Monday, 21 May 2012

Day 20: Ocracoke & getting drenched (updated)

We woke to 25 km winds that made making coffee on a camp stove a slow process but dried things out fast enough. We went to take showers and learned that there was no hot water. Our showers were VERY short (and we wondered "who would do that a second time?"). We didn't have much planned for today, which was a good job as it was raining on and off all day. We walked a nature trail in Ocracoke village that led to the cove where Blackbeard the pirate hid a lot and was finally taken out by the British. They were trying to restore the oyster beds using genuine oyster shells as a breakwater.
Oyster beds 
What was in the bags
We wandered the quaint and very isolated town, with its buildings on stilts...
One of the stores 
A small Carolina Beach House
...and its lighthouse, unique in that it still has its fresnel lens from the 1800's intact and working.
The lighthouse 
The inside. You can't climb it 
The still intact lens
The harbour was small and quiet and full of pelicans.
There are "banker" ponies on the island, descendants of Spanish horses but left to run wild on the islands since the 1800's, though now the National Park keeps them in a 180 acre corral so they don't overpopulate.
Two of ~80
We also walked a nature trail that was pretty but fairly devoid of birds and other life, and came back to our campground after wandering the beach looking for shells. It reminded me a lot of the endless sands of the beaches near IJmuiden.
The view south
Yours truly, shell hunting
We got back to the campground around 5 PM. I should mention that they couldn't have designed a worse campground, or picked a worse place for it. On the flat, ill drained, no windbreaks, when they just as easily could have carved a nice place out through the forest on the other side of the road.
The barren campground
The wind had picked up a lot and was now blowing some 35 mph or ~60 km/hr. I brought 3 kites with me to fly on the shore but the wind was just too strong to fly them. So we expected to spend some time sipping beer and setting up the rain shelter, as it looked like rain was coming. As we got to our campsite, we found many new people had arrived, including a scout troop (it being Friday night and all). We also discovered we had a new neighbour, John, who was struggling mightily to set his extra large tent up in the howling wind, as were the scouts. We watched for a moment or two as one of the scout tents turned into a kite and flew across the dunes before being captured. And we took pity on John and decided to offer assistance.

John, it turned out, was breaking about 5 basic rules of tenting, the most important of which is "learn to set up your tent before you come camping". The three of us struggled to undo what John had already done, then figure out how the tent was supposed to go up, then start again. One person's sole duty was to hold the tent from blowing away despite containing John's cooler, 2 cases of beer, a 24 pack of bottled water and a whole lot of other stuff as ballast.

Then the rain started. In earnest.

So now we had howling wind, driving rain, and a huge 12'x12' tent wanting to be a sail. All sorts of things went wrong. Pegs wouldn't stay in the sandy ground and flew out. The silly clip system the tent used to connect the fly got sand in it and got jammed, but only AFTER one of the clips was put in wrong. The closer we got to getting the tent up, the more soaked we got, and the more it became clear that there was no way this tent was going to stay upright in the wind. So John finally decided to give up, go to town and get a motel. KC and I were soaked to the skin despite our raincoats and looked like drowned rats.

Now fairly late, we turned to our campsite. We went to add some warm layers to our soaking wet clothes and the first thing we learned was that we had left the tent's back window open so there was some water in the tent. Oops. We fixed that, then turned to trying to set up our rain shelter. First we moved the car to try to break the wind -- and the Ranger came by to tell us not to do that. We got the shelter up but the wind's pressure kept collapsing the support poles.  We moved the car and tried again. No luck. So we gave up, and moved the picnic table behind the car. We cooked while sitting in the car (where it was dry), and ate while sitting behind it. At least it blocked most of the rain. Cooking was a long slow process as my portable BBQ was heavily wind affected and kept going out.

We didn't want to try and do dishes as they would have blown away. So we sat in comfort in the back of the car sipping wine, watching lightning and listening to the flapping and fluttering of the tents around us. And who should show up again but...

John. Being Friday, all the hotels in town were full. So he came back to sleep in his car. He cooked up his bratwurst and steak and ate hiding out of the wind and rain (which had mostly quit by then) at our picnic table.

Our tent was fine (if a bit noisy) all night. No leaks at all after we closed the window.

No comments: