Monday, July 5, 2010

Day Five - south to Cape Lookout

The southwest wind that we had sailed into the afternoon before stuck around through the night. Great for keeping the bugs away, no need to zip up the mosquito nets on the bivy's.

Spartina left anchor under power at 7 a.m., after 12 hours of sailing the day before we thought we would at least motor back to the narrow channel on Core Sound. As we got to open water and started to raise sail we looked back to see the sails on Dawn Patrol beyond the marsh, Paul and Dawn were sailing off anchor.

We sailed on a port tack to point "A" just off the little town of Davis then came and headed down Core Sound. I see now that Dawn Patrol started their southbound leg at almost exactly the same spot probably 20 or 30 minutes later.

From Point "A" to Point "B" is about a six mile leg, a pretty good run down the Sound at 3 to 3.5 knots. Spartina was in the channel for probably the first three or four miles. When the the channel veered slightly to the west we kept on going straight and left the channel.

Bruce and I spent a lot of time talking about water depth and draft that morning. I typically don't rely on just one source for water depth. I certainly look at the charts and the gps, but I'll also look at the natural and man-made environment. As for the natural environment I'll look at the color and texture of the water - is it choppy or smooth, it the color getting lighter or dark. As for man-made, I'll look at stakes put out as markers by watermen, lines of crab pot floats and the weir-type fish traps often built on shallow areas. And looking around on Core Sound that day the water certainly looked much deeper than the 3, 2 or even 1 foot depth MLW marked on the charts. So we held our course across what was marked on the charts as very shallow water.
(If we did come into shallow water what's the big deal? We raise the cb a little and tack back into deeper water and keep going. The bottom was all soft sand or mud, nothing that would cause a problem.)

You can also see on the map below that Dawn Patrol ran just to the west of us and it looks to me like Paul and Dawn finessed the wind (great sailing!) to stay in the channel for much of the six mile stretch.

Further south I think we both left the channel southeast of the end of Davis Island. The channel doglegs to the southwest and than back again to the southeast. My track shows we went straight and I think Dawn Patrol's was similar (but I would like to hear from Paul to see what they did at that point. In fact I wish I would sit down with Bruce, Paul and Dawn and go over our tracks for the entire trip - I think that would be a lot of fun.)

Just after 9 a.m. I used the binoculars to look at what I thought was a fisherman's pvc pipe marker out in the sound. It took me a minute to figure things out but I finally realized it wasn't a pipe jutting out of the water nearby, it was the Cape Lookout Lighthouse miles to the south. Neat!

I think it was off of Bells Island that Spartina and Dawn Patrol crossed paths on opposite tacks close enough for a wave and hello. We were all smiles as it was a great sunny day with a nice breeze.

Dawn Patrol started a series of tacks working their way southwest past the eastern tip of Harkers Island to find the channel leading down to Barden Inlet. Bruce and I stayed with our long tacks south, a more direct but certainly shallower path to the inlet. The water was very clear at this point and we had no difficulty determining depth. The sandy bottom was probably four feet deep, but sprinkled about were large algae covered rocks that reached up towards the surface. Bruce stood up forward and guided me port and starboard around the obstructions.

The water did get shallow at point "A" above and we did a quick tack to get past a shoal. At "B" we could see that last shoal that separated us from the channel itself. It was shallow enough that we could see the water rippling over top of it. We tacked towards the shoal, fell off the wind to pick up speed and momentum. Just before the shoal Bruce raised the centerboard and I raised the rudder, we slipped over the top of it and sailed out to the deeper water of the channel. (It was almost like we knew what we were doing.)

Below are some comments and a chart from Paul that showing our paths and the channel (Dawn Patrol track is in green, Spartina is in blue).

My intent was to follow the channel (and channel markers). We use both the 76csx and three different waterproof paper charts: TopSpot #N239, MapTech #91, Nautical Publications #A.C.-003.

However, there were a few places where --although we were in the middle of the channel-- we could see that we were moving into very shallow water and we changed course (tacked to the west) and managed to avoid the shoals.

From the eastern tip of Harkers Island to Core Banks the channel was straight as an arrow bearing 166ø true; however, just north of Morgan Island near red marker 32 there was a detour of a half mile around new shoaling and then the channel continued straight on 166ø. - Paul

You can see our two tracks come together right at the bottom of Paul's chart. We glanced up to see Dawn Patrol just above us on the channel coming our way.

The sail through Barden Inlet was a real thrill. Light green water, the tide rushing over sandy shoals, power boats and kayaks, birds screaming in flight. And of course the lighthouse. I had wanted to sail into the bight for years and here we were.

We were still sailing into the wind so we did a series of tacks coming up to the shore then tacking away to the shoal and then back again. The wind was great, at times we were doing over seven knots through the inlet. Dawn Patrol was behind us for a while and then moved on up ahead.

We sailed right past the lighthouse and the docks and found our way around the buoys that marked the southern end of the shoal that sits in the middle of the bight, finally turning west towards a white sandy beach. Below you can see Dawn Patrol passing by the lighthouse.

We sailed right up to the beach at noon and walked our anchors up on the sand. With no discussion everybody changed into swimming suits and jumped into the clear warm water.

(This entire day was so neat. First, we knew we would have to take the more direct route to keep up with Dawn Patrol. The water was especially pretty, a really nice green/blue color. The wind was very nice and the challenge of the shallow water kept us occupied so the time just flew by. Arriving at Cape Lookout was like arriving at some island anchorage. I felt like we were somewhere off shore in the Caribbean. Beautiful water, warm breeze and water. Now this was an adventure. We had just the perfect day, wading, swimming, fishing and photography. We lounged in the water keeping cool and chatting with Dawn and Paul. Absolutely perfect. Bruce)

For me it was thrill to visit Cape Lookout Bight, it felt like we were really "out there". And what a pleasure to sail there on such a beautiful day.

Bruce and I fished a bit (no luck) while Paul and Dawn took a walk on the beach. The water on the sand flats was like bath water, just plain hot. And we saw the tracks from sea turtles that had climbed up the beach to lay their eggs.

And of course Bruce spent some time photographing the birds including this laughing gull.

And I took a photograph of Spartina anchored where I had always dreamed she would be someday.

Both boats moved out off the beach to anchor for the night. Bruce shot this photo below looking west towards the dune. We could hear the ocean waves breaking on the other side.

The plan for the next day was to sail outside on Onslow Bay to Beaufort Inlet. Conditions were good that evening, we just hoped they would hold until the next morning.


Distance 19.9 nautical miles
Max Speed 7 knots
Average Speed 3.6 knots
Moving time 5 hours 34 minutes


Floatsome said...

Just wanted to let you know how much I'm enjoying the commentary and photographs. Wonderful!


Steve said...

Thanks Floatsome. The trip was a lot of fun. I've worried that the logs are too long, but each day was interesting and I want to try and get in as much as possible.
Your name came up a couple of times during the evening raft ups as we talked about adventures including the EC. Good to hear from you.