After leaving Charleston, we decided we needed to get north in a hurry. The fact that we were in the midst of a heat wave without a working AC unit in the aft cabin, made us realized that we needed to make up some ground. We needed to get out of the south and South Carolina ASAP. We motored for 4 long days (one of them with temps around 97 degrees) dropping anchor each night. We stopped at Butler Island (just north of the beautiful tree-lined Waccamaw River), Little River Inlet and Wrightsville Beach before making it to Beaufort, NC where we decided we would stop for a couple of days.
Beaufort (pronounced “BOH-fərt”), NC is part of North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, an 85-mile stretch of beaches known as the Southern Outer Banks. It is not to be confused with the other Beaufort (pronounced “BEW-fert”) in South Carolina. Beaufort, NC, named “Coolest Small Town in America” by Budget Travel, is a nautical town with its historic seaport, maritime stores, world-class fishing and waterfront restaurants featuring fresh seafood.
On our way to Beaufort late in the day, we were crossing the Morehead City Channel and we saw about 20 large sport fishing boats barreling our way from the Atlantic. We were surprised by the amount of boat traffic all over and quickly realized (with a google search) that the Big Rock Blue Marlin Fishing Tournament was going on on nearby Morehead City. It became even more apparent as we approached Beaufort and saw marinas full of sport fishing boats. These weren’t your average boats either, they were mostly in the 50′ or larger range with full crew busy cleaning and rigging lines for the next days fishing. The google search further revealed that the tournament was one of the largest sport fishing tournaments in the U.S. with a purse totaling over $5.8 Million dollars. The winning team brought in a marlin weighing 572.6 lbs, winning a total of $2,712,062!
Upon arriving in Beaufort, we navigated the crowded anchorage and found a spot on the east side of the anchorage away from most the other boats. We realized the reason this anchorage was probably so crowded is because there were no marina slips to be had since almost all the slips were occupied by fishing boats for the tournament.
The first thing we did the next morning was to take a dinghy ride to Morehead City, though the reason wasn’t because of the fishing tournament. There was a yarn shop there, The Knitting Knook, that I wanted to visit. The ride was about 3.5 miles but it took us forever because of the no wake zones and crazy boat traffic and waves. It was amazing we weren’t drenched by the time we got there. We passed some huge ships along the way with hailing ports from as far away as Hong Kong. Once docked, Randy took Sophie for a walk and checked out the fishing tournament area and weighing station while I visited the yarn shop. We headed back to Beaufort after that taking a calmer back way.
Once we were back to Beaufort, we headed into the free dinghy dock to check out the town. We walked along the shops and restaurants and then explored the surrounding neighborhoods of old historic homes. Most of the homes, that were restored and immaculately maintained, had plaques on the front displaying names of earliest known owners and dates of original construction. With Beaufort being North Carolina’s third oldest town, some of these dated back to the 1700’s.
After checking out the historic homes, we walked the waterfront, grabbed a beer from a restaurant and settled on a picnic table and watched as the fishing boats came for the day in with their crews hustling to clean up from the day’s fishing.
The next morning the temperatures finally dropped, so Randy and I went for a run on shore. As we were getting into the dinghy to head back to Blue Turtle, we noticed horses on the island opposite (the island we were anchored by). We were unaware they had wild horses there, but then noticed a sign that explained the area is part of the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve System and home to a herd of wild horses. The horses had come down to the water line to graze on grass. We took dinghied right by them but unfortunately didn’t get photos since we didn’t have our phones with us. It was so cool to see wild horses a second time on our travels!
Besides sightseeing, we also had a chore day. There’s a laundromat right in back of the General Store which was a short walk from the dinghy dock. After the laundry was done, we decided we needed some fresh produce and located a Piggly Wiggly about a mile away. We hiked there and back with our food and decided that since the chores were done, we deserved some drinks. We took Sophie to shore and walked along the waterfront and settled in the same spot of the picnic table with our drinks and enjoyed the scenery.
The next morning, we pulled anchor and stopped for some diesel and water before heading on northward…
Charleston, SC to Whiteside Creek (anchorage) = 14.5 nm Whiteside Creek to Butler Island = 47 nm Butler Island to Little River Inlet = 51.5 nm Little River Inlet to Wrightsville Beach, NC = 52 nm Wrightsville Beach, NC to Beaufort, NC = 73 nm Bridge Openings = 7 TOTAL miles to date: = 1,100 nm TOTAL Bridge Openings to date = 29