My son and I had a delightful sail from Cherry Point to Beaufort, NC
this past weekend (pronounced bow-fort for you yankees and South Carolinians)
. It was as close as I could get to the Bahamas for the 4th of July weekend.
Best water clarity I have seen yet on the East Coast. All that was missing
was the coral.
Had lunch and a delightful swim in clear water off the western shore of Shalkeford
Banks in distant sight of the famous Cape Lookout Light House. Shalkeford Banks is
one of the numerous barrier islands on the NC coast. Very popular with local boaters,
must have been over a hundred small boats out there. Ocean was far too rough to venture
out into, but the costal waters inside the barrier islands were manageable with 2-3 ft
chop and a stiff wind.
The trip down took about 6 hrs, half the time spent sailing and the other half
motoring through "the ditch" (ICW) and the tricky twisting channel leading to Beaufort.
Even with a chart I had a hard time following the channel until a friendly and helpful
Tow Boat U.S. skipper hailed me to warn me I was outside the channel heading for a
sand bar and offered to guide me through the channel. I fully expected to be charged for
his services, but when we got to Beaufort he waved me off and just said call
me if you ever need a tow. On the way in we passed a power boat high and dry
on a sand bar that had been exposed by the falling tide. I do not know the
name of the Tow Boat U.S. skipper, but he was a middle aged male with a
graying beard to whom I am definitely indebted!
It is amazing to look at a large bay of water and realize it is only covered by 1-2 ft
Back to Beaufort. It is a quaint coastal town located on Taylor Creek, which is really
just a 100 yard wide channel about two miles long that seperates the mainland from
Carrot Island which is an "interior" barrier island located a mile west of Shalkeford
Banks. Carrot Island is uninhabited, about 1 1/2 miles long by 1/4 mile wide and
populated by a small herd of wild ponies. It is not much more than sand dunes, sea
grass and and a few scrub trees.
We spent the night at anchor in Taylor Creek with about 40 other sailboats of which
only about half were occupied. Most folks either anchor out - dingy in, or stay at the
town docks. Numerous good resturants in town and everything is within walking distance.
We cooked aboard and just enjoyed the ambieance.
My first attempt at anchoring broke loose after half an hour as I was enjoying a cool
drink (Jim Beam, Rummy) in the cockpit. We recovered quickly as I cranked the engine
and my son went forward to pull up the dragging anchor. We motored forward and reset
the anchor letting out as much scope as we dared in the crowded anchorage. We were only
in 8 ft of water with a mud bottom, but there was a very stiff breeze coming off the
ocean. Made for no bugs and great sleeping, but I saw one other larger boat drag its
anchor that evening. I noticed most boats had set out two anchors at 45 degree angles
to the bow.
We have the cockpit filler cushions so I slept in the cockpit that night to keep an
eye on things and enjoy the 3/4 moon.
The next morning, under overcast skies, we cranked the engine and headed out catching
the 0800 opening of the draw bridge. Navigating "the ditch" was dull, but the excitement
picked up as we entered the Neuse River with 3 ft seas and about 20-25 knot winds. At
first I was under nearly full sail with the genoa at about 130%. We furled the genoa
and lowered the boom. In hind sight, I should have done it before entering the Neuse
as it was difficult lowering the boom in a pitching boat. We were on a broad reach
initially then ran down wind with following seas for over an hour. Had to
pay close attention to the tiller to keep from jiving as the seas rolled
under us. At times I thought we were surfing.
The river flattened out and the wind was down to about 10 knots as we sailed into our
quiet cove and put "Ranger" to bed on her trailer. All in all, a good weekend sail in a
great pocket cruiser!
03 Jul 2001