We even like to go visit Beaufort during the winter. Walking down the boardwalk along the docks is always a pleasure. The only time I ever got cold in Beaufort was watching a December Flotilla at night.
I have been very hot in Beaufort a couple of times. There is almost always a breeze blowing in Beaufort except there are some August days when the wind cannot seem to find the streets of Beaufort.
So if there is a month that I would skip going to Beaufort, it would be August. Unfortunately, this August not only did I get to visit Beaufort, I ended up there three days in a row.
It is just now four years since we made the move to the Southern Outer Banks, and I guess my residency has caught up with me. I got called for jury duty.
Not only did I get called for jury duty, I got selected to be on the jury, and eventually ended up being the foreman.
I actually do not mind doing my civic duty, but doing jury duty in Beaufort comes with a few special challenges. The first is that there are no reserved parking spots for jurors. That means even if you come forty-five minutes early, you will end with a pretty good hike to the courthouse.
I ended up parking down Broad Street beyond Beaufort Ice Company. In the four years living here, I have managed to acclimate myself to the summer temperatures. However, staying cool in eastern North Carolina in August requires wearing shorts and tee shirts.
Being called for jury duty seemed to suggest that perhaps I should dress in what we used to call “business casual.” So I put on long tan pants and a short sleeved collared shirt. When I got to Superior Court which happens to be on the second floor of the old Courthouse, I found that most people were dressed similarly.
Only one gentleman was dressed in a suit and tie, and he managed to go home and change before the end of the day.
How I was so lucky to be picked as a juror out of the seventy people in the room, I will never know, but at least I am excused for the next two years.
Our second day there was Wednesday. We ended up having a lunch break, and I managed to make my way down to Beaufort Grocery. I had a nice roast beef sandwich for lunch and got back to the Courthouse in plenty of time to go for a longer walk.
I strolled down a few streets in Beaufort and eventually made my way back to the live oaks around the Courthouse. It was then that I figured out that I had gotten pretty hot in a nearly windless Beaufort with a strong sun beating down on the streets.
It was not hot like I have been in Washington, DC walking through the tunnel to the Pentagon in a wool suit at the height of summer, but I was warm nonetheless.
Before we left on Wednesday the bailiff warned us that there were 375 cases on the docket the next day which would make parking even more of a challenge.
I managed to get to the Courthouse at 8:45 AM for our 9:30 AM case. I still ended up parking down beyond the ice company. However, I did not mind the walk because I had decided that shorts were appropriate for jury duty. I figured the least I could do to render a fair verdict was to keep myself comfortable.
Since there was a lot of time before the trial I wandered down to the Old Burying Grounds and took some pictures for a friend who loves old cemeteries. I posted the Old Burying Ground pictures on my Picasa Web Albums site. I had hoped to wander around inside the Burying Grounds, but for some unknown reason the gates were still locked at 9 AM even though the sign indicated that they opened at 8 AM.
There are always some new shops in Beaufort, but I did not get a chance to investigate the couple that I noticed. We got sent to the jury room just before noon on Thursday. Before we could sit down, one fellow announced that he had made up his mind, and there was nothing we could say to change it. His statement immediately hardened everyone’s position. We ended up a hung jury and went home before lunch.
I did make enough trips to Beaufort this week to come up with a couple of interesting facts. One is that it consistently takes 35 minutes to get to Beaufort from our home in Bluewater Cove near Cape Carteret and the White Oak River.
The first twenty minutes of the trip gets you to the intersection of Highways 24 & 70. That part of the trip is around 18 miles. Most of the shopping we do is in that general area. That’s right where the Harris Teeter grocery store is located, and we come there for a few things we cannot find at Lowe’s or Food Lion near Cape Carteret.
From that intersection it is less than eight miles to Beaufort, but that part of the journey takes 15 minutes one way or the other. I tried both Arendell and Bridges St. The time to get to Beaufort was so close I could not make a call.
I am looking forward to getting back to Beaufort when I don’t have to worry about jury duty. I think if I am ever called to serve again, I might come by boat and solve the parking problem.
However, I am a hard core summer person, so you can be sure I have already created a few indelible memories that can keep me warm through the winter.
Even more important is that there is still plenty of time left to have some fun and create some more of those memories that last well beyond the winter.
I can still remember the boating trip from last summer when my youngest daughter finally fell in love with the Crystal Coast. An even older memory is our trip to Cape Lookout five years ago.
Once you start the process of digging up memories, they tend to flow freely. The Cape Lookout trip reminded me of a wonderful fishing trip to Beaufort in the fall of 2005. Making memories that last is easy in a place like the Crystal Coast.
With so many wonderful things to do here at the beach, it is sometimes hard to choose. A good rule of thumb is that if you have never tired something before, you will likely remember your first attempt much more vividly than you will remember doing what you have always done.
A few weeks ago I took some friends out in our boat. It was a holiday weekend so I thought that we would just go for a short ride on the White Oak River. When I figured out that my friends had never been up the river beyond Stella, I decided that they needed to see the river above the point where all the homes disappear. We made it up the river ten miles beyond Stella. By the time we came back down the river and took a run down to the Intracoastal and then home to Bluewater Cove, we had gone about thirty-eight miles. From the comments from my friends, I suspect they will remember that ride for a long time.
Of course we have made lots of special memories with our granddaughter who will turn two next weekend. She had her first birthday party here on the coast last summer. Then there was the time we took her to the beach for the first time. I can still see her standing in the waves with her grandmother holding one hand and her aunt holding her other. We will be creating a whole new set of memories when we host her second birthday party next weekend.
Some memories are priceless like the time one of our daughter's visiting dogs got a little too close to a fiddler crab. The dog weighs nearly one hundred pounds. The crab latched onto the dog's lip. That caused the dog to run towards my daughter who could only see this creature of the deep dangling from her dog's lip. Our daughter started screaming and running from her dog. The faster she ran, the harder her dog tried to catch her. Fortunately her older sister tackled the dog and removed the crab. By the time the crab was removed, we were all doubled over with laughter.
There is plenty of room on the beach to write your own memories in the sand. You can create a memory in an afternoon. Your memories can be anything from a group kayak trip to a leisurely ride over to Hammocks Beach on the state's pontoon boat. Even a family outing to play miniature golf or walk the docks in Beaufort can turn into a memory makes you smile each time it slides into your consciousness.
The important thing is to seize the opportunity to make some wonderful summer memories while there is still time left. The summer of 2010 will only roll around once for us, and even now there are just a few weeks left before it will be time to create some of those fall fishing memories for this year.
Now that I am thinking about fishing, my mind is pulling up my first fishing trip on the Point with my Uncle Austin. I think it was the summer of 1968 or 1969. We did not catch much beyond a horseshoe crab and one bluefish, but I am pretty sure that was the trip that sealed my fate and eventually made a Crystal Coast resident out of me.
Both the memory and the reality are pretty nice on that one.
I have been lucky to have traveled to many scenic spots around the globe.
From Alaska to New Zealand to Switzerland and Germany's Bavaria, I have enjoyed many postcard perfect scenes.
Beyond that I lived on the shore in Nova Scotia and more recently on the side of a mountain in Virginia.
From our Nova Scotia home I used to watch the sun set over the Bay of Fundy. From our Virginia home, I could roll out of bed and capture the sun as it climbed above the mountains surrounding downtown Roanoke.
All of those places have left me with wonderful memories, vivid images, and thousands of pictures. As wonderful as all those places are, my mind ends up being a blank slate when I get out on the water here along North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks.
It is nearly impossible to describe the beauty of this area in words. Only photography offers the chance to share some of the beauty with people who are unable to actually make a boat trip.
I often talk about the wonders of living along the water. Here along the Crystal Coast a water view is highly prized. Yet as wonderful as it to live by the water, the appreciation of the water and the beauty of the surrounding land deepens greatly when you are actually out on the water.
Something truly special happens when you make a turn, and you see nothing but sky, water, and amazing marshes filling the horizon. It is almost like the scenery just washes over my mind's eye and clears out any old images.
Understanding that you can be swallowed up by the beautiful scenery around you explains one of the great mysteries of being out on the water. Often we go out and find a spot to fish and enjoy the beauty around us only to discover that time has little relevance for us. What we thought was an hour, possibly was actually three or four hours.
If we are lucky enough to have escaped any cell phone calls, then it is very easy to suffer time dis-orientation. We have no idea what time is, and sometimes we end up forgetting even when we left. Fortunately hunger usually shakes us back to reality, but it is truly amazing how our area's scenic beauty can lull you almost into another dimension.
What is even more fun is that the images from the water stick with you. I can easily remember many wonderful water trips while I have a hard time recalling any of my road trips even though I have driven around the United States three times. It is almost like the best images from my water adventures are burned into my brain. I can flip through almost at will. Time hardly seems to dim them. I remember the water on a trip that I called Mackerel Morning almost as clearly as it was two weeks ago instead of over two years ago.
As good as the pictures might be, there are times when you can only appreciate the true beauty of the moment by being there. The wind on your face, the smells of ocean water, and the warmth of the sun all contribute to special moments. While our minds can record those feelings, it is the rare photograph that can do justice to one of those special moments.
Even this evening, I spent a long time deciding what picture could best capture a sampling of the beauty of this area. I came close to picking a special ocean wave or perhaps a view of Bogue Sound from the Emerald Isle Bridge, but in the end I went with this recent shot taken as we turned towards Bear Island from the Intracoastal Waterway.
It highlights the expansiveness that often captures our eyes and imagination. The clouds, the water, and the marshes are all part of the equation that ends up equaling scenic beauty that pulls many of us to choose the Crystal Coast as our permanent homes.
We are the really lucky ones. We wake up to the beauty of this area every day. It is literally on our doorsteps. I know that I am not the only resident who can lose himself by enjoying just a few hours on the water.
The good news is that many of those wonderful views that have so enchanted me are very accessible by boat. Some can even be seen while riding the pontoon ferry over to Hammocks Beach State Park. We live in area where kayaking and boating are a big part of life so it is not very hard to find a boat ride in Carteret County.
Now is a great time to visit, and there are some special deals for those people booking vacations now. If you too become smitten with the area and need more permanent accommodations, we have folks who can also find a cure for that.
Some join us and allow our waters to paint some new memories for you and your family.
With a short window on both Saturday and Sunday for people to pick up their keys, traffic can get backed up at the bridge.
The good news is that we rarely see other traffic problems after the weekend. Our peak traffic season only last a few weeks. As we get away from the Fourth of July, traffic decreases, but even later in the season, there are some challenges.
With that in mind, I have some simple suggestions that might make your visit more pleasurable. Some are gleaned from what our family used to do before we became permanent residents.
Others are based on applying the local knowledge which you develop as a resident. In the end just a little planning and some minor changes can make a huge difference in maximizing your beach time and having the most fun possible.
One of the easiest ways to reduce first day stress is to pack a cooler with enough food at least for the first evening meal and breakfast of the next day. In the Emerald Isle area there are four grocery stores. There are three more in Morehead City and another in Atlantic Beach. Even with that many stores, most grocery stores in the area get very crowded on Saturday and Sunday, both in afternoons and the evenings.
While our stores are generally very good at moving people through, if you have a huge cart full of stuff, you can expect to wait some length of time to check out if you shop on Saturday or Sunday later than the morning. If you make that same large shopping trip on Monday morning, you likely will breeze through the checkout. Bringing some food and basics with you can greatly smooth your entry into beach life.
You do not have to completely avoid the grocery stores on the weekend, you just have to pick your battle. I am actually a pro at going to the grocery stores on Saturday and Sunday during the visitor season. My first secret is to never get more than what will fit in one of those small hand baskets. Then the real key to getting in and out of the store quickly is to use the automated check out systems. Usually the attendant will use their affinity card if you are trying to save on the specials and do not have one of the cards. However, you do not need one of the cards to use the automated machines.
You can also save a trip to the grocery store by stopping at one of the local produce stands. Winberry's in Cedar Point is one of my favorites. A stop there, and then at one of the local fish markets is a good way to come up with ingredients for dinner without hitting the grocery store.
Almost no one comes to the beach without eating out a few times. The problem is that most people want to eat out at the same time. Hence the few restaurants over near the beaches can get crowded at the most popular times. There are two solutions to this challenge. One is to pick a time that is enough out of the ordinary to let you beat the crowds. The other is to try some of the very good restaurants over on the mainland or lesser known island ones.
Sometimes the choice when trying to dine out is an hour wait in line, or twelve to fifteen minutes in the car. I have been both at Jordan's in Emerald Isle and the Crab Shack in Salter Path when the waits were well over an hour. Both times we got in the car and drove to T&W's Oyster House up Highway 58. My humble opinion is that their fried seafood is as good or better than the two island based restaurants. It is also a very big restaurant, and it is unusual not to be seated almost immediately.
I offer up this list of restaurants as suggestions to making dining out a little easier. Many of them are on the mainland, some are less well known island restaurants. All are ones where I have enjoyed good food. Since I created that list, Nicky's has opened between the bridges in Swansboro. I have enjoyed some really nice seafood there. Even more exciting is that it did not come out of the deep fryer. However, just to prove that I am impartial when it comes to cooking seafood, their fried clam strip appetizer is also a favorite of mine.
Another suggestion for saving time and money is to use the automated free standing ice machines instead of making a trip to the grocery store. I am a big fan of getting my ice in the cooler without having a plastic bag which ends up in the landfill. The automated ice machines give me more ice, twenty pounds instead of sixteen, when I do not ask for the ice in a bag.
If your accommodations on the beach still require you to drive to get to the beach, you might find the Western Regional Access crowded at times. There are other places you can go to avoid the crowds. Most days there will be fewer people at the Eastern Regional Access about eight miles farther down the beach.
If you want even less people and want to be very close to the beach, Third Street Beach is a good choice if you can get along without a restroom and water to wash your feet. I sometimes find it almost deserted. There is also a great beach access with parking at the Roosevelt Natural Area in the Salter Path area.
If someone in the family is willing to do a little walking, you can sample some of the best beaches on Emerald Isle like I did recently on a nearly perfect Crystal Coast day. Just use the CAMA access points on Inlet Drive and park in the small parking lot on Coast Guard Road. It is easy to drop the family and gear at one of the access points and circle the block back to the parking area. The walk back to the beach is five to ten minutes.
There are lots of wonderful things to do at the beach. Just learning a little about the local area will greatly expand your options and perhaps save you some time when things get crowded on the beach.
You might even run into a special treat like a Bogue Sound watermelon if you get off the beaten path. Vacations have changed over the years, but when summer is in full swing, you can still have great fun here at the beach. Some planning and hints from us locals can make it even easier to have that fun.
This weekend we will see some temperatures over at the beach in the low to mid nineties.
That is about as hot as it normally gets around here.
In fact in the few years that we have been living here along the Southern Outer Banks, we have only seen temperatures that high a few times. You know that it is going to be a hot spell when the nighttime temperatures barely get below eighty.
It is usually August before that happens, but this has been a very warm summer so far in many places. The only good news about the heat is that this spell is only going to last a few days.
To help matters even more, our temperatures have been reasonable for the past few days. We even had a mostly rainy day on Sunday. Our recent weather will help us get over this hot spell.
First, since we are just now going into a new hot spell, the area waters have cooled back to a reasonable level. The unofficial surf temperature reading Tuesday morning was 81 degrees Fahrenheit.
As I can tell you from my wading around in the ocean waters Tuesday afternoon, 81 degrees is very pleasant temperature, but it will still cool you off. I suspect we have the winds to thank for keeping the waters a little cooler than they might be.
Of course the winds have made playing in the ocean a little more challenging. Most people I saw playing in the surf today were staying close to shore. That is always a good plan when the surf is stirred up, and the winds are blowing. Still it is nice to have a world of waves when it gets this hot.
We will only be blessed with cooling winds for another day. Starting Thursday the predictions are for much lighter winds which will come at the same time as the hotter temperatures.
The only real ways to escape the heat when it gets this hot are to get in the water or be on the water and anchored where you can get a good sea breeze. Aside from that, it will be a good time to stay in the air conditioning during the heat of the day.
Those of us who live here adjust our lives for the heat. If we want to work outside, we do it early in the morning. If you can finish a chore by 8:30 AM, you will face a lot less stress than if you finish just before noon. On a hot day, if I want to go to the beach, I usually go after 5 PM when the worst of the heat is over.
By Thursday afternoon, you can expect the sand on the beaches to have warmed up enough to require either sandals or some fancy dancing to get to the water. It really is amazing what water can do for you. Often after mowing our yard, I will take a shower and by the end of the shower, I have practically turned any hot water off. In the summertime, our water comes out of the faucets fairly warm.
After the quick shower has cooled me, I will often walk across the cul de sac and take advantage of the swimming pool that we have in Bluewater Cove. With the recent cooling, the pool is very pleasant temperature. A quick dip in the pool is a great way to cool your body further.
That usually works except in August. Then I have been known to get in the car and head straight to the beach. I consider the ultimate cooling experience to be an ocean wave hitting me right in the middle of my back. I can almost guarantee that will take the heat right out of your body.
Summer is one of those things that we long for in winter. Then sometimes the reality of the heat is a little intense. I actually have adjusted fairly well to the heat considering I lived in Canada for many years. There in Atlantic Canada our home did not even have air conditioning and a jump in the ocean waters would likely turn you blue.
One of my tricks for hot weather is that I often have a cooler full of ice in my car. Twenty pounds of ice makes a big difference when you need a cold drink or have some groceries in the car. The thought of it just makes me feel cooler. Of course another great cooling secret is to enjoy an ice cold piece of a Bogue Sound watermelon.
I do take some consolation from the fact that starting just a few miles inland, temperatures will be much higher than ours here along the coast. While the heat in Emerald Isle will likely peak at 93 or 94 degrees on Saturday and Sunday, Raleigh is supposed to hit 98 on Wednesday and face three straight days of 99 degrees after that. That is seriously hot.
I am thankful for whatever cooling Bogue Sound and the ocean might provide over the next few days. It will be a time when making some intelligent decisions about when to be outside will be important. Likely the more of your body you have in the water, the more comfortable you will be. Still there are lots of great things to do at the beach even in the heat.
It will also be a good time to think back to February when we had some snow all over the area. At least the picture of the snow will provide some mental relief.
However, a significant number of folks come to enjoy the waters beyond the beaches. Those who launch a kayak, skiff, or bay boat get to play in one of the greatest boating playgrounds on the East coast.
We have miles and miles of water suitable for boating. You can pretty well find water to suit your boating tastes. We have large coastal rivers, broad open sounds, intricate marshes, and all the ocean you could ever want.
This is also a safe area to boat. While the waters of the Intracoastal Waterway are sometimes crowded during the weekend, often during the week, there are very few boats out on the water.
I have enjoyed kayaking for many years, but I am relatively new to power boating. One of the reasons that we picked the Southern Outer Banks as our new home four years ago was my intuition that the area would be a great place to learn how to boat.
That turned out to be exactly the case. In the fall of 2006, I took a boating course from the Coast Guard Auxiliary. That winter I spent a lot of time figuring out what kind of boat and the best place to buy it. We ended up with a 20 ft. Sundance skiff with a 90 HP Yamaha motor.
It has a slight V in the hull so it takes well to choppy water. It also draws very little water, and with a four stroke Yamaha, it is easy on fuel.
At the time we purchased the boat, I hired a local Captain to take a couple of trips with us. That was three years ago, and now I have over one hundred hours piloting the boat. I feel very comfortable boating in our area. I boat enough to know that our channels can change quickly so you need to be careful when you are out on the water.
We often combine fishing with boating, but sometimes we just go for a boat ride. This past weekend I took some friends on a 36 mile boat ride. We actually went ten miles up the White Oak River beyond Stella. In that case the boating was just part of a wonderful Crystal Coast kind of day that also included swimming, biking, and a beach walk over by the Point.
There is something special about going up the river beyond the railroad trestle in Stella. You enter a different world of marshes and Bald Cypress trees. It is a neat spot to get away from it all.
Boating is very weather dependent so the very next day, the weather looked promising so another friend and I set off on another adventure. We took the ferry channel from the Intracoastal Waterway over to the dock at Hammocks Beach and then followed the channel to the end of the vegetation on the backside of Hammocks Beach-Bear Island. Just as we were trying to decide how to navigate the shallow water we had run into, a fishing guide boat came along, and we ended up following him through the short stretch of shallow water. It was a great trip and I have the pictures to prove it.
Other great boat trips include visiting Shackleford Banks down near Beaufort. It is a long ride but well worth the trip. We have seen ponies every time that we have visited. These are pictures from a 2007 visit.
I have only touched on power boating in this post, but I can tell you this is an absolutely wonderful place to enjoy a kayak.
If one of your dreams is becoming a boater, I do not think you can find a nicer place to do it than North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks. You will find everything here to be successful in boating from un-crowded waters, to people willing to help you learn about your boat and boat friendly subdivisions like Bluewater Cove.
Living where you can drop your boat in the water and go for a quick morning boat ride while the river is smooth as glass is what I wanted to find, and I found it in Carteret County.
While two week vacations were the rule in the fifties and sixties, I know that one of the reasons we came to the beach for two weeks was to outsmart the weather. Usually we would get a rainy day or two.
Sometimes a break from the beach was welcome since youthful exuberance occasionally wore down the best of us. Still two weeks almost always gave us plenty of great weather.
I can only remember one really rainy vacation at the beach, and it was one which was only a week long. It was also after I had become the paying adult. We were staying on the sound in Duck. The whole crew was there including a couple of grandmothers and our Labrador Retriever.
Even with the challenging weather and lots of family, we managed to have some great fun.
Yesterday the rains started late in the afternoon. Today they were much earlier. Still when I went over to the Eastern Regional Beach Access, there were four cars in the parking lot. Also people were in the water enjoying the ocean.
While playing in the ocean in the rain is not my idea of fun, I suspect that I might have done some of that in my earlier years. With today's beach houses, entertaining yourself is not much of a problem. However, hanging around the house on a rainy day is just not my idea of fun.
There are actually some pretty neat things you can do here on the Crystal Coast when the weather is not perfect. The Maritime Museum in Beaufort is one of my favorite places to go when it is too hot, windy, or wet for quality beach time. It happens to be one of the few museums in the world that excite my son. He really loves poking around in the Maritime Museum, and I never tire of going there.
Of course one of the most popular things to do when the weather does not cooperate is to visit the NC Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores. Fortunately I live here, so I can go in February on a sunny day when fewer people are trying to see the fish. It is a great spot, but expect to have plenty of company on a rainy or very hot day.
There are also a couple of smaller museums, one at Hammocks Beach and the Core Sound Museum up on Harker's Island. I think both are interesting museums and worth visiting. There is also the History Place in Morehead City.
And if museums cannot be sold to the ones needing entertainment, there is always MAC Daddy's in Cape Carteret. There is plenty of bowling there and lots of games.
Of course if you are from a large city, we cannot match the huge city stores of your hometown. However, both Swansboro and Beaufort have some interesting shops in a setting where you can easily duck out of the rain from one store to the next. You can take a break and have lunch in town.
You will often hear the saying that if you do not like the weather, just wait a few hours, and it will change. That is a fairly accurate description of our weather. Getting a complete washout day in the summer is rare. At our place near the White Oak River, we only had one quick rain in the month of June. The total amount of rain for the month was about one quarter of an inch.
Of course we are making up for it in July. With today's rains, we are over six inches for the month. This time of year it is fairly standard for us to have blue skies in the morning and thunderstorms in the afternoon. You should get out on the beach early and be prepared for any afternoon surprises.
While you are out there on the beach, be mindful that it is better to miss some time in the water than it is to risk being in the water when it is unsafe. The same thing goes for boating. If we locals are not out on the water, there is probably a really good reason. Our world of waves can be a challenging spot even with all its scenic beauty.
The good news is that the forecast for the rest of the week, which takes us well into the second half of July, has more sunshine than anything else. I hope everyone gets a chance to enjoy some blue skies, emerald water, and nice beach breezes.
Often as I cross the dunes, I am amazed at the subtle colors of the waters along the beach.
Depending on the day, sometimes I can hear the crashing waves well before my skin reacts to the water temperature.
Then if the temperature is just right, and my whole body makes it into the water, it is normal to get a taste of salt water.
When you put all this together with the anticipation that builds as we near a beach, it is understandable that salt water evokes intense feelings especially when the water has the clarity and color that is common along the Crystal Coast.
It is no wonder that people have a hard time leaving our shores and cannot wait to visit again.
I wish that I could remember back to my first beach visit, but all I have are the stories from my mother. It is much easier to recall the wonder experienced by our granddaughter who will turn two this August.
Since we live here at the beach, she has been blessed with a number of opportunities to sample salt water at an early age.
Our granddaughter's second visit last summer was just before her first birthday. I still remember the amazement in her eyes as her mother and aunt held her hands as she walked into the surf for the first time. The next evening, she had traded the white sundress for a bathing suit. She enjoyed just sitting in the sand and letting the gentle waters splash her legs.
This year she brought her own beach chair, and I watched her taste the salt water as he molded sand figures. The vastness of the ocean must have been hard to take in since she preferred her chair turned towards the beach. Maybe she enjoyed being surprised as the small waves washed around her feet.
When I was over on the shore this past week, I knew what to expect as I pulled into the parking lot at Third Street Beach around three PM. First I knew the sun had baked the sand to the point that sandals would be required to cross over to the damp sand. Even with sandals, I did a little dance across the hot sand.
I had read a Facebook entry from a friend that the surf temperature was around eighty degrees, so I knew that the water would feel pleasantly cool on my skin. My feet definitely needed some cooling.
The one thing that I could not predict was the color of the waters. I had a sense that my visit might coincide with one of those afternoons when the water color almost defies description, but there was no guarantee until I crossed the dunes and saw what the sky had painted on the waters.
It turned out to be a very nice time to be standing in the waves taking pictures. Even with the thousands upon thousands of wave pictures that I have taken, I managed to take a few new favorites.
These water pictures will help trigger pleasant thoughts of my early July 2010 beach walk. It will be memorable just as many others have been.
Maybe the memories stay fresh because salt water got in my veins during those early visits to the beach with my family. Perhaps that is why I love those moments on the beach in the warm salt water. The beach brings back thoughts of family members long gone.
Still sometimes I could use an explanation for why I never seem to lack an excuse for making a trip a cross the bridge and up the Island. Mostly I just fall back on the truth. I love the salt water, beaches, and all that goes with a trip across the dunes.
Seeing water like I captured in the attached photo is one of life's great pleasures, and no one charges admission. It is even possible to indulge yourself more than once in a day. Two trips in one day makes for an especially nice set of memories.
I feel fortunate to be able to make that river run whenever I have a few extra minutes. As long as the tides and winds are cooperating, it is a great way to start a day off with some wind in your face.
North Carolina's large coastal rivers are wonderful places for boats and pure fun. Our neighborhood river, the White Oak, which separates Onslow and Carteret Counties, is a great backyard.
I keep my boating gear ready to go at any time. All I have to do is grab a couple of water proof gear bags and our throw pillow. The bags contain our GPS, registration, cell phone, and a few other emergency items.
When I step on the boat, I mount the GPS, put the plug in and cast off the lines.
Then I lower the lift into the water until the skiff floats free, start the engine and back it off the lift. It only takes three or four minutes to idle out our Inlet to the river. Once in the river, you usually need to pick up speed just a little to maintain control of the boat.
We have a well dredged channel in Bluewater Cove, but I still pay attention to the depth of the water that shows on the depth finder. As I approach red buoy 16, which is the first marking the channel to Swansboro, I make a left turn and give the boat enough throttle to bring it up on plane.
Once the boat is up on top of the water, I just enjoy the ride down the river.
It is a wonderful trip, you can get something of an idea of the scenery by checking out this virtual tour. There are just enough turns to make the trip a lot of fun. With no one else on the river, I usually run at close to 30 miles per hour.
With the water glassy smooth, you sort of slide around the turns. Of course that is even more fun than going straight. When I get to the bridge in Swansboro, I will slow the boat down to where it is not making any wakes.
I actually enjoy poking along the harbor. No much changes, but it is still fun to see everything from the water. Once I have checked everything out, I will turn and head back to the bridge and eventually up river.
Usually the trip back home takes about ten minutes. If I have gotten out early enough, I will still have the river to myself. Running back up the river will be just as much fun as going down the river. My whole adventure usually takes about thirty minutes.
If you get a chance, do not pass up the opportunity to have a big river all to yourself. You will get hooked on it. More pictures of boating on the river and sound are available at my Picasa web albums site.
Taking a ride down the river is a nice diversion from all the dry, hot weather we are enduring.
No matter when you come, there is still plenty of room on the beach, and the fresh local seafood always tastes great.
While the Crystal Coast portion of the Southern Outer Banks has far more dense vegetation than many strands of sand, still along the shores and at the ends of the beaches, water and wind can make some substantial changes in a short period of time.
When I was a teenager back in the sixties, I first visited the Point at Emerald Isle with my Uncle Austin. We had to take my old four wheel drive Bronco a few miles down the undeveloped beach just to get there.
In 2007 I bought my first beach driving permit from the town of Emerald Isle. I wanted to go fishing once again on the Point. Within a week the access to the Point was closed and the Point had practically disappeared at least at high tide. Over the past few years things have definitely changed again.
If you walked the beaches to the east of the Point in the last couple of years, it was pretty easy to notice the wide expanse of sand building in the area. These beaches have become very impressive and perhaps some of the best on North Carolina's coast.
By December 2008, a build-up of sand brought the Point back above the water even at high tide. The access was repaired and things started looking more normal. Last summer the sand continued to grow along the edges. To the east a shallow arm of water had formed. It turned out to be a favorite spot for small and big children.
Unfortunately further accumulations of sand cut the water off from the ocean, and it needed to be filled in with sand from dredging. Still the Inlet seemed pretty stable last summer. We had a great time fishing in it and enjoying the boat accessible beaches.
I have walked on the Point a few times during the last year, and while I knew the sand was continuing its progress toward the Inlet, I did not realize the extent of the growth of the Point until we made our first boat trip out in May. Another trip or two has confirmed that the next challenge is not keeping the Point above water but making sure Bogue Inlet stays open for boat traffic.
When you are riding out Bogue Inlet's channel, and you can see people walking not far from the boat channel, you know things have changed massively. From the number of people we can see enjoying the new sands of the Point, it is clear that Mother Nature's changes are very popular with visitors and long term residents.
As a boater and fisherman I have not decided yet. The sands of the Inlet change every year. Last year we found some great structure and had a lot of fun fishing in the Inlet. So far this year, we are still looking for those magic places. Winds and hot weather have limited our explorations so I remain hopeful that the fish will show up, and we will soon figure out the new topography of Bogue Inlet.
One thing that I know for sure is that about the time I have it all figured out, it will change once again either from a storm or just normal winds and currents. That change is just part of life along the Crystal Coast.
Links to more pictures and information about the Point can be found in this article, Big changes at the Point.
I feel fortunate to be able to make that river run whenever I have a few extra minutes. As long as the tides and winds are cooperating, it is a great way to start a day off with some wind in your face.
North Carolina's large coastal rivers are wonderful places for boats and pure fun. Our neighborhood river, the White Oak, which separates Onslow and Carteret Counties, is a great backyard.
I keep my boating gear ready to go at any time. All I have to do is grab a couple of water proof gear bags and our throw pillow. The bags contain our GPS, registration, cell phone, and a few other emergency items.
When I step on the boat, I mount the GPS, put the plug in and cast off the lines.
Then I lower the lift into the water until the skiff floats free, start the engine and back it off the lift. It only takes three or four minutes to idle out our Inlet to the river. Once in the river, you usually need to pick up speed just a little to maintain control of the boat.
We have a well dredged channel in Bluewater Cove, but I still pay attention to the depth of the water that shows on the depth finder. As I approach red buoy 16, which is the first marking the channel to Swansboro, I make a left turn and give the boat enough throttle to bring it up on plane.
Once the boat is up on top of the water, I just enjoy the ride down the river.
It is a wonderful trip, you can get something of an idea of the scenery by checking out this virtual tour. There are just enough turns to make the trip a lot of fun. With no one else on the river, I usually run at close to 30 miles per hour.
With the water glassy smooth, you sort of slide around the turns. Of course that is even more fun than going straight. When I get to the bridge in Swansboro, I will slow the boat down to where it is not making any wakes.
I actually enjoy poking along the harbor. No much changes, but it is still fun to see everything from the water. Once I have checked everything out, I will turn and head back to the bridge and eventually up river.
Usually the trip back home takes about ten minutes. If I have gotten out early enough, I will still have the river to myself. Running back up the river will be just as much fun as going down the river. My whole adventure usually takes about thirty minutes.
If you get a chance, do not pass up the opportunity to have a big river all to yourself. You will get hooked on it. More pictures of boating on the river and sound are available at my Picasa web albums site.
Taking a ride down the river is a nice diversion from all the dry, hot weather we are enduring.
While it would be impossible to remove all the modern annoyances that can make life so challenging in this century, where you live does make a huge difference.
We just had visits from our two daughters. One lives near Charlotte, NC, and the other lives near Washington, DC. The younger of two delayed her departure from the area as much as possible. She told us that she wished that home was just a street or two away.
We were talking about it after she left, and we decided there was more to her wanting to live here than just being close to family. Life in a small town beach area strips away some of the modern day distractions.
I like to think it is intricately related to four things which are very important to life here on the Southern Outer Banks.
The people living along the Crystal Coast set the tone for the area. It is an open question as to whether the inhabitants are a product of the environment or the area just attracts friendly people. It is probably a combination of both, but I know we have found people here in Carteret County to be incredibly friendly and helpful.
It makes a huge difference if you are dealing with people who are basically easy going and happy to see you. If you have ever been in an environment where people are always too busy to see you, you will immediately notice the difference.
Along with the citizens of the area, three other elements play key roles in our lives here on the coast. The first is the water which is often the reason most people have come to live in Carteret County. In a place where there is more water than land, it is fairly obvious that water has a huge role to play in our lives.
From providing income to some commercial fishermen and recreation to countless sport fishermen and boaters, water has a huge impact on our life here on the Crystal Coast. We often end up structuring our lives around good days on the water.
With no large population centers, our clear, clean waters make a wonderful playground which most of us are devoted to enjoying. Recreation is never far away, and for the most part if someone needs to take time for a great day on the water, people in the area understand. After all, the chance to enjoy the water is one of the reasons we all came to the Crystal Coast.
When you have days like last week when the water takes on a deep emerald color, and you could pilot a bathtub down the coast. it is really hard to be mad at anyone.
After our clean waters, sunshine is also critical to our simpler life. Having lived in Nova Scotia where fog can linger for weeks, I know all too well how much fog and clouds can mess up your outlook on life. Eventually things just grind to halt. With the extra dose of sunshine that the Crystal Coast gets in the winter, we usually have little trouble maintaining a positive outlook on life. Just the fact that it is usually warm enough to spend time outside in the winter is a big boost. Of course there are winters like last year's that challenge even us on the coast.
Along with sunshine, blue skies also play a role in the more relaxed environment of the Crystal Coast. When you wake up to one of those beautiful Carolina blue skies, the day just seems to go better.
My oldest daughter would argue that we have other things which distinguish us from the more harried metropolitan areas. She lives in Northern Virginia, and I had to laugh when she wanted to go to our Ace Hardware over on Emerald Isle. She wanted to buy four screws and about three square feet of screen. She told me that she would never attempt something like that in the ultra-busy Home Depot in Reston, Virginia. At our Ace, she had a couple of people taking care of her needs.
She also maintains that even our parking places are at least twenty five percent bigger than they are in Northern Virginia. My comment was that we have some even bigger ones designed for boats.
Finally I think she was completely won over by the unhurried breakfast that we had at Ballyhoo's on the Island. Breakfast in most cities is a speed contest to see who can do it the quickest with the least impact on their day. Thursday she was surprised to find her favorite Yana's pancakes on the plate at Ballyhoo's. She said it was a real treat to enjoy a relaxing, unhurried breakfast that took away the need for lunch.
As Bluewater's billboards have often said, "Life is different here." Much of the complexity of modern life stays out of Carteret County as we focus on friends, emerald waters, enjoying the sunshine, and blue skies.
If you are burning the candle at both ends, we can make it easier to give that up. One of the first things to disappear after we moved here was the tan line for my watch. I quit wearing the watch because it seemed that time flowed a little differently. My life seemed to remain orderly without any need of a watch.
As I am fond of saying, Carteret County is a special place, but it is also a secret to share.with those whose lives have become too harried. Even in the heat, there is nothing better than summer in the South along the coast.
While you do get used to the humidity of coastal North Carolina, it is nice to have an occasional break from it. With clear blue skies, warm temperatures, and no humidity, you are close to a perfect day.
That other factor is the wind. Most of the time when you get low humidity, it is when a front has crossed the area, and with the front often we see winds. Still it is possible to have an absolutely perfect day with light and variable winds the day after a front goes through the area.
The humidity might began creeping back up, but it will still be much lower than normal. If it sounds like nuances in the weather are important, they are.
When visitors come to the Crystal Coast, they often do not realize that many people living here just consider the out of doors another room to their homes. It is also not unusual to see chairs and even a table in people's garages. A well positioned garage which has a breeze blowing through it can be a very comfortable spot.
Our home has double front porches, one over the other. In the morning when our oldest daughter is visiting, she likes to sit on the upper one and read. On a nice day with a breeze, the front porch is a great spot to be until around noon when the sun starts to hit it.
We also have an upper back deck. Usually in the very early morning, the dew and dampness is enough to keep you off of it. However, by nine AM the upper deck can be a very nice spot. When I am working in my upstairs office I will often go out and enjoy the view while our inside cat prowls the deck looking for adventure. In the winter, there is less moisture, and I often go sit on the steps and soak up the warm winter sunshine.
When I am doing yard work our garage is often my cooling off spot. With both the garage door open and the back door which leads to our stamped concrete patio where we have our propane grill also open, there is almost always a cool breeze pulling through our garage. It becomes a wonderful place to work or cool down after mowing the yard.
I have a couple of my male neighbors whom I see in their garages so much that I am almost convinced that they live there. It is just a function of how nice it can be here on the Crystal Coast with a little shade and a breeze.
Recently I attended a family reunion in the central part of North Carolina. Getting together under the shade trees is a time honored North Carolina tradition. Unfortunately for our reunion the heat index when we started was 104F. We had a great shady yard for our event, but we certainly could have used some coastal breezes.
The changing weather along the Crystal Coast is one of the things that makes it such a great place to live. You can wake up to a very cool morning or sometimes a very warm morning. Occasionally we get fog which usually burns off by ten in the morning. There are days with you wake, and there is very little wind. Yet often well before noon a breeze will kick up. Most of all I love the one thing that rarely changes, our beautiful blue skies.
When the sun rises here on the coast, I feel blessed to have an opportunity to enjoy whatever weather might be headed our way. As my friend Ed is fond of saying, somewhere along the coast, the wind is not blowing, we just have to find that spot.
With the dry weather that we have been seeing, even a little rain might be nice once in a while, but it is really nice to have one of those best of both worlds' days where the humidity is gone, the warmth is here, and the winds are light and variable. Now that is the kind of weather we live for here on the Crystal Coast along North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks.
I laughed because that can be a challenge this time of year, but last Wednesday my mind was set on lining things up for a day on the water. I quickly struck out with both my partners for Thursday.
Refusing to give up, I slipped out anyway for a short sunset cruise that evening, but I felt very fortunate when I got the call that a fishing buddy's schedule had opened up so we could hit the water on Friday.
With the weather cooperating, we started making plans to go out. High on my list was to see how the Inlet came through the winter. I had also heard that some fish were being caught in the Coast Guard Channel, so that was also on my list.
I went to bed dreaming of blue skies and calm emerald colored seas.
Morning dawned with very little wind and perfect blue skies. After breakfast my errand to get bait and ice took less than an hour. I had the ice loaded, and most of the gear on board when my buddy, Brian, arrived.
We were pulling away from the dock at 10 AM, but the waters were so smooth that we were wishing that we had gone out early for some Spanish mackerel. Given this was our first real trip of the year, our choice was to first head out to the Inlet and figure what had happened over the winter.
Our trip to Swansboro was a quick one with no traffic and only light chop on the river. We were surprised to see the harbor empty. I guess the boats that spend the night here had already left for the day. Still we usually see a boat or two.
The trip down the Intracoastal to the turn for Bogue Inlet was even smoother than the White Oak River, but as we turned to go out the Inlet, we got into the really nice water. While it was not as slick as glass, you can see from the picture which was taken from the Inlet looking towards the Point at Emerald Isle, we had very smooth boating.
The run from the Intracoastal to where the Inlet really meets the ocean is one of my favorite boat trips. The scenery is some of the most spectacular on the east coast. From beautiful open expanses of shimmering water to the green marsh grasses and temporary sandy beaches that show up at low tide, this area captures the meaning of living on the Crystal Coast better than any one spot that I know.
It is an area with waters that are bound to delight anyone who has the luck to make it out on a day like last Friday. Whether you are walking one of the almost deserted low water beaches, fishing one of the cuts or some of the structure along the Inlet, or just sitting in a beach chair staring at the water, this is a place that is meant to be enjoyed, cherished, and protected.
Ask anyone who has ever enjoyed the beaches in Bogue Inlet, and they will tell how special it is to feel like you have your own beach in a world of spectacular beauty.
As we passed the beaches, we nosed our way out the Inlet into the ocean and could see only a couple of buoys and a dredge working in the channel. We wanted to work our way down Bear Island a little, anchor, and perhaps fish just off shore. A couple of really big swells changed our mind, and we headed back inside the Inlet. Our conclusion is that the Inlet has changed a lot since last year. It will take a fair amount of exploring to find some new fishing spots. We went almost back to the ICW before turning up the Coast Guard Channel and heading toward the backside of the Point.
It was warm and beautiful in the Channel, but there were no keeper-sized sport fish that we could find so we headed over to fish some waters bordering the marshes near Swansboro. Our luck was not much better there, so we gassed up at Dudley's Marina and headed back up the White Oak River.
The river waters had calmed and the ride back up the White Oak was even smoother than the ride out the Inlet. We pulled up to fish off Silver Creek Plantation, and within minutes of joking that we only needed a Sea Robin and Lizzardfish to have a grand slam of trash fish, I reeled in a Sea Robin.
It showed a beach scene by Brighton Pier, south of London. At least I think it was a beach since you cannot see the beach for the people. I had to think how lucky we are on the Crystal Coast.
Even in July there is plenty of beach room here in Carteret County. It is just a matter of going for a walk until you find a spot that suits your fancy.
Talking about crowded beaches here is a little like talking about traffic jams. It all depends on what you are used to seeing.
Our traffic jams rarely last more than a few minutes.
Even on the Fourth July last year, it only took me five extra minutes to get from one end of the town of Emerald Isle to the other. That means we would be laughed off the Washington Beltway if we said that we were in a traffic jam.
When I am talking about our beaches, I certainly feel no need to do anything but tell the truth. We just do not have the dense development or crowds that would lead to a scene like the one on Brighton beach.
What we do have are miles of beaches with low density housing almost always within walking distance of the beach. There are plenty of beach access points, and these are just the ones in the town of Emerald Isle. On top of that we have some very convenient beach parking areas which make access easy even for those of us who live on the mainland. It is nice to be close to the beaches and to be able to enjoy those same beaches without feeding a parking meter or buying a beach tag.
There are four more options if you cannot find enough solitude on the beaches along Route 58 through Emerald Isle, Salter Path, Indian Beach, Pine Knoll Shores, and Atlantic Beach. First grab a ferry from Beaufort or Harkers Island and visit Cape Lookout. There are 56 miles of undeveloped beach there. You can read about one of my favorite day trips in my post, The Best Twenty Dollars You'll Ever Spend.
If Cape Lookout is a little far for your taste, try Shackleford Banks. You can catch a ferry from Beaufort or if you have a boat, it is an easy boat ride. We have even taken our skiff all the way from our home on the White Oak River to Shackleford Banks. It is a great trip if you pick the right day. This is a slide show we made of a trip to Shackleford in 2007.
The third choice for a more remote beach is to catch the ferry over to Hammocks Beach from Swansboro. That is about as close an uncrowded beach as you find with one exception.
Those who know this end of the sound well will know where this is headed. If you want a nice private beach, there are plenty of them around Bogue Inlet as you can see from the picture of this beautiful beach in Bogue Inlet. I can tell you it is my daughter's favorite beach, and all it takes is a few minutes in a skiff to get there.
After a couple of cloudy and drizzly days, we are slated to have an absolutely stunning Memorial Day holiday. There is a chance of afternoon thunderstorms on Saturday, but Sunday and Monday look like great days to find a beach that actually fits your personality and gives you that feeling of pure delight that I had on my first dip in the salt water this year.
Late last week, the weekend forecast did not sound very promising, but after a great day on the river Friday, it just seemed natural that I spend part of Saturday on the beach.
I was pleased when I awoke Saturday morning to blue skies and the idea that those thunderstorms were going to miss us. After doing my morning shores, I stuck a cooler in the back of the car and headed to beach. A couple of stops later, and I was was pulling into Third Street Beach.
I am usually willing to take the gamble that Third Street Beach will be uncrowded. My wife would rather go to beach where there is a faucet to wash your feet off when you exit the beach. I can rough it and wait until I get home to rinse off the sand.
Just in case the fish were biting, my fishing gear was in the back of the car along with a cold beverage in my ice filled cooler. I was surprised that more than just a few folks were fishing. After watching for several minutes, I decided a stroll along the beach would be more productive than feeding shrimp to fish.
It never ceases to amaze me how much beaches can change in such a short time. Not long ago Third Street had a shelf that you could sit upon while you enjoyed the waves. That is now gone, and the beach itself is a little steeper and less linear. There are more points and tiny coves. I think the beach is more interesting than it was. The changes have made it even more fun to walk along the beach and watch the waves.
Saturday as you can see from the picture, the water and sky color were absolutely spectacular. It was a real treat to watch the sky and water change colors as clouds passed over. Far to the east up the beach, I could see some threatening clouds, but behind me to the north over Bogue Sound there was nothing but puffy white clouds and brilliant blue sky. To the south, just off shore, I could see a handful of boats trying to catch some fish.
It was so pleasant out walking in the damp sand as the waves rolled in that I walked farther down the beach than I usually do. My wife accuses me of doing nothing my dawdling on the beach since I am always taking pictures. This time I took a lot of shore bird pictures and still managed to get in a good beach walk.
My only mistake was a miscalculation on the sand temperature. By the time I got back to the bottom of the stairs leading off the beach, the sand had warmed enough to the point that I was hopping around trying to keep my feet from burning.
Another surprise was how few people I saw once I got away from the beach access point. Very few of the beach houses seemed to have anyone out on the beach taking advantage of the great weather.
I suspect a stroll down the beach this Memorial Day weekend will yield a lot more people out enjoying the sun, sand, and emerald colored waters. The first three days of this week look a little unsettled with a chance of wind and thunderstorms. However by Friday, the weather clears, and next week looks to be a fantastic week to open the beach season.
The temperatures are expected to be in the mid-seventies to low eighties with sunshine except a light morning rain on Saturday June 5. Next week will be a great week to renew your friendship with the beach.
There are all sorts of good things to enjoy. Fresh local blueberries are now available along with local shrimp right off of the boat. Our area hothouse tomatoes are especially tasty this year, and I had some very tasty softshell crabs from my grill this past weekend.
I am sure you will not be disappointed with what is waiting for you on the beach.
While I really enjoyed playing in the forests, water was always the ultimate attraction. We damned small streams, rode our bikes to farm ponds, and begged to be taken to larger lakes where we could fish from the banks.
Our only nearby river was the Yadkin which slides between Surry, Yadkin, and Forsyth Counties. In the early part of the nineteen hundreds my great grandfather even ran a ferry across the Yadkin.
The beauty, size, and majesty of our North Carolina coastal rivers makes them hard to compare to interior rivers like the Yadkin. My backyard is now the White Oak River.
I can only imagine how wonderful if might have to been to grow up with a huge river behind your home. I know how much fun I have as an adult with a river playground nearly two miles wide.
I often joke that water access is the key to happiness along the Crystal Coast. Great water access is one of the main reasons that my wife and I ended up in Carteret County. My personal goal was to be able to get to the water without leaving my property.
Being on the water is a dream of many fishermen. When we finally found a home on the water in Bluewater Cove, I knew that I would enjoy the waters of the area, but I had no idea how special living on the White Oak would be. A home on the water was just the first step in realizing a life long dream. Now that I have been here almost four years, I like to think having the White Oak River as my neighbor has been a big part of our happiness since moving to the Crystal Coast.
We were not here long before I ended up buying a kayak. That first fall I enjoyed many kayak trips into the White Oak River.
That same fall, I took the Coast Guard Auxiliary Safe Boating Course, and began stalking boating dealerships. By June we had purchased a boat. Having a skiff has been a wonderful learning experience, and it has given me a new appreciation of our coastal rivers.
In the years since we got our kayak and skiff, I have been on the river at daybreak and at dusk. I have caught fish, and more importantly I have taken others fishing, and they have caught fish. Many of those fish have come from the White Oak. Some of my most enjoyable times have been just holding a rod and enjoying the peace quiet of our coastal river.
And there have been a lot of evenings like Friday and Thursday of this week when I have either paddled out to enjoy the sunset or dropped the skiff in the water and idled out to the river to watch the sun disappear.
Of course there have been a lot of fishing days, and most of them like Friiday have been successful. Today I caught a 30" shark on the other side of the Intracoastal at Swansboro. Still the White Oak did not let us down.
We ran back up the river with the tide, and I caught a Red Drum 18 inches long in sight of Silver Creek Plantation. Then after dinner I dropped the skiff in the water and came back out on the river to watch the sun drop out of sight. I even managed a few casts in an attempt to chase down a school of fish that I had also caught sight of the night before.
Living along the river, you learn its moods. I think the White Oak is most beautiful early in the morning. There is sometimes a light fog then, but usually it burns off by ten o'clock. One of my favorite boat trips is this early morning one down the White Oak. I named it Mackerel Morning.
If you think the area's beaches are the only attraction, you are in for a surprise. If you take the time to get to know the White Oak or one of the other rivers, you might just make a friend for life. The White Oak has the added excitement of being tidal. With the tides, the current, the oyster beds, and the winds, there is a lot to learn about the river, but there are plenty of rewards in taking the time to learn the White Oak.
Living on the White Oak has been a dream come true for me. Ten minutes to the beach by car, and twenty minutes by boat to the Intracoastal makes for easy living especially when you have more stars for neighbors than people. While the path down the White Oak is the first part of a journey to some neat spots like Bogue Inlet, it is also my home waters now, and I am having lots of fun learning all the river's secrets.
Here are some recent pictures on the river and near the river's mouth at Swansboro.
They were looking for my choices on places to eat some fresh fish. I gave them personal favorite fish restaurant, but as a year round resident with my feet firmly planted in the sand,
I have no hesitation saying that the best fish you can get comes from my grill or frying pan. I love to catch my own fish and cook them within hours of being caught.
When I cannot do that I will find something fresh off the boat at one of the local seafood markets. Of course eating fresh is not the only neat thing that you can do here on your visit to the Crystal Coast.
Coming from a larger city, we worried about finding enough to occupy us here in Carteret County. We were not very far into our first six months, and it was unanimous that the Crystal Coast has plenty of things to keep us busy. Over the last few years I have developed some favorite things which I never tire of doing.
The first is going for a beach walk. The biggest challenge is deciding which beach. Do we go to the windswept Point or to my favorite fishing beach, Third Street? Sometimes we just go to the beach access off Islander Drive. It is only ten minutes from our house. Often I walk with a camera, and my wife looks for unique tiny shells. As the fish start moving along the beach, you might see me with a fishing rod over my shoulder watching for some bluefish attacking schools of bait fish near the shore.
In the spring we also enjoy going for walks on the Tideland Trails at the Croatan National Forest access in Cedar Point. We often get to meet some friendly dogs, and after hiking into the protected area, we enjoy sitting on a bench and watching one of the isolated inlets.
When the winds and weather are right, I really enjoy both kayaking and boating. It is really hard to appreciate the Crystal Coast, Bogue Inlet, Bogue Sound, and the Intracoastal Waterway without getting in a boat. We are lucky in that all I have to do is slide my kayak into the water in my backyard and I can be in the middle of the White Oak River in ten to fifteen minutes depending on the wind. Where we live in Bluewater Cove, the White Oak is somewhere between one and two miles wide. It is filled with interesting oyster beds and lots of marine life.
Going for kayak ride in the Swansboro area is a really good way to sample the area waters. But if you have access to a skiff like I do, then you have truly found your way to paradise. From the early morning mists on the river and sound to the gorgeous sunsets, it is hard to beat this area's waters for fun. If you happen to love to fish, then you will probably want to move here after a trip or two out on the water. There is nothing that I enjoy more than pressing the down button on the key fob which controls the lift for my boat. Ten minutes from sliding off the lift, we will be in the Intracoastal at Swansboro.
When we have visitors, we almost always take them to Beaufort. Walking the docks and seeing the fantastic boats tied up there is always a treat. We rarely leave Beaufort without visiting the the Maritime Museum in Beaufort. Museums are not high on the list of things to do for my son who turned thirty-one this year, but he loves the Maritime Museum. I have never taken anyone there who did not enjoy their visit. After the Museum we will often take a drive down Front Street and enjoy the full effect of all the beautifully restored historic homes.
Sometimes if we manage to get to Beaufort early enough, we will head on up to Harker's Island to experience a little of Down East as the area east of Beaufort is known. One of the best things that I have ever done is to catch a ferry from Harker's Island over to Cape Lookout and then catch a 4WD taxi to the point at Cape Lookout. The last time I did it the whole trip only cost twenty dollars for a magical afternoon enjoying the beach the way it used to be.
When we head back to the Cape Carteret area we often go home by the beach. Sometimes Fort Macon is just too hard to resist. While there, I especially like to watch the Hatteras style boats coming in from the fishing grounds when one of the area's tournaments is in progress. On our way home from Atlantic Beach, we usually make a stop at the Iron Steamer access point, and if the spirit moves us, we will walk out the boardwalk at the Roosevelt Natural Area in Salter Path to enjoy another view of the beach.
My choice after that is to cross the bridge from Emerald Isle just as the sun is setting into Bogue Sound. Sometimes I might skip the sunset for a sunset walk on Bogue Inlet Pier.
The biggest challenge on the Crystal Coast is getting everything into twenty four hours. That is why so many former visitors decide to make the area their permanent residence. It is the only way to really enjoy all the wonderful places and things to do along North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks.
The Crystal Coast is even more special because if for some strange reason you become tired of the beach, you can be in the mountains of North Carolina or Virginia in a few hours. How many places can you swim in warm saltwater in the morning, and after a few hours driving inland watch the sun setting over the mountains? This is a magical spot, and we are blessed to be living here along the coast.
While those who were born and raised here might argue that the area has always been a great spot to live, it is only in the last couple of decades that the area has become popular as a place for folks from away to have a year around home.
My wife and are almost four years into our adventure as Crystal Coast residents. We recently had friends visit us, and then go visit some other friends in Myrtle Beach. The husband called this morning to thank us for our hospitality.
He went on to say what a magical place our home was. As I told him when they were visiting, I have literally seen hundreds of homes since we bought our place. I have yet to find one that I would rather have.
In a world of crowds, noise, pollution, and rushing, we live on a peaceful cul de sac in Bluewater Cove. Our home has two front porches, a back porch with a wonderful view of the river, a dock with boat lift, and the neighborhood swimming pool is on the other side of the cul de sac. Our home is a peaceful spot on the water. The whole neighborhood is a nice place to live.
Some of that peace comes from living in a nice subdivision like Bluewater Cove, a lot of what makes our home nice has to do with Carteret County. Croatan National Forest stretches through much of Carteret and surrounding counties. At the other end of the county, we have the Cape Lookout National Seashore. In between we have lots of accessible beach, Morehead City and Beaufort.
Within those spots we are fortunate to have the Maritime Museum, Fort Macon, the Aquarium, and the wonderful trails at the Croatan access point in Cedar Point. All of this is spread out along Bogue Sound.
Then there are all the family run restaurants which offer some great local seafood. Even going to the grocery store is not a chore. Except for the six week or so when tourists are around in the summer, we often choose to go to the Food Lion in Emerald Isle. Some about riding across the bridge and checking who is fishing makes shopping a little easier for me. The grocery like the other ones in the area is a little more laid back than one you might find in Raleigh, Charlotte, or Northern Virginia. Most of the year, our shopping experience is a very peaceful one.
Even when our population swells in the summertime, we just make some small adjustments. We do our grocery shopping from Monday through Thursday, and typically avoid island restaurants during the main dining hours.
Sometimes we might not get back to an Island restaurant until fall when the fishermen replace the tourists. Almost without fail, we are welcomed back by waitresses that remember us.
The water and temperatures will soon be warm enough for me to sometimes sneak out on the river early in the morning or late in the evening. The river is so peaceful then that it is easy to imagine that civilization is far away. And if I want civilization to disappear even more, I can either head up the White Oak River beyond Stella where it easily feels like another time and place, perhaps even when there were few people living in the area. Or I can head down the river, and out Bogue Inlet into the ocean where I can only tiny strips of land.
Even when I drive to work, I go through a golf course, lots of corn and soybean fields, and forest.
All the while I know the beaches are calling me, and I know that when I am knee deep in salt water most of my troubles disappear especially if I have a fishing rod in my hands.
The Crystal Coast is a great place to visit and have a wonderful vacation. However, it is also a fantastic place to call home. For some more thoughts on living here visit this site.
He had been wanting to take the trip since February, and I kept telling him to wait for some decent weather. Today was more than decent weather, it was wonderful weather for being on the beach. It was a little windy for a serious boat ride, but it was fine for the short trip that we took up the river. After my boat trip, some lunch, and few more yard chores, we headed off to the beach.
The temperature when we left the house in Bluewater Cove was about eight-five degrees Fahrenheit. When I glanced at it over on the shore, it was seventy eight degrees. The big surprise was that the island was filled with a strong showing of visitors this first weekend in May.
Traffic was not bad through Emerald Isle at 3:30 PM, but Jordan's Seafood already had a good crowd. We had planned to go to the the Eastern Regional Access but when we got there, it was packed. We decided to go on up the beach to the Third Street Beach Access to see if we could fine a less crowded spot.
Luck was with us, there were only two cars in the small parking lot. We walked up the ramp to the beach acces, and my wife said that it would be nice to see a different beach than Third Street. When we got up to the small observation deck, it was pretty obvious that the beach was far different than any other of the many times that we have visited. The water was so low that you could see the shallow trough of water just off the shore.
Being the brave soul that I am, I waded through the waters which got just above my knees. When I climbed up on the small sandbar, I knew that it was the right spot to take some pictures I was so excited about getting a few new photos that I hardly felt the sixty-five degree water, After the first thirty seconds it was refreshing and not even cold.
On a hot summer day, word of a great shallow swimming area for children like we saw at Third Street on Saturday would quickly travel the length of the Island. I saw dozens of young children frolicking in something very similar at the Point off Inlet drive last summer, Today I took several shots including one of a A Ruddy Turnstone.
As the water started coming up on my little island, I decided to wander back to the shore. I stopped on the shore to take some more photos, and a bikini clad lady walking along the beach stopped to compliment me on my tee-shirt which suggests that life is better if you quit your job and get a tan.
The beach walker turned out to be from Denver, North Carolina. It was her first trip to Emerald Isle. She had already fallen in love with our beaches. She seemed pleased that we were not another Myrtle Beach and that our night life consists of walking the beaches.
After our wonderful visit to the beach, we drove back to the Food Lion at Emerald Plantation. There we picked up some strip steaks that were on sale, Our next trip was to visit a friend who had offered us a second batch of fresh lettuce from his garden.
With all our errands done, we headed home where my wife fixed a salad while I grilled our steaks. It was a perfect ending to a wonderful day. I suspect that I will never forget wading across that trough of cool ocean waters to the small island of sand. It was almost too beautiful. I posted a few of the pictures just to keep the memories of the day fresh.
I also did a YouTube movie of a surfer with a kite. We really enjoyed watching the surfer. He did a great job staying upright. After thirty minutes of being pulled up and down the beach, he came ashore. I suspect his Saturday night's sleep was very sound.
For the first time in years back in February, we actually had a few inches of snow on the ground for a couple of days. No one was very upset with the snow since it is such a rare occurrence.
In spite of snow visiting some northern areas recently, spring has been here for a long time. I planted my tomatoes on March 24, and there has not been any frost since then here along the water. Still It was just last weekend that area strawberries started appearing on local produce stands.
Spring was a little slow arriving, but after its arrival, spring is hanging around when most of us would like to see some real warmth.
Yesterday I had my wife drop me off at the access to the Point at Emerald Isle. I wanted to walk out and see how the added sand from this winter's dredging looked. In the distance I could see a handful of four wheel drive vehicles parked and their occupants working to catch some of the first fish of the season.
It is only in the best of times that the waters at the Point are fairly calm. Those are the days on the water that we really cherish. Yesterday's waters off the Point were probably calmer than they had been earlier in the week. The picture with this post are the waters just off the Point snapped on Thursday of this week. Based on the winds early in the week, the waters look pretty good.
On Monday we took some visitors to Beaufort. On our way back down the beach, we stopped at the Iron Steamer beach access. I walked out to the beach to take a few pictures. When I left the car, my visitors were following me. It was very windy on the beach. I took a few quick pictures, and then I turned to look for my friends. They were nowhere in sight. I thought perhaps they had taken the boardwalk entrance while I had followed the vehicle entrance. However, some searching failed to turn them up. As I turned to walk back to the car, I could see them already back in the car. I guess they found the sand blasting of their ankles a little uncomfortable. I had hardly noticed.
It was just one of those days in the spring when the wind is blowing enough to keep almost all the boats at the dock. We had seen a few boats moving around in Beaufort's sheltered harbor, but most people were wisely staying tied up at the dock.
While the winds have made going out on the water challenging, it has been a pleasure watching the land warm up. My tomatoes are growing well, and I even have one that is the size of a hen's egg. I have enjoyed the area's beautiful azaleas and now the knockout roses are coming on strong. This morning when I was walking back from the mailbox with the morning's newspaper, I paused to enjoy how green things are here on the land.
While we are waiting for the area's waters to warm, the seas to calm, and the winds to die down, it is truly a pleasure watching spring unfold. While part of me would like to rush spring so that I get my boat out into the water, another part of me knows that I need to slow down and enjoy this part of the year. The temperatures at night are perfect for sleeping, and the heat pumps hardly run. It is a time of the year on the the Crystal Coast when we know that the best is yet to come. We will have plenty of heat soon enough. Likely we will be wishing for cool air before June gets here.
In spite of all that, I can hardly wait for that heat, and temperatures into the eighties this weekend are not going to make it easier
Even the marsh grasses in Bogue Sound are turning green. With that happening, it will not be long before the Crystal Coast is a paradise of blue and green with golden sunsets. When Spring gets to this point, it is one of my favorite times.
The temperatures during the day are nearly perfect with a warm Carolina sun, and at night we often have cool temperatures which make for great sleeping weather. Also while the fresh strawberries have come a little later this year than in the previous few years, they herald the beginning of the fresh local produce season. All this is enough to start me dreaming about past summers.
The one thing that is certain about the weather is that it is uncertain. Our first summer here the cool spring like weather lasted almost to the first week in July. Another summer we had some of the hottest weather of the season the first week of June when temperatures rose into the low nineties which is about as hot as it ever gets around the Crystal Coast.
Today in spite of the strong winds, the temperatures managed to get close to eighty degrees. After church I was working in our yard, and I got hot. Then two hours later the temperature dropped ten degrees as a front went through, and the winds picked up. By the time we went out to dinner with some friends, it was even cooler and some fog had formed. Later when we drove over to the Emerald Isle Food Lion for some eggs and English muffins for breakfast, the air as we got out of the car felt like a warm spring evening. More importantly it smelled like the beach in summer. In the winter you do not get the same experience.
With everything looking and smelling like spring, it is easy to start dreaming about some great some days on the water and on the beach. One that sticks in my memory is last July 15 which I deemed a perfect beach day. The combination of the water, the sky, and the temperature was as good as it gets. As a photographer I found the rich colors that day just amazing.
Actually it was only last June when we got an early spell of warmth which convinced me to take my first dip of the year. The temperatures were warm enough that the still slightly cool salt water felt great. That warm early June day has also stuck in my memory.
There are lots of memories from last summer that are set to soon be triggered. We just got our first green tomato. It has me thinking of those first tasty tomato sandwiches which I hope we will be enjoying the first week of June.
Last Friday we took our first ride down the White Oak River where I got to wear shorts and a tee shirt. I felt like I was really back out on the river. Conditions were not perfect, but I always think the first warm weather trip on the water is special.
It will not be long before we catch the first fish of the season. That reminds me that I should go get my fishing license renewed before that first fish gets on the hook. If the winds will drop down some this week, I might just put the kayak in the water. It was just a couple of years ago that I caught the first fish of the year from my kayak. It was a nice flounder that I caught just at the mouth of the Bluewater Cove inlet. I had it cleaned, cooked, and on our plates just a few minutes after it was caught.
Fishing and life at the beach do not get much better than that. Late April is a great time of year to be enjoying the Crystal Coast and remembering great times from previous years.
I live on the western banks of the White Oak River, so nearby Emerald Isle is naturally the area where I spend the most time. When I do head east towards Morehead City, there is usually a reason. Meetings often end up there, and many of our area services are located there.
Even in my beach time schedule there are not enough days when I go to Morehead City just to be visiting the area. Today was an exception. We had one errand, and then we took time for a few minutes of long overdue exploring.
We found a neat CAMA public access point on Evans Street just before the Atlantic Beach Bridge. The photograph in the post is a shot of the general area taken from Atlantic Beach.
Morehead City is Carteret County's commercial heart, but it is far more than just our favorite place to shop. It is a wonderful place to live and has some of the most beautiful homes in the area along with great water access. Sometimes I wonder if there are more boats than people in Morehead City.
The interesting area that we found on Evans Street was the site of the old wooden bridge from Morehead City to Atlantic Beach. Sometime after the bridge was moved to its present location, the old location became a CAMA water access point. It is a peaceful spot to gaze across Bogue Sound to Atlantic Beach. The area also has some wonderful homes.
It would be hard to find an area with better water access than Morehead City. My wife recently got directions to an appointment. The instructions included, "You will pass two marinas." A quick glance at a map of the area confirms that it is normal to suspect that water is everywhere when you are in Morehead City. The city is actually on a peninsula. The water that surrounds the city on three sides is the life blood of Morehead City. From the annual NC Seafood Festival in the fall to the Big Rock Blue Marlin tournament, Morehead is all about the water.
Obviously the NC Port plays a large part in the city's life, but it is important to remember that the bridge in Morehead City is a gateway to the beaches which run from Fort Macon all the way to the Point at Emerald Isle. To a certain extent Morehead City influences our life on the Crystal Coast more than any other single place. Without the services in Morehead, we would be living in a very rural area.
Part of the reason that I enjoy living where I do on the western side of the county is that I can be at the shopping area of Morehead City in eighteen minutes. I get the advantage of good shopping without the inconvenience of traffic and having stores on my doorstep.
Of course Morehead City relies on Atlantic Beach to provide most of its beach atmosphere. Beaches are not the area's only attraction. While I have enjoyed the History Place in Morehead, I also love going to Fort Macon State Park. We dropped by today to see the new interpretative center that opened last fall. It is a wonderful building. We got there too late to visit the fort itself, but we have enjoyed it many times before. I did take a few pictures of our trip. There are some of the new Fort Macon center mixed in with the ones of Atlantic Beach and Morehead City.
We finished our trip with a peaceful ride down the beach to Emerald Isle. I caught a great sunset from the Cameron Langston Bridge over Bogue Sound. It was a great ending to the day. Since today was warmer than yesterday, it was easy to stay positive about the cool spring weather .
We managed to miss some great spring weather here on the coast while having to deal with some temperatures in the nineties in the mountains of Virginia. One of the first things I noticed when we got back was that we now have a substantial number of out of state license plates in the area.
Our out of state visitors are something we look forward to each year. It means that the beach is waking up, and it will likely have some people walking on it even on not so perfect days.
Today began very cool with temperatures in the forties, but by mid-afternoon when we stopped by the Eastern Regional Access on Emerald Isle, the temperature had worked its way into the upper sixties, and there were some clouds on the horizon.
We also had a nice breeze today. That along with the cool temperatures put this Monday into the blue jeans and long sleeved tee-shirt category.
Yet I was not surprised to see some young visitors in swimsuits. When we lived in Canada, our kids swam in July waters on the north coast of Prince Edward Island that were even colder than our April waters are here on the North Carolina coast. Surf in the mid-sixties like we have now is warm enough for some folks. However, it remains a little cold for most of us.
Even with these cool temperatures, the beach is still enjoyable. The water is beautiful. We saw several folks just walking or passing the time by watching the waves from their beach chairs. This is actually a great time of the year to visit the beach. There is little or no humidity. The weather at night is perfect for sleeping.
At the same time, the azaleas are gorgeous, and it will not be long before our local strawberries are ripe. Usually we have them by this time of year, but the cold winter on the east coast has made things a little late. The late spring has not slowed some outdoor enthusiasts. We are seeing some fishermen out on the water, especially in the harbors.
A visit at this time of year means that the local restaurants are not crowded, and our local seafood is plentiful, and there are still some great oysters available. Our local oysters are always tasty. This time of year, there is no waiting for a table during the week.
Unless you are looking for warm water for swimming, you can even save a lot of money by visiting the Crystal Coast in April and May when rental rates are less expensive.
We have a couple of days coming up at the end of the week when the temperatures are going to climb into the eighties. If the winds and tides will cooperate, we just might go try our luck at some early season fishing. My boat is serviced for the season and waiting on the lift behind our home. All we need is a little more warmth.
There is nothing like a good day on the water with a warm Carolina sun on your back to remind you of just how lucky we are to be able to enjoy this paradise know as the Crystal Coast.
With the temperatures in the eighties, finishing the day with a beach walk once again becomes an option. Each day now, I expect to see a few more people on the beaches, and more boats in the Intracoastal.
I think we are ready for our visitors. It looks like Emerald Isle has managed to finish most of their sections of bike bath just in time for the first wave of the out of state visitors.
Now if the fish were just biting, and the afternoon temperature consistently in the low eighties, things would be just fine here in paradise on the North Carolina coast.
It was the week of March 19 last year before things warmed up enough for a beach walk. Measured by that yardstick, we are doing okay. Even going back to 2008 and comparing our weather to that year, it looks like the spring weather is on track.
I heard a report today that the sound was now fifty-nine degrees Fahrenheit. With the warmer weather and water comes festival season, and it is one of the reasons that living on the Crystal Coast is so much fun.
To me spring is here when I see the tents of Emerald Isle's Saint Patrick's Day Festival . While I have attended festivals when it was a little cool or damp, it is still always fun. Just about any kind of craft you can imagine is there.
You can expect plenty of great food. I particularly enjoy the barbecue chopped right in a festival tent as needed. You will find just about any food that your imagination can dream up. The whole festival is a great excuse for getting out and enjoying one of the first events of spring. I always enjoy watching for strange green things. I am never disappointed and always surprised at the creativity of some folks.
Here on the coast sometimes spring and spring events come at us very fast, but fortunately this year we are once again spared the challenge of having the Emerald Isle Saint Patrick's Day Festival and the Swansboro Oyster Roast on the same day. That happened in 2007, and it took great restraint early in the day so there was still room for plenty of oysters. This year's annual Oyster Roast is scheduled for March 20, the weekend after the Saint Patrick's Day Festival. These two events are great kickoff events for spring. They also make nice bookends for a great week at the beach.
As the daffodils get into full bloom and the Bradford pear trees begin to bloom, I suspect we will once again begin to attract tourists. I am looking forward to the first serious week of tourists which usually comes around Easter. Tourists bring new life to the area just as plants bring spring colors.
While we have to endure some rain for the next few days, the prospect of spring festivals and even some spring crops and flowers are likely enough to get me through the damp weather. It seems like the recent warmth is helping get back on tract for a normal spring. I know it is normal to get ripe strawberries sometime between the last of March and the middle of April. I suspect we have a chance of tasting some berries in that time frame.
I am hoping all the rain and cold weather have not caused any problems with the strawberry crop. Just maybe we can get an answer to that question in the next few weeks. One of my resolutions for 2010 is to make some homemade strawberry ice cream with our old White Mountain freezer. Using the old freezer will bring back a lot of memories and be a great way to entice our granddaughter to visit us down here on the Crystal Coast
The interaction between the blue skies and often emerald green waters is really hard to resist. I am always looking for that one picture that captures the essence of our ocean waters and beaches.
A really good picture can bring back wonderful memories or be the start of a great new journey. As we approach beach season there are lots of people trying to decide where to vacation this summer. I like to think that if people could just see our sparkling waters in person that it would not be a contest.
I have enjoyed beaches all around the world, and I think we have some of the best and most accessible beaches right here in Carteret County along the Crystal Coast. If you are someone that has a special taste for beaches, it is quite possible that there might be one here that fits the bill.
When I am fishing, it is nice to find a beach that has cuts in the sandbar just off shore. Those cuts are often a great place for fish, and not a great place to swim anyway. My favorite fishing beach is Third Street Beach. There are usually some good places to fish there just to the west of the entrance. It also turns out to be a really good beach for shells. Parking is limited to just a handful of spaces, so we are fortunate that it is not easy to spot from Emerald Drive. You have to find the beach by driving along Ocean Drive since there is no Third Street running from Emerald Drive to water. This map will help.
Some of the most famous beaches in North Carolina are up in Corolla on the Northern Outer Banks. People love those beaches because they have a shallow slope and fine sand which provides an easy walking surface. I find that the Crystal Coast beaches which are just to the east of the Point in Emerald isle are very similar to those in Corolla and actually easier to get to for most people. I just love walking those beaches out by the Point. It is a wonderful area with so much beautiful beach that I often imagine that it is the way beaches were before America was discovered. You can best access these beaches by using the Station Street parking.
For much of the winter, I stick with beach near the Islander just after Highway 58 crosses over from Cape Carteret. It usually has few cars this time of year. It is only ten minutes from my house, and it is a pleasant walk to the beach from the paved parking lot. The short walk from the parking lot to the beach takes you by a dressing/bathroom area and beach volleyball nets. That same area is often where small concerts are held during warmer weather.
While those beaches are all great, some even nicer beaches are only accessible by boat. Those beaches which pop up in and around Bogue Inlet are some of the finest beaches in the area. Their sands which disappear at high tide stay above the water long enough to provide plenty fun from low tide until they slide under water. If you do not have your own boat, you can grab a ferry ride over to Hammocks Beach or if you want to go farther afield you can catch one of many ferries over to Cape Lookout which is very close to the way beaches were before people started building home along them.
The variety of beach activities in the area always amazes me. So if you would like to capture some pictures of sparkling waves or just relax on the beach, now is the time to start booking that vacation. Even our paradise has a limited number of seats.
Actually part of the east is still being cursed with extraordinary precipitation. A friend in Massachusetts told me tonight that in her sister's neighborhood only one out of six ways out was still above the flood waters.
My college roommate who lives on the New Jersey shore has complained about continuing wet weather and temperatures in the forties at night.
So if you are in one of the areas not blessed with good weather this first week in April, the Crystal Coast is ready for you, and now would be a really good time to come visit.
You might be surprised with how blue our skies can get during the day, and how many stars you can count at night.
A lot of people have never heard of the Crystal Coast, and even more have never taken the time to visit. I have never heard exactly why the area is called the Crystal Coast. My personal theory is that the name comes from the crystal clear waters .
If there is one thing that is for certain, it is that the Crystal Coast is all about the water . Easy access to water is why many of us who live here permanently moved to the area. It is also why the area is favored as a vacation area for natives of North Carolina.
This is a place where you can walk the beaches without being surrounded by miles of high rise towers. There are three really large regional beach access areas with free parking. One is at Fort Macon near Atlantic Beach, and there are two in the town of Emerald Isle. There are other smaller ones spread out along the beaches.
Of course if you are staying in a home along the beach, there are dozens of neighborhood beach access points within walking distance. These are marked with CAMA signs. So getting to the beach is not a problem, and still it is a surprise to lots of folks from up north, there is no beach tag required on our beaches. You can walk as far as you want on the beaches, and no one will bother you.
Beyond the beaches, boating is considered fundamental to the enjoyment of life here on the coast. Carteret County is one of the best places to go boating on the east coast. We have a very long protected stretch of the Intracoastal Waterway that runs right through the county. In addition to that Beaufort Inlet and Bogue Inlet are two well marked routes from the ICW to the ocean. Just riding down Bogue Sound from Swansboro to Shackleford Banks is a beautiful trip . I often tell visitors that our real main street is the ICW. If you had rather paddle your away around, this area is great for kayaking. The waters near Beaufort, the Hammocks Beach area, Bogue Sound and the White Oak River are all wonderful places for kayaking. And those are just a few of my favorite spots.
Along with walking the beaches, kayaking, and boating comes fishing. Even some of the area drug stores sell fishing tackle, so you know that fishing is near to the hearts of many county residents and visitors. From flounder, trout, bluefish, spots, croakers, to red drum, the area is a great place to fish. Fishing is another one of those reasons to live in the county. There are few places where you can go fishing early in the morning in the ocean, catch some Spanish mackerel, clean the fish, shower and be at work by nine AM.The Crystal Coast is one of those places. If fishing from boats is not your thing, we have miles of beach for surf fishing and the Bogue Inlet pier for pier fishing.
Then of course, any place that attracts families has to have something for everyone. From the shops in Beaufort and Swansboro to Morehead City's shopping centers and Emerald Plantation in the town of Emerald Isle, there are more than enough shops for those who need some shopping time interspersed with their beach time. On top of that there are activities for the kids such as miniature golf and MacDaddy's arcade.
And when you are worn out from all the time spent enjoying our ocean playground, we have some great family owned restaurants where you can relax and enjoy the area's fantastic seafood.
This is a great time of year to get your first taste of the Crystal Coast.
You should be warned that it is possible to fall in love with the area. There is only one cure for that. You have to move here, and I am one of those who did exactly that.
Everything about this morning made me think we had transitioned to the time when we could really start enjoying the out of doors. In certain ways that is completely true. You can go for a beach walk like I did the other day. You can ride your bike or hike a favorite trail. However, getting out on the water is a completely different challenge.
Experienced eyes would likely guess that the wind was blowing somewhat in the picture of White Oak River at the top of the post, and they would be right. Perhaps the wind is why one of my boating friends calls March his least favorite month.
This week I did manage to grab a great afternoon on the beach and even a short ride in my skiff. It is only fair to say that it took me three tries before I was able to walk on the beach with wind, temperature, and sun cooperating. Only the water temperature itself was stuck in the near winter mode with surf temperatures in the fifties.
That cool water temperature and the winds have kept my kayak resting in the garage. Usually by this time of year I have made a couple of valiant attempts to fight the wind out into the river. It has not happened yet this year.
Earlier in the week, I was defeated by the winds when I stopped by Iron Steamer Beach. The water was beautiful but stirred up, and the sand was being blown across the beach just at ankle height. I actually had fun watching the sand drift almost like blowing snow, but the combination of the wind and cold ocean water cooling the air drove me back to the car pretty quickly.
Friday was the day for beaches this week, but even late on Friday things began to go down hill. I headed to Food Lion to grab some groceries about 5PM. I went into the store wearing shorts and a tee shirt. It was at least seventy degrees when I walked through the door. It had been a wonderful day. I managed to work in the yard in the morning and enjoy the beach in the afternoon. After a winter of nasty weather, that was a definite improvement.
However, when I came out of the grocery store, the wind had picked up and the temperature had dropped into the fifties. I headed home and changed back into my blue jeans and sweat shirt. Once I listened to the weather, I went out and covered my recently planted tomato plants. The next morning we did not have frost, but the temperature had dropped all the way to thirty nine degrees. Later in the morning I called my wife who is spending some time at our other home in the Virginia mountains. Their temperature had dropped to twenty-eight degrees, and there had been a hard frost.
Yesterday the wind stayed strong most of the day. In spite of that if you could find some shelter from the wind, it was not a bad day. It was still not good enough to go back to shorts and tee shirt, but i did get rid of the sweat shirt.
That same Saturday morning I found one of those sheltered spots and enjoyed looking out over the water from the porch of the clubhouse at Bluewater Cove. It was warm enough there to get me wondering how long it will be before we can enjoy the Bluewater pool.
Today as I drove across the bridges at Swansboro and headed to the Swansboro River Park to take the picture for this post, I could tell the White Oak would have been a rough ride in any boat much less a skiff. The wind was blowing almost straight down the river. It was one of those days when if you can make it down the river to the harbor, you could likely find some place down the Intracoastal near Hammocks Beach where there might be some shelter from the wind.
However, you would still be faced with a rough, cold ride back home. After lunch I was checking the weather on the Internet and noticed that the afternoon temperature was thirty eight degrees Fahrenheit at our mountain home. I figured it must be wrong and checked the temperature on our front porch here in Bluewater Cove. It was sixty eight degrees.
Since our Virginia home is only 320 miles away, I called my wife to see if the thirty eight degrees was right. She said it was so cold and damp that our daughter's two visiting dogs were having second thoughts about going outside.
She said some wind at sixty eight degrees sounded good to her and a lot better than rain, fog, no wind and thirty eight degrees. March is just a tough month. That is especially so in the mountains, but it even rings true at the beach. Of course there are places where winter still holds sway in March.
Last night as I was getting ready to say good bye on the phone to some Canadian friends, they told me they were having a great maple syrup run, but it would also be a while before their snow disappeared, especially since the forecast had them getting more today and tomorrow.
The good news is that everywhere in the US and Canada the days are getting longer and the sun warmer. Soon the winds will come not as often, and eventually the water will warm.
Here on the Crystal Coast that will happen sooner rather than later. That is why we live here. I am happy to report that the long range forecast calls for some temperatures touching the eighties this weekend. That makes it a perfect kick off for the spring beach season.
That just might be what we need to finally finish off winter and get summer firmly planted on the horizon.
Yesterday I knew well before my toes hit the sand that it was going to be nice. Wednesday afternoon we had taken my skiff out for a quick ride on the river. What we had found besides the power to my GPS was not working was that it was actually nice on the water.
The winds had also disappeared. By lunch yesterday it was almost seventy degrees Fahrenheit, and the winds were still calm,. Based on that, I was nearly certain that a trip to the beach would be a success.
Perhaps one of the things that I enjoy the most here on the Crystal Coast is the opportunity to enjoy good weather when it happens. I can remember some vacations when we tried to do warm weather activities even though the weather was not cooperating. With a vacation of one or two weeks, it was often impossible to reschedule because of weather. Now that I am living on the Crystal Coast, I grab any opportunity like yesterday to enjoy the beach especially this time of year.
As I crossed the bridge to Emerald Isle, I noticed a small boat anchored in the Intracoastal. That too was a good sign. When I got to the Coast Guard Road stoplight, I rolled down my windows just to check the temperature. I guessed the upper sixties, and when I checked against our car's temperature sensor, I found it was reading 67 degrees.
I have definite preferences for beaches. One of my favorites is Third Street Beach. As I have written before, the only place that I can find "Third Street" is on a Google Map. However, the small parking lot is easy to find, if you continue east along Emerald Drive until you get to Fifth Street. Turn right on Fifth Street and then make an immediately left turn on Ocean Drive. The Third Street Beach parking lot will be on your right in just a short distance.
As is often the case there was only one car in the parking lot. I parked, walked the short distance to the board walk entrance to the beach, descended the steps, and left my sandals at the bottom.
The warm sand felt great on my feet. I spent the next thirty to forty five minutes taking pictures and walking on the beach. I had a wonderful encounter with a very cooperative Willet. I even stuck my toes in the still cold water.
Much of the really soft sand has been trapped between the dunes. We will have to wait for the wind to blow from the other direction to get a nice soft sand coating back on the beach. Based on the way the winds were blowing sand around on the beach earlier in the week, we should not have to wait long.
As I put my sandals on, I made the decision that it was too nice of a beach day to let it end this early in the day. With that in mind, I headed back to Emerald Isle and made my way out Coast Guard Road. I parked in the parking lot just before Coast Guard Road ends at a stop sign. It is only a short walk to the beach from there.
I especially enjoy the board walk to the beach at this location. It crosses almost three complete sets of dunes. This is also one of the nicest beaches on the island. The slope is very shallow, and I have taken some stunning sunset pictures. from this beach.
I spent another thirty to forty five minutes wandering the beach. I did not see another person on the beach. I thought that I could see some people way in the distance, but I could not tell for sure. By the time I got back to the car, I was a little warm, but it felt great.
Now that the air is warm, we just have to work on getting the water temperature out of the fifties. There are links to more beach pictures in this article .
From what I have heard, this weekend was absolutely great. Someone told me that it was even nice enough to be out boating for a few hours on Saturday and Sunday. I am a self-confessed weather junkie so it was no surprise to me that this morning when I managed to find some rain about half way out to the mailbox on my trip to retrieve the morning paper.
Later in the morning, the rains became heavy enough to send our cat scurrying back inside after he ventured on the deck while I was taking a picture of the downpour. Fortunately the rain did not last long so we did not get the soaking that some mountain areas received. Still it was a rude reminder that it might be a bumpy ride to summer.
When I finally caught up with things today and ran out our for a few errands, I got a little over optimistic and ended up wearing shorts and a tee shirt. It only took me a couple of stops to figure out that I had made a strategic error. Had I known that the North Carolina mountains would be receiving snow showers along with their rain today, I would picked some different clothing.
Still I did not end up frozen, and likely if I had worn shorts a few weeks ago, there would have been a different result. There is no doubt that everyone is ready for spring. One of my errands was searching for tomato plants. I had managed to purchase some nice ones in Roanoke, Va over the weekend, but I left them in our Virginia garage. Now most people would just wait and retrieve the other plants, but I am the defending tomato king among my circle of tomato growing friends, so a day lost now might cost me my crown.
I also had to get a few bales of pine straw for the temporary windbreak that I create for my plants until the spring winds die down a little. Hopefully I will get the plants in the ground tomorrow. We have some nice weather coming so I am hoping for a strong start on my quest for a third straight crown. Tomatoes are huge part of our diet in summer, so having them ripen around the first week of June is also a welcome sign that summer has unofficially arrived.
Late this afternoon, the clouds started dissipating, and I became a little more hopeful that I might find some blue sky and capture a few photos. I changed into some warmer clothes and headed over to Emerald Isle around half past six. I decided to head to the Eastern Regional Access so I could check out the progress on the new bike path. I am pleased to report that much of the new trail is just waiting for pavement. A short stretch at the far end is still under construction, but I think the trail will be done soon.
As soon I got parked at the beach access and opened the door to my truck, I knew that March had tricked me once again. Even with blue jeans and sweat shirt, it was a cool walk to the beach. By the time I had snapped a few photos of the waves and empty beach, my hands felt frozen. I had to turn the heat on in my truck as I cruised back to Emerald Isle. I just missed a spectacular sunset over Bogue Sound by about five minutes, but there is always tomorrow, and it is supposed to be clear and warmer.
March and a good part of April are always tricky. Sometimes it looks cold and windy, but by the time you get to your destination, your trip turns out to be a great idea. Other times, you gamble with the weather and end up being glad to be back in home port.
With Bradford pear trees already blooming along with the daffodils, it will not be long before the azaleas are in bloom. Then in just a few weeks, we will be complaining about the heat. As it has often been said, if you do not like the weather just wait a few hours, and it will change.
I believe spring is going to break out all over the Carolinas and Virginia this next week. I even got a report of some daffodils along one of my favorite mountain trout streams. I find this a tough time of year.
We are tantalizingly close to the time we can really start enjoying the beaches and waters of the Crystal Coast. Yet we are not there when it comes to the water, and a trip out in a kayak will quickly convince almost anyone that the water needs to warm up a little more before we can have some serious fun.
Last year this same week, the weather turned very nice, and it was once again time for beach walks. It looks like we are going to catch up with last year and have some nice weather to balance all the cold we had this winter. It is does not always work out that way.
Whenever we get to the middle of March, I am always reminded of the March 1993 "storm of the century" which certainly proved that this is a tricky time of year even in the Carolinas. That year my wife and I were coming back from a spring trip to Alberta. We got as far as Toronto when the storm hit.
At the time we were living in Roanoke, Va. I know the coast also got a lot of snow, but we got over three feet of snow in the mountains. When we finally got to the airport, I was glad that my years in Canada had taught me to always have a snow shovel in the car until May.
While long range weather is notoriously risky, the forecast for the next two weeks only has one day when the high temperature is going to slip out of the sixties and seventies here on the Crystal Coast. Based on that, I think we can rule out snow. It looks like we will be headed into Easter weekend, April 3-4, with some outstanding weather. I think I will be sleeping with my windows open that week before Easter.
It really is getting to be that time of year that we live for on the Crystal Coast. I am looking forward to hearing fishing jumping in the water behind our home. It is also a great time of year to go visit some of the area attractions before they busy with the summer traffic. Among my favorite places to go in the spring are the Core Sound Museum and the Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores.
If you are thinking about visiting the Crystal Coast this year, now is the time to make plans. It is a great weekend to come for a visit and scope out the area. This Saturday is the annual Swansboro Oyster Roast. It is a great charity event, and it one of the places that you can end up elbow to elbow with almost anyone while you are shucking your oysters. How much nicer can it get than all you can eat steamed oysters? Of course there is plenty of other food, but the oysters are it for me.
It is a good thing that the Oyster Roast coincides with good weather. You can take a walk on the beach to build up your appetite and then you can take another for some exercise to help work off all that great seafood cooked up by the folks in Swansboro. It is one of the events that makes this area such a great place to live and visit.
Things look a whole lot better on this side of winter.
Having breakfast out is not one of our regular winter activities, but spring usually finds us venturing out earlier. Today I hoping that wandering out for breakfast and a quick hike might help usher in some warmer weather.
It might be a futile effort on my part, but getting out and enjoying the out of doors is something that I enjoy anyway. If nothing else, I will just be a little ahead of the curve with my vitamin D once the nice weather arrives.
There is something about enjoying a breakfast outside of home that changes your perspective on the day. Perhaps it is just a break in a routine that is hard to change that makes the difference. Maybe it is starting the day with some food that someone else cooks.
Whatever the reason, we enjoy breakfast outside the home as much or more as we do a fancy evening meal. The bonus is that I do not have to get dressed up, and the price is much more reasonable.
Wearing a normal outfit with blue jeans at breakfast also made it easier to go on my hike after our meal. Perhaps because this was my birthday week, I ordered the biscuits and gravy, while my wife had a cheese omelet with some grits. Both were excellent. We also enjoyed relaxing and not worrying about cleaning up our dishes.
After our hearty meal, I needed some exercise so we headed to Emerald Woods for my hike. There was little doubt that down by the water a stiff breeze would be blowing. The sheltered section of the trail would be welcome protection from the winds. The Emerald Woods Park is just a short distance out Coast Guard Road on the right. It was actually designed as an area to hold excess water from storms.
One of the things that I like the most about the Park is the construction of the trail. It is a boardwalk all the way from the trail head to its terminus in Bogue Sound. I know the trail is accessible to everyone since last summer I took a friend who is confined to a wheel chair all the way to Bogue Sound on it. An added bonus of the park is that the ladies always appreciate the restroom facilities.
Today, I was the only hiker on the trails since my wife's feet were bothering her. I have seen several deer in the marshes on previous trips. Today there were none. The Town of Emerald Isle has authorized some of the town's policemen to thin the deer herd through bow hunting in the Park when it is closed. That probably explains the lack of deer. I suspect they are avoiding the Park until the hunters go away.
I am always impressed when I get to the point where the trail heads down to Bogue Sound. It is so neat hiking through the woods and then all of the sudden having Bogue Sound and the Emerald Isle bridge spread out in front of you. In the summertime, it is rare to find the floating pier unoccupied. There always seems to be a youngster fishing there under the watchful eyes of a parent. I have run into couples enjoying a glass of wine while they watch the sun slip below the horizon.
I took two web pages worth of pictures today. While there were no real signs of spring, the hike to the sound and back put some spring into my step and made me feel a little less guilty about my breakfast meal.
The main Emerald Woods trail is one of the easiest you will find in the area. As mentioned I have pushed a wheel chair the length of the trail without any difficulty other than my wife being worried that I was going to launch my college roommate into the sound if I lost control on the aluminum ramp and dock at the end. There are other trails in the park, but we have yet to find time to hike them. Today I noticed some new markings where they cross the main trail so perhaps when the weather warms up, we will give them a try.
I was hoping that an earlier slide show that I made might have shown the Park during the summer, but it was also done in the early spring. It does have a few different pictures. One of my favorite photographs of all time was made from the Park. I call the shot " The End." It is a sunset picture that I took in February 2007.
If you have never been on the Emerald Woods Trail, you are missing a real treat. Now is a great to get out and hike it. It is one of the few places that you can find real protection from the wind.
However, admiring them is one thing and joining them is a whole other kettle of fish. I will walk the beaches in the upper fifties and low sixties as long as the wind has not come directly from Canada.
I snapped the picture in today's post over at the Point on Emerald Isle. It is one of my favorite places to walk, but it takes a few minutes to get to the beach from the parking area, and today was not the day for that kind of walk.
I did see a couple of beach walkers, but they were likely fooled like I was when I first got out of the car. As I was walking through the cut in the dune, I thought that maybe a walk on the beach might be in the realm of possibility. As soon as I got out in the open, I felt my body heat heading for South Florida which actually is not a lot warmer than us these days. There will be better days ahead.
The sight of sand and blue sky both running together at the water's edge is a captivating view. Whenever I come to the point, I always leave a little humbled. It is a place that makes me understand the vastness of the ocean and sky surrounding our planet.
Sometimes I think that my real world ends at the beaches on the Point, and the world of possibilities lives just out in the ocean beyond the Inlet. Often the best fishing is just after you get through the Inlet. When you are just a little off shore, it is easy to look out in the ocean and see nothing but water and blue sky running all the way to the horizon.
If you turn down and make a run along Hammocks Beach, it is rare to see very many people even in the busy time of the year. It is almost like there are two worlds, the one inside the Inlet and the other out in the ocean. When you are in the ocean, it is just you, your boat, the water, and the sky. There is a weak, easily broken line to shore with your cell phone and marine radio, but neither is strong enough to drag you out of the world beyond the Inlet.
There is also some excitement going out the Inlet into ocean. Along with that comes some relief when you guide the boat back towards the Intracoastal Waterway. There are days when you are racing a storm or the wind has picked up so much that the turn into your protected harbor comes with a great deal of satisfaction and relief.
I get some similar feelings when I take my kayak out into the White Oak River near our home at Bluewater Cove. The White Oak there is close to two miles wide and a pretty impressive river when you are sitting about six inches above the water. Days when I battle the wind to kayak, it is such a relief to return to our cove and be sheltered from the wind and waves.
Of course there are days on the beach, in the ocean, and in the river when the winds are quiet. Those are the days that I cherish the most, An evening kayaking trip can often let you see the river at its most beautiful time. Then it is easily possible to see the river glassy smooth and beautiful early in the morning as you try to get out the Inlet in time to catch some Spanish mackerel.
If you frequent the Point a lot, you will see plenty of waves, sometimes with their tops cut off by wind, and more than your fair share of wind even in the summer. This YouTube video of the ocean at the Point was taken in May of 2009. I would say that it shows a normal day at the Point.
As the sun starts to warm things, I will be back on the beach. I am looking forward to a nice beach walk which will help erase the memories of this winter. With all the sand back at the point, I cannot wait to take a nice long hike when the temperatures are back to normal.
It will not be long before we are out to sea looking at the land and wondering why there are creatures stranded there in the surf when the waters beyond the Inlet offer so much promise.
One way or the other, I am ready for this winter to end, and for spring to begin in earnest.
This week has been just warm enough to get my imagination going.
Even today when the temperature is struggling to stay above forty degrees Fahrenheit, my hopes have not been crushed.
I still have the memory of visiting the beach on Tuesday night burned into my mind's eye. That is when I snapped today's picture. Even though the light was fading and the breeze had developed a cool edge to it, the colors on the beach triggered some much warmer thoughts.
It was easy for that to happen since the temperature had soared to sixty eight degrees Fahrenheit on Monday morning as we stood on our dock dreaming of warmer days.
February is a hard month when you live in the northern parts of the country. There is little hint of spring. However, in coastal North Carolina, February is a month where we count on seeing the first signs of spring.
Even in a tough year like this one, we have not been disappointed. The first sign that I saw was grass turning green on the backside of our bulkhead where it catches the first rays of the morning sun. I actually noticed that on Sunday of this week. Later in the week, I thought my imagination was playing tricks with me as my eyes kept telling me that one of the large fields which had been in corn last year had a green tint to it. Today I could see that weeds had actually started growing in the field.
There were other subtle signs. It has been at least five or six days since I have seen a pelican in Raymond's Gut which is behind our home. The blue and white herons are also no longer fighting over the small pond surrounded by cattails in the vacant lot beside our home in Bluewater Cove. I suspect the waters in Bogue Sound have warmed enough for them to change their fishing grounds.
There must have been some special colors on the beach Monday which really triggered my thinking about spring. It was the first time since late November that I could almost taste the salt water. Then today as I was walking out of our real estate office in Cape Carteret, I noticed that our daffodils are not only out of the ground but they are also budded. I suspect that all it will take for some blooms is a few warm days.
The thought that we might be just a week or so away from seeing spring flowers is a very reassuring one, considering that we saw snow on the ground only two weeks ago. Last year we had some really great weather in early February that got my hopes up early.
That has not be the case this year. Just about everyone has had to battle some snow this winter, but in spite of that it does not look like the flowers are far behind last year. According to a post that I wrote at the end of February the daffodils were blooming then.
In three days it is possible that we could see some daffodils. I will start looking now. Even as I write this the sky has turned a beautiful clear blue and the sun is shining brightly. I feel it in my frozen bones, spring is on the way. We can legitimately start dreaming of time on the beach.
We were certainly in good company since all forty nine of the mainland states had some snow at the same time. I heard various figures in seventy-five percent range for the amount of the continental United States covered with snow.
With such impressive snow coverage, I was pleased that the snow on my personal driveway started melting almost as quickly as it fell. While it was good to see a driveway with no snow, In truth there is nothing more beautiful than a snow covered landscape as long as you can watch from the inside while drinking hot chocolate.
Most of the areas receiving snow this winter are not as lucky as the Crystal Coast. I was recently visiting some friends in Pulaski County, Virginia. Their home is about twenty three miles north of the intersection of Interstates 81 and 77.
My friends have lived in the same spot for over twenty years. This year for the first time, they have seen snow covering the ground for almost two months. That would not be a very big deal except they live over one half mile off the main road. This picture gives you a good idea of a driveway that has not melted since before Christmas.
In talking to some Canadian and New England friends, I have found out that they have been enjoying a mild, "open" winter. An open winter is one with almost no snow. They can be a bad thing when severe cold still comes and freezes underground pipes having no snowy insulation, but that is not the case this year. The Canadians have seen relatively mild temperatures and the frost has not been driven deep into the ground.
Anyone on the east coast will tell you that we have not been enjoying a mild winter. Many of our visitors who hail from the Washington, DC area can attest to the fact that they have just set a record for the most snow in one winter. That is an impressive feat since their records go back well into the eighteen hundreds. Pictures of the Northern Virginia and DC winter bring back memories of Canada where I saw over twenty feet of snow in some winters.
While the Crystal Coast has seen warming temperatures in the fifties, many areas in the Virginia and North Carolina mountains have stubbornly refused to get out of the low thirties. As consequence of these cold temperatures, there has been very little snow melt in the mountains.
As we are approaching March, I have high hopes for some sixties, but the long range forecasts are for continued cold. While the snow at the Crystal Coast did not last long, there is plenty of it just a few hours west and north of the coast. I have just finished a trip to our home in Roanoke, Virginia. Recent storms had blocked the mouth of our driveway with over four feet of snow. There were even drifts of two feet up against our garage doors.
While I had to get some mechanical help to deal with the mouth of the driveway I still spent the better part of two days shoveling snow. The snow was what we used to call igloo snow. The only way to deal with it was to cut it in blocks and then shovel the heavy blocks.
Compared to igloo snow, the self melting snow of the Crystal Coast sounds pretty good. Those temperatures in the fifties are about as warm as one can find these days. While the quick snow that visited the Crystal Coast was fun, it was not without its inconvenience. I even saw that a marathon race scheduled in Myrtle Beach was canceled because of snow.
With snow making an appearance in all the states, I think we are definitely approaching a time when we might find near unanimous support for an early warm spring. That is certainly at the top of my list of things I hope to see in March. One thing I do not want to see is more snow.
I did get lots of snow pictures sent to me. I have two batches online. One covers the whole snowy Crystal Coast and the other is just pictures of a snowy Beaufort.
I would like to thank everyone for contributing pictures including the main picture for the post which was taken looking from Breezy Point into the White Oak River.
I suspect that with this dose of warmth, we have old man winter on the run. While we are likely to suffer through some cooling later in the week due to blizzard conditions up north, I think we are done with most of the really cold stuff.
It has been getting warmer and warmer for the last several days. Saturday was a very nice day, but I was busy working all day. Fortunately Sunday was even better. We managed to have a great day.
We worked in the yard, went for a hike on the Croatan Trails, and even took a drive over to the beach. This morning was even better.
First off we awoke to a temperature of fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit. By 11 AM the temperature in our backyard with sixty-eight degrees where I was standing on the dock with a friend who had come to check out a problem with our boat.
With the warm weather, my thoughts had turned to boating, and on Saturday when I tried to start my boat, there was dead silence. This morning I had called my friend for a diagnosis, and he checked things and figured that my bilge pump had drained my battery in all the recent rains.
I try to start the boat every other week, but I think that I missed a week when I went up to Roanoke to shovel snow. I am hoping that a drip charger once the rain stops will get my boat going so I can take an early spring boat ride down the White Oak.
It is a true pleasure to be thinking about spring. We really had a hard time leaving my dock this morning. It was exceptionally pleasant standing out there in the sun. We did a fair amount of dreaming about this year's fishing. I can hardly wait. There are certainly fish out there now, but I am truly a warm weather fisherman. I would rather fish when I am wearing shorts and the water is warm.
Last October we had a truly memorable day on the water. We caught bluefish until our arms ached. A day like that every few seasons will make you a dedicated fisherman.
Often it is not the number of fish you catch and release, but the setting you are in and the company that is with you. Fishermen do not talk a whole lot, but the conversations are easy going and stress free which is something to value in today's world.
It is not unusual for us to find our own private island for surf fishing in Bogue Inlet. Even the boat ride to and from the Inlet can be so nice that it does not matter whether you catch fish or not.
The good news is that February is almost over, and some of these summer dreams will come true in the next few months along the Crystal Coast. Last year our first really nice trip on the water was April 24. That is actually not that far away.
We have lots to keep us busy. The Emerald Isle Saint Patrick's Day Festival is coming up on Saturday March 13, and the Swansboro Oyster Roast will be one week later on Saturday March 20. Those two events alone are enough to make March go by quickly.
Then there are the strawberries that hopefully have survived the difficult winter. We should see them around the first week in April. With Saint Patrick, steamed oysters, strawberries and warm weather on our minds, I think we might have this winter weather on the run. Even the pansies are starting to do really well. Thriving pansies are great sign of winter in its last days.
If that is the case, I cannot wait to go for my first spring beach walk. Just maybe there will be some beach days on the horizon before we know it.
In a normal month, we usually find excuses to visit Beaufort at least a couple of times a month. When we have company, we always take them to visit Beaufort by the Sea. In the summertime the streets are filled with visitors and the docks are a great place to view a cross section of America. My wife has a couple of favorite stores that she likes to visit, and I often stop by Scuttlebutt, my favorite nautical bookstore.
We never fail to walk the docks and take a grand tour down Front Street to see what is happening.
Actually Beaufort was the place that first attracted us back to the Crystal Coast. I spent a lot of time in the area and on Ocracoke Island until I graduated college.
When we finally settled in Virginia in late eighties, we ended up focusing our beach time on the Northern Outer Banks. For many years we visited Corolla and Duck. As they got more and more crowded, we moved our vacation down to South Nags Head and finally down to Buxton on Hatteras Island.
When our thirtieth anniversary rolled around, I was looking for a place to really surprise my wife. I tried Bald Head Island and the only rooms available were very expensive. Then while looking at Bed & Breakfast homes online, I found the Cedars by the Sea Bed and Breakfast in Beaufort. It sounded wonderful especially with its history of renewal so I booked us a few days there and made reservations at the Blue Moon Bistro for our anniversary dinner. We both fell in love with the area, and it ended up being the first of many trips we made to Beaufort.
The Cedars by the Sea closed, but by then we had already moved our visits to The Beaufort Inn which worked really well since they had a dock. The dock was very convenient for Captain Tom Roller of WaterDog Guide Service to swing by and pick me up when my desire to go fishing got the better of me. Rumors that the Beaufort Inn is my favorite spot just because of Katie's Breakfast Pie have never been proved or denied.
One of the things that appealed to us the most about Beaufort by the Sea was that we could just park our car and walk to everything. Even after many visits we were still sampling a wide variety of restaurants like Spouter's, Beaufort Grocery Store, Front Street, and Net House.
Then there were harbor tours by the Water Bug and the Mystery. We also enjoyed Beaufort Historic Stie and even took a tour on their double deck London bus. We made many visits to the Maritime Museum which has become my favorite museum of all the ones that I have ever visited around the world.
In fact we fell so much in love with the Beaufort area, that we tried to find a place to live in the area. Unfortunately we could find one that met our needs and had the potential for a boat lift so we ended up in Bluewater Cove, but we still have not lost our love for Beaufort.
Beaufort has grown a lot since we first visited it in 2003, but it still has the same charm and beautiful historical homes. There are also a lot more housing options in the area than when we were looking.
If you love the out of doors, Beaufort is a great spot. The fishing and boating can be fantastic, There are not many places where you can be walking down the street and see some incredibly interesting ponies wandering the shores of a nearby island.
Here on the Crystal Coast, we have managed to get our temperatures up to 63F at 11PM on Friday night. Just three hours inland from us, the temperatures have stayed in the thirties all day.
Many areas of western North Carolina and Virginia saw snow, sleet, and freezing rain this morning, We got by with just a gloomy day until the rain started this afternoon. I figured we were in for some nasty weather since our pelican and big blue heron were hanging out in the water in Bluewater Cove this morning.
Tonight it has rained as hard as I have ever heard it. We truly do not need any more rain for a while.
The only good that we might get out of this storm is the all that warm rain might help to moderate the water temperatures. Of course the White Oak River will have such a shot of fresh water that all the salt water fish will head offshore anyway.
I had a mission when I was driving around Wednesday taking pictures. That night I was scheduled to present to the men of the church at the Cape Carteret Presbyterian Church. I was tagging the pictures with geographic information so that when they were posted on the web, they would also show up on a map and be a very good introduction to geo-tagging. The online album that I created has some interesting photographs of the area if you are thinking about visiting in the summer or retiring to Crystal Coast.
Blue sky pictures like I took on Wednesday help me get through the winter when the weather turns cold or wet. This winter has turned out to really be a winter to remember. While we have seen colder than normal temperatures and more ice on the quiet waters than normal, the massive amount of rain is quickly becoming the real problem. We had a very wet fall, and now we are receiving one soaking after another during the winter. I think the farmers are already behind schedule in preparing their fields. I doubt anyone will be working the land for a long time after tonight's rains.
Days when you could enjoy some time on the beach have been harder to find this winter. Still I am thankful that we are not in the snow belt which seems to have dropped south a few hundred miles this winter. Tonight's Snowmaggedon in Washington, DC might break their all time record for a snow storm.
Both DC and the New Jersey coast are under a blizzard warning. Even the Canadian side of me is not very interested in joining friends battling this storm.
I just heard on Twitter that Interstate 66 in Virginia has been closed tonight. There was also a mud slide in the Maggie Valley this evening that damaged or destroyed a number of homes. With all that happening, I feel fortunate to have grabbed some blue sky this week. Our sheltered location in Bluewater Cove has been a good place for us, the pelicans, and the herons to winter.
We will dry out long before Washington manages to shovel itself out. It will not be long before the power of the February Carolina sun makes itself felt. Only then will we be able to start forgetting this winter to remember.
We only had to endure a very cold rain. There must have been a few snow flurries late in the night because there was a dusting on the roof our house this morning.
The walkway to our dock was also icy. However, by the time we got back from church all the ice had melted away, and even the winter pansies were starting to recover from the cold. While most of the state was cleaning up after the Saturday storm, we were all looking for something to do on a cold and windy Sunday afternoon.
It did not take much time outside to figure out that a walk on the beach might be a chilling experience, but a walk sheltered by the woods could be a very nice experience.
We had driven through the Croatan trails access in Cedar Point on the way home from church and were surprised at the number of people who had the same idea a nice winter Sunday activity. We were still in our church clothes so we figured that by the time we had lunch and changed, the early afternoon walkers would be spread out on the trails.
If you have never hiked the Croatan trails you are missing a real treat. While the trails wander through the woods most of the time, there are a number of beautifully done bridges with aluminum walkways which cross the marshes. We never fail to see some neat birds and have a great time.
Unfortunately for our hiking plans, I got a call just after lunch from some clients wanting to see a listing. So we gave up our hiking agenda and headed off to show property.
After the showing, my wife and I were standing in the sun in a sheltered spot, and I could not help but think how nice it would have been on the trails this afternoon.
The good news is that Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday of the first week of February will all be sunny and warmer than today. By Wednesday the temperatures are expected to rise into the mid-fifties. The February sun in North Carolina is more powerful than most people expect.
Sometimes when we don't have time to hike the Croatan Trails, we go over to the Emerald Woods Trail just off Coast Guard Road. While the Emerald Isle deer herd is thinned, the Emerald Woods Park is closing at 4 PM each day, but the trail is a quick one and enjoyable unless there is a strong north wind like today. The Emerald Woods Trail is a very accessible one with boardwalk almost the whole way.
For those who enjoy camping, the Cedar Point Croatan access has a beautiful campground that is walking distance from the water. Near the picnic grounds, there is also a ramp where you can launch canoes, kayaks, and small boats.
As you can tell from the picture, the marshes look like a great place for fishing. I have a friend who did quite well there with red drum last summer. This link will take you to more pictures that I took from the small dock at the Croatan Cedar Point access. There are some pictures of pelicans from Cape Carteret and a few taken in Bluewater Cove, but most of the water pictures were taken at at the Croatan Cedar Point access.
You can find actual pictures of the Cedar Point Croatan Trails and the Emerald Woods Trail at this website. We enjoy hiking there more in the winter and spring than we do in the summer.
I have run into people here at the beach who claim that they have not been on the beach for four or five years. Once in while I will get a note from someone thanking me for all the beach pictures that I have posted because the pictures are the only way they can get to the beach.
I certainly did not move down here to tour the beaches virtually. I will admit that on cold winter days that I sometimes take a trip down a warm memory lane and enjoy some photos of a summer beach event.
There are three times that I really miss the beach. The first is the easiest to understand. If I am working at the real estate duty desk, and it is a beautiful beach day outside, that is a hard scenario to take. Being able to almost smell the beach from the office does not help.
However, there are a couple of easy remedies to this particular case of beach envy. The first involves getting on my boat early in the morning and doing a quick fishing trip off the beaches. Because of the ease of water access in the area, you can go fishing early in the morning, come home, clean fish, shower, and get to work by 9 AM.
Lots of people do not like to get up early in the morning, especially to go fishing. You can count my wife in this group. This group is easy to handle. All you have to do is wait until you get home from work and go for a sunset cruise. With lots of daylight and familiar waters, you can enjoy an hour or two on the water with few problems.
A more serious case of missing the beach shows up when I am working and the weather is not fit to be over on the beach. There is little that you can do about this but wait until the next nice day and then focus on really enjoying the beach.
I often also suffer from beach envy when I am traveling like I am today. This day finds me in the mountains watching snow flurries and trying to keep warm in the thirty degree temperatures. There is really no solution to this, short of taking off and heading back to the beach.
Of course even then the beach can be in tough mood like it was on Tuesday when I visited. The waves had churned the surf up, but as is often the case, I still enjoyed my trip to the beach. It just might be enough to keep these snow flurries out of my mind. With a weekend forecast of another 6-12 inches of snow in the mountains of Virginia, I know where I plan to be for the weekend.
I will be as close to the beach as the weather permits.
That is especially the case when we have enjoyed blue skies for the whole day. That in itself has been a treat, and certainly was a factor in convincing us to go for a drive up the beach. I am always curious as to how the winter waves have changed my favorite spots so this afternoon was a great opportunity to go exploring
Our first stop was Third Street Beach, which is one of my favorite spots. This time of year it is often completely ignored. When we got to the parking lot at about 4 PM, there were no other cars there. That was fine for me since I was looking for a little beach solitude.
As I started to descend the stairs for the walk to the water, I handed my wife the keys to our car. I knew that she would not last in breezy fifty degree weather. I was fine with just my sweat shirt and blue jeans.
I was a little surprised to see some evidence of people walking on the beach with no shoes. I suppose saying you have gone barefooted on the beach in January might be a sign of toughness.
It is a little early for me to shed my tennis shoes, but I would say that it is a positive sign that some people have already done it. I was pleased to see a boat cruising down the beach even if it was bundled up with side curtains.
The beach was very quiet except for a couple of pelicans patrolling the waters just off shore. Today was one of those teaser days which make you think that winter is about over. I suspect we will have to endure some more cold weather, but I know the sun is getting stronger. The results are right by my door
Our pansies are thriving in a southeast facing spot by our garage door. They have recovered from the cold weather and look like they are hitting their stride.
After soaking up sea breezes, we headed down the beach to Emerald Isle and went to check out the work that has been going on at the Point. They have been pumping sand on the beach and moving it around with a bulldozer. We were surprised that the vehicle access to the Point has once again been repaired.
It is nice to see all that sand out there, but even my few years here has taught me that it can disappear a lot faster than it can be put back.
We will just have to hope that it stays around for the season.
You can check out some pictures of our afternoon at the beaches to get yourself thinking about your next beach visit when we get our first days that sneak into the seventies.
Almost anyone can tell you that the warmth that we often see in January has been missing in action. It does not help any that even Florida has had to endure some cold.
We live in a wonderful spot which I often describe as "almost perfect." My northern friends have taken great pleasure calling and asking about how the boating is during our cold snap.
My only thought is that they are searching for something to take their minds off of all the snow piled around their houses. I have just about got used to our "cold."
Today when it hit 50F, I dropped my boat in the water to run the engine for a few minutes. It actually seemed quite comfortable outside this afternoon. As we were coming home from dinner over on the Island tonight, my wife made the comment that we cannot possibly call this weather cold and keep a straight face.
She went on to say if the weather were truly cold, I might actually zip up my unlined fleece jacket which is the lightest weight jacket that Land's End carries. She also pointed out that I was wearing tennis shoes with no socks.
I will have to admit that my real cold weather clothing is up in the mountains and that we got rid of our Canadian winter clothes many years ago. On our farm in the wilds of central New Brunswick, it was not unusual to have a day when the high temperature was -20F.
On a day like that preparing for spending a few hours outside was something of an ordeal. Besides the standard long underwear, blue jeans, hand knitted wool socks and heavy work shirt, those temperatures required an insulated snow mobile suit. If the wind was really blowing, you might add a down jacket and face mask along with your insulated mittens. Footwear was heavy boots with felt liners that could be taken out and dried at night.
I do not miss those days, and the Crystal Coast is "almost perfect" by nearly any measure.
Yet we have definitely been challenged by the two weeks of temperatures where our lows at night were consistently in the mid-twenties. Fortunately that seems to be over for now. Saturday we might see 60F, and I believe that will take care of any of the remaining ice.
We can be thankful that we have not seen the sound freeze over as I have heard some folks mention happening long ago, but just maybe we will get some benefit out of all this cold. Perhaps it has been cold enough to kill a few a bugs.
I know we have seen some beautiful sunsets due to the cold clear air. I have actually heard a few long term residents admit that they are getting used to the cold.
Now that we are used to these temperatures, just think how warm it will seem when things start to heat up over the next few weeks.
Sometimes it takes a little adversity to make you appreciate what we too often take for granted. I will admit to taking for granted those 50F winter days. Now when I get one, I will truly appreciate it, and if we get some days in the seventies, I will treasure those days and likely take my boat down the river just to enjoy the heat.
Recently I snapped some random area photos and geo-tagged them so that they can be seen on a map. If you would like to explore the area a little, you can find them at this Picasa Web Album.
After this recent historic outbreak of cold, he told me that he was going to Florida to find some real warmth. That was last week. When I checked with him this weekend, it was 39F and raining in Florida. He went through a lot of driving to be only two degrees warmer than us. This winter's cold had penetrated 900 miles south to his location not far from Fort Meyers, Florida.
Even this morning they were down to 33F. A cold trip to Florida is a lesson in how challenging it has been to escape winter this last week. We did find one place where no cold seemed to penetrate. That was our Bluewater Cove living room with the gas fireplace turned on high. It ended up being a great place to survive the 2009-10 "Winter to Remember" and watch a little football.
Since we had already placed ourselves in the deep freeze of the Virginia mountains during the Christmas holidays, this cold has not seemed too severe to us. What worries me is that all those years of experience in the cold are being revived.
What is going to happen when this returns to being a normal North Carolina winter? I might have to wear shorts in March. The cold weather has been serious business with some of our marine life bearing the brunt of the cold.
Every morning this week, the gut behind our home has frozen. Fortunately the White Oak River gets enough tidal action that it is hard for everything to freeze over solid. Since we got above freezing each day and the tide worked on the ice, there was always some ice free water along the edges of the gut. By the end of the week, i think we were all tired of that freshly frozen feeling, but fortunately we had enough warmth on Friday to get some significant open water.
As far as I can tell the White Oak itself stayed relatively ice free. The beaches were not only ice free but almost people free. We drove by Jordan's Seafood around 5 PM on this past Sunday night, and you could even park in front. That is a huge change from the fall when you might have ended up waiting an hour on the outside benches.
I think most people have made the decision to stay inside as much as possible while cooking their own comfort food. In the last couple of weeks, the cold weather has been responsible for bringing to our table Senate Navy Bean Soup, Meatloaf Muffins, Pot Roast, Crock Pot Oatmeal, and homemade Chicken Pastry. If the cold weather will hold another day or two, I just might get some Clam Chowder.
By then I am hoping that we are on the downhill side of the really cold weather. Those temperatures in the high fifties by the end of the week look like a nice respite from cold, and possibly the hint of much better days to come. With all the comfort food, I will need some warm weather for bike riding.
If the cold weather has you wanting to do some virtual touring, try my trip to Morehead City or the one to Emerald Isle. Click the right hand circle for a 3D aerial tour. You will have to install a Google Earth plug-in, but I can guarantee a warm trip while sitting in front of your computer.
We only managed to reach the middle thirties today. With much of the center of the country struggling with single digit temperatures, it is hard to complain. However, when you live at the beach, you get used to warmth, and when the warmth disappears, it feels very cold to us.
Temperatures in the thirties and a stiff breeze made the Crystal Coast a wintery spot today even for those of us accustomed to much worse.
I wonder if it was the cold or wind that caused the sea gulls to congregate in the White Oak River? I know I was a lot warmer taking the river picture today than I was when were over at the Point yesterday, and the wind was so strong that it was cutting the tops off of the waves.
While the Crystal Coast is a very temperate spot, we do get to taste all four seasons.
Being an ex-Canadian, I sometimes like to brag about our weather here on North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks. In general we have really great weather especially compared to some of the places where I have lived. Still we do get some winter. There was actually ice in the water behind my home this morning.
It is not the first time we have seen ice in the gut that leads out to the White Oak River. It froze the third week in January 2008. Last year we even got to glimpse a few snow flakes. I am told it was the first snow seen in the area in the last six years.
This has been a strange weather year so we could be in for more surprises. Our biggest challenge in 2009 was the rain that came this fall. Some areas along Coast Guard Road near the Point at Emerald Isle still have some flooding due to our extraordinary rains this fall. We certainly were not alone in getting lots of rain. Most of the Southeast had an exceptional soaking this fall and early winter.
I guess if we are going to have lots of rain, it is better that it comes in November and December when there are fewer people to inconvenience in the area. However, as a fisherman I do feel as if I was shortchanged at least one month of fishing time in 2009.
It is early to make any long range weather predictions though there seems to be a consensus that the east coast is going to see more snow. Since there is no shortage of people who had to dig out of the recent east coast storms, I am hoping that we are already done with snow for the year even in the Southeast mountains.
Here on the coast, we got our snow last year, so perhaps after this cold snap we will get back to something like the winter of 2007 when I counted only nineteen hours of below freezing temperatures in January. Somehow that feels a little unlikely given the current forecast.
Still I do know the sun is warm here even in winter, and when it shows up each day, the winter pansies my wife planted in a sheltered spot respond to it. In Canada during January, the sun has light but little warmth. If we can weather the next four or five weeks, that Carolina sunshine will start to work its magic on the northern cold.
Eventually the Canadian border will hold those outbreaks of cold air, and by the middle of February, we will be talking about spring. Then I will be counting down the days until the local strawberries are ripe in late March or early April. With April comes the planting of my tomatoes and perhaps a chance to get on the water for some fishing.
We will make it through winter, I will just enjoy some of those spectacular winter sunsets, and by June we will be wishing for some cool air from Canada.
From the early North Carolina spring to the lingering warmth of the late fall, there is no doubt that the Crystal Coast is a great place to spend time with your family and to make some great memories.
My wife and I moved to the area just so our extended family would have lots of great reasons to visit us. It has worked out really well for us. We have had some amazing visits which will live on as special memories.
All I have to do is close my eyes and think about Bogue Inlet in late June. In my mind's eye, I can get the water just the right shade. I can feel the heat and smell the ocean.
We had a couple of wonderful days out in the Inlet in June that I will never forget.
It is a pleasure to be able to flip your mind back to one of those memorable days when your current temperature is well below freezing. However, even I will admit that when it comes to the end of year holidays, who is with you is more important than where you are.
Over the last few years we have flipped around and tried holidays both at the beach and in the mountains. It turns out that as long as we can get all family members together, we end up being happy no matter which place we choose.
Of course even in the winter time, being at the beach can be a significant advantage. That would especially be the case this year. We actually hurried home this Christmas to our place on a mountain above Roanoke, Virginia. We managed to arrive about an hour before the snow began on Friday, December 18. It snowed for about twenty-four hours. When it was done we had twenty inches of snow.
Having spent many years in Canada, I am no stranger to moving snow. However, twenty inches of snow is a lot of snow even in Canada. It took me a while to make any progress on our driveway. Had I been on the coast, I could have gone for a nice hike after the rains and still gotten my exercise without nearly as many aching muscles.
Being snowed in for a few days is a nice change once in a while, but we worried a lot about our family making it safely to our house. It was over forty-eight hours after the snow stopped before we were plowed out. Our road was passable only after a chain equipped road grader made it up the hill where a standard truck snow plow had failed. We had wisely stocked up on food and emergency supplies before we got to the house so we were fine especially once our family members made it safely up our hill in Roanoke.
However, the plows ended up putting so much grit on our road that we have worried about our granddaughter who is only sixteen months old walking on it. Likely with the storm we would have been holed up with rain beating on the walls at the beach. However, you do not have to shovel rain, and rain is a whole lot warmer than snow. Also once the rain stops, you can go for a nice walk usually.
As I listen to the cold winds howling outside our mountain home tonight, part of me wishes we had managed to have our holiday on the coast this year. While we had great fun in spite of the weather, I could have used a little less weather. There have been some moments that I wished for some fifty and sixty degree temperatures where a nice hike could have given us some exercise and some family space.
As we wind down towards the new year, there is not really any doubt in my mind where I would rather spend most of my time. The Crystal Coast long ago won my heart. I am a realist though, and I will sacrifice location in order to be with family sometimes.
I am looking forward to the new year. We only have to get through January and February before the warm Carolina sun starts making its presence known. I can hardly wait, but for the moment I am going to transport myself to Bogue Inlet on a warm June afternoon.
This time of year most of us are not on the water very much, but even during the cold season the Intracoastal Waterway means a lot to our area. There are very few days when I cross the bridge over to Emerald Isle when I do not see a sailboat or boat of some type making its way throught the water.
In a large city a beltway often lets you get from one location to another quickly. The Intracoastal plays the same role for us. Many times you could pick your way carefully through some back channels and bypass the Intracoastal, but often it is easier and faster to just take the ICW where the channel is well marked.
As the weather gets colder in January and February, few boats venture out into the water. We still have a number of boats passing through the area. Most of them are heading south to warmer waters, but they often drop anchor and spend a day or two with us.
It is in January and February that I miss our main street the most. I will usually try to drop my skiff into the water at least once every other week. If I can find a nice day I will bundle up and ride out into the river. Sometimes I will even brave the cold and go down to Swansboro where the Intracoastal and the White Oak River meet.
If the weather isn't too cold, a ride like that is like a shot of spring tonic. It does not take much to start thinking about getting your gear ready for the spring season. Last year we had a long, cool spring, and it was April before we got on the water with the skiff. In the spring it is usually the winds that keep us at the dock.
As May and June get here, boat season rapidly takes hold. With warmer waters and usually more reasonable winds, the Intracoastal gets busy once again. We often come
down the White Oak River and head up the Intracoastal until we take the turn towards Bogue Inlet and the ocean.
There are days when even on that short trip, you will see a half dozen boats beached on the islands that line the Intracoastal. Sometimes we will slip into one of the creeks or inlets for fishing instead of going out Bogue Inlet.
While the Intracoastal seems like our main street to me, heading out Bogue Inlet always makes me feel like I am on an adventure. When we come back from the ocean and finally get to make the turn back onto the ICW, I feel like I am almost home.
I used to get the same feeling driving down Interstate 81 from Northern Virginia to Roanoke. Whenever I could see Tinker Mountain, I thought the trip was almost done.
There is another thing that always intrigues me about the Intracoastal. It is like an Interstate Highway. It is not just for local trips. It can take you far away. Our longest trip on the ICW was to Beaufort on our way to Shackleford Banks , but it really seemed like we had gone somewhere after we got home.
The next time you ride over the Intracoastal, take a quick look to see what is happening on our main street, and remember it will be a lot busier in just a few short month.
On top of that, the western part of the state and the mountains of Virginia are on target to get a serious snow storm this weekend. Some places could get well over a foot of snow. Apparently there is another storm coming mid-week, so there is a good chance that a substantial portion of North Carolina and Virginia just might see a white Christmas.
While all this is happening, our beaches are standing with open arms waiting for some visitors. If I had a choice in the matter I would be headed directly away from the predicted twenty inches of snow.
There are plenty of things to do here on the beach which sound a lot better than pushing around snow. Curling up in front of a fireplace with a hot drink after a brisk walk on a winter beach is pretty hard to beat.
Since I will be headed right into this storm for Christmas, all my thoughts while moving snow around will likely be about warmer times here on the shore. Amazing as it might seem, I only have to think back to October 23 of this year when we had our last great fishing trip of the year.
If I do decide to stretch my memory, I can easily remember not only a perfect day on the beach but also some wonderful times out on the inlet. I remember the few days this summer when my youngest daughter fell in love with Bogue Inlet. Those few days were perfect days to be out on the water.
Come to think of it, this has been a really nice year at the beach with the exception of our rainy fall. While we have had plenty of heat, the answer to the heat was never far away and always inviting.
While I will be dealing with snow, I know that my sentence to the mountains of Virginia will not last long. It will only be a short time before I am back down on the coast hoping for one last fishing adventure before the year turns. Then I will be counting the days until I can take my kayak out for some spring fishing. I am willing to bet that I will get at least one more fishing trip in before mid-January, and that my first spring fishing adventure will be less than ninety days later.
The Crystal Coast is a great place to forget snowy weather. I know that I will be doing just that when we get back from the mountains. I am counting on this year's snow on the coast not treating us any worse than it did last year when it dropped by for a few hours. It made for beautiful scenery, but I was happy to see it disappear just as quickly as it came. Maybe we will not get any snow on the beach this year. Last year's was the first in six years.
With the knowledge that winter won't last very long after I get back to the coast, my visit to the mountains will be a perfect way to start getting in shape for mowing the yard later in the spring when we do get some beach visitors.
Fortunately there was no frost this morning, but it does not look like we will be so lucky on Saturday morning when the temperature could fall into the twenties.
We got cold weather much earlier last year, so we really should not complain. It is December, and much of the country is still shoveling out from a huge snow storm. Still delaying winter is one of the things that we do best.
However, when we were over in Beaufort this afternoon and I noticed the temperature was stuck in the mid-thirties, I had to admit that winter has found the Crystal Coast.
Actually today, when the morning started at thirty-four and our afternoon finished at thirty-seven, would be classified as a very cold winter day here in Carteret County. Most of our winter days have highs in the forties.
There are not many days when we stay in the thirties. To make matters worse, we had a stiff breeze blowing all day.
I found out about the stiff breeze blowing when I tried to take a few photographs along the Beaufort waterfront. It is one of my favorite places to visit. I love to walk along the docks. Today they were empty, and I did not brave the winds for long.,
When we got home from our visit to Beaufort, I immediately turned on our gas fireplace logs. Thirty minutes to an hour of heat from those takes any chill off the day. We keep our home at 68F in the winter. Running the gas fireplace takes the temperature up to 70F. It also heats my upstairs office to 72F which makes for a nice evening of writing.
One of the ways to survive winter here on the coast is with hearty foods. One of my favorites on a cold night is clam chowder. Our family recipe for clam chowder will banish any thoughts of cold weather.
Tonight we got back too late to fix clam chowder, but we had some food almost as hardy, black eyed pea chili made with sausage. The chili was accompanied by some homemade cornbread. Homemade cornbread is another food guaranteed to help keep the cold away.
With a light fleece jacket, jeans instead of shorts, sneakers in place of sandals, some hearty food and a few minutes of the gas fireplace, we will get through winter. In fact it is nice to have a real shot of winter so that we know we can survive these cold temperatures.
Hopefully no one from the Midwest, Northeast, or Canada will read my complaints about our temperatures in the thirties. I have already heard enough grief from my Canada friends who got a foot of snow earlier in the week. The temperatures we had today would be a heat wave for them.
They were also unimpressed when I told them I had to pick all my green tomatoes yesterday.
Here are some pictures from our trip to Beaufort.
Our centipede yards have turned reddish brown, and Christmas decorations are starting to show up. Crab Pot Christmas trees are not very hard to find. A drive down the local highways in the evening will highlight some decorated trees on docks and boats. The first thing you see when you go into our real estate office is box for Toys for Tots.
Everyone's schedule is beginning to fill up with all the holiday parties. Instead of more traffic, we have less traffic as many of our visitors have gone home for the holidays.
The fall fishing season has slowed due to storms, winds, and lots of rain. The days of driving across the Emerald Isle Bridge and counting thirty boats fishing for spots are just a memory. While you can still find some surf fishermen on the beach, their numbers are small compared to a month ago.
Even the local produce stands have closed up for the winter. All the sweet potatoes have been sold or are in storage.
While things have slowed, we are not sleeping on one leg like the Willets in the picture. Almost all businesses are still open and welcoming customers. While meals might be rushed in cities during the holidays, now is a time on the coast that we often linger over lunch since there are no crowds waiting for our tables.
This is a peaceful time of year here on the coast as long as we do not have a nor'easter bearing down upon us. In the evenings we watch the news of blizzards working their way across the country. The months of watching for tropical storms are gone. The bitter cold and snow of the mid-west and northeast seems far away to us. Our waters are still warm enough to keep freezing temperatures at bay for another month or so.
All the small towns have their Christmas decorations up. I love the swans of Swansboro, but I also like the snowflakes of Cedar Point.
There really is no place to get into a serious holiday crowd like you might find waiting to turn from Chain Bridge Road into the Tyson's Mall in Northern Virginia. We just do not have enough people to create a serious crowd during the old season.
We even visited Walmart in Morehead City last evening. While there were plenty of people in the store, we did not have to hunt for a parking, and certainly we did not to stalk other shoppers going back to their car in hopes of getting their parking space.
As an area where small business dominate, we are well into the season of office parties which often are potluck meals here on the coast. There are plenty of seasonal festivities including parades to get us into the holiday spirit, but the difference is that the holiday is on island time. That means there will be no panic, and the holiday will happen as people get around to it.
It is actually a very pleasant way to have a holiday. There are far fewer stores to tempt one into over spending. The glitz of the holiday seems to be muted by the blues and greens of our waters. The beaches are still available for walking on warm afternoons. It is still a great way to wash away the pressures of daily life.
With luck we might even get in a boat ride or two on some warm days. Life goes on here and winter is no the overwhelming master that oftens shows up in the north.
We have had a great season on the coast, and we would love to have some company as the new year comes to the Crystal Coast.
There is plenty of room, so come on down and experience a coastal holiday vacation.
My wife and I have been living here a little over three years, so the experience of switching from almost city living in the mountains to small town living on the coast is still fresh in our minds.
We have also lived in the DC Metro area and in Canada, both in a city, Halifax, and in what most would call a wilderness. That gives us a pretty broad perspective on living conditions.
When we made our move to the Crystal Coast, it was after three years of looking and a lot of consideration. So far we are very pleased with our move, but what made us happy in our move might not work for you in your move.
In picking our new home one of the primary driving factors was access to water and actually a view of the water. We once lived high on a hill over looking Halifax harbor and enjoyed seeing the water immensely. Our thoughts were that if we were going to move to the coast and give up our panoramic view of the Blue Ridge mountains, that we wanted to see some water.
That turned out to be one of the hardest requirements to fill, but the Crystal Coast turned out to have some of the most reasonably priced water views and communities with water access. When you start looking at real estate in Carteret County, you will soon hear the term "water access community." It simply means a community where there is some sort of deeded access to the water. It can be as simple as a point of land where you stand and look at the water or it can include a boat ramp and day dock among other things.
My dream was to actually have a house on the water and to have my skiff on a lift behind the house so I could easily go fishing without having to worry about using a trailer to launch my boat each time. There are many homes in Carteret County with lifts, but most of the owners know that they have special waterfront properties.
We also had to reconcile my dream of a boat with my wife's desire to walk on the beach without a lot of trouble. We looked at a number of homes very close to the beach, but at the time we were looking it was very hard to find a home with a water view that was also close to the beach without paying a lot more than we wanted to pay. Also by living over on the beach, we had to give up the boat on a lift unless we found a soundfront home we could afford.
So we ended up in Bluewater Cove, a small subdivision on the White Oak River about ten minutes from the beaches of Emerald Isle. We got our dock and lift behind the house.
Living in Bluewater Cove puts us in close proximity to Cape Carteret, Cedar Point, and Swansboro along with Emerald Isle. Any additional shopping we tend to do in Morehead City which is only twenty minutes away. Jacksonville and Target are thirty minutes from us, and New Bern is forty-five minutes.
We were looking for an area where we could be active with hiking, biking, and walking. We were not looking for night life or lots of shopping. We did want modern services that stayed open all year with some choice in where we might shop and go out to eat.
We also wanted a friendly and safe environment where we could find a nice church and make friends. Finally we wanted to locate in a safe area of reasonable growth, not a place cut off from the rest of the world.
So how has our move to the Crystal Coast matched our desires? In general we have found exactly what we hoped to find and more.
From the fresh seafood shops to the small family owned restaurants, we have been surprised by how quickly people end up treating you like a local. We also found a great small church where we are very happy. Our subdivision continues to be a great place to live, and a place which I believe will weather this real estate storm very well.
We heard from many about the tourist traffic. As someone who regularly fought the Washington beltway, I can honestly say the traffic here is really not a big issue. It might be inconvenient for a few days during the summer, but it is never like it is in a big city.
Having to share our grocery stores with tourists during July and August means making a few adjustments to when we shop, but it is a small price to pay for the revenues that tourism brings to our local businesses. I believe we have far better services in the area because of tourists so I am thankful for them and pleased that almost all our local business stay open the whole year.
As to night life, there are places to go here in the evening, but Ballyhoo's Sport Bar is about as exciting as we get. Having night life in the area was not part of our equation when we were looking, and that has not changed.
Shopping has turned out to be a non-issue, but that perhaps has something to do with our age, and the fact that we do not shop a lot except for our granddaughter these days. Still Morehead City continues to grow and has added a number of shops including Best Buy and Panera Bread since we moved here.
I am somewhat disappointed in the local movie theater on Emerald Isle as we used to go to the movies at least once a month before moving. Now it is very rare when we go. There are other nicer theaters in the area, but the drive is more than we consider worthwhile for a movie.
We are pleased to see more medical facilities in the area with the announcement of a radiology clinic to be built in Cedar Point in the coming year. We had to use the emergency medical services once, and we were very pleased with their speed response.
I am also very excited about the award that Croatan High School got last year as one of the top high schools in the country. I think education is a priority in Carteret County.
Beyond those things, we have found the area to be a place where the ocean and waters of the river easily become part of your life. When I started as a novice boater in 2007, I had no idea that I would feel so comfortable on the water in such a short time. Between kayaking on the White Oak and fishing in our skiff in Bogue Inlet and off the beaches, I have had a wonderful time on the water. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a new hobby that will bring great rewards and take you to some of the most beautiful places on earth.
And on top of that as I am writing, I can look out my office window and see the water whenever I want.
It has been a great move for us, we have gotten warmer weather and escaped the snow and ice. I am now eating fresh tomatoes the first week in June each year. I will not complain about the strawberries in March and April or the easy access to fresh shrimp and other fresh seafood right off the boat. I absolutely love not wearing a coat most of the "winter."
I am hoping for some more economic growth in the area, but as far as I can tell, that is pretty consistent across most of the country. It will come, the area has too much to offer for it not to happen.
So if you are looking for a scenic place to live and can work from anywhere, the Crystal Coast is once of the nicest water paradises that I have seen. We still have room for you.
While we often enjoy the holidays at the beach, this year we headed off to our other home in the mountains of Virginia. The holidays often help us understand that the people in our lives are more important than anything else.
Yet when it is time to for everyone to head home, it is inevitable to start transitioning your thoughts from one place to another. Going home means getting back to your regular routine. When you have been gone several days, there is always some excitement about seeing what has changed. When the beach is home, and you head for home, it turns out to be a pretty special journey.
Thanksgiving for us this year was in Roanoke, Virginia which is a nice city along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Southwest Virginia. Our second home there is on the side of a mountain at something over fifteen hundred feet above sea level. The views are great, but I always feel a little isolated up on the mountain.
So as I think about heading home to the beach, one of the first things that comes to mind is that going for a walk will involve a whole lot less dedication that walking our hill in Roanoke. As we head for the beach, we gradually leave the Blue Ridge Mountains, drive across the Piedmont, and eventually hit the coastal plan near Interstate 95. We go from a very three dimensional world where being on a mountain lets you see for miles to a world where even hills are few and far between.
That turns out to be a relief for me. While I have walked our hill many times, it never got really easy, and in winter there were times when it was pretty treacherous. As we head to the beach I know we are leaving behind snow and ice which might trap us on our hill during the winter.
People often associate winds with the beach, but in our case we live tucked away a few miles inland, and we often miss the worst of the winds. That turns out to not be the case up on the mountain. During Thanksgiving we had winds for three days. There were gusts to thirty or thirty five miles per hour. Wind is something you get when you live on the top of a ridge in the mountains.
Heading towards the beach also means warmer temperatures and most likely less wind. We will be able to get back outside and enjoy a few walks. Of course we are leaving all the shopping that a city has to offer just as Christmas is about to roll around once again. That turns out to not be a huge issue. Much of our shopping has moved online over the years, and even as that has happened, Morehead City has become a much more well endowed shopping area. I am not one to worry about shopping very much anyway, so there is no remorse in leaving behind a few extra big box stores.
While our Thanksgiving meals focused on turkey and ham, now that we are once again headed home, I can start hoping for some seafood. The fruits of the sea are one of the great pleasures of having a home along the coast. Dropping by a fish market means you are likely going to enjoy some great sea food. It might just be time for some clam chowder.
Finally as we head back to the coast, we will be watching our family members spread out to their homes just as we drive back to check in with our coastal friends. I am looking forward to catching up with folks we see everyday on the coast. Carteret County is a warm and friendly place and that makes it an easy place to call home.
I also cannot wait to stand on my dock and look out towards the river. If the warm weather holds this week, I just might go for a boat ride. I hope we can get in a beach walk and maybe a little surf fishing. Of course I will have to slide all this in between my work.
Going home to the coast is just like going home anywhere except it seems better because we have all those wonderful things that make our area such a great spot to vacation.
November weather has been warm so we have enjoyed a few remarkable days on the beach and on the water, but the clouds, rain, and winds have mostly kept us at the dock. The November warmth reminds me that some of our fishing trips this fall have been spectacular.
I had no idea I would enjoy a boat so much in the fall. Yet it has been several days since I have been out in the ocean with the boat, and I really miss seeing the open water and the beaches in the distance. From seeing the stirred up water at the Point yesterday, I suspect it is a good thing that I have stayed at the dock.
However, I do know that I missed a couple of stellar water days between the last two storms. Work sometimes gets in the way. With our recent weather, it is a good time to reflect on the Crystal Coast, its seasons and weather.
While this has been a wonderful fall as far as temperature goes, we have had some recent rain that has been unusual in its intensity.
In just a couple of rainy days in November, one from Ida, the hurricane turned nor'easter, and another from a thunderstorm that came up the White Oak one evening, I have recorded over seventeen inches of rain at our place in Bluewater Cove.
Fortunately that much rain really does not bother our subdivision or the homes in it. A culvert washed out on one of the state roads, and they quickly have replaced it with an even larger one. Even with the high tides, the White Oak did not get up over our dock, so I can take some comfort in knowing that torrential downpours are not much of a threat.
These rains have been unusual in a year of mostly nice weather.
We had some really gorgeous weather this spring, summer, and fall. We hardly watered our yard which considering four storms including the recent ones delivered over thirty inches of rain is no surprise. It was a great gardening season with timely deluges. We had tomatoes from the first week of June until late August, and now we are seeing a handful of fall tomatoes.
Fishing was a lot of fun this summer and fall season. We caught more fish than we did in our first two seasons here. With this year's experience, I am looking forward to catching even more next year. In 2009, the river, the sound, the inlet, and the ocean became real refuges for me. They were places where I could completely escape the business of the day, and I managed to really enjoy those days that I could get out on the water.
These recent storms have not dampened my love for the area. In a funny way they have reaffirmed our decision to move to this area. We are unlikely to get much more than a foot of rain in one day. So I have already seen that much, and we have lived to tell the tale. The rain did not harm us, so we can feel fairly confident about where we live.
Some places were not as lucky. The combination of high tides and torrential rains over the two storms flooded a number of areas off Coast Guard Road in Emerald Isle. While the flood water has been just an inconvenience, it is one that most of us would rather avoid. Emerald Isle continues to work on permanent solutions, but sometimes Mother Nature can throw more at you than is possible to handle in a short time.
The good news for Emerald Isle is that the beaches seem to have escaped Ida unscathed. While the Northern Outer Banks, Virginia, and areas further north had terrible beach erosion, Emerald Isle missed that punch. A number of homes were lost in Nags Head, Duck, and on Hatteras Island. Compared to losing homes, some minor flooding just is not a huge worry.
It is fair to summarize this year by saying we have been blessed with good weather with the exception of some minor flooding from rains. Our tourist season has been a successful one. While the real estate market has not recovered, many homes, including some of my favorites, have sold recently.
At last report I think the shrimp season was a reasonable one, and as recreational fishermen we caught some fish, played in the waves, and walked on the beaches when we were not out on the water. With that I have few complaints.
It has been a year of surprises. Earlier in the year, we even saw a dusting of snow which is about as much as I want to see.
It was the first snow in six years here on the Southern Outer Banks. Between the cold of the snow and the torrential rains that we have seen in November, a lot of us have enjoyed what this beautiful area has to offer. We have savored as much of the daylight as our bodies could take. The beauty of the area has been good for our souls.
Looking back there is lots to be thankful for as we go into this Thanksgiving week. There is no doubt in my mind that I am thankful to be living where I am living. I have found many really good friends here on the Crystal Coast.
I am happy the salt water has really gotten into my blood, and I will look forward to my next trip to Bogue Inlet. I hope I can do it before winter comes.
Beyond that, those cool runs during the winter when I take my skiff down the White Oak to keep my motor in shape will have to hold me until spring.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.
I had started working in the yard earlier in the afternoon and quickly figured out that I had to shed my blue jeans for some shorts. We are over half way through November, and we have yet to see a frost.
I still have high hopes that the handful of green tomatoes growing between our house and dock will ripen. I have already gotten three ripe tomatoes off the plants so I am tickled at the possibility of perhaps getting a December tomato once again.
While the news has been full of Ida and all her damage, Here on the Crystal Coast life during and after the storm has been fine. Even with Ida it is hard to complain about this fall's weather.
We recently made a trip to the mountains, but we arrived home in time for most of Ida's rain. Before it was all over with, we managed to pick up another half inch of rain for a storm total of twelve inches.
What was surprising is how little that much rain impacted us even though we are in a lunar period of high tides. Emerald Isle did get some flooding along Coast Guard Road. Out our way along the White Oak River, the shoulder of one road washed away. The road was down to one lane for twenty-four hours.
Other than that, we got a lot of rain, and it quickly made its way to holding areas and eventually to the river, sound, and ocean. We did not have dangerous winds or exceptionally high surf.
I did see a number of surfers out enjoying themselves near Bogue Inlet Pier, but I got the feeling that they would have enjoyed some larger and more frequent waves.
The one complaint that everyone had was that our blue skies were hidden for days. I think we are all blue addicts here along the coast. Three or four days of dark weather are unusual so when we have to endure it, we start watching the skies and looking for any hint of blue.
Fortunately Sunday came along, and we got a nice dose of blue skies and really warm temperatures. Our oldest daughter made the 6.5 hour trip from the Washington, DC area to visit us. She got here just in time for a perfect beach walk and a nice Sunday afternoon boat ride to Swansboro.
I got some great shore bird pictures of the Willets doing their one leg resting stance. The beach was absolutely perfect for walking. My unscientific assessment of the beach has led me to guess that my favorite beach on Emerald Isle might actually have picked up some sand from this storm.
A nice long fall season, is just one of the many reasons that we moved to Carteret County. From the looks of the weather for the next few days, there is still plenty of time to come down for a visit or if you are looking for a Thanksgiving with a different twist, the Crystal Coast is a great spot to do enjoy the holidays at the beach. The Emerald Isle Christmas Parade is even scheduled the Friday after Thanksgiving.
I suspect that is a holdover from living along the shores of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. It was an equally scenic area, but boating was not for amateurs since the tides could be well over twenty feet.
Actually you even had to be careful about walking along the beaches. That high point of land that you could walk to at low tide could easily become an island at high tide. Fortunately we do not have to deal with huge tides here along the Crystal Coast.
We have some high tides and some very low tides but the range is still around a couple of feet. Actually the potential for boating in a relatively safe area was one of the many reasons that we ended up moving to the Crystal Coast.
I had a lifelong dream to have a powerboat and to be able to fish from it whenever my mood and the weather allowed. The sparkling waters of the Crystal Coast allowed me to do that.
The picture at the top of the post is looking across the Intracoastal Waterway from Cedar Point to the sparkling waters of Bogue Inlet. Turning between the buoys and heading out Bogue Inlet is one of the thrills that we have in boating in the area. Making that turn means you are leaving behind the relatively calm water of Bogue Sound and heading towards potentially more exciting waters.
Finding a place where it is safe to boat is more than just finding some water where you can boat. Even as we made plans to become new boaters, I doubt that we appreciated all that makes the Crystal Coast a great boating area.
First off we have relatively easy access to the water in Carteret County, and the access is getting even better. Recent improvements in Beaufort, Cape Carteret, and at the Wildlife Resources Ramp in Cedar Point make getting a boat into the water easier than it has been in several years. There are also plans on the board for a large launch facility on Emerald Isle. When you combine all the public access with the communities that have boat ramps and the fee based launch areas, getting your boat into the water is not a big challenge here on the coast.
Of course before you put your boat into the water, it helps to have some education. The Coast Guard Auxillary's Boating Safety Course is offered regularly in the area. I took advantage of the course even before I bought our boat. The course is certainly well worth the one day's time. Knowing the basic rules of the waterways helps tremendously in staying safe.
After getting my training, I spent the whole first winter talking to boat dealers and local boaters. There is no shortage of boat dealers along the Crystal Coast. I often joke that our area has more boat dealers than car dealers. While talking to boat dealers was fun, most of them were more interested in selling me their particular boat than in helping me find the right type of boat. I talked to a lot of neighbors and determined that for our uses, a skiff of twenty feet in length would work best.
A couple of key needs drove our choice. Number one, we wanted to be able to beach our boat easily on the low water beaches in Bogue Inlet. Secondly the boats primary use would be fishing in relatively shallow waters including the White Oak River.
We settled on a Sundance skiff almost twenty feet long. It has a slight vee hull in the front to help on turns. It has turned out to be an extremely versatile boat both in shallow water and off the beaches of Emerald Isle.
After we got our boat in the summer of 2007, I hired a local captain to spend a few hours with us giving us some good hands on instruction. It was well worth the money, and we even booked him to ride with us on our first long excursion to Shackleford Banks.
Now over two years later, I have spent a lot of time at the helm of our boat. I had my doubts whether a kayaker could become a power boater, but I have come to enjoy each type of watercraft for the special times that they provide me on the water.
Getting out on the skiff is one of those immediate pleasures. Living on the water in Bluewater Cove with our skiff on a lift makes water access as simple as pressing a button. Kayaking takes a little more planning, effort, and attention to the wind, but I have a great time every time that I go.
While the fishing trips and days on the water are wonderful, even more special are short trips like the one my wife and I took to watch the sunset on the White Oak the other day.
In the end, there is a lot more than just the sparkling waters that make this a great place to boat, live, and visit. We certainly have the beautiful waters and a great climate unless you are trying to go boating November 11 and 12.
We also have the boating infrastructure that makes boating fun. From the Coast Guard doing boat checks to friendly local boaters on the waters, you will not be out there alone. If there are problems, both Sea Tow and Boats.us are represented in the area.
This is just a great area if you are looking for a spot to become a boater and create some wonderful memories for your whole family.
Anyone, who avoided coming to the coast this week because of weather worries, missed a wonderful week of weather. Here it is the fourth of November, and I have already been out on the water twice. Both times it was like being out in the summer time.
Today, our cat had to give up his perch in my office window because he got too hot. This is nearly perfect weather because it is cool at night and warm during the day. My late season tomatoes are even ripening.
he only problem with the last couple of weeks of weather is that it is so summer-like that my wife has had me cleaning windows and vinyl on our home. Even not counting our two front porches, we have a lot of spindles to clean. However, that is a small price to pay for being able to wear shorts to work in November.
There are only two times of the year that I feel guilty for living on the Crystal Coast. One is November and the other is mid-March to mid-April. November is a time of crisp mornings in most of North Carolina. In early November the leaves are at their peak, and people are starting to think about the holidays.
As we like to say, "Life is different here." That certainly rings true here along the water in November. The holidays have only entered the minds of event planners. The rest of us coastal dwellers are trying to capture as much good weather as possible and bottle it and the memories of it for January and February.
With clear blue skies and autumn heat still coming from the sun, no one is thinking about the cold weather holidays. Fishermen are still trying to have one more magical day on the water. Home owners like me are finishing up their outside chores while getting wet is still a way to cool off instead of become chilled.
Our yards have quit growing so they are in winter maintenance mode. We have hardly any leaves to rake, the logical thing is to walk the beaches while they are still warm and enjoy Bogue Inlet while winter is still a distant thought.
I hate to even contrast this to my days in Canada. This time of year we were madly running around the farm trying to get everything that we needed for the winter months under cover. I am not surprised that our farm in Tay Creek, NB is scheduled for its first serious snow of the year this Friday.
Even in the Virginia mountains, fall is a lot different. While the beautiful leaves are truly a treat, having to mow my bluegrass yard into December has never been fun. Then there are all the leaves to clean up.
You do get dragged into that holiday season faster when you are away from the coast. It is almost as if the warm sunshine, blue skies and beautiful weather combine to distract us frm the marketing season at hand.
As long as I can spend afternoons on the water, I am all for distraction, warmth, and blue skies.
Come visit, the deals right now are great. Better yet, just move on down, and get a personal taste of why "Life is different here."
Moving here can change your life dramatically. For me coming here has been a dream come true and an opportunity to remove the pressures of the corporate world while still having the opportunity to stay active and even busy.
Like many people in today's modern economy, I spent far too much time in airplanes both in the air and on the runway. For years, I flew back and forth to California. I used to joke that I really did not care what airport I got to as long as I was less than a three hour drive from Roanoke, Virginia where we lived.
In the winter I tried to make sure my cross country flights started in Pittsburgh with their heated runways or Charlotte with their almost snow free airport. I am proud to say that I have not been on an airport runway since November 2003. However, I do have a runway that I use sometimes two to three times a week.
My runway is the marked channel to the White Oak River that you see in the blog picture. It is my launch point for fishing, boating, and kayaking trips. This morning I was out there checking the river at 8:30 AM. I wanted to see if it was going to be a good fishing day.
Though it was stunningly beautiful when I went out, there was a strong breeze from the north once I got to the middle of the river. Winds that early in the morning made me think that we were likely to see deteriorating weather as the day moved forward. That turned out to be correct. We went from beautiful blue skies and a warm sun to heavy clouds, cooler temperatures, and no sunshine.
Fall weather is always something of a guessing game. It was only a week ago that we spent one of the best days ever on the water. The weather was spectacular and the fishing was just as good as the weather.
That runway into the White Oak River takes me from White Heron Lane in Bluewater Cove eventually to Swansboro, the Intracoastal Waterway, Bogue Inlet, and the Atlantic Ocean. There can be adventures all along the way. On a quiet morning like we had last week, the trip out to the Inlet can be one of the most pleasurable rides on the water.
There can also be excitement coming back. It there is a storm bearing down on the White Oak , the ride back up the river can be exhilarating as you skim the wave tops while racing the thunderstorm back to the dock.
I would rather try to outrace a thunderstorm in our skiff than ride a puddle hopper down between thunderclouds only to be diverted to another airport. The transition from a corporate traveler to the pilot of a small skiff is a really nice proposition.
Many times I would hurry off to the airport only to get there and face a wait of hours in a room of people who would hardly look at each other. The nice thing about having my skiff on a boat lift behind the house is that I look out the back door to see if is raining. Then I check the computer for the tides and local radar. If I see nothing on the radar and it is not raining, I lower the skiff into the water, and I am off to the runway.
Last Friday, I had picked up ice and shrimp for a planned fishing trip. As my friend showed up at 12:30 PM, a few rain drops started falling. We walked inside to check the radar and sure enough, a surprise storm had formed off the coast and was moving through Bogue Inlet and up the White Oak. We had a nice chat while the rain was falling. He took the ice home and stuck it in the freezer. I cleaned the shrimp, and we ate them in shrimp and grits for dinner that night. Our chat in rain was a lot more fun than reading a magazine at the gate in an airport.
Moving to the Crystal Coast is a chance to be part of a community that loves the water and enjoys being outside. While we sometimes might get a little tired waiting for the wind to die down, it is still not like missing your plane on a Friday trip home.
This is a world where the tides, the winds, the sky, and the sunshine often define the schedule of events. Most people figure out how to have their lives flexible enough to enjoy some of the special times that we often find here on the coast.
The next time you are stuck in an airport, remember that on our runway we only slow down for bottle nosed dolphins and schools of fish.
If you want to try our runway on for size, there are two new homes available in Bluewater Cove. Call us to arrange a visit, the only interview you might have would be with the resident white herons.
The sea and its powerful moods had brought a new view of life to us in those days. I still have wonderful memories from those days, and I wanted to be in another truly scenic place where it would be possible once again to be under the influence of the ocean.
Unlike long ago, I wanted a place where the water was warm and inviting, and where I could safely boat and create a whole new set of memories. I wanted to spend time on the water that would give me dreams of fish of all types and water in colors that can barely be captured.
The Crystal Coast ended up being the spot, and this past Thursday, October 22, ended up being one of those days which I will get to enjoy over and over.
Thursday's morning sky was full of puffy white clouds. The temperature was cool, but there was no wind. This was to be my first chance this fall to hit the water when by all reports the fishing was really good. People were reporting decent catches from the fleet of boats going after the fall spots, Other boats were reporting good catches of puppy drum, trout, and blue fish. The surf and pier fishermen were also doing well.
I had one meeting at our church to do some training for the church secretary who was kindly taking over maintenance of the church website. After that I made a stop at Dudley's Marina to replenish my gear, picked up some shrimp for bait, and stopped by the ice machine on the way home. At 12:30 PM my fishing partner called to say he was home from work and would be over in a few minutes. Just before 1 PM we pulled away from the dock and headed out towards the White Oak River.
Surprisingly the river was still glassy smooth at 1 PM. Usually by that time of day we have a little breeze. We went slowly by two boats fishing not far from what we consider our private White Oak hole, and then I brought the boat up on plane for the trip to Swansboro.
Even when you live on the river, there are a limited number of days when the water is so smooth that the boat literally glides across it. Thursday afternoon was just such a day. The trip to Swansboro was so smooth that I was able to take a series of slides from my center console mounted camera. That the pictures are so clear gives you a very good idea of just how smooth the river was on Thursday. It was pretty close to amazing. I have had rides like it before, but they are usually around sunrise. The other nice thing about the trip on Thursday was that it was warm with the temperatures in the mid-seventies. We were dressed just as we were when we fished in the summer.
Getting to the Swansboro bridges from Bluewater Cove takes about ten minutes. I usually throttle back and go through Swansboro harbor relatively slowly. This time of year, you almost have no choice since you have to thread your way through the flotilla of spot fishing boats.
It was not long before we turned up the Intracoastal and cruised through what I like to think of as Cedar Point's main street. You briefly slow in the no-wake zone at the Wildlife Resources Ramp, but it is only a few minutes before you are turning and heading out Bogue Inlet. We passed a string of boats anchored along the eastern edge of the marshes that line the Inlet. That is also a favorite spot for fishing.
Soon we were making the last turn to the east where the Point at Emerald Isle is straight off your bow. After that you turn and head pretty much straight out into the ocean. It was this area about one half mile to one mile off the beaches that we wanted to fish. We first chose to fish on the west side of the channel and had very little luck so we moved farther out and fished on the east side of the channel.
From our position we had a good look at the Corps of Engineers' dredge that was working about another mile out. We had started bottom fishing with double hooked rigs. I had shrimp on one hook and artificial blood worm on the other hook. We were in about seven feet of water just off a hole that I had seen on the deepfinder, but we were getting no bites. Just then my partner, Dean, spotted some bluefish feeding on the surface. I grabbed the rod that I keep rigged with a Gotcha plug and put the plug in position to come back through the feeding zone. I immediately hooked a very nice bluefish. It was large enough that we needed to net it to get it inside the boat. As soon as Dean got rigged with a plug and cast into the feeding zone, he also hooked a bluefish. We landed eight nice bluefish in about fifteen minutes. Including a double where I had the distinct pleasure of unhooking two bluefish from one Gotcha plug. We decided that was enough fish to take home. We started throwing back everything that we caught.
We managed to hook and bring to the boat about thirty bluefish from that hole. We then moved on and tried to fish a wave zone for some red drum, but the water was so clear we decided the fish could see us and were staying away.
Then we made the fateful decision to fish on the west side of the Inlet just off Hammocks Beach. I had rigged up my trout rod with a new lure in case I saw any more feeding fish. We were back bottom fishing when once again we saw some blues feeding. I put my new lure right in the middle of them and three fish dived on the lure. I hooked one of them and brought it to the boat. I did exactly the same thing on twenty straight casts. The lure was a bluefish magnet.
By this time I had caught all the bluefish I wanted. My partner had been catching them also, but not on every cast. So I passed over my magic lure and sure enough, Dean started catching a fish every cast. We had a grand old time. I had bluefish dancing on the surface. Then there were bluefish diving as hard as they could, and most of the time my trout rod was bent almost double.
Finally it slowed to a fish on every third cast. We lost count of the fish at around seventy. It was one of those days that fishermen live for and never forget. We had been in one of the most beautiful spots on the east coast, and we had caught fish until we were tired of catching fish. The potential of having a day like that is one of the reasons I moved to the Crystal Coast. The fact that we could have that experience less than twenty minutes from my home dock is just amazing.
After getting back to the dock, I filleted the bluefish, skinned them, and cut away the dark meat so Dean and his wife would have some unforgettable fresh fish. According to all reports they loved the fried bluefish.
I was ready to go again today in search of red drum with another friend, and just as we were getting ready to put our gear on the skiff, a storm came in from the ocean. It appeared to follow the channel through Bogue Inlet and then come right up the White Oak. I was not heart broken at missing fishing today, I still had plenty of memories to savor from yesterday. Some memories will carry you for a long time. I am certain that yesterday's memories have some long legs..
I put up a couple of slide shows. One set of pictures takes you down the White Oak up the Intracoastal and out Bogue Inlet to ocean and back to Swansboro. The other show is from Swansboro back up the White Oak to Bluewater Cove. If you click on a picture you will get a larger version.
With a forecast that shows highs in the seventies for the foreseeable future, we can focus on being outside and enjoying the area once again. For me that means finding some time to get back on the water.
Fall water can be very inviting as the above picture snapped today in Cape Carteret shows. There are few things that are more enjoyable than spending a fall day on the water with the warm Carolina sun keeping away any thoughts of frosty temperatures. While being on the water defines fall for me, there are many other signs of fall along the Southern Outer Banks.
Many would argue that the biggest change that fall brings is the influx of fishermen who go surf fishing on our beaches. I would agree that a beach full of four wheel drive trucks with rod carriers and fishermen is a good indication of fall. Seeing trucks on the beach only happens in the October through April time so finding them there the first time after summer is proof positive that fall is here.
Another sign of fall along the coast would be fresh local oysters in our restaurants. They are a fall tradition that goes back many years. While most of the oysters these days are consumed steamed or fried instead of raw, the presence of local oysters is definitely a good sign that fall is here.
It does not take much driving up the beach road to figure out another sure sign of fall. That would the annual sales at the beach stores. Fall is the time when many of the stores try to move their remaining merchandise at a substantial discount. If you like to do bargain hunting, fall on the coast is a good time to do it.
Halloween decorations, especially lots of pumpkins, start showing up in fall, but we have a very unique decoration that starts making its appearance in some stores as early as October. It is those wonderful Crab Pot Christmas trees that are so popular along the Crystal Coast. I think everyone who has ever visited us when the trees are on display has gone home with one of the trees.
While we do not get the tremendous burst of fall colors seen in the mountains of North Carolina, you will see some color here on the coast in the fall. Often the Virginia creeper vines in the trees will turn red, and we also have a few other trees that provide us with a dose of color.
Fall is also the time that our centipede yards start going dormant. They often turn brown and then red. That works out well since if we mow our yards fewer times that translates into more time for fishing. Just at we start focusing on fishing, the farmers start collecting their crops. Combines in the corn field are the first signs that the growing season is winding down. Usually the soybeans and then cotton are harvested next. My years of farming taught me that it is hard to be a farmer and a fisherman at the same time..
Of all the signs of fall that I enjoy, probably the one that means the most to me are the boats gathered around the bridge to Emerald Isle. It sometimes looks like the fishing fleet goes all the way to Swansboro and a good distance up Bogue Sound towards Morehead City. Only in the fall do you see the gathering of the boats to catch spots. While those boats in the Intracoastal are chasing spots, many other boats are after red drum, trout, bluefish, and flounder. Fall is fishing here on the coast, and being out on the water in a boat is one of the best ways to enjoy the season.
With all this great weather, I expect to be on the water the next couple of days. I will be one of the dozens of Sundance skiffs with Yamaha motors anchored someplace along our shores testing my luck with our local fish. If things go right, I might even have some very fresh fish for dinner Thursday night. Whether I catch fish or not, I plan to have a great day and reconnect with the water. I will see you out there.
While I would say that I am all for change when it is raining, I have to argue that we have plenty of great weather here on the Crystal Coast.
While there are never guarantees on the weather, we do not see many days when it rains all day. We do see a fair number of days when we have to "endure" blue skies and nice temperatures. We tend to forget those when we run into a rainy spell.
While you can never have enough great days like we had this Wednesday, I suspect that we all can use a rainy day now and then to catch up with our paper work.
Of course if you are a dedicated fisherman, good weather is a relative term which depends on how well the fish are biting.
Last week even with working a few days, we managed three great afternoons on the water. There are not many places where water access, fish availability, and weather cooperate as well as they do here along the Crystal Coast.
If you can find a way off from work, you can be fishing somewhere in a matter of minutes. I had a couple of brook trout streams on my farm when I lived in Canada. Getting to the fish here is far easier than it was in Canada. I also lived in Roanoke, Virginia which has a trout stream running through the city. Fishing in Bogue Inlet is easier than that was.
While our weather does change a lot, our fishing waters are often close enough that we can fish, and if the weather starts looking questionable, it is only ten minutes to our home dock and safety.
Where most areas force you to drive for miles to get to fishing water, here in Carteret County no one is very far away from the water. If you are lucky enough to live in Cape Carteret or any of the many water access communities, getting your boat into the water is no big deal.
There also area a number of county residents who have managed to snare spots along the water where their boats are on lifts. If you really love to fish and want to do it at a moment's notice, there is no better way to do it. Since my skiff is right behind our house, it takes me less than ten minutes to load the skiff and do a check before we head out on the water.
It the weather is good, and I want to go fishing, fishing usually happens as long as I am not scheduled to work.
It is a pretty simple equation if you live down here, you do not spend hours on the road getting here. You also get the advantage of waiting for the good weather days to go fishing.
It turns out that with the drop in real estate prices, you can find a home in a water access subdivision for much less than you might imagine. If you have ever thought about having a second home where you could access the beaches and fish until your heart is content, now would be a good time to start looking.
I knew that I loved the area when we moved here, but I had no idea how comfortable I would feel living here and fishing the waters of Bogue Inlet and the White Oak. We almost always catch something, and even when we catch very little, we are fishing in one of the most beautiful areas on the east coast. Especially if you get one of those great weather days, it is a time you will probably never forget.
Every once in a while down here, you strike it rich fishing and have one of those once in lifetime fishing days.
As I am driving real estate clients around, I tell them that the only way that they can see the main street of the Crystal Coast is to get out on the Intracoastal Waterway. I can assure you that Cape Carteret and Cedar Point look very different from the water than they do from Highway 24. We are water communities with fishing at our fingertips.
The other thing that really impresses me about the area is that if you get tired of fishing in a boat or the weather is not right, you have the option of surf fishing or fishing from the pier.
I even fish from my kayak when I want to fish some marshy areas where it is hard to take the skiff. The nice thing about fishing here is that you can define your own success. To me the other day, it was catching just enough spots for a dinner with my wife. To a fellow from Kentucky that I met at Captain Sam's Shrimp Market, it was catching 291 spots from their boat this past Tuesday.
It you love to fish and want to be able fish more and do it in a safe area with a sustainable fishery, the Crystal Coast is a pretty good spot to consider.
Even with the fall roller coaster of weather, people usually get their quota of fishing in each year.
It happens to be one of those things that is a whole lot easier to catch if you live here instead of just come here as a regular visitor. Even the best weather forecasters have a hard time predicting it until all of the sudden we are enjoying temperatures in the mid to upper eighties. A good portion of the end of last week could be called summer weather.
Many of us made the most of it, disappearing for whole afternoons to enjoy the warmth on the water. I know that I had a couple of great days of fishing and fun on the water. I missed Saturday, the last of this recent stretch of summer. Sometimes even those of us who deliberately go without a watch on our wrist get caught and have to work.
One of the secrets to our weather is that we live next to a massive amount of water which once it warms up is very reluctant to cool down. That warm water makes fall a real treat here on the Southern Outer Banks, especially for those of us who are residents.
The weather in October and November can be tricky. We cooled off this Sunday, and it was overcast all day today, but our temperatures are still in the sixties and seventies which is not very hard to take considering parts of the west never made it past twenty degrees Fahrenheit this weekend. Staying that cold is easy to do if you have two feet of snow on the ground like they do in the mountains of Montana.
For many of us, this great fall weather is why we live here. It is really almost a perfect situation living along the coast. North Carolina is such a varied state that it you want to look at some fall leaves and mountains, all you do is get in your car and drive six hours. There are plenty of colorful leaves to see and lots of fall festivals. This being the south even in the mountains the peak color of the fall leaves does not happen until sometime between the third week in October and the first week of November.
After a quick trip to the chill of the NC or VA mountains, you can come back to the coast, take your blue jeans off and put your shorts back on, and if you are lucky, enjoy some of that summer in October. There are many of us living on the coast who sneak off to the mountains on a regular basis. My theory is that it makes me appreciate the coast even more when I come back.
This is a time of year on the coast when there is so much happening that you just hope that you can keep these days of great weather coming. Just this weekend we had Saint Francis by the Sea Lobster Festival and the Swansboro Mullet Festival. If you looked a little farther away you would have noticed Mumfest in New Bern, but we have never been able to drag ourselves away from our local events.
On top of all the festivals, this is the season to fish and because of where we live fishing is in the air and is not optional. In spite of heavy surf I fished in the surf once earlier in the week and then managed to fish from the skiff for two afternoons when the weather really got nice. We were not alone, and we did catch fish. The fewest boats were counted early in the week when there were only around five on each side of the bridge. On Saturday when we crossed the bridge to Emerald Isle at noon, my wife counted forty boats just on one side of the bridge.
Everyone was having a good time on the water except the barge pilots who had to convince all the boats anchored in the Intracoastal to move out of their way.
In addition to boating, lots of people were walking on the beach, and yesterday we even saw a game of beach volleyball going on at the Western Regional Access.
So now you know the secret of the Crystal Coast. The reason we do not mind sharing the beaches in the summer is that we have kept the best season, fall, to ourselves. Our fall weather is one of the great reasons why so many people fall in love with the area and end up living here.
If you have caught the bug for living here, rest easy. It does not take long to become a local, especially in the fall when you cannot hide among the visitors. Even the most hardened city dweller usually becomes friendly after walking on one of our beaches a few times.
If you cannot join us as a local, come for a fall visit, you might get lucky and snag one of those summer in October or November weeks. If not, the fish will surely be biting.
I spent a lot of years after college chasing wilderness and enjoying living far from real civilization. Much of the show about National Parks is inevitably about the west. We are very fortunate in North Carolina to have our fair share of National Parks.
I have camped from the Smokies to Ocracoke Island. There is not much that is nicer than falling asleep in a tent under a cloudless sky full of stars that you hardly knew existed. The exhaustion that comes from enjoying the beaches and trails of the parks makes sleep come easily and somehow burns the memories deeply into your soul. Yet my greatest pleasure is being able to taste the wilderness without facing the challenges.
The great thing about the Crystal Coast is that you do not have to work very hard to find yourself nearly out of sight of civilization. Yesterday as we went out Bogue Inlet and turned down towards Hammocks beach, it was not hard to think of a wilder time.
The beach near us had several pelicans and a few other sea birds but no humans. Once in a while we could see a boat in the distance, but as is sometimes the case, we were where no one else had decided to come.
That happens often on the Crystal Coast. It was that way this summer when my daughter found an island to herself in the Inlet.
The ability to spread out and enjoy the area without someone right on top of you is one of the great things about the Crystal Coast.
Last night after we returned to our dock, I went inside and convinced my wife to go for a short sunset cruise. We dropped the boat back in the water and in less than five mintes were back out in the White Oak watching the sun drop behind the clouds.
As far as I could tell we were the only boat on the river. It was dark enough that I could only see the outline of the trees on shore. As the sun went down, we had the world of the White Oak River to ourselves. I could easily imagine that the sunset looked very little different five hundred years earlier before white men set foot on these shores.
It is a special treat to get up in the morning and look out over trees, blue sky and water and know that where we live is about as wild as it can get and still be within an area which boasts four grocery stores and a Lowe's Home Improvement store.
One of the reasons we came here was that we wanted a place that would never be Myrtle Beach. I wanted to live within a short drive of Cape Lookout which preserves the Outer Banks as they were before men started building sand castles.
Having Croatan National Forest and the White Oak River covering my back is a benefit that I am just starting to appreciate. With my kayak, I can be in another world in less than five minutes of paddling. That is not a bad way to live.
It is a particular passion of mine to spend some regular time walking along the beach just where the waves wash up over my ankles. Three times a week is adequate beach walking. Less than that can have an impact on my work and my sleep.
Most people if they walk a beach and let the sound of the surf and the smell of the salt water take charge of their senses, can lose their thoughts on the beach. The beach is a wonderful cure for whatever is giving you trouble.
The problem can disappear for a few important moments while the surf and sand take charge of your body. It is often at these times when you can see things with the most clarity. While walking the beach works at all times of the day, there is something special about being on the beach as the sun starts to drop.
I actually think the harder it is to find time and good beach weather together, the more vigilant I become in adjusting things so we can have our beach time.
By design we often leave for the beach this time of year around 5 PM. By the time 6 PM rolls around, the light is getting just right for photographs. Once in a while the tides, light, and fish combine to make an especially nice evening.
A golden sun on a beach is hard to beat. There are times when the sun drops that the winds will pick up speed and then when the sun is gone, the winds die down.
Even the shore birds are calmer as the sun starts setting. Some of them even start bedding down. From these photos that I took on the beach yesterday evening you can get a nice feeling of the peacefulness of an evening beach.
Especially in the fall, after most people have gone back to their shore side homes, it is not much of a challenge to find a beach where you can watch the lights go out with only the shore birds as company.
That is exactly what happened to us yesterday. We were greeted by blue skies and the moon over the water. You can see the moon if you look closely at the photograph
By the time we left the beach everyone but the birds were gone. I know that I came off the beach feeling a real sense of peace.
My wife and I hardly spoke for the first few miles on our way back home. I suspect that neither of us wanted to destroy the moment that had been created by being the last to leave the beach that evening.
We thought about going back today, but unfortunately the winds are visiting us, so we will have to wait a day or two for the right conditions.
With the beach as part of our backyard, we know that it will be there tomorrow.
Well here on the Crystal Coast when it gets to September with October showing up in a few days, we know that it is time to seize whatever beach days are remaining.
This Thursday was one of those days. It was a very busy day for me since I had a real estate closing and a couple of other meetings. In spite of that I had it in my mind that I was going to make it to the beach.
The weather and the skies were just too perfect to ignore. So after we had finished sticking a sold sign in the yard of my very happy client, we came home, changed clothes, loaded my fishing rod, and my wife's beach chair and headed off to the beach.
There was really no debate since we both needed some relaxing time on the beach. We knew from being there on Sunday that the water was still warm. There was no mistaking the warm beach weather that descended on this week. It cried out for a trip to the beach.
My wife has one requirement for a beach that I try to get her to ignore. She wants to be able to wash her feet with water when she gets off the beach. I view that as a nicety, but as something that can easily be given up for other beach characteristics.
I value fishing structure or sandbars. I also like beaches with few people so I do not have to worry about my fishing bothering their activities. Since I was also on a mission to catch a bluefish with my spinning rod, my wife let win and go to my favorite beach which is the one at Third Street.
It only took us fifteen to twenty minutes to get to Third Street beach which is roughly eight miles down the beach after you get across the Emerald Isle bridge. There was only one car in the parking lot, and it was a young couple from Rhode Island. They were far too busy with each other to even notice our presence on the beach.
My wife set her chair up on the edge of a small drop off in the beach. I took up my position in the surf, and we both unwound. She watched the birds and the bluefish jumping just out of my casting range. I concentrated on getting my shiny lure as close to the jumping bluefish as physically possible.
Of course I took breaks to take pictures and to enjoy the beauty of the scenery around us. It was a perfect evening on the beach. The warm salt water washing up on my legs made me feel like I was out on the beach on a summer night.
It was about as magical as a time on the beach could be. About fifteen minutes before sunset I switched to my favorite lure, and in a few more casts landed a nice bluefish which I quickly returned to the ocean. I did not need to catch anything for the evening to be a memorable one, but I certainly will remember that bluefish in the context of that spectacular evening.
As we drove home into the setting sun, we both agreed that we need to seize each and every fall beach day. We were planning another one today. I managed to get my yard mowed and trimmed by about 1 PM. By the time I had gotten cleaned up, and we had finished lunch it was after 2 PM. I needed a little rest to recover from mowing in the heat of the day, but I ended up taking a couple of calls relating to another closing coming up early next week.
We were just getting ready to leave a little after 3 PM when the skies opened up. We ended up with a torrential downpour which delivered over an inch and one half of rain in just a few minutes. Light rain continued until after dark and stole our beach evening.
Rest assured we are ready to grab the next great beach evening. It is hard to beat getting a great photograph, catching a fish, and having fun with your wife on the beach.
We will be ready when the beach is ready.
It only takes me ten minutes to get to them so I spend much more time walking Emerald Isle beaches than I do walking beaches at the other end of the shore. Still variety is the spice of life so I do get the itch to walk some different sand.
This past Sunday was one of those days. It was too nice a day to spend inside, but the White Oak was a little choppy so I ruled out kayaking or taking the boat out. We needed a few things from Morehead City so I suggested we hit the Atlantic City beaches before doing our grocery shopping.
My wife was agreeable since Fort Macon is one of her favorite spots. It turned out that we never made it as far as Fort Macon.
As we came across the Atlantic Beach high rise bridge, I was amazed at how few people were on the causeway compared to just a few weeks ago. I guess some of the tourists are back home now, but there seem to be a fair number of people wandering the beaches.
When we got to the stoplight at the end of the causeway we turned left and headed towards Fort Macon. Just on a lark I turned onto Henderson Avenue to see if there was a parking space at the small CAMA lot in front of the Oasis Condos.
The location is one of my favorites. There is no dune to walk across and the sand is usually very nice.
We were in luck, there was one space left so we grabbed it, parked the car, and headed out on the beach. It was such a pleasant day that lots of people were strolling on the beach.
The sun was very bright, the water very blue, and the temperature for walking just right. We had a great time and almost lost track of time.
We had spent so much time walking that we really did not have time to go to Fort Macon before sunset. That was actualy okay since I got just the right amount of warm saltwater on my toes during our nice long walk.
While I cannot prove it, the water feels like it has warmed up a little since last week. I was surprised at the lack of fishermen on the beach. When we stopped at Eastern Regional Access in Emerald Isle yesterday, there were between twelve to fifteen fishermen on the beach there.
I did not see anyone catch anything of size, but it is nice to know that people are still holding out hope for a geat fishing season.
Before we headed home, we took advantage of some of Morehead City's shopping and one of its many restaurants.
Even with our long beach walk and some triple coupons at Harris Teeter, we managed to get home by 8:30 PM.
Sunday was just another example of Savoring our Southern Fall.
Today the forces of warmth, blue skies, and emerald waters stormed back into town. I was happy to see the invasion, especially the blue skies. We really have not been cold, we just have not been hot.
With the absence of hot, people assume that winter is around the next corner. It did my soul good to see people swimming in the ocean today. I was also pleased to hear my wife say that she needed cooler clothes for a beach walk.
These are all signs of a summer that is fighting to stay in place as some places to the north of us are facing frost for the first time this weekend. If we see frost by December that will be soon enough for me.
If you listened to the weathermen last night, today's blue skies and warm temperatures were something of a surprise. The forecasts did not have us clearing up today.
When I rolled out of bed this morning, I thought that we were in store for even worse weather. Fog had blotted out the sun and blue skies were only a memory.
Fortunately it did not take long for us to get some better looking skies. The improved local weather quickly changed my plans for the day. First we headed off for a boat ride to Swansboro.
After that we took a quick trip to the beach to enjoy some ocean breezes. We were surprised by the large number of people on the beach at the Eastern Regional Access in Emerald Isle. There were a number of people fishing. There were also several people swimming with some of them a good distance off the beach.
It was actually pretty warm on the beach so there were a lot of umbrellas spread up and down the beach. This is such a great time of year. We have warm days and at night, we can sleep with the windows open. It is so nice to not have to run the air conditioning.
I also do not mind that the grass no longer needs to be mowed every week. There are some other signs of fall. Today when we stopped at Winberry's Produce Stand, they were selling their large bags of sweet potatoes. That is a definite signal that the growing season is drawing to a close.
There was a special treat waiting for me at the produce stand, scuppernongs. I have been eating those grapes since I was a kid growing up near Winston-Salem, NC, in the fifties. Considering that they are recognized as one of North Carolina's native grapes, they are a little challenging to find in the stores. However,they are well worth the effort.
It has been a good week here on the coast. I even managed to sneak in some kayaking during our impressive high tides.
With the sweet potatoes ripe, the skies blue, and the weather warm, all we need now is for the fish to start biting.
When the skies and water are that special morning blue, it seems like you can see forever. If on top of that the winds are calm, it really does feel like you have limitless possibilities with your day.
A morning of great weather with no winds makes a trip to Shackleford Banks easily imaginable. Perhaps even a trip to Wilmington by boat crosses your mind. That one would be a stretch for me. It is more likely that I might have thoughts of spending the day over in Bogue Inlet chasing bluefish or flounder.
Of course just because you are out on the water does not mean that all your thoughts have to be related to water. Sometimes morning waters are like a clean slate on which to write your day. Here on the Crystal Coast there are some neat things to do coming up this fall, and you do not need a boat for any of them.
First on the list should be the Beaufort by-the-sea 300th Anniversary Celebration. There are a number of events scheduled throughout September to celebrate this historic occasion. On the schedule is everything from boat rides, to concerts and even stories about menhaden. I suspect everyone could find something to do and enjoy.
Next on my list would be the 55th annual Swansboro Mullet Festival. There will arts and crafts, a parade, several bands, a duck race, and a mullet fry among other things. This year I actually plan to try some mullet. I have always worked a booth, and the mullet has always been gone by the end of my shift.
Before we get to the Mullet Festival we have some lobsters to eat. A week from this coming Saturday, on September 26, there is the St. Peter's by the Sea Lobster Festival. If those lobsters are not enough to fill you up, then just wait for the St. Francis by the Sea and Bogue Banks Lobster sale on Saturday October 10. And of course our local oysters are back in season this time of year.
If after eating all that lobster and mullet, you need to get a little exercise, you could sign up the 3rd annual Flounder Surf Fishing tournament sponsored by the Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation Department. What better activity could there be than sticking your toes in the salt water in an attempt to catch a nice flounder?
Beyond these organized events, fall is a great time to walk the beaches, fish for some spots or bluefish and enjoy the endless blue skies. We are lucky on the Crystal Coast, the glow of summer lasts well into the fall. While the waters might have cooled down some, the air is plenty warm, and the sun can still provide lots of warmth.
September or October is also a great time to catch a ride on the ferry over to Hammocks Beach. Make sure you check the schedule since it changes in the fall. There is nothing like being on a beach where vehicles exist only in your memories.
Normally when you are out on that glassy smooth morning water, bad weather is far from your mind. However, if you do get caught in some showers or experience a rainy day, you can visit the Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores or the Maritime Museum in Beaufort and enjoy them without summer's crowds.
The possibilities are limitless here in the fall on the Southern Outer Banks.
I seriously doubt the Crystal Coast is ready to let go of summer that easily. While September did seem to turn a weather page, we will not be enjoying seventy-five degree high temperatures for much longer.
After Friday, September 11, the long range weather forecasts have the high temperatures in the mid to low eighties for the next two weeks. In case anyone has forgotten, it has been only a few weeks since heat was what we got every day.
We were begging for some cooler temperatures with less humidity. Right now we are getting those cooler temperatures. We will be warm again very soon. However, there are few questions worth exploring.
The first question among the beach walkers is whether or not the water will warm back up? At the moment that does not look promising. Water temperatures at Hammocks Beach have already dropped to seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit.
The only thing that can reverse that is a number of warm nights when the air temperature stays above eighty degrees. I only see a couple of days when the air temperature is going to stay above seventy at night in the next couple of weeks.
With those cool evening temperatures, it is going to be hard to warm the ocean back to the eighties unless we get some really warm weather in October. That is not out of the question, but it is also not likely.
The next question is whether cooler water temperatures really matter?
At this point the beaches are really nice for walking, very refreshing if you go wading and pretty nippy if you go swimming. However, we all know that most of the people who enjoy swimming in the water are back in school.
Those of us who love to walk the beaches, look for shells, and cast for a few fish are not impacted by the cooler water temperatures. In fact, we fishermen welcome the cooler water temperatures. The fish are much more active which means they are more likely to take a bait or hit a lure.
The rains of last Monday did not help the situation a lot. If you dump eight inches of cool rainwater into the ocean it is likely to have some impact. While the river handled it easily, there was still an impact on the water temperatures.
However, with temperatures climbing to the mid-eighties for the next couple of weeks, the Crystal Coast will be nearly a paradise for most people which is why so many of us live here the whole year.
We still have enough visitors to keep us on our toes, but we are definitely past the peak of tourist traffic. This is actually the time of year when you might have a few more conversations with visitors. Things are not as rushed or crowded so people are a little more likely to strike up a conversation.
This is a very pleasant time of the year. We will not be using the air conditioning very much. I have the windows open at our house tonight. Still as long as the temperatures are getting into the eighties, I refuse to declare summer over. The waters might be a little cooler, but the people living here are just as warm and friendly as they are in mid-July.
Eighty plus degrees in September is a pretty nice temperature. Just check with my friends in Fredericton, New Brunswick, in Canada. They had frost warnings last night.
We are certainly in no rush to see summer disappear, and if past falls are any indication we might still be rewarded with some great beach weather over the next few months.
Sometimes fall keeps winter at bay even in December. I for one am counting on it. My second crop of tomatoes has only been in the ground three weeks. I already have a green tomato so my hopes are high.
Also I might need plenty of time to catch that red drum I want this fall.
For me one of those places that triggers the feeling that the fun is about to start is the narrow passage from Raymond's Gut to the White Oak River. With just a few strokes of the paddle, you go from the safe harbor at Bluewater Cove to the huge expanse of the White Oak River.
The river looks very different sitting a few inches off the water in a kayak than it does from behind the center console in our skiff. The Friday before Labor Day weekend, I went out a couple of times in the skiff.
On Saturday morning I paddled my kayak out in the river to fish for red drum at high tide. The experiences were completely different, but both were fun in their own way.
I have been itching to get back on the water. Weather and some busy days at work have conspired to keep me on shore. Monday of this past week, I vowed that I would find a way. On Wednesday I consulted with Brian, one of my fishing buddies. Our considered opinion was that based on schedules and forecasts, Friday was our best bet.
Thursday night we talked, and it looked like a front might be hanging just off the coast on Friday. I also got a call from another friend, Dean, who fishes with me a lot. I had been with him earlier in the summer when he bought his wife a new fishing rod. We both had been hoping to get her out in the boat so she could test her skill. He said they could fish Friday afternoon.
Friday morning dawned with some clouds but just a light wind. Just after breakfast I decided to get some shrimp for bait and check out the Intracoastal at the same time. I drove down to Clyde Phillip's between the bridges and bought the shrimp after I had surveyed the waters and determined that they were calling my name.
I pulled into Dudley Marina's for a few weights and hooks. I was the only customer vehicle parked at Dudleys. I commented on that as I walked in and was told to come back in a few hours if I wanted crowds.
When I got back in the truck, I called Brian, my morning fishing buddy to see if he was still available. I told him we could go for a couple of hours before I had to come in for some real estate work. That worked well with him since he had some things to do in the afternoon. I headed back to our house after picking up some ice.
We had the boat loaded and pulled away from the dock by 10:30 PM or just before high tide on the White Oak. We had decided to make this a reconnaissance trip with the hope that we could spend a full day fishing the week after Labor Day.
As luck would have it, we had to stop and catch a couple of bluefish in Swansboro Harbor to satisfy ourselves that all the ones breaking the surface all over the harbor were too small to keep.
We checked out the Inlet and surveyed the changes since we had fished there earlier in the summer. We fished a little more and then decided to go up the Coast Guard Channel before heading home. We saw more boats in the water there than we had seen anywhere.
As we were going under the bridge and heading back up the White Oak, three jet skis were coming out of the White Oak and heading into the Intracoastal. That made it feel a lot more like a holiday weekend.
We got home, docked, and I grabbed a sandwich. I finished the work I had to do just as my friend Dean and his wife pulled into the driveway. We loaded their stuff in the boat and headed back down to Swansboro. After looking at a couple of spots, we picked an inlet just off the Intracoastal. Dean's wife, Gail, actually caught a fish before Dean and I even got our lines in the water. We went on to catch over twenty croakers and assorted bottom fish. We threw them all back, but we had lots of fun catching them.
As we made our way back to Swansboro and up the river, it became clear from the increased boat traffic that this was going to be a boating weekend in spite of the clouds that had rolled in during the afternoon.
Saturday morning blue sky once again held sway on the White Oak. At my Friday stop at Dudley's I had purchased a couple of top water lures to use in chasing red drum, We have some big oyster rocks not far from Bluewater Cove. When they flood at high tide, they are a pretty good place to chase red drum.
As I slid my kayak in the water I had high hopes that I might be at the right place at the right time in my red drum chase. With the north wind at my back, I had an easy paddle out to the river. There were a couple of boats already fishing in the general area, but they were not in the spot that I had in mind. Just as I got in position, I noticed the wind starting to pick up.
I was probably 100 yards or more from the marked channel that takes you from the Whtie Oak to the Intracoastal, but the combination of half a dozen boats headed out the river at full throttle and an increasing wind made kayak fishing a marginal proposition. While small wakes are mainly an annoyance in a skiff, in a kayak they cannot be ignored. After forty-five minutes of fighting to stay in position, I headed back towards the quiet waters of Raymond's Gut and Bluewater Cove. It ended up being a hard paddle since I was paddling right into the wind, but it was good exercise.
It probably took me as long to paddle home from the middle of the river just outside our inlet as it did for us to come the three and one half miles from Swansboro in the skiff at full power on Friday. Still both were lots of fun. I posted some pictures of my kayaking adventure.
I feel like I am tuned up and ready for the fall fishing season. Now if the weather will just cooperate, I suspect that my pulse will start to race each time that I head through my gateway to fun. It will not matter if I am in the skiff or the kayak, I will be ready for some action.
Those days were probably the golden days of youth. We wandered far and wide with few restrictions.
Today it is rare that families can feel safe about their children, but I like to think that the Crystal Coast is about as safe a place for families as you can find these days.
I was reminded of that when a young middle school teenager knocked on our door in Bluewater Cove this afternoon. She was selling chocolate bars to raise funds to replace cheerleading outfits at Broad Creek Middle School.
Apparently a broken water pipe rendered their uniforms useless. I can remember going around our neighborhood as a child selling everything from first aid kits to peanuts. My own children did the same in our neighborhood in Roanoke, VA, as they were growing up.
A few years ago I noticed that when the youngster came to the door, there was always a parent in the background. It was a sign of the times. Today's teenage visitor was by herself. It was reassuring to know that at least our gated community is deemed safe.
I actually think that there are some characteristics of the Crystal Coast that are even more important than gates in keeping our children safe.
First and foremost this is a family oriented area. Many people care enough about their families to move to our area which is on a small enough human scale that people actually know each other.
If you live here and frequent the same spots for a few months, people will remember you and even start to smile at you when you show up. It does not take long before you are part of the community of year around residents.
We are not a faceless society here on the Crystal Coast. Almost everyone who works in our businesses, schools, and hospitals lives here in the community. That is not the case in many larger areas. In metro areas it is not unusual for people to have to live many miles away from their jobs.
Another important characteristic is that we are community that likes to get together to play. We have so many festivals where we come together to renew friendships that it is easy to keep track of each others' families. Even if you move to another subdivision, you will likely run into someone at least a few times each year. Our festivals our legendary. The Swansboro Mullet Festival is coming up in October, then there will be Halloween at the Aquarium, and it will not be long before it is time for the old fashioned Christmas Parade in Emerald Isle or one of the holiday parades in the other towns.
Getting together also works on the subdivision level. Our homeowners association sponsors parties at Halloween, Christmas, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and this year we are having an end of summer fish fry. We even have a golf cart parade for the Fourth of July.
Then there are our second families, the churches of the area. Not only do they hold events for their congregations, but they also do events for the general community. We are days away from the Episcopal Lobster festivals. I believe the first one is usually at Saint Peters by the Sea in Swansboro, followed by the one at St. Francis by the Sea in Salter Path. Our church, Cape Carteret Presbyterian, just held an end of the season dinner and music program especially for visitors. We had great food, music, and fellowship.
Even the business people of the area get together and talk regularly. We recently had an event sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and a number of businesses at Cannonsgate. When you get together this often, it is inevitable that you end up recognizing people and talking to them.
There are other reasons the Crystal Coast is a relatively safe harbor in today's challenging world. We are a small town environment surrounded by lots of natural beauty. We have mostly people who have chosen to live here because they love the area. Often in making that decision they have given up making lots of money and chosen to be where they and their families can be happy.
People here on the Crystal Coast enjoy the out of doors, and nightlife is not such a big deal here. Sometimes turning in early at night because you are worn out from fishing, boating, swimming, kayaking, biking or walking the beaches is the best way to stay out of trouble.
One way or the other, it is nice to be anchored in one of those protected harbors.
If you check the pictures linked in my post, "The Ramp to Nowhere," you might just wonder what would have happened if Bill had paid us a visit. While Bill moved a lot of sand around on the Point, two years ago just after I bought my permit to drive on the beach, the same ramp was even in worse shape.
Water was lapping at the foot of it. This past winter so much sand came back, that I heard talk of a parking area on the Point for four wheel drive vehicles. It is the nature of the ocean to change things.
Bogue Inlet which borders the Point at Emerald Isle is a very unique spot. It is not static real estate. The strong currents and shifting sands never seem to be satisfied. There is always a new cut or sandbar popping up.
While it means that a printed chart of Bogue Inlet can be near worthless, it does not mean that Bogue Inlet is unnavigable. Actually Bogue Inlet is very well marked and assuming you are not trying to boat during a storm, you should not have any trouble as long as you take your time.
While I would not choose to do it myself, I have even seen kayakers out in the roughest part of Bogue Inlet. The currents are very strong where the ocean waters meet the waters of the sound.
Of course that very spot is where the fishing is often great. Even with a couple of experienced boaters, maintaining your position can be a challenge.
The Point is great magnet for beach goers. It is a little bit of a hike to get to the CAMA accesses nearest the Point. However, I do not mind the extra walking. It is worth a little effort since the other beaches get much heavier traffic than the Point. That means the Point is usually cleaner with fewer people.
It is also a special spot. No place on the island is a better example of where the water meets ti sky. Enjoy the Point, it is a special place.
In the end what we got out of Bill was not worth any complaints. We watched with interest as Bill headed to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where we lived for a couple of years. I got a kick out of the local newspapers covering the arrival of Bill. Maritimers in Canada and the US are noted for their ability to handle almost any situation with complete calm.
One local Nova Scotian was interviewed and asked how he felt about the approaching storm. He said that he was much better prepared than he was for the last storm. He had purchased a manual can opener so he no longer had to worry about the power going out. I think Halifax escaped Bill with lots of rain and some wind. Here on the Crystal Coast, we ended up with a lot of foamy waters.
When we first walked on the beach last evening we could tell immediately that there had been some changes and some high water. The sand was wet almost to the steps of Third Street Beach. Also the small sand bench that is often on the beach had been replaced by a gently sloping beach.
However, the most obvious difference was the water. It had been whipped around so much that in places six inches of foam floated on the waves. I thought it felt neat until a larger than normal wave managed to soak most of my shorts.
Somehow it felt like our favorite beach had been transformed for a time into a beach with waves of foam. The waves seemed to be breaking a little farther from shore than normal which seemed to mean that the water got crashed into the sand multiple times before reaching the shore. Perhaps that action is what created all the foam.
It was also very still on the beach with almost no wind. The firm sand made for really great walking. However, it appears that all of our shells have temporarily been transported to another time zone. There were almost no shells on the beach. If past experience is any guide, they will be back.
Our little piece of favorite beach which is just about as far east as you can get before driving out of the town of Emerald Isle was also one of the few places last evening with any blue sky. Back down the beach towards the town of Emerald Isle the sky was especially dark. We could also see dark clouds across Bogue Sound and storm clouds to the east of us. Only the ocean water to the South seem to lay claim to some blue sky.
It was just another one of those cases where we managed to find some blue sky for our evening out. The calm water made it easy to lose oneself on the beach. We will get to see enough rough surf over the year. It was a treat to walk in the foamy waters of the Atlantic even for one August evening. The nice light and foamy waters caused my camera to go wild, and I ended up posting four pages of photos that I selected out of the three hundred that I took.
As we headed back to Emerald Isle, the rain caught us, and our drive back to Bluewater Cove required the windshield wipers the whole drive back to Bluewaterr Cove.
Still even a drive in the rain was a small price to pay for a magical evening and a miss by a hurricane.
The first year we lived in Nova Scotia, we got over a foot of snow in the middle of September. The power was out for a week. Some recent visitors to the island from Montana have told me that they are already seeing temperatures in the high thirties at night.
Last week when I was in the Virginia mountains, I even saw a few leaves changing. In most places September does mean much cooler evenings and a return to normal day time temperatures.
Here on the Crystal Coast our average low temperature at night changes very little during September. Even our daytime highs only start to moderate after the middle of September. Weather is challenging to predict as anyone who has seen this year unfold, but those are the long term trends here on the coast.
September on the Crystal Coast, when it comes to weather, is pretty much a continuation of August. As we walk the beaches there is little thought of cooler weather until we can see October.
Our weather is one of the neat things about living here on the Crystal Coast. Cateret County is over one half water, and those large bodies of water tend to keep our temperatures from changing very rapidly., In the spring we often will go through much of June without serious hot weather because the waters around us have not warmed.
In the fall the warm ocean waters keep us from feeling any chill until well into the fall. I personally like our warmth. After years in Canada, it feels pretty good to wear shorts until December.
As the summer winds down, August is one of the last months where we enjoy a wide selection of local produce, but that is pretty much the case in much of North Carolina. My good friend, Sally, who lives in Massachusetts, has seen a tomato-less summer. It is just the opposite for us. My wife will hardly eat a homegrown tomato because she has seen so many on her plate this year. I might even have to secretly plant my fall tomato crop. When we lived in Canada, September was probably one of the biggest garden months.
One might think that we would see a big September drop in visitors. Fortunately the drop we see is not something for concern. We have this whole set of visitors who have just been patiently waiting for September before they come to the beach. We get a lot of parents whose children are still too young for school. Then we see some older travelers who just like to avoid peak seasons. Sometimes they are on the way to Florida. Finally fall brings us our fishermen who wait all year for this magical time.
It is really very relaxing to have an extra month to transition into fall. It gives us more time to think about the important things in life such as which is the best shelling beach or which restaurant serves the best grouper sandwich.
It is a little easier to get into local restaurants during September, and the grocery stores are no longer out of bounds on the weekend, but from where I sit, September just looks a lot like August with younger kids to me .
I am pretty sure my feet will not be able to tell the difference in water temperature along the shore as September arrives. I am counting on blue skies and fluffy clouds for months to come. There might not be any as interesting as the one I saw this morning, but we will have some wonderful summer days in September before we see October on the horizon.
There is something universal that draws us to the water. I have been attracted to water for as long as I can remember. I know the symptoms well. In my case, I need to see the water soon after I get up each morning.
For me that means a walk out on the dock behind my house or walking across the street to the Bluewater Cove boardwalk which traces the edge of Raymond's Gut as it flows into the White Oak River.
That first look at the water each morning certainly does not cure me for the day, it normally just starts me thinking about how I can get on or in the water sometime during the day.
Occasionally I have to make to do with no more than a trip across the bridge to Emerald Isle. Other times I am lucky and can take the boat or kayak out in the river or over to the Inlet.
Sometimes I manage to go surf fishing, and then there are those late night swims which I enjoy so much. The water is one of the reasons we came to Carteret County.
Figuring out how to get close to it is often the challenge aspiring residents face first.
When someone says that they want to be on or near the water, the natural response from someone in Carteret County is to say, "You have to be more specific than that, there is a lot of different kinds of water in this county."
That turns out to be the honest truth. We have kayak water, skiff water, big boat water, and of course we have modifiers like ocean, sound, and river. Then just for fun we can add marsh, Intracoastal, and canal.
Prices for waterfront property have come down considerably in the last few years, but it is still challenging to find inexpensive waterfront property that has access to good water and is suitable for homes.
One of the ways that many of us have solved the problem of being on or near the water is by finding a home in a water access community. Homes in water access communities often have deeded access to the water and enjoy a common area on the water. Some communities like Bluewater Cove have pools, docks, and boat ramps.
I have learned that having a number of people use an access point to a river is actually a good thing. Having more boats travel out an channel like Raymond's Gut at Bluewater Cove means that it has to be dredged less often. So it is often with a sense of duty that I drop my skiff into the water and ride out into the White Oak River just to help keep our channel clean.
There are a number of water access communities across Carteret County. Over on Emerald Isle we actually have beach access communities. There the communities often share beach access and other amenities like a pool. There are also communities on the sound which offer access to water.
While those of us who work in the western end of the county know this end of the county very well, Bluewater GMAC has offices in Beaufort and also Atlantic Beach. Those offices know the eastern end of Carteret County just as well as the Emerald Isle and Cape Carteret offices know the western part of the county.
As people once again start to look at real estate with an eye towards retirement or finding a second home, you will find Bluewater agents experts in getting you as close to the water as possible.
You might end up living in a Bluewater designed community like Bluewater Cove where my wife and I enjoy the water almost every day of the year. Even on day like today when the skies opened up in the afternoon, we still enjoy being on the water's edge.
There were a number of reasons why we chose Bluewater Cove, but the most important one was being near the water. As I said it is still all about the water.
Still it is a big decision as to what water meets your needs. One of the first divisions that pops up is between beach and boat people. While it is easy to love both, usually in the end, one or the other has to give. Usually the only way to have a boat at your home if your home is on the beach is to park it in the driveway.
Our big waters, the ocean, sound, and rivers each have their advantages. It often depends on your personality as to where you will be the happiest. Of course your wallet often has something to say about the location that best fits your budget.
Just about everyone knows that our beachfront property is the most expensive in the area, but that is sometimes tempered by the fact that it also provides the strongest stream of revenue if you are planning on renting your home part of the time.
The oceanfront property also is the highest maintenance property that we have since they are usually the most exposed to weather and especially the winds.
Normally the beach homes you find are a somewhat smaller house if you consider the same amount of dollars will buy more home on the mainland.
When we were weighing whether to live on the beach or not, we found homes that were sixty to seventy percent larger on the mainland which cost the same as beach homes back several rows from the water.
Still there is nothing like being able to walk out your door and be on the beach. It is a rare privilege, and one that many have figured out how to afford.
The next most expensive water property would be sound front property which is divided in sound front on the island and sound front on the mainland. Being on the sound is very desirable especially if you are just a few minutes to Bogue Inlet.
While it might appear that being on the sound poses less danger, it is still possible to get substantial flooding along the sound. The water in the sound is often the same color as the ocean and usually has a nice sandy bottom. Many people have modified their docks along to the sound so that the flooring can be dumped into the water before a storm. Without flooring, docks can much more easily survive the flooding that might come with a storm.
The least expensive water to own is on a river. Just as the North River is a popular spot over by Beaufort, the White Oak River has a number of communities not far from Emerald Isle.
My wife and I actually live on the White Oak River in Bluewater Cove. We chose the community because it was designed as a boating community with great access to the Intracoastal Waterway. While we have to drive ten minutes to get to a beach, I can have my boat in the water in less than five minutes. Ten minutes later, I am exiting the White Oak River and turning into the Intracoastal Waterway.
With being on the river, we got a little more protection from storms and still found a community close to the beach. While the White Oak is a blackwater river with a bottom that is either silt or oyster shells. It is very clear and clean since there is no city dumping pollution into it. By living on the White Oak, we also have the choice of boating on the river when the sound and Intracoastal are crowded during the summer. Few tourists will venture up the White Oak since it requires following a marked channel.
Finding the right spot on the Crystal Coast is all about trade offs. Once you have seen a few properties, you will know whether the beach, sound, or river make the most sense for you.
Our family has enjoyed many wonderful beach trips over the years. It just seemed natural that we should try to find a beach place that could create memories year round. As we looked up and down the east coast, we found that a lot of places were one dimensional.
There might be beautiful scenery, but the communities nearby were not places that seemed to have much to get excited about except the changing of the seasons. Then we rediscovered Carteret County where I had fished as a teenager many years ago.
It had the beautiful scenery, but it also seemed to be filled with people trying hard to squeeze as much fun as possible out of every day. There seemed to be a festival every month.
We ended up in a wonderful community built by Bluewaer Builders on the shores of the White Oak River. Coming to Bluewater Cove has turned out to be a great decision.
We wanted to be on the water so we could have a boat and lift. We were able to do that in Bluewater Cove. Getting a lift took us a while but with Bluewater's great ramp and on site boat storage, we were fine for the first few months without our lift.
We did not want just a boating community, and we found out quickly that Bluewater was far more that just a great place to have as home base for your boat. It was also a great community with a pool and clubhouse at the center of it.
While our kids used to struggle to find something to do in our home town of Roanoke, Virginia, here on the coast the biggest problem is getting everything in during a short stay. From fishing to boating to just relaxing on the beach, it seemed that people were having a great time.
These last few days we had two of our daughters here along with one significant other and our granddaughter who came down to celebrate her first birthday at the beach.
From the ease of doing last minute shopping for the birthday girl to running out for fresh corn from Winberry's farm stand this afternoon, the Crystal Coast seems to have the modern conveniences that you need to keep young and old adults happy.
My youngest daughter started every morning with a run down Lowrey Lane which is the new section of Bluewater Cove called the Oaks. Two or three times she told me what a pleasure it was doing her run down the traffic free road which is shaded by tall pines and Live Oaks as it parallels Raymond's Gut which connects us to the White Oak River.
After the run, she would head for the swimming pool just across the cul de sac from our home.
In addition to the birthday party for our granddaughter, Nicole. We also got to take her to the beach twice.
When I thought about buying a place to create some great memories, little did I dream that we would get to enjoy our granddaughter's first birthday and take her on her first beach walk.
There is no doubt in my mind that our lives are richer for having moved to the Crystal Coast. As I see in my mind's eye our granddaughter's amazement as the cool salt water washes up on her legs.
Most people are warm all over. Our low temperature at night for the last three evenings has been staying above eighty degrees Fahrenheit. At that temperature there is little cooling at night.
The only choice is to abandon any fear of the warmth and the South. You have to embrace the heat. If you boldly go outside and do not worry about the heat, you will be fine as long as you drink lots of fluids.
With the breeze and the ocean waters, even this heat will be a pleasant memory when January rolls around. Then you can remember how warm the sand was and the shock when you first walk from your air conditioned home into our humid blanket of warmth. Your body adjusts pretty quickly especially if you are wearing the minimum amount of clothing.
Once you have embraced the heat, you might as well explore Southern life a little. The best way to do that is with some Southern food.
My wife and I were both born in North Carolina so we are well versed in North Carolina's culinary arts. One of the things that helps us survive the heat, is the food we eat.
Once summer begins and the tomatoes are ripe the first week in June, we quickly start eating tomato sandwiches. While there are lots of people who will argue that you cannot have a good tomato sandwich on anything other than white bread, I am very partial to using Pepperidge Farm soft oatmeal bread. I have learned to live with Kraft light mayonnaise. I even skip the salt on my sandwich and make do with lots of pepper, but you have to find some homegrown tomatoes to enjoy a real tomato sandwich at its finest. On a hot evening a tomato sandwich both feeds you and keeps the kitchen cool.
Our mothers were fond of abandoning meat on hot evenings. You might have green beans, corn on the cob, cornbread, sliced tomatoes, perhaps fried squash and cantaloupe or watermelon.
While turning out perfect cornbread involves significant expertise, a well seasoned cast iron pan, and a good recipe, hush puppies are easier but do make something of a mess. Our family recipe for hush puppies gives you a real taste of the South.
if you want something really easy, try fried yellow summer squash. It is so simple that I am usually in charge of it. Find the nicest, small, blemish free yellow summer squash that you can. Slice it into rounds about one quarter of an inch thick. Heat about one quarter of inch of vegetable oil in a large frying pan. My wife claims the oil wiggles when it is hot enough. While the oil is getting hot, dip your squash in some Egg Beaters or beaten egg on a small plate and then coat them on another plate that has cornmeal on it. When you put one of the coated squash rounds into the frying pan, it should sound like frying. If not, the oil is not hot enough. Once you have filled the pan, salt and pepper them, then go back and see if the first ones are brown on the bottom. When they are brown, flip them over. When they are brown on both sides remove to a plate covered with paper towels. Eat while hot.
Another favorite hot weather food happens to be pimento cheese sandwiches. My pimento cheese recipe is easy to fix and has won a number of accolades on the web.
There are some coastal things that we eat in hot weather which are not a lot of trouble. One of my favorites is simple grilled scallops. I use cooking spray on our fish cooking grill tray. I buy scallops that are in their own juice either in a bag or container with a top. As soon the grilling sheet is warm, I place the scallops on the sheet so they are not touching. I close the grill for two or three minutes, and then flip each scallop and close the grill for another two or three minutes. You do not have to let the scallops start flaking to know that they are done. The best way is to cut one and see if it is cooked through. As soon as they are done, we remove them from the grill to a platter and then people fight over them.
Some other favorites to fix on the coast in the summer are chilled cocktail shrimp, and if you love fish, classic pan fried flounder. Another favorite of ours happens to be crab cakes. Our "secret recipe" is the one on the Old Bay seasoning can. We usually use lump crab meat and pack it in ice even when it is stored in the fridge before cooking.. Just make sure you use fresh, local NC seafood.
With these Southern dishes and your new found love of the heat and humidity, you will not only enjoy the beach, but you might go back home with some new recipes.