LAT: N 33° 52.7'
LON: W 77° 60.0'
60s-30s at night, rain late, winds W 15-35 kts. Gale warning.
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Golf Cart Turns Slow Life Fast
840 - We say salutations to "Celebrate" and take off to try to make time before the bad weather comes.
1002 - In Myrtle Grove Sound by the Carolina Beach Inlet.
1103 - Navigating the shoals and somewhat confusing markers in Cape Fear River.
1200 - Approaching South Port and it's ferry terminal.
1235 - At Southport we decide to turn and go to Bald Head Island which is close by, but more open to the sea and weather.
1327 - After a couple of tries in a swift current we are docked at Bald Head Island.
Arggg me maties, it's full name is Cape Fear the McMansions.
Palms and Live Oaks
A Winning Team
Robert DeNiro- Guest Editor
This morning we pulled up the anchor knowing we wanted to get somewhere before the forecasted high winds came our way. We bid "Celebrate" farewell and took off down the ICW. There were many random sites on the sidelines today including colorful school buses parked on sea breakers and geometrically shaped houses. We passed many fishermen by the ocean inlets and relaxed as we enjoyed another day of cruising inland.
At one point we went through a narrower passage that took us into the Cape Fear River. The river had some shoals to look out for, just like its namesake (Cape Fear, a member of the Graveyard of the Atlantic). [Oh, but there isn't really anything to be afraid of there. Take my word for it. -Ed.] The sun streamed into our eyes as we tried to steer our way to the markers without running aground or hitting one of the many passing boats. There were a couple of ferries that passed close by, but no boat got too close.
We soon arrived in Southport and quickly realized there was a decision to make. The weather had been lovely and didn't look like it was getting worse anytime soon. We had heard of the things to look forward to on Bald Head Island and knew that even though it was very close it was still off the ICW, which meant we'd have to travel over open water and not be as protected from the weather that was coming. Though Southport looked inviting we chose to take the chance and turned around to head for the island we knew as: where we could drive golf carts to many beaches and other pretty places.
En route we passed by a very large boat that reminded us of what could lie outside of the small waterway we had gotten used to. But that was the last we saw of anything big before we got to Bald Head Island, it only being twenty minutes away.
Expecting a quaint little island, our first views of Bald Head Island revealed development of many bloated beach "cottages". It was like Jurassic Park meets Nantucket Island. What were we in for? A small cut opened into a little inner harbor known as "the village." The harbormaster assigned us a slip downwind from the entrance. The winds had picked up enough that it was a hair raising parking job. After the fourth try, and no damage done, we got Slowly parked and tied up safely in what felt like somebody's front yard. Excited to have made it, we threw on our swim trunks and headed out to rent our golf cart.
A short walk to the other side of the little harbor, through the village, showed us a tiny pizza place, some inns, and some well contained shrubs. Upon finding the harbormaster's office, we settled up for our slip (which was not so bad at $45), and, to our delight, discovered free hot dogs at a customer appreciation picnic thrown by a local real estate agency. This island was turning out to be pretty cool. Next, we rented our golf cart, got a map, and were soon zipping around, full of free dogs and feeling unstoppable!
The island is about 3 miles long, and there is a large tract set aside as a protected maritime forest. The coasts are sand beaches and the inside contains a large marsh and really beautiful forests containing a variety of trees including some wonderful live oak. The roads are only for golf carts, so they are a fantastic small scale that easily allows for the forest canopy to grow over them.
Our first stop was the gourmet grocery store where we picked up some cheese, water, and other provisions. It was great fun to pull up in a golf cart, in a golf cart parking lot, to a big grocery store stocked with fine meats, cheeses, and wines. Our next stop was East Beach, which is the actual location "Cape Fear" proper. We soon found that it was way too windy and cold to go swimming, but perfect for flying and finding shells. After this, we headed down the road to check out the houses on the South Beach. All having three stories with massive wrap around porches, lots of glass and great views they were luxurious and tempting, yet packed together and way oversized which made them wholly unappealing. We stopped in at an open house and got the skinny on the homes from some agents. The entire island is owned by the two sons of an extremely wealthy family of Texas developers, the Mitchell family. They bought the island in the 80's after a previous developer hadn't had the money to make it really fly. They built up the infrastructure and had a Boston Architect (named Costas?) come and design these Nantucket inspired mega-cottages. Currently, there are 70 houses being built on the island. There are about 900 houses right now, and there are lots for a total of 2100 *gasp* houses. Mind you, this is on 2200 acres of land. You do the math. We'd hate to see this beautiful island in 20 years when those lots are filled. We can only hope that something will curb this growth, at least in terms of the size of the houses. We can't imagine the views will stay as nice if the development continues as it is now.
Having worn out the battery on our first golf cart, we barely made it back for a replacement. We then ran back to the boat for warmer clothes, as the winds were picking up and the sun was setting and there was still more exploring to do. We headed off to get a closer look at a really unique and beautiful old lighthouse. We then turned on our little headlight, and drove around the various courts and "wynds" on into the nightfall. It was fun to peak into the houses, and we also saw our Animal of the Day, some deer, and a red fox! Once the rain came, we headed back to the boat.
The winds really picked up after we ordered a pizza and returned to the boat. Coming back from picking it up, Tim realized the wind had broken a support for the bimini top so we had to go face the unfortunate challenge of taking the cover down in high winds before more damage was done. The winds were noisy and unnerving, but the pizza let our day's adventures catch up with us. We were soon fast asleep.
Golf Carts. These electric cars run on the same lead-acid batteries that the boat uses. Bald Head Island has hundreds of them, and they are a testament to the coolness of small electric cars. There are coin-operated plug-ins to charge your car in the village. The roads are all small, and the island can comfortably handle way more people than it could if they were all driving cars. Even with big houses, the island maintains a wild peaceful character throughout, because there are no automobiles to be noisy or frighten pedestrians with their dangerous inhuman speeds. Driving them is also wonderful because you are exposed to the air outside such as on a bicycle. Yet unlike the lonely bike rider, the carts are absolutely social, fitting up to six in the larger carts. Complete with ample drink holders, it's really no wonder people like golfing so much.
Animal of the Day
The Northern Walkingstick, Diapheromera femorata,(we think this is the species) is one insect we found plenty of once the sun set on Bald Head Island. And they were all apparently mating. These critters are over three inches long, wingless, and have long antennae to match their long bodies. These leaf eaters are camouflaged to look like twigs, though the ones we saw looked more like small logs.
Take out from Pirate Pizza was one large (16") pepperoni pizza. It hit the spot as pizza often does. And we had Yeungling Black & Tan to go.
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