Monday, October 10, 2011

Winyah Bay, Beaufort and Cape Lookout
7th – 11th July 2011
As always, time and weather dictates our sailing schedule and come the morning of July 5th we said goodbye to Charleston in South Carolina, weighed anchor and pointed our bows north. Our destination was Winyah Bay in North Carolina. It lay a mere 43 mile stretch of south easterly winds and  flat seas ahead. By 1130 the breeze had filled in nicely and the mainsail and screecher, our big reaching sail, made their debut for the day . We sat on a very comfortable nine knots for most of the day and watched the miles disappear under our keels. With no  pressing boat chores on our agenda the fishing lines were deployed. It had been a long time between drinks, so to speak, and  Liam was over the moon when he heard  the trolling line peg make that unmistakable '”there’s a fish on the line” ping. With his fishing box and implements of dispatch at the ready it wasn’t long before the big Mahi Mahi was landed and in the freezer.
We entered the river at Winyah Bay around 5pm  motoring upstream against the tide for a few miles “till we reached Mosquito Creek. As with most of these big tidal rivers on the east coast the water had taken on a dark brown appearance, giving the impression that it was dirty but in reality it’s quite clean. The creek was a lovely side arm of the river with large oak trees gracing the shoreline and dolphins fishing in the shallows along the banks. Along with No Rehearsal, some new friends on a 60 foot Italian designed catamaran also joined us in the creek.The purpose built “Lo Spirito di Stella” , with Italian disabled sailor Andrea Stella, his girlfriend Maria and  crew Agnes aboard, arrived about an hour after us. Andrea, who had met with an unfortunate incident ten years earlier whilst in Florida, he was shot three times in the back  by a couple of  low-life hooded car thieves, decided not to let his disability, paraplegia, rule his life and took on the challenge of sailing around the world. He is an  absolute inspiration to all of us out here.

We were all up early the next morning and set out at 0630 for the overnight passage of 157 miles to Beaufort. As much as we prefer the to stop each night,sometimes it’s just not practical. Along this stretch of coast there are not  many convenient anchorages without having to sail quite a way up rivers and then backtracking to get out to the ocean again. Our passage was a dream run, the breeze coming from the south west at 17 knots. With our main and screecher flying we romped along at speeds of eleven knots. Come mid afternoon as we approached Cape Fear the wind grew lighter so we furled up the screecher and hoisted our spinnaker. Sailing with the spinnaker is a lot of fun and a true delight and all was going well for a few hours until we heard a strange sound, and one that ever sailor dreads. It took only a moment  for us to realise what had happened
Sailing to Wardrick Wells 2 012
Our lovely kite had just torn apart down both sides and across the top and was now floating gracefully towards the water. In a heartbeat we were both up on the foredeck dragging the wet tangle of fabric and sheets (ropes) back up onto the boat. You need a fair amount of energy to retrieve a soggy 60ft x 30ft piece of material and by the end of the exercise we were  nearly as wet as the spinnaker. It was way too wet and heavy to stow away so there it  would have to stay, in a wet  bundle on the foredeck until it dried and we could have it repaired, hopefully in Beaufort.The weather forecast for the next few days was not very exciting with heavy rain and thunderstorms predicted and, as luck would have it, just as we approached the busy inlet into Beaufort the heavens opened and down came the rain. We motored into Taylor Creek, the guide book’s suggested anchorage and it looked a little bit too squeezy for us. Most of the prime real estate in the creek had been taken up by a field of mooring balls on one side and marina docks on the other. With the marina wanting a ridiculous fee for us to moor at their dock (we did try to negotiate a deal for the three cats but they wouldn’t budge) we opted to move further up the creek away from the town where there was more room to anchor. It would be a good mile’s run in the dinghy back to town but that’s sometimes the price you pay when you have a 52ft cat. Not long after anchoring the sun came out, the day turned  incredibly humid and  we were besieged by small biting black insects. Thank heavens for  Aeroguard I say.
Beaufort was our first introduction to the quintessential post card pretty all American town. It’s a small town  with a nice feel and friendly folk. The gentleman who was mowing the lawn of his house where we anchored rowed over to  greet us and asked if we needed a lift anywhere, the supermarket or into town. We were quite stunned at his generous offer.The following day we had quite the reverse experience when we re-anchored the boat a little closer to town and a women came out onto her pontoon and asked us to move on in no uncertain terms as we were blocking her view. We’re still unsure of what her view really was as there was only marshland across the creek. The main part of town had all the right ingredients for a popular summer destination. Lots of lovely streets, pristine old homes, B&B’s, ice-cream parlors, antique shops and a fair share of really good restaurants, including two that we patronized, Aqua and Blue Moon.
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IMG_5542 IMG_5538 We visited the Maritime Museum which had some  interesting exhibits relating to the pirate Blackbeard, who apparently lived in the town way back when and who’s ship, well the remains of it “The Queen Anne’s Revenge”, was discovered in shallow waters just outside the Beaufort Inlet. With the town having quite a sailing history and some of the townsfolk still avid sailors, Sunday sailing was popular despite the inclement weather, and  the museum also ran a  children’s program teaching them a few aspects of sailing, including parts of a sail boat and all the nautical flags.  IMG_5545          IMG_5534
 After spending a couple of days in Beaufort, a town that we really liked and that we may stop again at a later  date when we return south, it was time to checkout another anchorage nearby. One of the ferry captains from Beaufort had told us about a pretty anchorage just a few miles away at Cape Lookout that had sandy beaches and a couple of good walking trails. It sounded good and it was time for a change of scenery so we headed over. Motoring down toward the inlet’s entrance we spotted quite a number of wild horses grazing on one of the islands that protects Beaufort town from the Atlantic ocean. A lot of the uninhabited islands in the area have horses living on them. IMG_5527         Cape Lookout was a lovely surprise and well worth stopping at. The crescent shaped bay with its long stretch of white sand backed by dunes and the odd tuft of grass, was the first we’d seen since since leaving the Bahamas.This bay was a favorite boating and fishing spot for many of the locals, but once they all went home only a handful of cruising yachts remained and it was just just blissful. The following morning was bright and sunny so Liam and I hopped in the dinghy and headed over to the far side of the bay to have a walk ashore and check out the big lighthouse and small museum, which was once the lighthouse keepers home. The Museum was and the park rangers who staff it were very informative about the area, and the 15 minute video presentation gave us a good insight into the fragile eco systems that make these islands such a sensitive  environment. Cape May is part of the National Seashore that stretches about 100 miles north and forms the barrier island chain which protects much of North Carolina's coastline. These barrier islands are mostly uninhabited except for a few lighthouses. The many shoals and reefs off their coast make them a wild and uninviting place for yachts so we kept our distance as we sailed north around the famed Cape Hatterras,  and on towards  the Chesapeake bay, our next big milestone on the journey north.  
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                                                                                                                                                                                  Cruising Info : Beaufort. Supermarkets, Piggly Wiggly and Food Lion on Live Oak St, about 1.3 miles from Beaufort Docks Marina. Laundromat, Maytag laundry,( excellent, $ 1.50 per wash & dry), plenty of self serve washers and dryers, located behind the General store on Front St, closed Sundays. Restaurants: Aqua,114 Middle Lane, just off Craven St. Blue Moon,119 Queen St. Courtesy Cars for shopping are available from the Maritime Museum and the Beaufort  Docks Marina (if you are docked there).Cape Lookout: Lighthouse Tours, Thur –Sat March to September, no charge                                                                                                                                                                                                                              **********************************

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