Kayaking Our Big Tidal River

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glassywhiteoakriverwm

Looking north up the White Oak River

Maybe it is the weather or just the rhythm of life here on the coast but it seems that I often write about kayaking in the middle of July. Last year on July 13, I wrote Saturday Kayaking On The White Oak.

Until I moved to the coast in 2006, all my kayaking had been done on quiet mountain lakes. Kayaking on the White Oak is nothing like those trips that I used to take on Carvins Cove near Roanoke, Virginia. There was little to worry about on the lake except an afternoon thunderstorm.

Kayaking on the White Oak is more complex. The White Oak is a big coastal river that is from one to two miles wide. While the current seems light, it can be amazingly strong when all that water is forced into a narrow channel where that are cuts between the oyster rocks.

Most people have never heard of oyster rocks and you certainly do not want to get acquainted with one at high speed in your boat. While real rocks are not native to Carteret County, we have plenty of oyster shells that compact together to make oyster rocks.

In the White Oak the oyster rocks are long ledges that span much of the center of the lower river. At high tide some are barely covered and others are under water a foot or so. This picture shows a long oyster rock just emerging from the water as the tide drops.

Sometimes just an end of an oyster rock might be sticking up appearing as an island like the one in this picture. There are other times when just a few shells from a massive oyster rock are visible. A close look at this oyster rock should give you a good idea of why I never go kayaking with bare feet.

Oyster rocks which show up as white lines on this map of the river are a big part of kayaking the part of the White Oak where we live. While I respect the rocks, I am pretty much at home on the oyster rocks. The oyster rocks are where the fish are so that is often where I am.

There are other challenges on the river but boat traffic is rarely one of them. The interaction between the current of the river flowing to the sea and the tide which can be enhancing it or going in the other direction makes kayaking on a big coastal river interesting. Then there is the wind. Once in a while you seem to reach equilibrium on the river and you can just enjoy the glassy smooth water and not worry about wind, current, tides, or oyster rocks but that is relatively rare.

Sometimes the wind whips the river up into whitecaps. Since most of the river is shallow this can happen quickly. Because of the oyster rocks and the way they are positioned, there are areas in the river which actually enhance the chop caused by winds and tides. My Old Town Dirigo 120 seems to handle the chop better than my old Wilderness System Pungo 120. It has a higher bow but that also lets the wind push it around a little more.

You have to flexible when you head out on a river like the White Oak. Sometimes when I get out our inlet and into the big river I find conditions that I did not expect. Once in a while I end fishing along the edges in protected areas instead of my favorite area in the middle of the river.

I do go out prepared. I wear my life suspenders, have a small anchor, my cellphone and a flashlight with me. There are areas where it would be hard for a boat to rescue you, but most of those are shallow areas and with shoes you could walk to the edge of deeper water. I used my Pungo 120 for so many years on the oyster rocks that it developed a leak which I have yet to be able to fix. Somehow a couple inches of water in the bottom of the kayak never bothered me but I did take a sponge along because the extra water made the kayak harder to handle.

If you are new to kayaking there are plenty of places in our area to get some instruction and practice before tackling a big river. Lots of folks practice in our quiet inlet and there are some quiet areas in the marshes on the south side of the Intracoastal Waterway near Swansboro. This map has some of the area’s public access points for kayaks. Centennial Park and Hammocks Beach actually have kayak launch ramps. There is a small boat ramp at the Cedar Point Croatan Access. You can also launch at the Wildlife Resources boat ramps in Cedar Point and Emerald Isle. Most of the subdivisions along the White Oak have launch points but you need to have a friend living there to provide access.

With a little practice, the right equipment, and the knowledge of what you might find, kayaking in this area is a lot of fun. While the White Oak might not always be as glassy looking as the post picture, it is always scenic. I have only touched on the White Oak because it is in my backyard and is the easiest place for me to kayak.

Our most recent newsletter went out Friday, July 10, and can be seen at this link. Our next newsletter should be out in August.

If you are interested in visiting the area, check out our free online travel guide to Emerald Isle. If you need more information especially on kayaking and boating, please consider purchasing our extensive fives-star rated Emerald Isle book, A Week at the Beach, The Emerald Isle Travel Guide. The Kindle version which works on everything from iPads to smartphones is only $3.99. We update it each year and during the season there is update information in our newsletter.

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Posted in Boating, Crystal Coast, fishing, Kayaking, Marshes, Out of doors, Southern Outer Banks, water | Comments Off on Kayaking Our Big Tidal River

Close to Home Crystal Coast Fourth

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Sunset at the Point

Sunset at the Point

For many years quiet Fourth of July celebrations were the rule for our family. We were Americans living in a very rural part of Canada. Fourth of July events would have required a drive across the border into Maine.

Somehow the Fourth has always been about being close to home and Maine was never our home so we stayed in Tay Creek and enjoyed the holiday on our own. The holiday parades of my youth in Lewisville and East Bend, North Carolina, are still alive as memories and I know East Bend continues with the tradition. As with most small town parades, sometimes there are more people in the parade than watching it.

It is not hard to find a Fourth of July event here on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina. The whole world seems to come our way to enjoy the Fourth of July and the towns respond with lots of fireworks. This is no surprise since this happens to be the peak of the beach season.

Peak of the season means we typically have some crowds but not to the degree that you likely would find in more developed areas. Since most of us who live here are spoiled by having the area to ourselves for most of the year, Fourth of July means that most residents tend to stay home during all the traffic and hoopla.

As I started this post on the night of July 4, fireworks were going off all around us. We live three miles up the White Oak River from Swansboro and it seems to be an area tradition for the subdivisions on the river to have some fireworks. This year our subdivision on Raymond’s Gut decided not to have a Fourth of July party. There is so much happening in the area this weekend, it is hard to build enthusiasm for another party.

Sometimes we get creative and try to enjoy the celebrations without getting caught in the crowds. A couple of years ago, a neighbor and I took my boat and his family out on the river to watch the fireworks. It was a nice experience and there was almost no boat traffic but it was not so nice that I have tried to repeat it.

Our first summer here, eight years ago, we actually went over to Emerald Isle and found a side street where we could park and watch the beach fireworks. The normally ten to fifteen minute trip home from the beach took such a long time that we have not attempted watching the island fireworks since then.

As I wrote in an earlier article, “…it is no accident that a local would write a Fourth of July beach article and feature a picture with no beach in sight. The weekend around the Fourth of July is the least likely time for those of us who live here to go over to the beach.” We invited another family in the subdivision to have dinner with us one July 4. They made the mistake of going to the beach that day in Salter Path. A thirty minute return trip turned into three hour journey.

Normally I will at least sneak out on the White Oak in my kayak on July 4, but I just had cataract surgery on my right eye so I am not supposed to get wet or sweat for a while. When I kayak on water that is 84F in almost 90F heat and very high humidity, it is difficult to not instantly sweat. The result is that for 2015 I had to give up my tradition of kayaking on the Fourth.

Summer boating is also very popular here but the weekend of July 4, is not the best time to boat as the boat traffic is very impressive for an area where sometimes I do not even see another boat when I am out in mine. A couple of times I have taken our skiff down the river and into the marshes early on the morning of the Fourth just to see what the traffic looks like.

Boating on the Fourth of July is never as quiet or uncrowded in the harbor and on the Intracoastal as it is the rest of year. This trip which I take regularly is my favorite but I would only try it on July 4, if could I get back to our dock by 8:00 AM.

Even a quick trip to Swansboro like that could also involve getting wet, so this year I just followed the doctor’s orders and just stayed at home and counted my blessings. After all I enjoyed that same boat ride and visited the marshes on Wednesday before July Fourth when there was only a handful of boats around the harbor.

A neighbor who did take his boat over to Bear Island on July 4, 2015, told me that the area was packed with boats. It was also so windy that there was little fun to be found. He confirmed that I did not miss anything by staying home. Holidays are often hypnotic enough to draw sensible people who are trying to escape crowds into a huge crowd.

While our crowds are nothing like they are in many areas, they are a challenge for those of us who moved here for the peace and quiet that is life on the Crystal Coast for ten months out of the year.

Fortunately one of the benefits of living here is that you can easily make the decision that there will be better times to enjoy the area’s beauty than the weekend which draws the most people to our waters each year.

This made me think about how lucky we are to live in a place where people will drive hours and fight considerable traffic and crowds just to spend a week where we get to live all year.

While our visitors barely get to taste life here on the coast, we get to live it to the fullest twelve months of the year. Almost everyone who lives here agrees that the best time is the fall. One neighbor was talking to me the other night. He started out, “Well I sure do not want to wish away our summer weather, but I am certainly looking forward to fall.”

In 2014 we had a wonderful fall. Our falls are so nice that it is not unusual to have weather so nice here on the coast that you wish that you could bottle it. With that in mind, I picked a picture of a sunset on the beach in early September for this post.

Just thinking about being on the beach might help me get beyond the heat and the crowds. I just read an article which said your body cannot tell the difference between visualizing something and actually being there. Of course I do not believe that and will be back on the beach as soon as I get a chance. We have some beaches that touch you each time that you visit and another visit is always just around the corner.

Our most recent newsletter went out the end of May and can be seen at this link. Our next newsletter should be out before the middle of July.

If you are interested in visiting the area, check out our free online travel guide to Emerald Isle. If you need more information, please consider purchasing our extensive Emerald Isle book, A Week at the Beach, The Emerald Isle Travel Guide. The Kindle version which works on everything from iPads to smartphones is only $3.99. We update it each year and I always provide instructions on how to get the annual update in our newsletter.

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Warm Coastal Winds

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Warm winds & oyster rock on the White Oak River

Warm winds & oyster rock on the White Oak River

The weather has been as hot as it ever gets here on the Southern Outer Banks. I am thankful the warm weather has come with warm breezes.

Some might say that summer has embraced us with a vengeance. I would probably say that mother nature has given us several real Southern days and we should enjoy them as best as we can because summer will be gone far too soon.

It is not unusual for it to get hot here along Carteret County’s Crystal Coast. It is a Southern coastal plain and cool summer weather is pretty rare. Thunderstorms are much more common and often even welcome. This much warm weather coming this early in June just adds more mystery to the riddle of coastal weather. There is little sense in trying to understand our weather since it is going to change before we figure it out anyway.

Complaining about the heat after a cold winter just seems wrong. I moved to the coast for warmth not cool summers. I am just pleased that we have received more than enough moisture to keep our yards and gardens from cooking. It has been great weather for growing tomatoes and beans. The hot weather and great vegetables have helped us prepare some classic Southern meals for our table. The local corn, our homegrown beans and tomatoes have let us feast like true Southerners.

One of the things which happens when it gets very warm is that most of our outdoor time is either very early or very late in the day. Those are my favorite times of day anyway.  The light is at its best for landscape photography. The middle of the day is often too humid to survive unless you are in some cool water which get hard to find as summer rolls along.

Being outside at night when a warm wind is blowing brings back lots of wonderful summer memories. My mother used to pack as many of her nieces as possible into her old Ford and head to the beach for a couple of weeks each summer. I course was packed in there with her teenage nieces who were around ten years older than me. We never stayed in any place fancy but the evenings along the boardwalk were especially magical in those days before television.

There always seemed to be a warm breeze with music floating on it. While it is rare that I hear music in the evening in our quiet subdivision nestled between corn fields, pine forests, the river, and a golf course, I do often feel the warm breeze and smell the ocean.  A recent night when it was still 80F at 9PM with a 15-20 MPH breeze found us at the neighborhood pool.  The only light came from the stars, moon and the underwater lights in the pool. It was one of those magical nights that grandparents get to have along the Crystal Coast.  Our almost seven year old granddaughter swam like a dolphin while her younger brother dipped his toes into pool water for the first time.

The warmth coming off the water is welcome most of the year. I might get tired of it by August, but in June I can still remember the cold of winter and appreciate the warmth of summer.

The breezes are even nicer when you get to enjoy them from a boat out on the White Oak River. Being on the river on a warm summer night and tasting the salt air on the breeze is almost as good as walking under the moonlight on a beach with the salt water touching your toes.

All that is more is possible here on the Crystal Coast where we never make our shrimp and grits with anything but local shrimp and a warm coastal breeze is possible almost anytime of the day or night.  While warm breezes that make you feel like you are at the beach are common, late evening thunderstorms are even more common. We have seen some amazing storms recently and our June rain total is up to 7.4 inches with a week still to go.

If you are already here and need a little more information about our piece of paradise, this link is a good starting point and subscribing to our newsletter is a great next step that will keep you up to date with what is happening in the area that stretches from Swansboro through Morehead  City, Beaufort and Down East up to Cedar Island.

Our most recent newsletter went out the end of May and can be seen at this link. Our next newsletter should be out by the end of June.

If you are interested in visiting the area, check out our free online travel guide to Emerald Isle. If you need more information, please consider purchasing our extensive Emerald Isle book, A Week at the Beach, The Emerald Isle Travel Guide. The Kindle version which works on everything from iPads to smartphones is only $3.99. We update it each year and I always provide instructions on how to get the annual update in our newsletter.

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A Beach That Touches Everyone

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Near the Point, Emerald Isle, NC

Near the Point, Emerald Isle, NC

I am truly blessed to live along North Carolina’s coast. The water of Raymond’s Gut is only twenty-five feet from our home. The journey to the White Oak River and through Bogue Sound out to the Atlantic ocean is not a long one as you can see from this map.

The river is only part of life on the water. We live about fifteen minutes by car on a good day from some of the most stunning beaches on the east coast. Living by the White Oak gives us access to many special places that are among some of the most unique places on the North Carolina coast.

However, one of my favorite spots is the Point, now a huge expanse of sand at the end of the Bogue Banks barrier island. Because the sand keeps moving, you never know what you will find until you get there. The Point almost disappeared in the fall of 2007. That same month I took this picture of a huge expanse water beginning at the foot of the vehicle ramp and covering all of the Point. Almost eight years later there is now three tenths of a mile of sand to walk before you reach the water.  The map shows me walking on water, but lots of people will attest to all the sand and it is clear that even Google cannot keep up with the Point.

The area around the Point is close to the heart of many locals. I am no newcomer to the Point. I first fished it in the summer of 1969 when I was a sophomore in college. The only way to get there then was to cross over the bridge at Morehead City and go by four wheel drive down the beach. I cannot remember how far we went by road before we got on the beach forty-six years ago, but I know it was a long haul of several miles down the beach. I still remember standing there by the water with a fishing pole in hand. The Point was a special place even back then.

I wish I knew back in 1969 what it took me until to 2006 to understand. Life is better at the coast. If I could have wrapped by head around that piece of wisdom, I might have saved myself a lot of miles. If I had just found a way to live at the beach back then, my life might have been very different. I would have missed a lot of snow from our years in Canada.

Likely I would never have built a herd of two hundred Angus here in Carteret County like we did in the Canadian Maritimes, but I am sure I would have figured out how to get my hands dirty in Carteret’s rock free soil. It is hard to say how much our lives might have changed if we had followed a different path. Still I am pleased  with all the times in the last nine years  that I have wiggled my toes in the sand at the Point. I head over there whenever there are a couple of hours when work can be put on the back burner for the more important things in life.

I have written over and over about how special the Point is and every time that I think that I have said all that can be said, I take another hike and find some more reasons to be in love with the Point.

My most recent trip over to the Point was on the stunningly beautiful early summer day of Sunday, June 7, 2015. I went late in the day hoping that perhaps the Station Street parking lot might have an empty space. When I got there, it was clear that the day was such a nice beach day that people were still enjoying the sand and surf even at 5 PM. Fortunately after waiting about ten minutes, I got a spot and headed off on my hike.

I planned on doing my short hike which is a little over two miles instead of the long one which can between four and five miles. It was a great time to hike as it was very close to low tide and the sun was low enough to be comfortable.

As always, I marveled at how much the beach has changed. It is humbling to see the power of wind, sand, and surf. But it also reassuring to walk a place like the Point. I have seen it big and small over the last four decades, and it has endured through all the storms that mother nature has thrown at it.  The Point is still that same wonderful, almost wild beach that I remember from my first visit. Your cannot say that about many places.  The changes in some of my favorite spots on the northern Outer Banks in the last forty years are hard to fathom.  We are lucky Point is just hard enough to hike that few people go beyond the easily accessed areas near the boardwalks.

I hope the Point stays almost wild and endures for at least another few decades.  It is a true treasure that is just a little over six hours (assuming there is no gridlock) from  Washington, DC.

While you might not be lucky enough to be close enough to hike the Point today, I can take you there virtually with some carefully chosen pictures from my June 7, 2015 hike.

If you are here and need a little more information about our piece of paradise, this link is a good starting point and subscribing to our newsletter is a great next step that will keep you up to date with what is happening in the area that stretches from Swansboro through Morehead  City, Beaufort and Down East up to Cedar Island.

Our most recent newsletter went out the end of May and can be seen at this link. Our next newsletter should be out by the end of June.

If you are interested in visiting the area, check out our free online travel guide to Emerald Isle. If you need more information, please consider purchasing our extensive Emerald Isle book, A Week at the Beach, The Emerald Isle Travel Guide. The Kindle version which works on everything from iPads to smartphones is only $3.99. We update it each year and I always provide instructions on how to get the annual update in our newsletter.

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Posted in Beach, Boating, Crystal Coast, General Information, Out of doors, Southern Outer Banks, Special Places, water | 1 Comment

Memorial Day On The River

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White Oak River near Bluewater Cove

White Oak River near Bluewater Cove

Memorial Day 2015 has come and gone. By all reports it was an overwhelming success. The flag was out at our home and it was a great holiday.

By a twist of fate we were in Raleigh on the Friday before Memorial Day so we got to sample 34 miles of stop and go traffic on Interstate 40. It reaffirmed my belief that there are better ways to get to the Crystal Coast. We needed to stop in Beulaville so the better routes that we include in our travel guide did not make sense that day but it was a good reminder of how bad traffic can be on the wrong route.

My other measures of success are the volume of traffic heading over the bridge to Emerald Isle and the number of boats that I saw on the river.

By both those measures there were plenty of people visiting our piece of paradise during this amazing stretch of weather. Our “sunny forecast” looks like a broken record but everyone is enjoying the extended period of nothing but sunshine.

With Memorial Day being the official kick off for summer, there are plenty of choices of what to do all through the summer.  I took advantage of the holiday to catch up on my work around the yard, attend a subdivision cookout, and spend some quality time on the river.  My barrier island beds (because they are shaped like barrier islands) continue to get more and more interesting.  It has been a great season for spring flowers. Our amaryllis clump had over thirty-six blooms this year as it finished out the spring with these last few blooms.

The neighborhood pool while tempting even to the last moment was still a little cool for me and there was too much traffic to Emerald Isle on Saturday and Sunday to attempt a beach walk. Perhaps we could have slipped over late in the afternoon but that was just when the tides were right for kayaking and fishing on the White Oak and fishing comes first in my book.

I had high hopes of catching a drum out on the oyster rocks like I did last year in the same time frame but it was not to be. In two afternoons of fishing I hardly got a nibble but I did get all my gear in top shape and get my paddling muscles limbered up.

As is always the case, the river was stunningly beautiful. It was also fairly easy paddling. My new Old Town Dirigo kayak handles heavy chop better than my old Pungo 120. One thing you learn on a coastal river is that the water fifty yards away can be very different. Depending on the wind and tide, you can find some choppy water almost adjacent to smooth blue water. Sometimes I paddle over to the edge of the river and fish the water by the marsh grasses to get out of the wind and current. Still no matter which way you look, the water is always beautiful.

I usually spend a couple of hours out on the river exploring my favorite oyster rocks. People sometimes have a hard time visualizing an oyster rock but it is simply a pile of oyster shells that have come together like a rock. Oyster rocks are impressive at low tide and dangerous to boats when hidden by a high tide. However they are great spots to fish especially when there is a cut through the rock.

Though at the last moment our neighborhood pool was tempting, I stuck with my plan for fishing.  These days you have to earn your fish so sometimes I fish with the knowledge that I will not catch any today but I will likely start catching them soon. Paddling back happened to be very easy both days and we have a good system for getting my kayak up a little hill and out of the water. We actually pull the kayak in with my SUV. It builds trust with my wife since it would easy for her to do me in by pulling the kayak into our bulkhead.

All the traffic on the bridge and the many boats and jet skis zooming around the Intracoastal Waterway really mean very little when you are out on the river.  It is a different world on the White Oak River.  It is never very crowded.  My time on the river was very peaceful in spite of the crowds only a few miles away. The peace and quiet of the White Oak was just what I needed.  I also got to visit with an oystercatcher which is always a special treat.

Our most recent newsletter went out the first week in April and can be seen at this link. We are running a little on next newsletter, but it should be out by the end of May.

If you are interested in visiting the area, check out our free online travel guide to Emerald Isle. If you need more information, please consider purchasing our extensive Emerald Isle book, A Week at the Beach, The Emerald Isle Travel Guide. The Kindle version which works on everything from iPads to smartphones is only $3.99. We update it each year and I always provide instructions on how to get the annual update in our newsletter.

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter

Posted in Beach, Boating, Crystal Coast, fishing, General Information, Kayaking, Marshes, Southern Outer Banks, Weather | 1 Comment

The Thin Line On The Blue Horizon

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Swansboro in the distance, taken from the White Oak River, May 3, 2015

Swansboro in the distance, taken from the White Oak River, May 3, 2015

Many of us live along the North Carolina coast because of the ease of access to water. The ability to enjoy all our special waters from rivers and sounds to the Atlantic Ocean in so many way is one of the reasons we have so many visitors to the Crystal Coast.  I love it when I am out in our skiff or my kayak and land is so far away that it is only a thin line.   The impressive thing is that you do not even have to be out by the big ocean water for that to happen here. The picture in the post was taken from our skiff coming down the White Oak with Swansboro in the distance.

Our wide coastal rivers like the White Oak offer numerous opportunities for kayaking and boating. All rivers go somewhere and the White Oak empties into Bogue Sound which by hook and a few crooks manages to make its way to the Atlantic Ocean.

There are so many different kinds of water to enjoy that sometimes you can end up in a quandary of what is the best pick on a given day. Many of the choices are driven by weather and some are just personal preferences.

If I have two or three hours, the winds are cooperative, the water is warm, the tides are right, and there is some sunshine, I will usually choose my kayak. I love the exercise, how peaceful it is, and the closeness to the water. Also if I am hungry for fresh fish, the kayak will win hands down since it takes me to my favorite fishing holes where the skiff mostly cannot go.

However, if I have just an hour or so I am more likely to pick the skiff. One of my favorite things to do is get up early on a summer morning and ride down to Swansboro Harbor and do some drift fishing in the marshes on the south side of the Intracoastal Waterway. I can often go fish for a few minutes and can be back before the day gets started for most people.

I am also not averse to sticking my toes in the surf along the edges of the town of Emerald Isle. While I have never been as successful fishing in the surf as I am in the kayak or skiff, there are some moments along the beaches when it does not even matter that you are not catching fish. I love walking the area that we call the Point and am not ashamed that my fishing rod is sometimes just a decoration. You do not have to catch fish to enjoy the water.

The waters in the area are stunning beautiful on a good day. Some days they are so spectacular that only a picture will suffice. Even with the tail end of tropical storm Ana trying to hang on here for a little longer, the area’s waters still touch my soul

If you are looking for a place, where being closer to nature can make a difference in your life, the Crystal Coast is great place to start.

Our most recent newsletter went out the first week in April and can be see at this link. We are running a little on next newsletter, but it should be out by the middle of May.

If you are interested in visiting the area, check out our free online travel guide to Emerald Isle. If you need more information, please consider purchasing our extensive Emerald Isle book, A Week at the Beach, The Emerald Isle Travel Guide. The Kindle version which works on everything from iPads to smartphones is only $3.99. We update it each year and I alway provide instructions on how to get the update in our newsletter.

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Posted in Boating, Crystal Coast, fishing, Kayaking, Marshes, Out of doors, Southern Outer Banks, water, Weather | 1 Comment

A Boat Ride for the Birds

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Willets in Flight

Willets in Flight

If you have read many of my posts, you will know that it is no secret that I spend a lot of time watching birds and other inhabitants of the marsh.

I have written many posts about the feathered visitors to our marsh including this one, For the Love of Feathers. Most of our visitors are anonymous birds but we do have one celebrity, Frank 29X. This is the third winter that Frank 29X has joined us for the winter and early spring. While Frank 29X was reported less than two miles from us the week of April 15, 2015, most of our big birds seemed to have moved to the big marshes of Bogue Sound since the waters have warmed.

We still have birds around, but each spring there is a time when it is easier to seek out the birds instead of waiting for them to come to us. The task of getting to the birds turned out to be very easy this spring. I was working on luring the older of our two daughters down for a visit. She loves doing things on the water so I forwarded an email to her about a birding boat ride hosted by the North Carolina the Coastal Federation. It was not long before she took the bait. She even went ahead and booked the trip for us.

That was a few weeks before the event and as most people know, getting to spring on the coast can be a roller coaster. Even once you make it to spring, you can be teased by the warmth only to end up wondering what happened because you are having a hard time standing out in the wind and rain.

The spring of 2015, has not been like that. April was a relatively dry month on the coast and as you can see our temperatures have been moderate all month. Of course when you plan an outdoor event and someone drives seven hours to take part in it, you can almost guarantee the weather will not be perfect.

All week before the event we heard dire warnings of bad weather on the Sunday when we were scheduled for our boat bird trip. Knowing that our weather is so localized that it is often a riddle that only is solved as the weather unfolds kept us hopeful.

We managed to get over to Hammocks Beach Park in plenty of time on Sunday morning. There was blue sky when I went for my early morning walk, but it was gone an hour later when we arrived at the dock. I love blue skies, but I also enjoy seeing birds so I remained hopeful. It was not long before we boarded the Lady Swan with Captain Tim at the helm and local birding expert Joann Powell scanning the skies, marsh grass and oyster rocks.

We were not even away from the dock before some birds were sighted, but they were not nearly as exciting as the oyster catchers that we saw a few minutes after pulling away from the dock. We took a little different route getting over to Cow channel and the backside of Bear Island and then headed over towards the Point at Emerald Isle. We just got past the trees on Bear Island when we headed down what I have heard called the West Channel. It is one of the few places in the area that I have not explored.

The list of birds that we saw is long. We sighted Yellowlegs, Oystercatchers, Blackbellied Plovers, Royal Terns, Lesser Terns, Great Egrets, Canada Geese, immature Ibises,Snowy Egrets, Laughing Gulls, Willets, Sanderlings, Red-Headed Mergansers, Short-billed Dowitchers, and a pair of Ospreys. There are some pictures of them at this link.

While the weather was not perfect, we still had a blast. When we were on the back side of Huggins Island, I did remember to turn on MyTracks on my phone so you can see a tiny portion of our trip at this URL.

The area behind Bear Island is an area that I visit regularly, so I have plenty of blue sky pictures of the area. I was most impressed with our guide’s knowledge and with Captain Tim’s handling of the Lady Swan. I hardly missed the blue skies and we got to see many more birds than I expected.

Actually our timing turned out nearly perfect. I wandered down to the kayak ramp at the park to ask the kayak rental agent what their hours were. Just as we were finishing our chat, I felt some drops of rain and headed to the car to keep my cameras dry. We made it to the car without any problems and headed off to lunch at Highway 55 in Swansboro where I enjoyed a shrimp Po’Boy. What a great way to finish a great morning.

I doubt it will take much arm twisting to get me to register for the next cruise in May. Also my daughter now wants to visit the beach part of Hammocks Beach State Park. It is one of my favorite places and its beaches rival any along the coast.

We managed to get in an afternoon visit to Morehead City to see the Nina and Pinta docked and a quick cruise along Front Street in Beaufort before the rains started. We got a little over an inch of rain that Sunday night, but it did not matter since we had already enjoyed another great Crystal Coast day.

Our most recent newsletter went out the first week in April and can be see at this link. We will be getting another newsletter out around the end of April.

If you are interested in visiting the area, check out our free online travel guide to Emerald Isle. If you need more information, please consider purchasing our extensive Emerald Isle book, A Week at the Beach, The Emerald Isle Travel Guide. The Kindle version which works on everything from iPads to smartphones is only $3.99. We update it each year and I alway provide instructions on how to get the update in our newsletter.

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Posted in Beach, birds, Boating, Crystal Coast, Out of doors, Southern Outer Banks, Special Places, water | Comments Off on A Boat Ride for the Birds

The Water is Ready

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White Oak River, April 2015

White Oak River, April 2015

Boating happens twelve months of the year along the Crystal Coast. However, January, February, and March are not months for lingering on the water.

Sometimes the water warms by the end of March and then there are years like 2015 when we have to wait until early April before the water temperature is right. While going out on the river in our skiff is safe when the water temperature is under fifty degrees, I would rather not be on the river in my kayak until the water temperature is in the mid-sixties.

When I took my skiff out on the river on March 8, 2015, I found the water temperature to be 51.5F. I was unable to sneak any time for a trip on the river later in the month. However, based on the March water temperatures collected by Dr. Bogus and his daily posts which also include the sound which is always similar to the river, I knew the water was very slow to warm this year.

According to Dr. Bogus we have had an “Unusually cold start to 2015 with both February and March ocean temps at Bogue Pier averaging below 50 degrees.”

Easter week here on the Crystal Coast was nearly perfect and we finally started getting some warm nights instead of the thirties and forties that were typical of March. It was with great anticipation on Saturday, April 11, that I finally got some time to exercise the skiff and get out on the water for a few minutes.

What really surprised me was how high the river water temperature has risen in such a short time. My reading in the middle of the White Oak was 71.8F. That rise of over twenty degrees Fahrenheit in less than a month is something that I have not seen recently.

Last year on March 22, 2014, the White Oak was at 62.9F. I went kayaking for the first time of the season on April 12, but by April 21, the river temperature had plunged back to 58F.

Water temperatures like the weather can be very unpredictable in early spring. The good news is that it is spring and with the recent warm-up, we are more likely to have some relatively stable temperatures especially since the forecast for the balance of April looks pretty normal.

The marsh is coming alive and it looks pretty nice out on the river even when making a wave or two. We are going through our spring low tides as you can see from this high-tide picture of an oyster rock that is normally well covered by our summer high tides.

If the wind will just die down a little this afternoon, I am hoping to make my April 12 first kayak trip an annual tradition.  It would be nice to look forward to that every year.

Unfortunately weather impacts ofter things besides water temperature.  The cold February and March created many problems.

While the water temperature has recovered nicely, lots of things have not. Last year at this we had already picked strawberries twice. Weather here on the Crystal Coast is always interesting and sometimes memorable. I will not forget the ten hours of below freezing weather on March 28, 2015. I lost several tomato plants that night even though they were all covered.

If I can catch a fish or two this April, that will remove the sting of having to wait for strawberries and losing some tomato plants.

Our most recent newsletter went out the first week in April and can be see at this link.  We will be getting another newsletter out around the end of April.

If you are interested in visiting the area, check out our free online travel guide to Emerald Isle.  If you need more information, please consider purchasing our extensive Emerald Isle book, A Week at the Beach, The Emerald Isle Travel Guide.  The Kindle version which works on everything from iPads to smartphones is only $3.99.  We update it each year and I alway provide instructions on how to get the update in our newsletter.

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter

Posted in Boating, Crystal Coast, fishing, Kayaking, Marshes, Out of doors, Southern Outer Banks, water, Weather | 1 Comment

Teased by Spring’s Warmth

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Beach near the Point, Emerald Isle, NC- March 2015

Beach near the Point, Emerald Isle, NC- March 2015

Spring is always an interesting season on the coast. I feel lucky if I only go through two sets of clothing during a spring day. You can wake up to temperatures under 40F only to find yourself quickly looking for shorts and a t-shirt before lunch.

Sometimes instead of getting cool at night, it get warmer. Then there are the persistent spring winds. Often you can be quite comfortable out of the wind only to find yourself needing another layer or two of clothing when you step into the wind.

The most challenging aspect of spring for me is the sun. When it hides behind clouds, you can get cool pretty quick. However, when the sun is out, the wind dies down, and you are in just the right place, things can warm up quickly. I have gone on some beach walks only to regret that I wore too many clothes.

On a recent afternoon walk around the marsh I started out with a long-sleeved t-shirt and shorts. There was a cool breeze hitting me as I walked out our driveway. The breeze was still strong as I walked around the docks near our home. As I got even with the inlet that runs out to the White Oak River, the wind dropped and the sun had me directly in its sights.

The temperature seem to climb quickly and I started wishing for a short-sleeved t-shirt. I solved the problem by getting on the move again. I quickly transitioned to the shade of some large pines and as I rounded the next corner, I was once again facing a cool breeze.

I recently wrote about the roller coaster of early spring weather. Sometimes March can also be unpredictable. March of 2015 has been pretty nice to us. The only night we have dropped below freezing so far was March 6. It is no surprise to me that the forecast is for us to again go below freezing on Sunday, March 29.

We had a frost all the way down to the water on March 29, 2011. It is not unusual to get a frost that late in the year, but we also have had tomatoes blooming at that date. We stay prepared and have some nice Easter egg buckets in pastel colors all prepared to cover our plants.

Probably the most challenging part of our 2015 spring is having nice days but very cool nights. Cool nights make it hard for the water to warm up and most of us live here because of the water.

This time of year the beach can be irresistible and the waters very enticing. However, there are not many years when the waters are begging to be waded even by the end of March.

Seeing the blue skies and blue waters will help us get over winter, but only true warm will pull us out of spring into water season. I might enjoy walking to the ends of the sand on the beach but what I really love is answering the call of the river in my kayak or my skiff.

If you want to find out more about this special area, we send out an almost monthly newsletter. Our most recent newsletter was sent out just after Valentine’s Day.   Our first newsletter of  2015 can be found at this link.  Our last newsletter of 2014 is still available on the web.

We will be getting another newsletter out around the end of March after the first of the season’s festivals.

If you are interested in visiting the area, check out our free online travel guide to Emerald Isle.

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter

Posted in Boating, Crystal Coast, Kayaking, Marshes, Out of doors, Southern Outer Banks, water, Weather | 1 Comment

The Cure, Blue Skies and Blue Waters

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Blue Skies over the White Oak River

Blue Skies over the White Oak River

Winter is tough for many of us, but some blue sky and blue water enjoyed when the clouds and cold seem to be winning can make a huge difference in how we feel.

Some of us are incredibly sensitive to sunlight or the absence of it. When we lived on the side of the mountain in Roanoke, Virginia, I loved to roll out of bed and capture the sunrise. I photographed some amazing sunrises there.

Over our twenty plus years on the mountain I noticed more and more haze obscuring the sunrises. While I had no real scientific explanation or proof, I always linked it in my mind to unbelievable increase in truck traffic going down Interstate 81 through the Roanoke Valley.

So when we started looking for a place to spend our next couple of decades, sunshine and blue skies were priorities. I also wanted access to water. My dream was to live by the water and enjoy it to the fullest.

It did not take long wandering around North Carolina’s Crystal Coast to figure out that there is a lot of sunshine with accompanying clear skies here on the coast.

No place is ever a perfect place to live but without a lot of effort we have somehow enjoyed living in a variety of different places. Some of those places have been very foggy spots or snowy places.

However, here along the White Oak River, we found our water and our blue skies. Sometime the skies and waters are an almost perfect blue. Other times they are so bright, blue, and sunny that it is hard to capture them in a photograph.  The one at the top of this post that I took from our skiff on March 7, 2015, was a challenge to keep from washing out because of all the sunshine.

If someone called blue skies and blue waters spring tonic, I would immediately agree with them. Compared to a place like Chicago, we have lots of clear, sunny skies. It looks like we have about thirty days a year more of sunshine than Chicago. That actually confirms a conversation my wife had recently on a trip to the doctor.

The doctor told  my wife the story of walking to work one gloomy morning in Chicago and how he made the decision to move from the dull skies of Chicago to here. He has been on the coast for several years and says he has not regretted the move. Even this winter which had more gloomy days than normal was a treat according to the formerly frozen Chicago doctor.

Generally I can take cold weather in stride as long as the skies are blue. This winter even I felt under attack from the cold and sometimes dark skies. Still I usually made it outside if the sun was shining. Mostly I was just waiting until I could get back on the water.

That mission was accomplished this past early March weekend. While it was not a long day on the water like I would prefer, it was certainly a good dose of spring blue-sky vitamins. My trip into the White Oak was a great reminder that spring will soon be here with warmer waters and bluer skies.

Spring can be magic here on the Crystal Coast. There is no reason to believe the spring of 2015, might not be a memorable one like the spring of 2011. Our area’s spring waters are addicting.

It is hard to wait on the water as it warms up, but the fun on the water under those magnificent blue skies is well worth the wait.

So if you are looking for a place with sunshine, you might want to give the Crystal Coast a try.  If you cannot make it for a visit, there are lost of sunny pictures in my book, 100 Pictures, A Thousand Words, A Crystal Coast Year.

If you want to find out more about this special area, we send out an almost monthly newsletter. Our most recent newsletter was sent out just after Valentine’s Day.   Our first newsletter of  2015 can be found at this link.  Our last newsletter of 2014 is still available on the web.

We will be getting another newsletter out around the end of March after the first of the season’s festivals.

If you are interested in visiting the area, check out our free online travel guide to Emerald Isle.

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter

Posted in Beach, Boating, Crystal Coast, fishing, Southern Outer Banks, water, Weather | 1 Comment