North Carolina Challenge     Registration     SPOT Setup

Circle Cedar Island and Beaufort in Sea Kayaks, Canoes, and Small Boats

The next North Carolina Challenge is Friday, Sept. 28, 2012.
There is an equipment inspection on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012.
Cost is $170 for the captain and $170 for a crew member if any.

Billing starts July 1.
Registration ends August 31 at noon.
Payment deadline is August 31 at noon.

WT Event Charity Links

Completion of a North Carolina Challenge within the last Ultimate Florida cycle satsifies the entrance requirement for the Ultimate Florida Challenge. For example, completing NCC2010 or NCC2011 allows entrance into UF2012.

Due to the exteme commitment for this challenge late registration and/or late payments will not be allowed. We recommend that you commit to this race early so you have plenty of time for planning, training, and preparation. Pay early in the payment cycle. You can get a full refund up until August 31 at noon. No refunds after that date and time.

All WaterTribe events are dangerous events as defined by North Carolina law and common sense. You are responsible for your own safety. You must read and understand The Rules and Warning before you register for this event.

The NCC distance is roughly 100 nautical miles depending on your course selection. This challenge is a circular race in a counter-clockwise direction with start and finish at the same location on Cedar Island at WP1 including a midway checkpoint WP3 on the waterfront of historic Beaufort. There is an overall maximum time limit of approximately 2½ days.

The NCUM distance is 50 nautical miles, and follows the NCC route ending at the NCC midway checkpoint WP3 on the waterfront of historic Beaufort. There is an overall maximum time limit of approximately 1½ days.

Waypoint Race Location Lat/Lon
Start NCC & NCUM Start/Finish NCC
Start NCUM
N35 01.053
W76 18.697
WP2 NCC & NCUM Clubfoot Creek N34 55.007
W76 45.438
CP1 NCC & NCUM Beaufort CP1 NCC
Finish NCUM
N34 42.904
W76 39.754

Note: The table includes waypoints for both the North Carolina Challenge (NCC) and the North Carolina Ultra Marathon (NCUM).

The only route requirements are that the race be run counter-clockwise, through the Harlow Canal, with a stop at the checkpoint on Taylor’s Creek in Beaufort (which is the finish for the NCUM). All other navigational decisions are up to each challenger. The course will have participants experiencing parts of North Carolina’s Neuse River, Newport River, Taylor’s Creek, Back Sound, Core Sound, Pamlico Sound and many of the Bays in “down eastern” North Carolina.

The NCC and NCUM are run as an unsupported, expedition-style adventure races for kayaks, canoes and small boats. Your safety and well being are completely up to you. You should be an expert kayaker and/or sailor before you consider this challenge. Although this event is not an ocean race, the location is coastal, subject to the same weather patterns and conditions one finds beyond the narrow barrier islands and impacting the shallow sounds.

Unsupported means that there are no safety boats or support crews to help you during the race. You are not allowed to have a support crew follow you or meet you during the race. It is okay to have family or friends meet you at the official checkpoint, but they cannot provide anything other than emotional support. See the official WaterTribe Rules for more details.

Expedition-style means that you should carry the same type of equipment and supplies that you would carry on a major expedition. Camping equipment, food, water, safety, communication means, etc. is required. Please read the WaterTribe Challenge Equipment List (in the Rules PDF), which details required equipment for a Challenge. However, due to the sprint nature of the ultra marathon, participants in the NCUM are not required to carry a full complement of camping equipment and are allowed to carry a lighter load than participants in the NCC if they choose to. For either event, please choose your equipment needs carefully. Everyone must also carry all safety equipment as specified by the Coast Guard, local regulations and common sense.

In addition, all boats in this challenge are also required to carry a SPOT device with the tracking feature. Please read the instructions for Spot Setup and Usage for WaterTribe events. There will be a discounted rental plan available for all participants who do not own or wish to buy a SPOT, details will be posted on the WaterTribe forum during the registration period.

Although this is a race, many participants are more interested in cruising and adventure. Whether you are a cruiser or racer is up to you; time allows for both. Just getting to the starting line is a major accomplishment, and many starters will not finish. 2009 NCC finishers made up only 53% of the starters.

A banquet lunch and award ceremony will take place for both events on Sunday afternoon at the Driftwood’s Pirate Chest Restaurant for both events.


Camping at Driftwood Campground at Cedar Island (no reservations: first come, first served), or reserve a room at The Driftwood Motel:

This event is planned to be family and friends friendly. We will have many suggestions of activities for your guests during the Challenges. Friends and family are invited to the banquet (for a small lunch fee); please indicate any additional numbers on your registration form.


TOPSPOT Chart N 239 Pamlico Sound to Morehead City Inshore.


Weather and sea conditions including current and historical data can be found at


Note that the Ultra Marathon runs concurrently with the Challenge. The following schedule mentions both races.

Gear Inspection - Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012 Is Mandatory.
Race - Friday, Sept. 28, 2012 to Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012.

Locations Deadlines Notes
Cedar Island
North Carolina

Driftwood Hotel Beach
Start Beach
Registration & Paper Work
Thursday 10:00-15:00

Gear & Boat Inspection
Thursday 10:00-15:00

Newcomers Meeting
Thursday 15:00-16:00

Captains Meeting
Thursday 16:00-17:00
Attendance Is Mandatory
Start: Cedar Island
North Carolina

Driftwood Hotel Beach
Start/Finish Beach
Friday 05:30-07:00

Roll Call
Friday 07:00-07:15

Friday 07:30
Exact launch time depends on the ferry being out of the way.
CP1 Beaufort, NC
Challenger Deadline
Saturday Noon
North Carolina Ultra Marathon Finish
Finish: Cedar Island
North Carolina

Driftwood Hotel Beach
Start/Finish Beach
Award Breakfast Buffet
Sunday 10:00 to Noon

Sunday 09:00 AM
North Carolina Challenge Finish

Driftwood Motel Beach, Cedar Island, North Carolina

Both the NC Challenge (NCC) and NC Ultra Marathon (NCUM) start on the beach at Cedar Island to the east of the ferry dockage WP1 on the grounds of the Driftwood Campground and Motel. Boats should be assembled, packed, and left on the beach above the high water mark Thursday night. A guard will be posted. There will be plenty of parking at the campground to leave cars and trailers during the challenges. NCUM challengers may want to leave their cars and trailers parked at the public boat ramp on Taylor Creek in Beaufort.

Thursday night there will be a captain and crew meeting which is mandatory. Your boat may be inspected for final class determination. If you can't make it to the normal equipment inspection on Thursday, you should arrange another time.

The beach start and finish to the right of the Public Wildlife boat ramp is tidal, and shallow (see photo above). Larger boats can launch at the boat ramp into a small jettied inlet before heading out to the right and landing on the start beach just around a breakwater point. Kayaks and canoes can be easily hand carried to the beach from the temporary parking area at the boat ramp. Boats may be left above the high tide line on Thursday night for the Friday morning start.

NOTE: If you arrive late, you may still participate. Race officials will be at the starting line for at least one hour after the official start. As long as you complete gear inspection and check in with a race official before you launch you can still enter. Your time however, will not be adjusted for a late start.

The route starts following the coast around Cedar Island in Pamlico Sound, to the North and West into the Neuse River. Piney Island is a military training facility and target range (though bombing simulations are now recorded and scored electronically via computers to lessen the environmental impact). There are restricted areas marked on the chart on both the outside and inside of Piney Island.

Cedar Island is also home to the Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge, providing habitat and protection for endangered species such as American alligators and brown pelicans, and provides habitat and protection for migratory waterfowl and other waterbirds. Though not marked on the charts, these areas are well marked with signs prohibiting landings and camping.

The Neuse River, named in 1584 for the Neusiok Indians, flows about 275 miles and lies entirely inside the state of North Carolina emptying in Pamlico Sound at Cedar Island and into the Atlantic Ocean. On the NCC route, the Neuse is a wide river (~5 miles) with miles of sandy beaches and with little noticeable tidal effect, though its large fetch is much affected by winds. A strong easterly or northerly wind will raise the level, while a sustained westerly breeze, say 25 knots, can lower this level by as much as 2 feet.

Historically, the river's ties to human history are long. Many artifacts traced to ancient Native American settlement have been found along its banks. And in 1865, one of the first ironclad warships built by the Confederate Navy, the "Ram Neuse", was burnt and sunk to the river bottom by occupying Union Soldiers. Later discovered during historically low water, and raised in 1963, the hull remains reside beside the river at a Memorial in Kinston.

The Harlowe canal, the required route on the NCC is entered thru Clubfoot Creek WP2 off the Neuse River, and is the old original Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), located west of the current ICW, connecting the Neuse River with the Morehead City and Beaufort waterfronts. Known locally as the Slave Canal because it was deepened to five or six feet by slave labor, the Harlowe is one of the oldest canals in the United Sates, originally created untold centuries ago by Indians who dragged their canoes across the lowlands to the Neuse.

The canal is narrow but deep enough (but take care with the shallow twists and turns entering and exiting the canal), with three bridges that will require the sailboats to step their masts. Beautiful and tree-lined, the Western side of the canal is part of the Croatan National Forest. There is some tidal influence on the southern side and from wind effects on the Neuse.

Beaufort, North Carolina

Roughly 50 miles from the start you will need to check-in at WP3 which is located on Taylor Creek in the center of the historic Beaufort waterfront. This checkpoint is both the mid-way point for the NCC and the FINISH for the NCUM.

Upon leaving the Harlow Canal into the Newport River towards Beaufort, you will be entering an area of very busy boat traffic and possibly strong tidal currents. Morehead City and Beaufort are sound side seaports situated on opposite banks of the Newport River. Both are very busy commercial, recreational and fishing ports.

Beaufort, pronounced ''Bo-furt'' by locals, is the third oldest town in the state with a rich maritime history. This quaint town was originally established in 1709 for its close proximity to the excellent deep-water inlet now called Beaufort Inlet. Throughout history, Beaufort has always been an important seaport for whalers, fisherman, merchants and even pirates. In fact, the notorious pirate Blackbeard and his crew spent quite a bit of time in Beaufort, and their legacy still remains in the form of the many legends and ghost stories that are still told.

In 1997, Beaufort was highlighted in national and international news as the wreckage of what is presumed to be Blackbeard's flagship, Queen Anne's Revenge, was discovered in 20 feet of water, two miles from Beaufort Inlet. Artifact recovery operations were immediately able to identify—and in some cases retrieve—many pieces, including the ship's bronze bell, cannons and deck guns. Some of these artifacts are already touring the country or are on exhibit in Beaufort at the NC Maritime Museum.

You’ll need to go under a car bridge exiting the Newport River and entering Beaufort. The NCC checkpoint (just a few hundred yards down the street from the NC Maritime Museum) is located on the historic waterfront of Beaufort’s Taylors Creek at Paul Graden Park, WP3. The park contains a small public canoe and kayak beach landing and a small public dock for the larger boats. Sailboats coming into the dock must come in on the starboard side as entering. There are no public facilities at the park, however there are water spigots and hoses all around the nearby docks (walk to your left up Front St), and a public restroom a few hundred yards left up Front St (at the end of the marina), not to mention some nice (yet expensive) seafood restaurants and tourist shops, if you’ve got the time :)

Physical Check-In Station

An ORANGE LOCKBOX will be located in the gazebo. In the ORANGE LOCKBOX you will find a logbook for each challenge. You must sign the logbook and fill out each section adjacent to your name in the.

NCUM Finishers

Once checked in, kayaks and canoes can be packed up at the beach landing. Sailboats will need to continue up Taylor Creek another 1.8 miles to the public boat ramps on the left at waypoint N34 42.575 W76 37.928. For those NCUM finishers who have not arranged for family or friends to meet you at the finish, the race manager will try and provide shuttling back to the Driftwood.

The awards ceremony and banquet will be held on Sunday at noon, shared with the NCC finishers—more details will be provided at the Captains meeting. Every finisher is a winner in the Tribe, and the banquet will celebrate this, with a great gathering of challengers’ stories.

NCC Challengers

You have now past the half way mark. Racers will likely continue non-stop. If you are a cruiser, and have not already camped, there is no camping permitted at the checkpoint location, or across the Creek within the Rachael Carson preserve.

Opposite the checkpoint across from Taylor’s Creek, the string of small islands (pictured below)—Carrot Island, Town Marsh, Bird Shoal and Horse Island—more than three miles long and less than a mile wide—include the Rachel Carson Reserve, part of the North Carolina Coastal Reserve & National Estuarine Research Reserve. Accessible by boat only, visitors are allowed and there are even walking trails. But, NO CAMPING is allowed and this is strictly enforced. As you pass by these islands, you are likely to see the small herd of feral horses which roam the island, and many of the 200 bird species which have been recorded there.

Driftwood Motel Beach, Cedar Island, North Carolina

Leaving Taylor’s Creek you’ll enter Back Sound toward Harkers Island. Harkers was occupied originally by Native Americans of the Coree tribe when the first European explorers arrived in the sixteenth century. The nearby Core Sound and Core Banks are named after the Coree. The island was eventually owned by Ebenezer Harker, who built a plantation and boat yard. It remained relatively uninhabited, until a large immigration of Outer Banks islanders fleeing major hurricanes in 1896 and again in 1899 dramatically increased the island population, which was largely dependent on fishing and boat building.

Over the years, economic changes in the general area and then the creation of the National Seashore in 1966 marked the end of a lifestyle practiced by many Harkers Island residents. Fishing and boat building remain important components of the community's economy, but is now more and more augmented with tourism.

Off your route to the South, you should get a nice view of Cape Lookout Lighthouse (below), painted with distinctive large checkers that appear as alternating black and white diamonds. Following the traditional day-mark aids to navigation, the black checkers are orientated north and south toward the shallow waters of the shoals and around the headlands, while the white checkers are orientated east and west facing the deeper waters of Raleigh’s Bay to the east and Onslow Bay to the west.

It is up to race participants to choose their route to Core Sound; this might allow some race strategy depending on wind directions and/or weather conditions. Back Sound on the north or inside of Harkers is a wide but shallow sound; the larger sailboats will need to take care of the shoals and shallows where Back Sound meets Core Sound. Paralleling Back Sound north of Harkers Island and Middle Marshes, the Straits offers a deep yet narrow passage between the western end of Back Sound to Core Sound.

Once you are east of Harkers, you will be in Core Sound, and with about 30 miles to the finish. Core Sound is a large (2-3 miles wide), long, and shallow body of water running north easterly on your route. Core Sound is tidal, as are all the waterways on this route after leaving the Neuse River. The sound is nearly filled with shoal banks, but with a deep channel (7-9ft) winding continuously. With its long fetch and shallow waters, the Sound really kicks up in high winds. There are many bays along the route that will afford protection if needed.

If you go off channel, beware of the stakes set for the pound nets throughout the Sound. These nets used in summer and fall (but the poles remain in situ year round) are used primarily for catching flounder. The nets are strung from a maze of poles that can be a navigational hazard for boaters who aren’t aware of them. The poles are not marked with any reflectors and may be difficult to see at night.

Core Sound is a region rich in folk life. Its traditions of boat-building, decoy-carving and working on the water make it one of the most distinctive cultural enclaves in North Carolina. Almost a trip through time, the area encompasses vast plains of coastal marsh, punctuated by small fishing villages along the inland side of Core Sound.

Across the Sound to starboard are sandy banks of marsh and the occasional spots of remaining maritime forest. This is the Cape Lookout National Seashore, now a federally maintained nature preserve and popular recreational area of uninhabited beaches made up of narrow barrier islands. But at one time, these islands were the site of maritime towns that were for centuries vital pulse points in the history and economy of North Carolina.

As you get to Cedar Island, you again have to decide on your route to the finish beach at WP1. Cutting though Cedar Island Bay will certainly be the shortest route, but possibly a challenge getting through to Pamlico Sound and to the beach. Once you’re into the Bay, there are no marked navigable routes through the many small islands surrounding the Bay, and the water is shallow with oyster banks. Alternatively one can choose to go around and follow the marked channels; that route will add some distance. Decisions may be based on weather and time, and the nature of your craft. Make sure to give yourself enough time to figure out your way through to the beach.

Physical Check-In Station

An ORANGE LOCKBOX will be located between the beach and the boat ramp. In the ORANGE LOCKBOX is the logbook for the NCC; you must sign the logbook with your finish time in the section adjacent to your name.


The awards ceremony and banquet will be held on Sunday — more details will be provided at the Captains meeting. Every finisher is a winner in the Tribe, and the banquet will celebrate this, with a great gathering of challengers’ stories.