Monday, November 17, 2008

Fishing off Harker's Island

This has been an emotional time at home, dealing with my mother and helping my grandmother pack up and move into an assisted living center. At the beginning of my trip, thanks to my aunt staying with Mom, I got to spend a few good days with my Dad up around Cape Lookout. This is the story of us trying to fish Thursday morning. Instead of fishing, we went to the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort. I didn’t take any photos while on the water on Thursday. (I never even took my camera out of the waterproof case). The picture of the sunset was taken from Harker’s Island later that day. The photo of my father fishing was taken on Friday. The seas had calmed, but the rain continued. I haven’t had internet access since early Friday morning. I’ll be returning back home tomorrow and will try to catch up with everyone by the weekend

The boat drops into the trough of a rolling wave, walls of water tower over our heads, obscuring everything and creating the feeling that we’re in a deep canyon. Then, we rise to the crest of a swell and see we were alone on the sea. It appears no one’s fishing at the jetty which juts out into the sea, west of the cape. With waves like these, there’d be no way to safely anchor off the rocks and any fishing in such rough water would require the finesse of a trapeze artist. We chicken out; Dad turns the boat around and we head back, surfing the crest of the waves and making good time with the wind to our back.

At the sea buoy marking Breakwater Point, he turns the boat 90 degrees into the channel. The inlet offers no protection. Instead of the long rolling waves of the open sea, we now have choppy ones foaming about the crest. Though violent, the water offers hope for fishing. In the distance I spot gulls and pelicans diving into the water where baitfish are jumping. Perhaps it’s a Bonita driving the smaller fish to the surface where they jump to escape the jaws of the larger fish. Life is precious at the bottom of the food chain. In an attempt to escape one threat, they expose themselves to the bills of awaiting birds. Dad maneuvers the boat toward the fish while I try my best to rig a line. By the time we get to the spot, the fish are gone and the birds have all settled down. We make a few casts, but the rain and wind are increasing. The few other boats fishing in what’s known as Lookout Bight are also heading in for safety and comfort and we do the same.

Dad is behind the wheel and I stand to the side of the console, holding on to the support for the canvas top that offers us little protection in the driving rain and splashing waves. I keep a lookout for the buoys that mark the maundering channel between Shackleford Banks and Cape Lookout. It’s a hard task for as we run, rain pellets my eyes. Sandbars cut across this channel, creating a maze to navigate. The boat pounds through the waves, splashing us with salt water. Rain and wind increase, dropping visibility further. The lighthouse, just a few miles away, can’t be seen but every 15 seconds we observe its faint light piercing the fog. Creating even more danger is the fact that we can’t see the next buoy and are soon in shallow water. Dad cuts the speed and turns on the depth finder. Luckily, the tide is high and rising. We move slowly off the bar as I continue to search for a buoy. When the rain lets up a bit, I spot a red one at 2 o’clock. We aim for it, keeping it to our starboard as we search of the next buoy, a green one, that’s to be on our port.

After we pass Catfish Point, we turn north, running through Barden’s Inlet with the wind to our back. Although it’s still hard to see buoys, rain drops are no longer painfully striking our eyes. We cross a few hundred yards in front of the lighthouse, its massive structure now visible, but looking ghost-like in the midst. We continue to follow the buoys pass Morgan Island and make the cut to Harker’s Island and into the safety of the break wall at Calico Jack’s. After securing the boat in the slip, we head to the bait shop for a cup of coffee and to talk with the staff and other returning fishermen about the weather. It doesn’t look like we’ll be doing any more fishing this day and it’s not even 10 A.M.


Click here for a map of Cape Lookout National Seashore (go to the bottom to see where we were at).


Click here for a story of surf fishing off Lookout in 2007


Click here for a 2005 trip to Lookout along with pictures of horses on Shackleford Banks


  1. I'm sorry that you didn't have better weather this time around, Sage. Get home safely.

  2. Excellent story. Water is unforgiving and this is certainly evidence of that.

  3. Spending time with our parents is so fulfilling. I miss my hats with my dad who is no longer there. THats the reason, I like to share my space with my mom. I cherish those moments when we get up earl in the mornings and share cups of tea. Fulfilling for both of us.

    Sending you yber hugs, if I may!

  4. What a wonderful post about time spent with your dad. You're so fortunate to still have such special times with him. I know you know that, I'm just kind of thinking out loud -or through the keyboard. Thank you for sharing with us.

  5. Thanks for sharing the story with us, Sage. It felt like I was right there with you, shielding myself from the rain.

    Would have loved to see a picture of the lighthouse.

    I hope you find strength to deal with the storms of life you're going through right now.

  6. I'm glad you got to spend a few good days with your dad. Hopefully that helps in dealing with the emotions you are feeling otherwise. My mom is steadiy going backwards now with her Alsheimer's condition. Some days are better than others; but it is not easy. Just recently most of our family was together to celebrate Mom's 78th birthday. It was both a joyous and sad time with the recognition that Mom isn't near what she used to be. But we take one step at a time trusting God even though it is not always easy to do so.

  7. You write so well Sage, though I can't imagine two sensible and sane men bracing the cold and rain to fish for fun. You would probably welcome me to join you in that choppy water actually, for I would throw up and feed the fish for you! Fish loves my breakfast you know, they will swim around and just let you catch them, with bare hands... ok that's stretching a bit too far :)

    Btw I stole your blowfish pict and sent it to my niece. She loves it.

  8. Kenju, I haven't made it home yet--I got as far as Atlanta last night but am on an early flight today

    Ed, thanks.

    Gautami, thanks, it's nice you get to spend time every day with your mom

    Epiphany, thanks, you're right, I'm fortunate

    Bone, maybe I'll post another photo of it, but last November I posted a number of such photos

    Tim, I'm sorry about your mom, having dealt with this for 3 1/2 years, I know its horrible, to have her physically present but not there

    Mother Hen, yes, that's stretching it, to think I'd stick my hand through your vomit to pick out a fish!!! :)

  9. What, you don't like my breakfast? :)

    Actually I've to re-read this post, as it reminds me of the days when I was a kid, used to go out to the oceans in Southeast Asia to fish with my cousins. I got used to the choppy seas at one point, but not the diesel smell.

  10. Isn't it neat to have something accomplished by 10am?

    My housemate, T, has found an assisted living place for her mother. It's been awful. She (the housemate) is also unemployed, and her mother's running low on money and is unable to help with any of it. T's siblings won't help, either. In the meantime, my T is coping with the fact that her mother is approaching death now. It's a difficult time, for sure. My parents are still doing all right, but I expect things will change in the next decade or so.

  11. I'm sorry to hear about your mom and grandmother, but I'm glad you found time to be with your dad...even if it was rough weather out there.

    You came away with some nice pics!

  12. I wouldn't mind a map sometime of all these locations :)

    Sorry to hear you're going through some rough stuff. I guess it never gets easier in some ways, huh?

  13. Wow Sage this is a post to be read and reread. It's wonderful and I too felt as if I were there with you

    I think there's something about North Carolina that is totally inspirational :) Maybe I should have picked it instead of SC

  14. Mother Hen: not the second time around!

    Ing: at the time I didn't think of it as an accomplishment! I'm sorry for the troubles your housemate and her mother faces. I'm sure you're a good friend to her in this difficult time.

    Scarlet: thanks and glad you enjoyed the photos.

    TC: Check out this site for a map:

    Pia: Thanks. And I'm sorry you went and picked the lesser of the Carolinas without consulting me first. :)

  15. I'm happy for you that you were able to spend time with your dad . . .