We left the Masonboro Inlet early in the morning, and Tai Chi seemed to be in her elements back on the ocean. The day was calm, the water glassy, and early morning mist hung over Wrightsville Beach. Too little wind for sailing, but with the main sail up to assist Frankie, the engine, we made good time. The straight line across to Cape Lookout Bight was 62 miles long, so we saved a day and a lot of diesel on the ‘outisde’ shortcut versus the winding along the ICW for two days.
The trip across was uneventful. Although the sea was calm there was a significant swell. We were very excited to see several loggerhead turtles basking on top of the water. We debated our options at the other end – going in the Beaufort Inlet to anchor in Taylor creek opposite the historic city of Beaufort, North Carolina, versus anchoring in Cape Lookout Bight, a wild and wonderful salt pond surrounded by the shifting sands of the barrier islands. The next day would be stormy and we would stay put either way. Pushed for time on our tight schedule we could not do both. Luckily we both agreed – and Cape Lookout won. We had seen it in worse times, on our stormy, horrible trip around Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout in early November. It was really nice to cross our previous track under blue skies and calmer conditions.
We anchored in Cape Lookout Bight at 6:30 pm, after almost 12 hours underway. Dolphins escorted us in – a good sign. The inside of the bight is large, though shallow sections make most of it out-of-bounds for a deep draft boat like ours. There were two other sailboats anchored some distance off in the very spacious deep water anchorage when we tucked in near to the dunes, opposite the towering lighthouse. We let out lots of scope, ready for the storm the next day. We cooked dinner and ate in the cockpit, but zippered all of our enclosure panels before bead, ready to hunker down the next day.
Sure enough we woke to howling gales and rain. We did not mind – secure in the anchorage with no wifi access, we enjoyed a morning off to read our books. We have both become prolific readers on this trip, and switch back and forth between the Kindle, and book exchange paperback best sellers.
In the afternoon, the wind dropped and skies cleared. We launched the dinghy and went over to the nearby long beach, crossing a little dune to the ocean beach. The shelling was wonderful – I picked up some huge whelk shells. It is one of the nicest stretches of beach we have come across since the Bahamas. We were happy to find the ocean on this south side quite subdued despite the strong wind, as this was the way we would leave in the morning.
We then took the dinghy across the Bight to the lighthouse, where we met Jimmy and Terry, the volunteer ‘relief’ keepers. Very friendly and welcoming, especially since the weather had hampered the arrival of any ferries, so there were few visitors this day. I was fascinated to know that one can volunteer to be the light keeper here. Sign me up!
Terry showed us around the gift shop, while Jimmy took us over to the little museum in the keeper’s house. We watched an excellent short video about the Cape Lookout National SeashorePark , and then took the boardwalk to the ocean beach.
The sea here on the north side was a lot less inviting – conjouring visions of the many shipwrecks along the shores of this long narrow ribbon of shifting sand and salt marsh jutting into the Atlantic Ocean – with its treacherous shoals extending for miles. In fact a 1540 map of Cape Lookout calls the area pormontorium tremendum – the horrible headland.
We found it anything but horrible. Wild and windswept, it is a sanctuary – a place for endangered loggerhead turtles, sea oats, sea shells and seagulls. We were woken in the morning by the chattering of terns, and watched dolphins breach off our stern in the evening. We are disappointed to only have one day (two nights) here, but we are at least glad that we came this way. Thanks to Jim and Laurie on Kismet for putting that idea in our heads. We might have otherwise missed this highlight anchorage.
Day 308: April 14-16;
Distance travelled on this leg: 79 NM;
Current Position: 34° 35.93 N; 76°45.46 W;
Left Wrightsville Beach at 0645;
Anchored at Cape Lookout Bight at 1850;
Wind SE <5 kn; calm, hazy, blue skies, calm seas.
View our photo journal for Cape Lookout Bight.
View Tai Chi: Journey 2012 in a larger map