"A sailor's geography is not always that of the cartographer, for whom a cape is a cape, with a latitude and a longitude. For the sailor, a great cape is both a very simple and an extremely complicated whole of rocks, currents, breaking seas and huge waves, fair winds and gales, joys and fears, fatigue, dreams, painful hands, empty stomachs, wonderful moments, and suffering at times. A great cape has a soul, with very soft, very violent shadows and colors. A soul as smooth as a child's, as hard as a criminals. And that is why we go."
What a wonderful piece of poetical prose by Bernard Moitessier. Yes, a great cape indeed does have a soul.
When you think of a great cape, what comes to mind? Perhaps a particular cape? Moitessier doesn't write about a specific cape.
Without thinking about it too much, what cape do I see as the standard by which others are measured? At the present, I say Cape Fear, or maybe Cape Lookout.
I've done a bit of battle with Cape Fear and lost. I've rounded Cape Lookout twice in the same day. Battling a cape is one way to get to know a cape. Rounding a cape twice in the same day is another way to get to know a cape.
In most peoples view, Cape Fear and Cape Lookout are probably not considered to be amongst the worlds great capes. No, when the collective conciousness of humanity thinks of a great cape, Cape Horn probably stands as the greatest archetype, followed by The Cape of Good Hope.
My battle with Cape Fear.
It's all reflective retrospect now; my battle with Cape Fear occured back in May and now it's November and I presently sit comfortably in port; in Newport, Rhode Island, many miles from Cape Fear. Ah, but I've done a bit of battle with Cape Fear and lost. Maybe it's better to say that I've done battle with Cape Fear and surrendered; and I admit that Cape Fear won, got the best of me.
Cape Fear; my present standard bearing Cape. Why did I loose the battle with Cape Fear? And what was the battle? Well, I suppose I could say 'that' battle began at Winyah Bay near Georgetown, South Carolina. My 'intent' was to sail from Winyah Bay, round Cape Fear, and make Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina as my next place to drop anchor. That was my 'intent'. That was not what resulted. My 'intent' was not realized. This not realizing my intent made Cape Fear my standard.
Cape Fear and Cockamanie Psychology.
I didn't want to sail into Winyah Bay in the first place back in the spring of 2010. I departed Charleston, South Carolina with the intent of sailing around Cape Fear, making Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina as my next port. That didn't happen. I remember a seemingly all encompassing force that steered the boat into Winyah Bay. It was like an all powerful magnetic attraction. In Georgetown, South Carolina, I didn't want to hear it but I heard it anyway, "why don't you just take the ICW?". I knew someone was going to say that. I knew it and there was nothing I could do about it. I knew it was coming, from one of the "land people", sic.
In Georgetown, the weather got bad, offshore anyway. In the harbor things were quite mellow, a different world. Nearly a week went by.
"You're still here aye." I knew that was coming also. I finally departed Georgetown, sort of.
I went back and dropped the hook closer to the Winyah Bay inlet, in a much more remote anchorage. Away from the opinions. Maybe that explains why I sail singlehanded. I don't usually do well with the opinions, get easily distracted. I'm not very good at explaining my motives. The "land people" (sic) have no basis by which to measure. Back at the remote anchorage near the Winyah Bay inlet, it was easier to get into the groove, the vibe, etc.
In the remote anchorage of Winyah Bay, rounding Cape Fear was still just an idea, like it is now as I write this in Newport, Rhode Island many months later. In the remote anchorage of Winyah Bay I read a book from cover to cover, "In the Lake of the Woods" by Tim O'brien. I bought the book at the Georgetown library for 50 cents. The Lake of the Woods, that lake in northern Minnesota; the part of Minnesota that sticks up abit north of everything else in the continental U.S. The Lake of the Woods, both in the U.S. and Canada. Tim O'brien, a Vietnam Vet, experienced some horrible stuff. The book, fiction, tells a tale of flashbacks to the horror; the whole idea of the sacred and the profane became blurred. In the Winyah Bay remote anchorage I read the book from cover to cover and then poked my head out of the cabin; a serene harbor.
In the remote anchorage of Winyah Bay, after reading "In the Lake of the Woods", I hid it, buried it deep in the bowels of the boat. Out of sight out of mind. I still wasn't happy with the weather for rounding Cape Fear. I started reading "The Shipping News" by E. Annie Proulx. A much lighter book compared to "In the Lake of the Woods". I get about 1/3 of the way through "The Shipping News" when I the weather for rounding Cape Fear seems agreeable.
I had to fight again. That apparent magnetic attraction that pulled me into Winyah Bay didn't go away. I departed on the outgoing tide. Passing the Georgetown Lighthouse was easy with the wind on the port beam. Turning left after the lighthouse and making way through the narrow channel out into open water was brutal. Directly into a headwind with little room to tack. I fired up the engine to blow through the crap. The rigging slammed against the mast. A spreader light fell to the deck with a loud bang and then bounced into the ocean. I fought and fought until clear of the last sea buoy where the water was deep. I could then fall off the wind and sail.
The Frying Pan Shoals extend about 15 miles south of the actual Cape Fear. In the midst of the Frying Pan Shoals is a bit of a channel that one person I've met has used. His boat is a shallow draft catamaran. I however, didn't feel comfortable going through that narrow channel. No, I need to get around the Frying Pan Shoals. If Bernard Moitessier says that a cape has a soul, then indeed part of Cape Fears soul is the Frying Pan Shoals.
After the fight to get out of the Winyah Bay inlet channel, I fell off the wind and began making good progress towards the southern part of Frying Pan, during the day anyway. But as night came, the southern part of Frying Pan lie directly into the wind. I had to beat, zig-zagging towards the mark. Zig-zagging all night and also fighting what seemed to maybe be a Gulf Stream back eddy. The following day, the headwind continued, coming directly from my mark. I thought of Southport, North Carolina. I thought of the Bald Head Light. I said the hell with it. I sailed into the Cape Fear River inlet. I saw a tug pushing a barge pick up a pilot. I saw the Bald Head Light. I had a strong favorable current coming into the Cape Fear River. I waved at the passing Wilmington to Cape Fear Ferry and got humphed by the crew. I made way into the Southport Basin. I got an evil eye from another anchored boat in the small crowded basin. I gave the evil eye-er the f#%$you look and dropped anchor. I slept soundly and awoke to seeing a lone fisherman on a nearby dilapitated dock. It was the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend. I had a favorable current for heading up the Cape Fear River and the ICW. I departed early to take advatage of the favorable current before it changed.
Making way from the Cape Fear River into Snows cut (which connects the Cape Fear River to Masonboro Sound and is the true artificial bypass of Cape Fear) I saw another boat with a Rhode Island Registration coming the other way and fighting the head current. I waved but he didn't wave back. Shortly after, he took a wrong turn at the western end of snows cut and ran aground.
The Masonboro Sound side of Snows Cut was packed full of small powerboats. I had to dodge many. I had to come to a dead stop once to avoid a fallen water skier. I saw lots of bikinis. I made way into the Wrightsville Beach anchorage and dropped the hook. I was on the other side of Cape Fear and yet I didn't round it.
Cape Fear stands as my definitive Cape; the Cape that won the battle.
from Newport, RI
Fair Winds. Captain Bill.