Dressed from head to toe in yellow foul weather gear I stare at a mannequin with pink hair. She stares back. The predawn sky shows hints of quiet blue. A light rain falls. I walk the streets of Beaufort waiting for last of the ebb tide.
Low tide and sunrise within a few minutes of each other, we motor out of Taylor Creek and raise full sail. Seagulls hover over eddies along the edge of the inlet. The last of the tide carries us into the ocean.
A northeast breeze on a cloudy morning, green water and five knots towards Cape Lookout Bight. Rounding the west end of Shackleford Banks, a first glimpse of the lighthouse. The white sand beach is hidden in shadow and dwarfed by the sky above Beaufort.
Two sails leave out of Cape Lookout Bight with dark clouds beyond the cape. The wind picks up, I slack the mizzen. There is a freshness out on the ocean, everything seems distant and I feel free.
Birds feed on schools of fish in closer to the beach, another sailboat slips out of the bight. I look along the beach on the Shackleford Banks for the wild horses but see none. The wind is coming over the banks, the water is calm and Spartina surges towards the light.
Approaching the bight at 4.8 knots, sun and warmth. We come in the inlet, sail south along the beach and round the shoal. The dunes and calm water along shore are inviting. I think about anchoring but the weather forecast urges me to keep sailing with a promise of increasing north winds over the next few days. I jot "NORTH" in my notebook as we come about and head towards Barden Inlet and Core Sound.
The flood tide helps us point up higher through the inlet, past the island rookeries and marshes with small flocks of ibis flying into the wind and going nowhere. I cheat on the floating markers and hold true to those on pilings, losing my way at marker "30," the centerboard bumping on a shoal, then finding my way again.
Past Harkers Isand and Browns Island, forty tacks up the narrow channels of Core Sound, past Jarrett and Nelson Bays, past the clusters of homes and church spires of Davis and Stacy, Sea Level and Atlantic, past the barren dunes and shifting shoals of Drum Inlet, into the waves rolling down the fetch of the Sound.
A last tack to round Hall Point into Thorofare Bay, finding the little cove of protected water on the north shore with the single dolphin rolling in the calm water to welcome us, setting the anchor as the sun goes down a dozen hours after leaving Beaufort.