining infrastructure is key and has helped the city build a reputation as one of the must-see scenic spots in the state.

This article was written for our sponsor, Washington Tourism Development Authority.


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