An Epic Challenge
When I set out planning this trip, one of my main goals and biggest challenges was to navigate the waters of North Carolina and it's infamous Outer Banks. These waters, stuck way out in the ocean, have rightfully earned the name 'Graveyard of the Atlantic'. So much so, that there is actually a museum named the same, dedicated to telling the story of ships and sailors who perished in these deadly waters.
I am happy to say, that although battered and bruised, I was able to paddle almost the entire OBX coastliine. The lone inside bit I took was at Cape Lookout, where unfortunately, I was not able to make it around those shoals. I paddled up the inside for a day and a half and then was able to get back over to the ocean.
The waters of the Outer Banks get their reputation from a combination of the colliding Labrador and Gulf Stream; the incessant shoals; the dumping surf zone and it's unrepentant breaking waves. All of these come together, with a little weather thrown in (especially low pressure fronts) to create an environment that is really not conducive to long distance sea kayaking. It is one thing to go out in an unloaded boat and play in the surf zone, but another to paddle these waters day in and day out, continuously having to launch and land. So much so, that while the physical elements were difficult enough, the psychological ones came to be almost as difficult.
I would wake during the night, hearing the breaking surf, wondering how I would be able to launch in the morning. Afternoons would bring hunger and a desire to eat that was only surpassed by the desire not to have to land and launch through the dumping surf. Even in the calmest of days, the shoreline creates deep dumping surf that without perfect timing can have you pumping water from your boat and cursing the simplest of waves.
Through all of this, I was dumped more times than I can count. My boat was pushed, twisted, flipped, and everything else in between. I found that every single piece of gear had to be methodically stowed or lashed to the boat. The lone exception was my water bags which for safety reasons sat untethered in my cockpit. Needless to say I spent many a moment chasing after floating bags. Hats were lost; sunglasses ripped from my face; sponges dissapear in the sea. Paddles were ripped from their storage spot on top of boats and skegs were constantly cluttered with rocks and sand making them undeployable after finally getting through the 'Zone'.
I am happy that I took on this challenge, but can say without a doubt I would not do it again! The coast of North Carolina is truly a beautiful shore line. I was treated to spectacular sun rises and amazing bird life. Several locations show where humans and wild horses peacefully coexist with only the sand for roads. Truly a spectacular thing to see.
I enjoyed my time, but onward an upward. My crossing of the Cheseapeke Bay, all 17 miles, was timed perfectly with a nice south wind to push me accross. I look forward to the bays of Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware and hopefully some calm paddling.