Bird Island is a North Carolina barrier island with its southern tip located in South Carolina. This tip has a jetty protecting the inlet to Little River and the Intracoastal Waterway. As evidenced in the photo, the gray, windy weather, much too typical of spring 2013, was creating waves putting the jetty to work.
Not the prettiest beach, less so on a dreary day. But, a walk on a deserted beach is always enjoyable, no matter the weather. There was a nice, protected anchorage behind the island, which was a big benefit in the windy weather.
A large portion of Bird Island is a state park, making this island accessible to all. One unique feature is a mail box for the Kindred Spirit. Visitors write in a notebook leaving their wishes, feelings, problems for the Spirit
The crew prefers to be at a quiet, natural anchorage. But, the winds continued, creating angry seas. Two preferred locations to visit, Cape Lookout and Ocracoke Island, both require long passages through open water to reach their protected harbors. So, the protected cove behind Morehead City at the Yacht Basin became home to Last Dance for 5 days.
Morehead City does have some benefits for cruisers in addition to a protected harbor. Next door to the marina sits Floyds 1921, an outstanding restaurant in a renovated old home. And, there is a Harris-Teeter, an upscale grocery store for provisioning - a valuable resource for those traveling on the water.
Dock walking, looking at boats, some pieces of art, some just interesting, is always a fun activity. A 1948 Hinkley, that had been fully restored, lives at this marina. Hinkleys are a bit different, but do classify as a work of art. Hinkley redesigned the PT boat for WWII, greatly increasing its performance and reducing the time to build. Hinkley have always been built, and still are, in Jacksonville, Florida. They have a loyal following. Maintaining a wooden boat, particularly a large one, is always a large and expensive task. It is great that there a people with the desire and budget to do so.
The largest group of residents at the Morehead City Yacht Basin were sportfish boats. Boats built to go far off shore and chase big fish. Many of the boats here were of the Carolina design, with flat forward decks and large flared bows to divide the big waves.
If you are going to spend a million dollars or so for a fishing chariot, you wouldn't want it to be a plain white that blended in with all the other boats, would you? All the boats were beautifully maintained and sported amazingly perfect paint work.
One notable feature on the big sportfish boats are the large exhausts, allowing the huge engines powering these crafts to breath. As one was being filled with diesel, the dock hand asked how much fuel it held. Three thousand gallons was the answer. Fuel usage is measured in the 100s of gallons/hour. During a fishing tournament, this marina pumps 50,000 gallons of fuel a day. With such high volume, the fuel prices are low and the quality of fuel high. Last Dance took advantage of this during her stay.
If you find that your 60' Viking is not large enough for the task, just purchase a 70 footer. Twin boats, except for size. The smaller one might be for sale, if you need to add to your stable of boats, since it appears that this boat owner needs to reduce his inventory.
Ocracoke Island is a barrier island near the southern end of the Outer Banks, an area famous for many sunken boats along its coast. The Ocracoke Light is the oldest operating lighthouse in the country. There are no bridges to the island, making it reachable only by ferry, private boat or airplane.
Last Dance docked at the National Park docks, located next to the docks for the two ferries serving the southern end of the island. A park ranger told a story about the ferries that occurred during the previous few days while Last Dance was hiding from the winds in Morehead City. The high winds had kicked up the waves in Pamlico Sound, the large body of water between the Outer Banks and the mainland, so high that they were breaking over the front of the ferries and the cars aboard. Cars were continually drenched in salt water and the passengers were hanging over the rails. Not being on such waters was a good decision.
There is much history at Ocracoke, some still standing, some displayed in the Ocracoke Museum. The museum sits on property that was a Navy base during WWII and the park service docks are the original concrete docks constructed by the Navy.
Ocracoke Island is also known for its beaches. Wide beaches so long that mile markers are required to keep track of locations along the shore. With the exception of the small, compact Ocracoke Village, Ocracoke Island is mostly park land, part of the Hatteras National Seashore.
Wide, wide beaches that seem to go on forever. And, with Last Dance's schedule being a bit early, large, private beaches to enjoy.
Beaches filled with shells to tempt the beach comber aboard.
There are also some wooded trails, similar but much smaller than Cumberland Island, with wind-bent live oaks and other trees creating a beach front forest. You never know where you will find art. A chain saw artist created an image of one of the local critters from a tree stump along one trail.
Being a tourist destination, many restaurants are on the island, from upscale and interesting to beach bars right on the docks. SMacNally's had the expected cold beer, but also offered a delicious fresh black drum sandwich. There is still a fishing industry on Ocracoke and local restaurants take advantage of the fresh caught fish. The local fish house had a retail store also, with purchases filling the larder of Last Dance. A batch of the local scallops proved to be the best experienced by the crew when whipped up into a scallop scampi aboard.
One of the advantages of traveling up the east coast during this time of year is that spring seems to follow you, providing colorful backdrops to excursions ashore. This proved true on the Outer Banks as well.
Roanoke Island is located at the north end of the Pamlico Sound, between the mainland and the Outer Banks. It too is filled with history, which the town of Manteo celebrates, as evidenced by the intersection of Sir Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth Streets. It was convenient for a stop for Last Dance as it is a long day's cruise from Ocracoke Island and the town offers a free dock to encourage visitors traveling by boat.
Although the town of Manteo is geared for the tourist trade, filled with gift shops, restaurants, and condos, much of Roanoke Island remains in a natural state.
Just south of Roanoke Island, the Bodie Island Light house sits along the Outer Banks, visible from the Pamlico Sound, but not reachable by boat.
Both the flora and fauna make the travel along the waterways interesting. Critters is a term more endearing and fun. The Ospreys have taken over the day markers along the Intracoastal Waterway. Rachael Carson's 1962 book, Silent Spring, tied the declining population of birds to a commonly used pesticide, DDT, which made the birds eggs fragile, breaking before hatching. Many in power tried to refute her work, but in the end the politicians had to accept the science and DDT was banned. The Osprey have come from near extinction in the early 1960's, to pre-DDT population levels. One is reminded of the fragility of the environment every time one of these magnificent birds is sighted.
Brown Pelicans were effected also, being listed as an endangered species in the 1960s. These curious, sometimes funny, birds always seem to bring a smile to your face.
Spring is a time to begin families. These Canada Geese take a walk along the Ocracoke Island Park Service docks.
Mallards and their brood on Ocracoke.
The song of the Loon is legendary in New England and Canada. These birds come south for the winter, but are hard to spot because their distinctive summer plumage is replaced with a mottled gray/brown. To assist the crew on Last Dance with identification, they often stand in the water and wave.
Spring in North Carolina had the Loons beginning the summer color patterns.
One Looper friend photographically collected yard art spotted along the water. It is interesting what some people use to decorate their landscape. These old wooden skiffs do seem appropriate in a yard on Ocracoke Island.
Understanding the relevance of a Giraffe in a backyard along the Intracoastal Waterway is more difficult to decipher.