A Great Visit to Cape Lookout National Seashore (off the AICW, via Beaufort, Inlet, NC)
The Salty Southeast Cruisers Net is pleased to announce yet another strategic partnership, this one with Captain Cathy Gillenwater and her web-site, “East Coast Boating Adventures” (http://www.eastcoastboatingadventures.com/). Captain Cathy has given us carte blanche to copy her articles and photography, both of which are well worth viewing.
Below, is her first published SSECN story about a great visit to Cape Lookout Bight and National Seashore. For those of you not familiar with the North Carolina coastline, Cape Lookout is often considered the southernmost point of the NC Outer Banks. The Cape’s hooked shape forms a natural harbor known as Cape Lookout Bight. These waters are perhaps the single most popular weekend anchorage on the North Carolina coastline.
As you will discover below, Captain Cathy used the “back route” from Harkers Island to Cape Lookout Bight, and with her piloting a shallow draft, outboard powered craft, this passage worked well. HOWEVER, the channel from Harkers to the cape via Barden Inlet is shallow and difficult to navigate. Most cruisers piloting vessels 28 feet and larger, and drawing more than 3 feet, wisely opt to access Cape Lookout via a journey out into the briny blue though Beaufort Inlet. This route then turns east, parallels Shackleford Banks to the north, and finally reaches a wide, reasonably easy to navigate entrance into the Bight.
Once inside the Bight, you will find excellent, well sheltered anchorage. It’s then only a quick dinghy trip ashore to the Cape, or across to Shackleford Banks on the opposite side of the Bight. All these sandy islands are part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore, and they are WELL WORTH your time. Read on to discover far more!
Cape Lookout National Seashore
Saturday, June 30, 2012
by Captain Cathy Gillenwater
Let me first start by saying, WOW what an adventure.
We have traveled alot of places in our lives and visited a lot of different Beaches but this is one for the books!!!
Let me back up and start from the begening. We knew that we were headed to a place where there would be no Walmart or fast food places to run so we had to pack carefully. Remember we are on a 20′ dual console so every inch counted. We had a two man tent and a double air matterss that fits perfect behind the captian chairs on the back of the boat. Porta potty on board and a fold up camping stove, now all we needed was fresh water (this boat has no fresh water holding tanks). We took care of that by purchasing two, seven gallon tanks added a 12 volt electric pump that Rick wired to a toggle switch, added some tubing and a shower head and we were set. (what a genius I married!)
We put our boat in and left the truck parked on Harkers Island, NC. We used Harkers Island Fishing Centers Ramp. There is a small fee for launching and overnight parking for the truck and trailer but the cost was very resonable and we felt safe leaving our truck parked there. There is also a motel there if you choose to go that route. I can not vouch for the rooms but people we asked said it was a clean place if you just needed a place to sleep.
Once the boat was in the water and everything loaded we headed out on our Adventure. The water was very rough that day with the winds blowing out of the SW. We took our time going across, all I can say is watch your markers and stay between them as the water can go from 15′ to 1′ in a matter of seconds. Know your basic rules on markers and remember red on left going out and red-right-return.
We saw a larger fishing boat bottomed out about half way, all the men were out trying to push with no luck. They were stranded till the tide came back in, not a way to spend a day on the water.
Once out there the water calmed a bit but was still very rocky the first night on the boat. The next day was much better still a little windy but that just meant we would not be hot and miserable as it was in the 90’s. We started off by cooking breakfast, it was “So Good” of corse every thing is better out on the water. Then we went over to Shackelford Island which was just across from Cape Lookout National Shoreline. Shackelford is known for its wild horses, approximately 120 are known to live there at this time. There are no houses on this island so they are free to roam the entire place. You can see them back in the sea grass eating or at times out walking the beaches. There are a couple of fresh water lakes on the island so they have everything they have needed to survive here.
This entire area was great for shell hunting which I love to do. What was amazing to me was the different shells that were on each beach. There is one beach area out near an old dock that was full of coach shells. The water was so clear you could look down in about 2′ of water and find live ones. Please don’t take these as there are plenty ready for the picking on the beach that are not alive.
The shoreline is shaped like a hook, this area is called the Bight. The Lighthouse is at the start of the hook with the beach curving around to form a beautiful cove from the ocean. At several points along the way you can cross over and walk to the ocean side. At the far end of the ocean there was also a unique area where a lake was formed on the beach, this was large enough for kite surfers to practice. The beaches on both the cove and ocean side were very wide (especially at low tide) and private. There were many spots were you could take an evening walk and not see another sole just boats docked out in the Bight. The water was very clear and blue just beautiful. I can honestly say if you didn’t know any better you would think you were in the Bahamas rather than somewhere in North Carolina. After another long and wonderful day we set up camp on our boat, took warm showers and cooked us a wonderful dinner, We stayed docked off that night right on the beach. What a wonderful place to “rough it”. (Camping is also permitted on the beaches)
The next morning we decided to head over to the Lighthouse. This area can get crowded with a lot of day boat traffic and all the ferries that run from the main land bringing people over for the day. People swamp to this beach area and when crowded it can take a while to be able to go to the top of the Lighthouse as there is a limit to how many can be at the top at one time. There is a small fee and the Lighthouse is not open everyday so check the schedule before your trip. This is definitely a must, the view from the top is breath taking! My photos do not do justice you have to see this for your self!!!!
I can honestly say this was an adventure of a lifetime, and we will be back! Other than a little wind the weather was wonderful. The water temperature was perfect for swimming and I can not say enough about the beaches. This is a very Special Treasure that we have found in North Carolina. A part of me hates to tell you about it because I hope it does not ever become a huge tourist spot, I want to keep the privacy we had. Just always keep it beautiful and clean, remember to take back everything you bring as there is no trash pick up. Don’t come looking for entertainment and nightlife. The true entertainment is in the beauty of the nature around you. Enjoy!!!!