Coastal Orienteering Weekend, March 09 & 10, 2024

Filed under: Latest News by David Waller on February 19th, 2024

Expert orienteers (i.e., those who have successfully completed a brown, green, red, or blue course) are welcome to register for our annual coastal orienteering experience on Saturday and Sunday, March 09 and 10.  This year we will again be on the West side of Shackleford Banks for a long-distance “goat” event on Saturday (see below for description).  On Sunday, we will offer two classic courses on Bear Island — a brand new venue for us.    This is a small event, limited to 40 participants; so be sure to register soon.  Before registering, please read below for important details.


Saturday, 09 March (all times EST)

10:00: Ferry for competitors leaves Beaufort to Shackleford

11:00 (appx.): Mass start for goat races

11:30:  Second ferry leaves Beaufort to Shackleford (possible option for non-orienteering relatives)

1:30:  Courses close, begin control pickup

3:30:  Last ferry leaves Shackleford to Beaufort

Sunday, 10 March (all times EDT)

10:00:  Chartered ferry leaves from Hammocks Beach State Park to Bear Island. 

10:30 (appx.) Courses open on Bear Island

11:00:  Second ferry leaves from Hammocks Beach to Bear Island

1:30:  Courses close.  Control pickup begins.  First ferry leaves from Bear Island

3:30:  Last ferry leaves Bear Island.    

Ferry Service:

You will need to travel to both events by ferry (although theoretically you could paddle out to Bear Island).  Saturday morning’s ferry will be handled by Island Express, and participants will need to pay this company themselves, preferably online, before the event.  Sunday’s ferry will be handled by Lady Swan Tours and its fee will be part of your registration. 

Saturday:  The ferry will leave from 600 Front St. in downtown Beaufort (not Harkers Island) at 10:00 AM.  Typically there is plentiful free street parking near the ferry terminal. Because Saturday’s race has a mass start, all competitors will need to be on this ferry.  Note that there is another ferry to the island at 11:30, and family members, visitors, or people who just want to help with control pickup may prefer this trip.  Registrants are responsible for purchasing their own tickets for Saturday’s ferry.  If you forget to pre-purchase your tickets online, there is a non-zero probability that you can purchase them on the day of the event.  Information about the ferry service as well as a link to purchase tickets is here

Sunday:  The ferry will leave from Hammocks Beach State park at 10:00 AM.   Park in Hammocks Beach’s parking lot, and meet the group near the entrance to the visitor’s center.  Note that daylight savings will have just kicked-in, so this will feel like 9:00 AM.  If we have enough registrants, a second ferry will depart from Hammocks Beach at 11:00.  Cost for the round trip ferry to Bear Island will be $25, and you will pay for it as part of your registration. 

General conditions:

There is no drinking water, electricity, or trash containers on either island, and there is virtually no shelter from the elements, especially on Shackleford.  There is a primitive bathroom near the Saturday start; however, it may be closed for the season.  Please come prepared for these conditions. 

The insects on Bear Island are legendarily horrific.  If mosquitos are out and you do not have protection, it is not an exaggeration to say that they will force you off of your course and into the ocean.  Participants are strongly advised to bring a strong long-lasting insect repellent on the chance that insects are out in early March.

We will not be able to hold this event if the ferry suspends service because of inclement weather (typically high winds). If weather looks like it will affect the event, we will contact registrants via email with further information. 


This year, we are offering a long sleeve performance t-shirt for all participants, as well as for participants of previous coastal orienteering weekends.  Here is the design:

Shirts will be available (for $15) for those who register before 5:00 PM on Sunday, 03 March.  Note that this is a firm deadline that we need to enforce strictly in order to place our t-shirt order with the printer.  T-shirts will by Port & Company and printed by AHPeele in Raleigh.  Sizes: Adult unisex sizes S-4XL.  Size chart.  If you have participated in our coastal events in the past but cannot make it this year, and you would like a shirt, select ‘No course’ when you register.  If you will need the shirt mailed to you, select that option and you will be charged an additional $5.


Maps for the goat and the Sunday long course will be printed at 1:10,000 scale.  Maps for the pygmy goat and the Sunday short course will be printed at 1:7500.  Contour interval for both maps is 2.5m.   Please bring your own map cases.  The area will not have been exhaustively field-checked; however, vegetation and contours will be depicted quite accurately.  Contour lines near the south (ocean) coast may be untrustworthy because of beach erosion.  Conversely, flat beaches on the north of the island may be larger than mapped.  Note also that the depicted water line can be off by many meters, depending on the tide level.

Saturday’s race will be a ‘goat’ race, no more than 10 km, with a shorter ‘pygmy’ goat option that is no more than 5 km.  A ‘goat’ race is a long and sometimes grueling orienteering course with several unusual rules that make the event especially fun:

Mass start.  A goat race is a mass-start event.  Both the regular and pygmy goat will start together.

Following.  Following other competitors is explicitly permitted.  

Skipped controls. Each competitor is allowed to skip at least one control.  Rules about which controls can be skipped will be given at the briefing session before the race. Note that skipping a control will make your course somewhat shorter than the advertised distance for the entire course.

Forked controls. There may be one or more sets of forked controls on both the long and the short versions of this race.  A forked control is one in which a competitor can choose which of two routes to take.  As an example, let’s say that you get to control #6 and there is a fork going to two different #7 controls.  On your map, lines to both #7’s would be shown, and the controls would be labeled ‘7A’ and ‘7B’.  You would be able to decide which #7 you wanted to do — you should not go to both.  

Sunday’s courses should feel somewhere between a middle and a classic.  The short course is (tentatively) 3.6 km, and the long course is (tentatively) 6.4 km.

On each day, we absolutely must have all equipment picked up and ready to go by 3:30, when the last ferry heads back.  Therefore, control pickup may start as early as 1:00, but definitely by 1:30. 

Virtual Street-O.

A virtual street course will be available all weekend in the town of Beaufort.  I will email a map to all participants a few days before the weekend.  A ‘virtual’ orienteering course implies that there will not be physical control markers to find or punch.  Instead, you will carry a smartphone on which is installed an orienteering app called ‘Usynligo’.  When the app is running, it will beep when you are close enough to one of the controls on your map.  Your map will still be a traditional paper map.  Click here to learn more about Usynligo. 

An email with last-minute details will be sent to registrants a few days before the events.  If you need additional information to enable you to decide how/whether to register, feel free to email the event director (Dave) at

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