Cape Lookout, Crystal Coast

One of the most chilling sea tales you will ever hear had its origins at Cape Lookout. Unlike many other coastal legends, this story is quite true. There are still Beaufort natives who will tell you that their grandparents saw what happened that terrible night in January of 1886.

It seems that a fine three-masted schooner, the Crissie Wright, was making her way north along the North Carolina coast when bad weather threatened. The captain decided not to brave the Diamond Shoals in the deteriorating conditions, so he set course for Cape Lookout Bight. As the ship approached the harbor, the main mast brace parted. The stricken vessel drifted helplessly onto the shoals, where it lay broadside and was broached by every incoming wave.

The breakers were much too high to launch any lifeboats, so the captain and crew took to the rigging. Meanwhile, most of the residents of nearby Diamond City gathered on the banks to watch the ship's plight. The whalers tried repeatedly to launch their small boats, but to no avail. The would-be rescuers built a huge bonfire on the beach, hoping some of the crew could swim to shore. It was not to be. As the horrified residents watched, the captain and several crew members were swept overboard.

The night became bitterly cold. To this day, Beaufort natives still use the expression "cold as the night the Crissie Wright came ashore." The next morning, the waves subsided, and the whalers were able to reach the stranded craft. They found four men wrapped in the jib sail. Three were frozen solid, but one, the ship's cook, was alive. He died a scant year later, never having recovered from his ordeal.

Published here by kind permission of Claiborne S. Young's Cruising Guide


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