A photo a day from Oriental, NC, the surrounding Pamlico County area, and nearby rivers, creeks, bays and other waterways of coastal North Carolina.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

8.27- Stranded on Shackleford Banks

Some of Shackleford Banks' wild horses grazing ocean-side
(click on images for full size)

Today's pictures actually are from two days ago... My father, my oldest brother, my youngest nephew and I went down to Shackleford Banks, one of North Carolina's outer-banks islands, on a borrowed 19 foot "Carolina Skiff."

The Shackleford Banks horses are wild horses that have been stranded on the island for several hundred years... According to the Nat'l Park Service, genetics testing shows they are descended from Spanish horses.

As we learned on our trip, horses aren't the only ones liable to be stranded on the island...

Our original travel plan had been to boat down to visit Beaufort, but the Captain (me) decided to visit the nearby Shackleford Banks first.

The trip from Oriental to Beaufort had only taken about an hour, so I kinda figured we could visit nearby Shackleford for a bit while working up an appetite for lunch in Beaufort.

Unfortunately, due to command failure (my bad,) we ended up stranded on the island for about TEN HOURS.

Boaters visiting Shackleford Bank are well-advised to pay attention to a warning posted outside the restroom cabin on the island:

"Boaters should be aware of tides - you may become stranded"

A valuable warning which I saw several hours too late:

My dad and brother ponder at the high-and-dry Carolina Skiff
(click on image to enlarge)
My dad and brother had remained at the boat, chatting away, while my nephew and I walked across the sand dunes to the ocean side of the island for some body surfing in the Atlantic Ocean (at right.)

After we had swam around and followed some horses for an hour or two, we were headed back to the boat when my dad called my cell to inform me that there was a problem with the boat... as seen above.

Tides come in twice a day, so we were facing a good number of hours until we would have a chance to get the boat back off. And of course we had no food, since we had planned to lunch at Beaufort.

There are, however, much worse places to be stuck for ten hours.

My brother and I hiked back across the island so he could get a chance to swim in the ocean surf, and while I watched from the shore a herd of Shackleford Bank horses came lolling past, stopping here and there to graze, so I got a lot of nice pictures I wouldn't have had we not been stranded:
(click on images to enlarge)

After more swimming and horse-watching, my brother and I crossed back to the sound side of the island, and I began gathering dead wood along the way, seeing as how we were going to be stuck on the island well after dark.

As twilight and the tide fell, there were two to three hundred yards of sand between the skiff and the water (see picture at left... black area between boat and lighter colored water in the background is sand... lights of Beaufort near the horizon).

I continued gathering firewood until sundown, and gathered up some of the plentiful oysters and mussels that were poking up all around the sand flats, just in case we got really hungry.

I built the fire on the beach about one hundred yards away from the boat, right at about the same elevation as the bow of the boat.

The wood lasted just about the perfect amount of time, and when the tide rose to within inches of the fire (around midnight), we were able to pull the boat into the water.

While we were all relieved to finally be able to get off the island, my dad and I knew our work was just beginning - navigating at night through an unfamiliar harbor and about 30 miles of rivers, creeks and ICW ditches to get back to Oriental.

What had been a one-hour trip down turned into a three-hour trip back, with dad as navigation officer constantly checking the charts with a jury-rigged blue filter on the flashlight (to preserve night vision) and calling out the upcoming marker lights, ranges, and bridges while I manned the helm and a spotlight (thank goodness the boat owner had left one in stowage aboard!) to look for unlighted navigational markers and other potential collision hazards.

Ah, well, stuff happens. One can avoid this sort of thing very simply... by never going boating... too high a price.

My nephew (with shirt on head to ward off bugs), my brother (background, left) and myself enjoy a fire and attempt to cook oysters and mussels while waiting for the tide to roll our way

Google map showing boat stranding location on Shackleford, and the route back to Oriental:

View Shackleford Banks in a larger map


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