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So far Cape Lookout has been one of my favorite anchorages. Although exposed to the wind, the lagoon-like anchorage was large and well protected from the ocean swell. It felt as though we were perched on the edge of the world. To our back, a thin strip of dune protected us from breaking waves and the mighty sea; to our right stretched a wider strip of land with a few houses, an old lighthouse, and a beautiful secluded beach; wild horses grazed on the shores of Shackleford Banks to our left. Aside from a few fishing boats and a tour boat visiting the lighthouse, Illusion rocked in seclusion, the only boat in the beautiful anchorage.
The wind picked up over the course of the day and into the night. In the afternoon, we opted to explore the lighthouse and seashore (Cape Lookout is a National Park). Our dingy bounced and kicked up a good spray as we navigated the shallower waters along Shackleford Banks. Several wild horses grazed on the ridge above the quiet beach, but being unsure of sandbars, we turned back, taking another route to reach the lighthouse dock. The water glittered green in the shallows as we pulled up to the dock. The sandy beach ran up to a grassy pine forest with a raised wooden walk pointing the way to the lighthouse visitor center (closed in the winter).
The afternoon light turned sea grass to gold and formed halos above back-lit pines. Beyond the lighthouse, another wooden path lead us across a grassy field to a sandy road of criss-crossed tire tracks before traversing the dunes, a gateway to the beach. Gulls dove into the frothy surf before us and waves broke against the shore with vigor. A few carloads of fishermen had settled at the tip of the cape. We saw their silhouettes in the distance and watched a camper van speed along the road behind the dunes. Apparently there are also a handful of small beach cottages for rental through the park.
After a night of cold howling winds, Brian pulled up Illusion‘s anchor and we headed out to sea. Dolphins launched out of the water as pelicans swarmed the waters of the cape, horses grazed the Banks, and we rounded the marker of the inlet. Meanwhile the sun rose behind the lighthouse, and we headed back to Beaufort Inlet. We will definitely be back to visit this beautiful place.
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