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Thread: A daysail to Cape Lookout

  1. #1
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    Default A daysail to Cape Lookout

    My wife and I took a vacation down to Atlantic Beach which is on one of North Carolina’s barrier islands. We usually go to Hatteras or Ocracoke, but this year we thought we’d try somewhere new. I have a thing for photographing lighthouses as an excuse to get out and explore, so we decided somewhere within sailing distance of Cape Lookout would be interesting. The morning started out with pretty light winds from astern. I really could have used my topsail I’ve been tinkering with, but it’s not quite ready for prime time yet.





    Leaving Anchorage Marina. Pretty narrow through here, especially under oars.





    Heading across Beaufort Inlet with the Atlantic off to the right. The number of boats that passed me was incredible, and it only got worse throughout the day. Boat wakes came from all directions and the channel was pretty narrow in places. Fortunately it was all downwind and the wind was predicted to shift to a beam reach on the way back.





    On the sound side of the uninhabited Shackleford Banks. After bouncing through boat wakes I decided to raise the centerboard, let the rudder pop into barn door mode, and cut through the marshy islands. This not only gave me interesting things to look at and navigate around, but it also massively cut down on the number of other people.





    Although not everyone… this guy was out buzzing boaters in his Jet Ski of the sky. He didn’t get super close to me, but my wife got a video of him flying down the beach.





    What I thought were watermen off in the distance turned out to be feral horses grazing in the marsh! Supposedly they came from Spanish or English shipwrecks during the age of discovery and genetic testing does seem to indicate their line dates back 400 years. I was feeling pretty lucky to see them, but after sailing further I saw tons more all over the island. Must be a tough life eating marsh grass and drinking brackish water.



  2. #2
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    Default Re: A daysail to Cape Lookout

    Heading through some marshy islands in a foot of water. One guy who was anchored said he didn’t think I’d make it through.





    Working my way over to Barden Inlet through the shallows. Powerboats ripped through at full speed, so I guess they must know where they’re going. Shackleford Banks used to be connected until a hurricane opened this inlet in 1933. Congressman Graham Barden sponsored legislation requiring the Army Corps of Engineers maintain the channel for the watermen of Harkers Island.





    Heading toward the lighthouse! The beach was packed with anchored powerboats and more were constantly coming or going. I picked the widest spot to beach my boat and went for it.





    Aways out I dropped the jib and sailed in on the scandalized main. Luffed up into the wind right at the shore, hopped overboard, and pulled her up onto the beach like I knew what I was doing. Just then I noticed a group of people coming over to give me a hand… but it turned out they just wanted selfies with the boat and to ask how it can move without an engine.





    A pretty packed beach.





    The Cape Lookout Lighthouse was built in 1859 and is 163′ tall. The black diamonds are oriented north and south, while the white diamonds point east and west. I wanted to climb it, but it’s closed for the foreseeable future while serious structural issues are fixed.


    Last edited by The Jeff; 08-31-2021 at 04:31 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Default Re: A daysail to Cape Lookout

    Cool--thanks for posting. What were the distances involved here? (Maybe I missed it).

    Interesting to hear about the crowds of boats. Not the kind of problem I run into in most of my cruising areas--makes me feel even luckier to sail where I do. Then again, the Outer Banks would sure be neat, too.

    Tom
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

    www.tompamperin.com

  4. #4
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    Default Re: A daysail to Cape Lookout

    Thanks, enjoyed that.
    Flat bottomed boats, you make the rockin' world go round.............

  5. #5
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    Default Re: A daysail to Cape Lookout

    Thanks for the report. Shoal water sailing is a fascinating thing. How much tide do you get down there?
    -Dave

  6. #6
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    Default Re: A daysail to Cape Lookout

    Tom, I should have put the distances in the first caption, it was 32.7 miles over 8.5 hours. Regarding the boaters, the main problem seems to be that it was a really nice weekend. I chose Saturday to do the trip because it had the most favorable weather forecast during our stay and I didn't see nearly as many boats out and about during the week.


    Thanks Johnno!


    Dave, the tides are nearly 3' and the current could be 1 knot in places. I was lucky that the current perfectly matched my trip and the wind wasn't too contrary either. I'm used to less than .5 knots at home, so this was an experience.


    After eating lunch I managed to get launched without ramming anyone else’s boat or more importantly looking like a fool. Once away from the shore (and during a brief lull in passing boat traffic) I peaked up the main and hoisted the jib.





    It took some tacking around the shallow areas to get into Lookout Bight. The shoreline was packed, boats were crisscrossing everywhere, and some pretty big ones were in the channel.





    But eventually I made it into the Atlantic where I hoped I would just have to deal with the wind and waves… but that was not to be the case. At one point a charter fishing boat blew past close enough for spray to hit me and I had to quickly turn into his wall of a wake. And unfortunately the wind didn’t quite shift enough for a beam reach, so it was all upwind.





    I stayed within 3/4 of a mile from Shackleford Banks and it was a choppy ride. There seemed to be waves radiating out from the beach which I assume are reflected waves, although maybe they were just from the constant boat traffic. Possibly further out would have been less chaotic. I never felt close to being in over my head, but the constant bashing to windward did get tiring.



  7. #7
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    Default Re: A daysail to Cape Lookout

    Heading into Beaufort Inlet. The waves through here were even choppier with some of them constructively interfering to get pretty big. At one point I looked up at a wave for a moment, but that was not the usual size. My GPS tracker shows I surfed another wave upwind at 8.5 mph.





    I didn’t have enough hands to take many pictures from the narrow section. Mostly because I was trying to navigate upwind through a narrow channel while over canvased and surrounded by tons of boats. It was ridiculous how many there were… I felt like I was surrounded by TIE fighters in a Star Wars movie.





    Once through the narrow section it opened up and I could tack over to the marina. It was blowing pretty good, I think because the land funneled the wind in. Although my wife did say the wind got a little uncomfortable out on the beach too.





    Finally back at the ramp after 32.7 miles. I averaged 4.5 mph on the way back and I had about 5 gallons of water sloshing around in the bottom just from spray. The whole trip took 8.5 hours and was a great success. Did I mention there was a ton of boats to avoid?



  8. #8
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    Default Re: A daysail to Cape Lookout

    Very nice.

    I have been to Morehead City/ Beaufort quite a few times... its a great area.


    Thanks for sharing your trip.

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: A daysail to Cape Lookout

    32 miles in 8(ish) hours is pretty good. That would be starting to be a long cruising day on the Great Lakes for my boat--20 is about the average for me there. No tides or currents to deal with there, of course. And no other boats!

    Any new observations or things you've learned about your boat, or about onboard routines and tricks, with these long trips?

    Tom
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

    www.tompamperin.com

  10. #10
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    Default Re: A daysail to Cape Lookout

    Kevin, I really enjoyed the area too and maybe someday I'll go back and explore more. The marsh around Harkers Island looked pretty interesting. The Beaufort Maritime Museum was worth going to... they had artifacts from Blackbeard's ship and an old sprit rigged boat with a topsail that answered a lot of questions. I'll post some pictures once I have time. Across the street at the boat building shop they were working on what I'm pretty sure was a Phoenix III. The guy sanding on it didn't know what it was, but the centerboard and rudder were exactly like mine.


    Tom, that's a really good question that I was thinking about on the drive home. Really, everything has been improving... from planning, to sailing technique, to just getting miles under the keel. Everything is interconnected and my confidence goes up after every trip. For example, thinking about going into the Atlantic was a little terrifying when I was planning the trip, but once I was at Lookout Bight I knew the boat and I could handle the conditions. The waves were big, but I'd been in rougher weather on previous trips.

    Regarding planning, I've been keeping a spreadsheet of my trips with mileage and speeds. I've done 426 miles total and the average is right at 4 mph. I use that number when I'm planning, then add on a SWAG factor for wind condition and currents. I felt pretty pleased that I arrived at the lighthouse within 15 minutes of when I expected to.

    One "trick" I've found is to rig the boat in the same order every time. Getting a routine down pat has helped resolve getting lines tangled up or routed the wrong way. I sharpied arrows on the end of the sprit and mast to show which way the peak pendant and halyard should run which helps cut down on mistakes.

    If I were building the boat again I'd remove the round hatch near the floor on the front of the sternsheets and put in a large rectangular hatch centered under the tiller. I had enough water in the boat on the return trip that the round hatch leaked a little. A rectangular one on the seat would be safer and make the space easier to access too.

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