Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Outer Banks of North Carolina

East of the North America landmass the Outer Banks stretch from the Georgia/ South Carolina border all the way to Virginia Beach, VA. To get to Hatteras we first had to take a ferry from Cedar Island to Ocracoke and then drive up the length of the 9 miles long island and about 200 feet wide - we could see the waves crashing to the shore on both sides - to take another ferry to Hatteras. When we got to the ferry port we discovered the ferry was not sailing as the “high” tide was too low; the recent full moon had been unusually large as the moon was at its closest to earth for over 200 years. Also Hurricane Irene caused a lot of damage and silted up the inlet between the 2 islands - they were hoping for the dredgers to be working next week. 

We headed back down the island to a beautiful National Parks Campgrounds in the dunes and stayed overnight. The alarm was set for 8am the following morning and once awake Tom called to check if the Ocracoke to Hatteras ferry was sailing that morning; as the answer was in the negative Tom called and made a reservation for the ferry from Ocracoke to Swan Quarters ( isn't that a lovely name?) we sailed on that ferry at 12.45pm. The previous day we met a couple Bill and Marilyn who had been marooned from the day before; in fact first thing Adele did after the alarm clock woke us was to look out the window and notice that they had already left, as it happened  for the Ocracoke to Hatteras ferry. A long walk on the beach seemed a good idea before heading for the ferry so off we went. As we were exiting the campground we spotted Bill and Marilyn zipping down the only road from one ferry to the other. When we arrived at the ferry port we were directed into the boarding lane and noticed that Bill and Marilyn were in the standby lane. While waiting to board we spoke with them and told them how come we were sailing and bade them farewell. They had risen at 6.00am in the hopes they would be way ahead of all the lazy people for the Ocracoke to Hatteras ferry. Sadly, they did not get on; we were on the last ferry for the day so as we sailed out of the harbor they were still on the dock.

The actual distance from Ocracoke to Hatteras is a matter of yards, probably 300 or so with the ferry run about 10 minutes. However, our ferry journey to Swan Quarters was two and a half hours followed by a 142 mile drive to our next RV Park; we nearly sailed/drove in a circle from Ocracoke to Avon on Hatteras Island. The Outer Banks are a very popular vacation destination, miles of beaches and even better lots of wind for sailboarding and Para boarding on the intercostal in the lee of the islands.  There are no trees, most of the islands comprise of sand and sand dunes with the houses high up on posts - 3 to 4 stories high - right up there waiting for the hurricanes with many of them painted in lovely seaside colors lilac, blue, pink, green and yellow.

How colony of people could have survived on these barrier islands where there is no soil to grow crops defeats comprehension, yet this is where the first colonists set up! Now referred to as the Lost Colony as they literally disappeared; the best theory is that they joined and were assimilated into the native tribes on the nearby mainland. Fishermen can make a good living – they - have a head start on the guys on the mainland. In Hatteras we met a 75 year old lady working in the Visitor center who was born in Hatteras, lived there all her life and would not wish to live anywhere else.

We climbed the 248 iron spiral staircase to the top of the 140 year old Cape Hatteras Lighthouse which had been moved 2,900 feet inland in 1999 due to sand erosion on its original site. Afterwards we watched a movie of the move in the museum. An amazing feat of engineering that took several weeks to accomplish and which drew crowds of people from all over America and some from overseas - it was fascinating! An interesting fact we learned as we toured the museum is that in summer the temperature of the black stripes of the lighthouse is 107f (37c) the temperature of the white stripes is 92f (30c); so…if the roads in Phoenix, AZ were cement the city would be a lot cooler. Cape Hatteras lighthouse watches over one of the most hazardous sections of the North American Atlantic Coast; not far offshore the northbound Gulf Stream current collides with a branch of the southbound Labrador current and is known to force ships onto a 12 mile long sandbar - Diamond Shoals – appropriately known as "The Graveyard of the Atlantic". A map in the nearby museum illustrated the seabed and all of the ships down there. 

Now we begin the next phase of our cross country journey our Plan A route will involve, in order, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. Plan B and Plan C are our fallback.

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