Southport (to several stops) to the Outer Banks, NC


This sums our our last few days in North Carolina – read on for why! 

 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. 

On a weekend the northern part of the Carolina Beach looks like a giant tailgate party (but this section of the beach allows dogs so that’s why we walked it). Since you can drive on the beach people set up for the day – backing their car up, opening the tailgate and then setting up tables, chairs, tents etc for the day. 

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. 

Penny dog showing off 2 things. 1. She will “hold it” for 30 hrs (again) as we could not go ashore at Camp Lejeune. 2. The dark color of the swim step (as compared to the cockpit). We have been traveling in very tannin filled rivers lately and our swim step shows it!

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. 

While  it was a short time we spent in Beaufort we found it to be a pretty cool small town. We even stumbled upon music bingo night, which was a blast. Thirty seconds of a song is played and if you know it and it’s on your game sheet you mark it off. It was pretty fun. 

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. 

Heartbeat and Alysana at Oriental. 

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). 

 Ideal flat calm seas for our ~40 mile crossing to Ocracoke/Outer Banks area. 

Ocracoke lighthouse, the second oldest operating lighthouse in the US (first is Sandy Hook, NJ). 

Shuttling our bikes to shore for a second day of exploring Ocracoke. We rode to the beach, took in the Blackbeard Museum, visited an old British Cemetery and other points of interest. 

We brake for tacos! 

Long walks on a pristine beach with very few other people around never gets old. 

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. 

Wright Brothers National Monument from a distance.

And an up close view.

 December 17, 1903 sculpture. This life-size sculpture depicts the Wright Flyer just as it is lifting into the air on its first successful attempt. You can also see the Monument to the right at the top of the hill. 

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. 

In downtown Manteo there is a wonderful little Maritime Museum. 

The scenery around town is stunning – long boardwalks let you walk out on water to enjoy the surrounding marshes and wildlife. 

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.