I'm heading to Ocracoke for a couple of days. The island, appreciated by many - including me - for its isolation, is even more isolated these days. For nearly two months, from late October's Hurricane Sandy until almost Christmas, one of the main routes to the island was impassable. That was the route down Hatteras Island on NC 12, which was severely damaged by Sandy, to Hatteras Village and then by ferry across Hatteras Inlet to the north end of Ocracoke. Now the road is repaired, but the ferry channel across Hatteras Inlet has shoaled to the point that the Hatteras to Ocracoke ferry has shut down. The only way to get to the island now, other than by a small airplane, is by making a three hour drive to the mainland village of Swan Quarter and then taking the two and one-half hour ferry ride across Pamlico Sound.
This is more isolation than the island wants or needs.
My friend Barry, builder of melonseeds skiffs, tells me about a very nice website from the state of Virginia about paddling trails behind the barrier islands of the eastern shore. Barry and some of his friends are looking at a sailing adventure in that area late spring or early summer. He points out that while the site is meant for kayakers, it has a lot of detailed information that might be useful to sailors.
Bruce and I will be sailing down the eastern shore this coming May as we wrap up our Delmarva circumnavigation. We plan to sail outside - weather permitting - of the barrier islands most of the way down to the tip of the eastern shore. But if the weather does not cooperate we will go inside. This website is the perfect place to research that inside trip. With a clickable map it allows the viewer to bring up detailed information and satellite photos of channels - mostly shallow and narrow channels - through the marshes and oyster reefs behind the barrier islands. Thanks Barry for the link.
Mary Lee, a 16 foot great white shark, is about 25 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach this morning. She has been there for a couple of days now. Like me she is a fan of Ocracoke, visiting the island just a couple of days ago. Not only was svelte 3,456 pound shark off the coast of Ocracoke, she entered Ocracoke Inlet, visiting Pamlico Sound and swimming up the channel that leads into Silver Lake, the island's harbor. The is the same channel where my daughter's and I have sailed on summer vacations, just around the corner from where we would anchor Spartina out in the evenings to swim in the warm shallow water. I guess you never know how close you are to being just another episode of Shark Week.
You can read about Mary Lee, and several other great whites, at the Ocean Global Shark Tracker, a fascinating website that is worth visiting. I wish I could show you some screen shots of their tracking maps but the website's copyright warning is about as vicious as a shark bite. You will have to explore it on your own. Mary Lee is the orange dot off the mid-Atlantic, Genie is the green dot to the south. There are several great white tagged off the coast of South Africa. Look at the tracks (under Tracking Activity draw down to "past two years" then click update) for all of those great whites and you will have second thoughts about swimming off the beaches of South Africa.