As we are now in a new state –
Random facts: North Carolina
1. U.S. Presidents James K. Polk, Andrew Jackson, and Andrew Johnson were all from North Carolina.
2. Pepsi was invented and first served in New Bern in 1898.
3. America’s first public university was the University of North Carolina, known today as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
When we pulled into Southport our plan A (free dock or anchoring) did not work out so we settled into a marina slip next to a few fellow Loopers whom we have been seeing off and on the past several weeks. Everyone travels at their own pace so you typically do not see the same Loopers for very long but there are only so many logical places to stop making it common to leapfrog back and forth with others. Fortunately we arrived just in time to attend one of the nightly sessions on weather and AICW routing (call outs on key shoaling areas) from Southport, NC (mile 309) to Norfolk, VA (mile 0). It was a 90 min session packed with great information and really helped us think about what was ahead. Often there is so much focus for the following day that we can often lose site of the bigger picture so this session was very worthwhile to us.
We typically try not to travel on a weekend (too many other boats out) so the next day we logged just 12 miles to Carolina Beach and grabbed a mooring ball. We spent the day walking the beach and not doing much else, it was a nice day off from the previously longer travel days.
Leaving Carolina Beach we had Beaufort, NC on our mind but the distance (~100 miles) required a stop somewhere for the night. We chose the Mile Hammock anchorage which is a bay that is part of Camp Lejeune (Kent’s dad was stationed here back in the day). As the whole area is an active base we were not able to go to shore. We have read stories of active military exercises being conducted in the bay at night and live fire exercises slowing traffic on the AICW but we had an uneventful stay.
We left Mile Hammock anchorage at first light and arrived in Beaufort (pronounced “bo-fort”…. unlike the city in SC pronounced “beu-fort”). Friends John & Gina (Alysana) were at the marina when we tied up. We have not had seen them since early December when we were all on the west coast of Florida although we have kept in touch. Gina and I laced up our running shoes and John and Kent did their catching up over a happy hour beer on Alysana.
Moving north the following day we dropped our anchors in a quiet spot next to the town of Oriental. Oriental is known as the Sailing Capital of North Carolina. Population of the town is ~900 and so it did not take us long to explore. We walked into town for a fabulous lunch and the enjoyed dinner on board in our peaceful anchorage. The next morning at daylight it was obvious that we had managed to pick up 1000 bugs overnight (they looked like mosquitoes but they fortunately did not bite). I spent the following day with the hand vacuum trying to suck them up before they multiplied. Just when I thought I was winning a swarm would come out of nowhere.
The weather looked as if it would cooperate so we headed off the AICW for a side trip to the Outer Banks region. The Cape Hatteras area is designated a National Seashore and like National Parks they are managed by the US National Park Service to help preserves the areas natural beauty. There are 7 National Seashores on the Atlantic Coast. We had already been to Cape Canaveral and Cumberland Island and were feeling fortunate to be able to visit these protected areas.
We anchored for 2 nights at the southern end of the Outer Banks in Ocracoke enjoying the casual small town. High season starts after Memorial Day, we were glad we were able to experience this area before it fills up. Fun fact – Ocracoke inlet is where Blackbeard was killed in 1718 (not surprisingly there is no shortage of pirate themes in town).
From Ocracoke we raised the anchor at 6am and pushed through a 68 mile day (8 hrs traveling) to Manteo. At this point we are still in the Outer Banks region, midway up the island chain. Use the Track Us button at the top of the blog to get a better idea of where we have been if you are as unfamiliar with the area as we were!
To get into the anchorage off the town of Manteo meant some precise navigation. Shoaling, shifting sand bars … it’s almost like we are getting used to it. Once in, we grabbed a Lyft with John & Gina and set off to see the Wright Brothers National Monument which was 15 miles away at Kill Devil Hills where the first flight occurred in 1903.
Later in the day we walked around downtown Manteo (which is very charming), grabbed dinner at a brewery (surprise surprise) and then headed back to our boats early, it had been a long travel day but it was all worth it to see all we saw today.
Taking the time to explore the Outer Banks was a wonderful side trip. Today we will make our way back to the AICW (less than 100 miles left on this section) and back to the official Great Loop route.