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Home » Archives » July 2006 » Our trip to Ocracoke Island

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07/19/2006: "Our trip to Ocracoke Island"

I am a little behind on my entries, as usual. This is a recap of the weekend of July 7 through the 9th.

Since we had worked on the Fourth we had Friday the 7th off which gave us a three day weekend. We keep hearing about what a good time going to Ocracoke Island is so we decided to head there for the weekend. Ocracoke is one of the islands on the outer banks, about 50 miles from us, with a lighthouse and a small village that caters mostly to tourists. It has a well protected anchorage (Silver Lake) and several marinas for those that choose not to anchor out.

It took us a little while to get everything ready but we were finally on our way about 10:30. The forecast was for 10-15 knots out of the north and switching to the northeast. By the time we got started it had made its switch putting it right on the nose. We tried to tack down the river but were not making any headway. We then chose to start motoring until we could get a better angle on the wind. At this point we had three choices, just stay in the area and spend the weekend sailing wherever the wind would let us, motor up to the Intracoastal Waterway and take it to Beaufort and head out to Lookout Lighthouse, or motor to Ocracoke hoping we could do some sailing along the way. This being our only three day weekend we decided to ride it out and head to Ocracoke. I had the waypoints entered in the chartplotter so it was an easy ride with the autopilot doing the steering, although it was a bit rough as the waves built.

The wind held from the northeast and we only got one chance to sail until it was obvious that we were not making very good headway towards the island. At that point we just bit the bullet and motored on. The wind built and we spent most of the day going into 15-20 knot winds with some 25 knots thrown in from time to time. Pamlico Sound is only about 20 feet deep so the waves start to build quickly. We went from 1-2 foot waves to 2-3 foot for most of the trip. As we got closer to the island the waves built even more and we spent quite a bit of time in 3-4 footers, not bad unless you are going directly into them. We had quiet a number of them breaking over the bow until we were able to clear a shoal area (where the depth is only 8-10 feet) and change our angle to them. The ride was a little rough but when we went below we found that the seal that keeps water from coming in around the mast was leaking. I had come up with a bright idea of securing the tower computer by tying it to the mast with a bungee cord. Needless to say it was now wet with saltwater. Eventually we made it to the entrance channel and followed a ferry and several other boats into Silver Lake just as the sun was setting. The marina was full as well as the park service docks so we anchored out for the night. The Seventh would have been my brothers’ birthday, so I sat on deck, wished him a happy birthday and had a drink in his memory. There was music from the bars on shore so we decided not to launch the dinghy to go ashore and we just hung out on the boat.

In the morning a spot on the park service dock opened up and moved over there so we wouldn’t have to use the dinghy to go ashore. We spent the day wandering around the village checking out the shops and looking at what there was to look at, which includes the lighthouse. The high point of the day, believe it or not, was when we went on the “Full Moon Ghost Walk”. This is where a couple of the locals take you around the village telling you about the early days, visit cemeteries (there are 82 on the island), hear stories of mysterious goings on and reported ghost sightings. It is one of those “touristy” things I try to avoid but it was really a lot of fun, especially since there was a 6, an 8 and a 12 year old with the group that were getting very freaked out as it got darker. After a late dinner and listening to some of the music we called it quits and headed back to the boat.

The original forecast for Sunday was for the winds to stay from the northeast which would have given us downwind run going home, part of the reason we decided to motor to the island. The forecast changed to light winds from the south to southwest, putting them right on the nose for the return trip. Instead, what we got was very light and variable winds that just wouldn’t let us get our speed above three knots when it was possible to sail. It was back to motoring. The wind did actually switch back from the northeast for the last two hours which gave us a chance to set the sails wing-on-wing for a fun downwind ride.

Eventually we made it back to the marina, got all the salt rinsed off and settled back into our routine. After taking the computer apart and wiping everything down real well it works as if nothing had happened. Now we will wait and see when it decided to die since I am sure that I shortened its life.