Sunday, July 26, 2009

Goodbye to the Outer Banks - We'll Miss You

The day after the party on Stormy was a slow moving one if you get my drift - but around noon Doug and I headed across the bridge from the Manteo Waterfront Marina to the Roanoke Island Festival Park. The Park is dedicated to the history of the early Roanoke settlements which were the first in the new world. Though the Roanoke colonies never were successful in the long-term, they predated the settlement at Jamestown by about 20 years - the Roanoke settlements occurred between 1585 and 1587. The Roanoke colonies also laid the foundations for future English settlements in the new world as they provided information on the Indian tribes, the type of crops that could be grown and more generally what kind of life and hardships awaited the new colonists, increasing the odds of success for future colonies. There was a wonderful museum at the Park which brought to life over 400 years of history of the Outer Banks and Roanoke Island in particular - there was also a fascinating exhibit on Queen Elizabeth the First who reigned during much of England's exploration of the new world.
Beginning of the Queen Elizabeth I Exhibit
She was one amazing lady - taking the crown at age 25 in an era of unbridled religious antagonism and at a time when most thought a woman was not qualified to rule, she broke through the stereotypes and ruled for 45 years with both an iron fist and a velvet glove. She was responsible for much of England's colonization, she brought relative religious tolerance to the country, and chose not to marry so as to retain total control of the country and not cede power to a husband - this unfortunately caused her to have no heirs which created a stir upon her death in terms of who would succeed such a popular queen (turns out it was the son of Mary Queen of Scots, whom Queen Elizabeth had had beheaded for Mary's plot to unseat Elizabeth as the Queen of England - go figure??) Festival Park also had a number of exhibits that we toured including the Elizabeth II, the 69 foot 16th century sailing ship that is a replica of one of Sir Walter Raleigh's ships in his 1585 expedition to establish the first English settlement in the new world - 30 -35 sailors would man such a ship with only the captain and the officers have bunks; the remaining men would grab a piece of deck wherever they could to sleep.
Doug Prepares to Board Elizabeth II
And we thought 4 people on a 49 foot boat was crowded!!!! The Elizabeth II's tender was one of the highlight's for us - named Silver Chalice it was the cutest 24 foot wooden double masted sailboat that would carry 15 crew members (although we're not sure exactly how they would all fit but that's what they told us!!!) It was a far cry from our family car Hobos (our dinghy with its 20 hp motor) that takes us around at 20 mph!!
The Silver Chalice
The afternoon flew by as like sponges we soaked up the history of the region!
Exhibit on 16th Century Navigation
Map Showing All the Shipwrecks Along the Outer Banks

After hours of culture we decided to slake our thirst with a cold beer in town before heading on to the maritime museum - such was not to be the case though as the bar we passed was not yet open - huh??? It's not like we were there at 10:00 am (not that that is a bad thing mind you) - it was almost 4:00 in the afternoon and in Manteo we couldn't find a beer!!! As much as we love NC, they have some really wacky rules when it comes to adult libations!! We went over to see the beautiful Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse that is perched along Manteo's waterfront boardwalk - it is a replica of the old lighthouse that stood in Croatan Sound (on the west side of Roanoke Island) from 1877 to 1955.
Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse
Right next to it is the Manteo Weather Tower which dates back to 1904, when the US Weather Bureau set up its first storm warning tower in Manteo, and keeps alive the centuries old tradition of warning mariners and residents about the upcoming weather and impending storms. At the top of the tower fly colored flags indicating the upcoming weather as well as coded colored lights that can be seen at night!! While the town's telegrapher used to be the weather observer in charge of the storm tower, the dockmaster now is responsible for listening to the weather forecasts and changing the flags and lights accordingly - how cool is that??
Doug Reads the Legend for the Flags on the Weather Tower
The Flag on Top of the Weather Tower

Next it was on to the Manteo Maritime Museum where we learned about George Washington Creef who designed the shad boat which was a staple of local fisherman throughout the region - the really cool thing we found out though is that Buddy Davis who builds kick butt fishing boats is not only from Manteo but is a direct descendant of Creef. For those of you that have been reading our blog for awhile, you might remember that I hung out sharing a couple beers with Buddy Davis one night at the Dockside Bar in Marathon without knowing who he was until after he had left and the bartender told me who he was - super nice guy and very laid back!! Late that afternoon we headed back to Gypsies where we knew we would finally be able to have a beer - whew!!!

The next day we woke to rain and a little visitor on one of our dock lines
The Visitor on our Dock Lines
- we had rented a car with September Song so despite the weather, set off early to go see the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. We passed through miles of unbroken national seashore with huge sand dunes on our left which was the Atlantic Ocean side and kite surfers and wind surfers speckling the Pamlico Sound to our right. We passed Bodie Island Lighthouse, one of the four operational lighthouses on the Outer Banks, and then Oregon Inlet which leads out to the Atlantic Ocean and is used by a major sport fishing fleet - looking down on the inlet I sure wouldn't want to try and navigate it in anything but perfectly calm weather without local knowledge and I'm not even sure about then!! We passed through several villages along the way (Rodanthe and Avon) but most of the trip was just unbroken and unblemished national seashore with the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge thrown in for good measure - what a spectacular landscape. Finally we arrived at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse which was built in 1870 and is the world's tallest brick lighthouse at 198.5 feet - it is a charming structure of black and white diagonal stripes with a red brick base that towers over the surrounding vegetation.
Hatteras Lighthouse
Unfortunately when we arrived there was thunder and lightning so the lighthouse was closed to visitors wanting to climb to the top - I guess the National Park officials thought it might be a good lightning rod or something. They close the lighthouse for 30 minutes after the last thunder - bummer!!! But we decided to check out the lighthouse keeper's quarters and while there got to watch a movie about how the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was moved (yes physically picked up and moved!!!) back in 1999!!
The Lighthouse Keepers Quarters
The Lighthouse was in danger of washing away into the sea at its old location as the beach had eroded to within feet of the base of the lighthouse so after some serious planning and preparation by many engineering and technical firms, the Lighthouse was moved 2900 feet inland to the place it sits today - unbelievable!!! When we got out of the movie, the skies had cleared and we were ready for the trek to the top - all 257ish steps! As we waited for our turn to climb, we were under a tent that was unbeknownst to us inhabited by small green tree frogs - we became aware of this fact when one of the little frogs jumped from the tent roof onto the back of some guy's leg and he proceeded to basically hit the tent roof in surprise - cute little buggers though aren't they?
Tree Frog

While Stephanie waited for us down on the ground, Bob, Doug and I headed for the top of the Lighthouse - now you have to understand, neither Bob or Doug is real big on heights so they were holding on for dear life!!
Bob Hangs on for Dear Life
The view from the top of the Lighthouse was unbelievably spectacular though and well worth the wait and the climb!!
Bob and Doug Enjoy the View
In one direction you could see down towards the beach to the site where the Lighthouse used to stand before it was moved
The Old Site of the Lighthouse
and in the another direction you could see out to Cape Hatteras Point and the Diamond Shoals beyond that have claimed the lives of so many mariners and wrecked so many ships that they have become known as the graveyard of the Atlantic.
Cape Hatteras
Stephanie Waves at Us from the Ground
From such a high elevation you could see how treacherous the waters off the Cape are - over 600 ships have wrecked here, victims of the shoals and the often nasty weather that rolls across the Outer Banks. World War II German U-boats sank so many Allied tankers, freighters and cargo ships off the Outer Banks that the waters here have also been known as Torpedo Junction - during the latter part of 1941 and early 1942, nearly one ship a day was torpedoed along this stretch of water!! Although many lives were lost along these treacherous waters, many have also been saved by local villagers - back as far as the 1870's, the US Life Saving Service (which was the precursor to today's Coast Guard) set up stations every 7 miles along the Outer Banks to help rescue foundering ships and their crew. Heroism and courage were traits that those serving in the Life Saving Stations and as Lightkeepers exhibited in saving as many lives as they did - theirs was a hard, physically demanding job as they patrolled the beaches and attempted to rescue those in need of help, often in horrible and dangerous conditions. Nowhere else is there such a history of family participation in the Coast Guard than there is here in the Outer Banks based I'm sure on the long standing traditions of the Life Saving Stations, several of which still exist today.

From the Lighthouse we walked down to the site by the beach where the Lighthouse had previously stood and marveled at the engineering feat that had been accomplished to actually move such a mammoth structure - truly mindblowing!! Then we brought out our chairs, coolers and boogie boards for an afternoon at the beach - we had thought about heading to Nags Head to the beach but why - it was so beautiful there at Cape Hatteras and the waves were just calling to us!!! The waves were rocking so it wasn't long before we were playing along with the surfers, boogie boards in hand.
The Waves at the Hatteras Beach
Man we got the you know what kicked out of us by those waves and the rip currents - we were exhausted (especially after climbing the Lighthouse!!) and spent the rest of the afternoon reclining on the beach, adult libation in hand!! What a great day!
Lounging at the Beach in Hatteras

That evening since we still had the rental car we headed over to Nags Head in search of a great local "joint" for dinner - none of those chain restaurants for us. After driving the main road and then closer towards the beach, we finally set eyes on the Jolly Roger and figured we'd give it a try. Boy was it a joint - the bar had a separate entrance and was covered by a stain glass roof (???)
Bar with Stained Glass Roof
and the room we wound up having dinner in was gaudily decorated in faux christmas motif - now how that exactly translates to the Jolly Roger/pirate theme we were expecting is beyond me but the food was great and the company even better - we asked for local character and that's what we got I guess!!!
Dinner in the Restaurant with Christmas Ornaments on the Ceiling

The next morning we hit the local farmers market which took all of about 5 minutes - it wasn't nearly as big as the one we'd been to in Fort Pierce, FL but September Song was still able to round up some baked goodies! Leaving Manteo and the Outer Banks was bittersweet - if we had been on anchor, we easily could have stayed another week or two as there is so much to do and see - as it is we never got a chance to hit the bike trails or see the Lost Colony Park or go hang gliding in the dunes - but I guess that's why we know we'll be back at some point!!! Off we set across the Albemarle Sound to our current anchorage in Broad Creek, which is a beautiful creek teeming with flowering wild orchids and protected from most of the wind and waves. As soon as we arrived, Cassie and Godiva got to go swimming in their life jackets for exercise since there is no real beach for them to play on - they were too cute!
Cassie and Godiva Go Swimming
Once we do some boat chores this morning, we plan on dropping the dink and heading out to explore - tomorrow we are on to Coinjack and the final stretch up the ICW to Virginia!!

Click here to see a Google map of our anchorage in Broad Creek.

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