How Julia and I Got Hitched at the Town Dock

Bernie Harberts, julia carpenter, mule, marriage, married, getting married, engagement

Getting married on the town dock (Ben Casey photo)

Sixteen years ago I sailed back in to Oriental, NC after spending 5 years sailing alone around the world. Hours after tying up a mooring line’s length from the town dock, a reporter asked me, “what do you fear most”. I said, “growing old alone on a sailboat”.

Flash forward to last Saturday, February 23. I stood on the same town dock with my fiancee Julia. My dear friend Keith Smith, who was marrying us, asked, “Bernie, do you have the rings?”. I patted my tuxedo pocket and said, “uugggghhhhh…..”. Then I jumped in to my mule cart and raced away for the hardware.

Okay, first some sailboat photos (by Will and Deni McIntyre).

Bernie Harberts, sailboat, Sea Bird, Tom Colvin Saugeen Witch

My sailboat “Sea Bird” sailing the last miles toward Oriental, NC, having sailed 25,000 miles around the world. She was a Tom Colvin “Saugeen Witch” design.

Bernie Harberts, lislott harberts, lislot harberts, arthur harberts, art harberts, ursula daniel, obituary

My family, the welcoming party. After sailing alone around the world, it was wonderful being surrounded by my parents and aunt. L to R they are my aunt Ursula Daniel and my parents Lislott Harberts and Art Harberts. They have all since died. You can read Ursula Daniel’s obituary here and my dad Arthur Harberts obituary here. Behind us, barely visible, is Oriental’s Town Dock.

Bernie Harberts, sailboat, Sea Bird, Tom Colvin Saugeen Witch

A moment of reflection. Here, I’m taking in the significance of returning to land after years afloat. I’m standing in the galvanized dome (actually part of a GMC fuel tank) I built for an observation dome aboard “Sea Bird”. It let me scan the ocean in heavy weather without venturing on deck.

In the decade and half since I came ashore, I’ve kept traveling. One year after returning to the Oriental, I set out from the town dock again. This time, I set off with a mule named Woody.

Bernie Harberts, sailboat, Sea Bird, Tom Colvin Saugeen Witch

Mule Woody and I depart Oriental’s town dock in 2004. (Melinda Penkava photo)

From Oriental, I rode across North Carolina, where, along the way, I picked up a pack pony named Maggie. Thirteen months later, the 3 of us ended up in San Diego.

After my voyage, I had to find a new home for Woody and Maggie. That’s how I met Julia. She agreed to take take my faithful mounts with the promise she would take care of them to the end. You can read her version of how we met right here at her blog

So that brings us to last weekend.

Since Julia, mules and the town of Oriental have wound themselves corkscrew like to the center of my heart, it only made sense that our wedding would be in the Sailing Capital of North Carolina. So in to the old horse trailer we piled mule Polly, loaded her cart in to the back of the Tacoma and headed back to sea level.

There, between late winter rains and shrimp boats, standing on the town dock, I started my newest adventure. I married Julia.

Here are the photos. Photos by Ben Casey unless otherwise noted. Enjoy.

Bernie Harberts, sailboat, Sea Bird, Tom Colvin Saugeen Witch

This wasn’t a white wedding, this was a wet wedding. Here, I’m driving my best man, brother Christian Harberts, to the town dock where the wedding would take place. Mule Polly, who pulled her wagon from Canada to Mexico for the Lost Sea Expedition TV series, is pulling our cart.

Bernie Harberts, Julia Carpenter, the Bean coffee shop

The crowd gathers. It’s wonderful to see so many long time friends in the group. Paul Welles of Triton Yachts (red cap on left) hauled my sailboat “Sea Bird” from Lake Norman, NC, to Oriental before my circumnavigation. That was over 20 years ago. I met boat designer Tom Lathrop (first red jacket on the left) almost 30 years ago when, grubby from sailing my home made sailboat “Garage Sail” through town, he let me use his shower.

Bernie Harberts, Julia Carpenter, the Bean, Oriental, NC, the Bean coffeeshop

The view out the front window of the Bean coffee shop. There was so much rain that morning, it looked like mule Polly’s cart was afloat. Meanwhile, in another corner of the Bean… (Carolyn Parker photo)

Bernie Harberts, Julia Carpenter, the Bean coffee shop

….Julia waits for the groom to appear.

Bernie Harberts, Keith Smith,

Down on the town dock, I confer with Keith Smith. Keith and wife Melinda run the online news source Standing just out of sight is my best man Christian Harberts. This is where the screw up was noticed.

Here’s the dialogue that’s going on in the photo above.
Keith: “Bernie, hand me the rings.”
Bernie: “I don’t have the rings. Christian has the rings.
Christian: “I don’t have the rings. Bernie has the rings.”
Keith: “Bernie, we need the rings.”
Bernie: “I’ll be right back”

I had forgotten the rings back in the hotel room.

I ran down the town dock, through the crowd and jumped in to the mule cart. I did a burnout in the puddle in front of the Bean coffee shop and galloped off in search of my home made wedding rings. Keith explained to the gathered crowd that I was off in search of some “hardware”.

The last they saw of me was my top hat shooting up in the air as I raced out of sight. Ten minutes later, I galloped Polly back on the scene and sprayed the crowd as I came to a halt by the town dock.

Bernie Harberts, mule Polly, Ben Casey photo

Back in game.

I strode back on to the town dock, rings in my pocket. The wedding was back on track.

Nick Parker, Julia Carpenter, the Bean coffee shop

Here Comes the Bride starts playing and Julia’s brother Nick Parker, escorts her to the town dock.

Bernie Harberts, Julia Carpenter, reading wedding vows

Reading our wedding vows.

Bernie Harberts, Julia Carpenter, Keith Smith

Slipping on the rings. I made them out of the wire clips that hold the barbed wire on to the t-posts in our mule pasture. Here’s a sketch of how that went down.

Bernie Harberts, Julia Carpenter, Keith Smith

We’re married!

Gary Ramsey, Caroline Ramsey

Gary and Caroline channeling some heartfelt wedding cheer. You can see it in their eyes. Gary put up my mule Woody 15 years earlier at the start of my mule voyage to California. That journey would become the Too Proud to Ride a Cow book.

just married, mule cart

Long time friend and fellow mule rambler Ronald Hudson. I bought mule Polly from Ronald 12 years ago.


Fellow traveler and critter lover MIssy was there, too. What an incredible fortune to have friends like this show up to fare Julia and me well.

bernie harberts, julia carpenter, mule cart

Some new husbands whisk their brides away in a Cadillac or limo. We chose mule Polly. One of the many reasons I love and married Julia. I mean really, who else would combine a tiara with a mule cart?

just married, mule cart

Just married!

just married, mule cart

Bernie and Julia: married February 23, 2019 (Oriental, NC)

I’m older since that reporter asked me what scared me. I’m not afraid of growing old alone any more.

Great big thanks to Keith and Melinda of for hitchin’ and mule lodging services. Also a tip o’ the top hat to Ben Casey, Nick and Carolyn Parker, David and Jean White and Allison DeWeese (also of for the wonderful wedding photos.

For Julia’s take on the wedding, be sure to visit her blog

2019-03-14 10:24:31

I love these pictures and posts , would love to have a copy of the last one ! Keep us posted if possible of your new adventure! blessings !

Bernie Harberts
2019-03-19 10:18:44

You got it! Bernie


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

[…] Carolyn. I was so honored that they traveled all the way from Hailey to Oriental, North Carolina to attend Julia’s and my wedding that I decided I would visit them in return – by […]

Current Ramble
Other Cool Reads