Where the waters meet

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Where the Sound Meets the Atlantic Ocean

I am not certain where or when I learned that being on the edge where different worlds meet is the key to excitement.  But I have taken it to heart.

I have no doubt that the area between the Point at Emerald Isle and Bear Island is truly one of those places filled with life because it is where two very different streams of life meet and challenge each other.

We have seen pieces of that battle before in our lives.  Being in places where we could watch the different worlds challenge each other has added much richness to our lives.

In the seventies we lived in a small settlement on the shores of the Bay of Fundy.  It was definitely a place where the elements met and fought.  The ocean and weather often battled with the land and people in our little world.  There were times when we would go from blizzard to rain and mud back to snow, ice, and frozen mud.  And always there was the wind trying to carry away anything that wasn’t tied down.  I can remember seeing foam from the waves frozen around power lines over a mile from the beaches.

After that we lived on a farm in central New Brunswick in Canada.  We were so much in the wilderness that we didn’t even have to fence our cattle at the back of our farm.  It was always a battle between the forests and our farm land.  You had to be vigilant or the spruce trees and alders would take over pastures and hay lands.   I even learned a healthy respect for black bears and black flies both of which believed they owned the area.  Once I stood on ridge somewhere near the back of our farm with two old timers who had lived and worked in those woods for all their lives. For half an hour none of us had a clue where we were or the direction to take us back home.

Our last stop before the coast of North Carolina was the side of a mountain overlooking Roanoke, Virginia.  Our house often felt like a ship in a sea of wind.  While the challenge of living on a sometimes snowy Virginia mountain might be something to contemplate, it was nothing like the wilds of Canada.  Still I did feel like a high outpost standing strong against some of the toughest weather you could find in Virginia. There is nothing quite as awe inspiring as watching a dangerous thunderstorm circle the valley’s mountains and bounce off the mountain peaks.  I used to joke that living on the mountain separated the people who wanted to feel alive from those who just wanted to be safe from the weather.

Then we found the Crystal Coast, and not long after moving there, I got to fish the area between the Point at Emerald Isle and Bear Island.  It is where the waters of Bogue Sound and the White Oak River meet the Atlantic Ocean.  I had fished it from the beach in the sixties when it was only accessible by driving down the beach.  Even that long ago, we knew it was the place for fish.

Most area fishermen will tell you that it is one of the most productive fishing spots in our area.  It is also one of the most dangerous.  Even in the last few years, it has claimed a few boats.  While it is a place filled with fish, it is also home to treacherous currents and ever changing sandbars.  There are days when it is as safe as fishing in a bath tub, and there are days when even the most experienced boaters will not challenge the seas in Bogue Inlet. It is a place where you learn to respect the power of the water.

There is no doubt that life on the edge where the sound and river meet the ocean surf is exciting and much more diverse that it is in a pool of trapped water.   Mostly when you fish in a lake, it is fairly predictable, there are not a lot of places you have to avoid when boating in a lake, and you have a pretty good idea of what you might catch when you wet your line.  It is a little like living in subdivision.  To a certain extent life in the subdivision is predictable like fishing is in a lake.

However, fishing in Bogue Inlet can bring a day with the bluefish, or you can be hit with a rogue wave which comes close to standing your boat up in the water which is enough to send most fishermen back to calmer waters.  You can also pull a beautiful red drum from the battle line between the surf and the sound or a tasty flounder.  The Inlet is a place of great opportunity and some risk.

Because we can have wonderful afternoons like the one we where we caught so many bluefish that our arms ached, we will go back and challenge Bogue Inlet again and again.   It is one of those things which if it were really easy and safe, it would be overwhelmed by people.  Because there is an element of risk, some people will stay away.  I am pleased to say that we rarely see jet powered personal watercraft in the Inlet.

Knowing that the action is where the waters meet and different worlds collide is a powerful inducement.  You will find me out there as soon as the winds subside to the point where my wife won’t have me committed if I head out to the Inlet.

The good news is that even if I don’t catch something, there is a reward for just being there and surviving the challenge.  I can hardly wait to be there.

It’s all about the water

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Crystal waters of the Crystal Coast

Crystal clear waters of the Crystal Coast

Certainly the water is what attracted me to the Crystal Coast.  There were a lot of other things that were important, but it really was all about the water.

Fishing has been a part of my life as long as I can remember.  Long afternoons fishing with my childhood friend Mike were part of what made growing up in the fifties and sixties so special.

I have fished all my life, and when I wasn’t fishing, I wished I was fishing.  In 2003 I brought my wife to Beaufort, NC for our thirtieth anniversary.  The anniversary didn’t have anything to do with fishing, but Beaufort is on North Carolina’s coast, and I fell back in love with saltwater and the coast.

We have lived on the water or close enough to look at water for much of our married lives.  As my career at Apple was winding down, we started searching for a place to create some new memories  for a life that has been filled with them.

The trip to Beaufort in August 2003 was the unofficial beginning of our search.  There is a lot to like about Beaufort, but unfortunately it turned out to be too expensive for us.  We didn’t have to go far to find a place on the shores of the White Oak River.  We still visit Beaufort on a regular basis.

Carteret County along the shores of the White Oak has turned out to be a very good place to be for a number of reasons.  The first of course is the water.  We found a new home on a gut of water that leads to the river.  It is just a little over 25 feet from my garage to my 20 ft skiff which sits on a lift waiting for the opportunity to fish.

When the weather is nice, going fishing is not a complicated decision.  I call one of my fishing buddies, and we can be fishing less than ten minutes after leaving my dock, or we can spend twenty minutes and be fishing in Bogue Inlet.

The second reason is also water.  The beaches of Emerald Isle are hard to beat.  Whether you search for an isolated stretch of barely above water beach or are content with the beach by Western Regional Access in the middle of town, it is hard to complain about the beaches here on the Crystal Coast.

We can be at a beach in ten minutes by car, or we  anchor off one of those more isolated ones in Bogue Inlet in fifteen to twenty minutes.  The water is great at any of the local beaches.

It is probably no surprise that the third reason we love it here is that our local waters provide some wonderful seafood.

Of course our area waters also keep us cool in the warm North Carolina spring and warm much of the early fall and winter.

On top of that, our area waters are crystal clear.  There is nothing quite so enjoyable as surf fishing while standing ankle deep in slightly cool water.

Here on the Crystal Coast, it is all about the water.

Morning on the coast after NC’s tornadoes

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Bluewater Cove Morning after the Storms

Bluewater Cove Morning after the Storms

April 17, the day after as many as ninety tornadoes hit North Carolina,  the inlet where we live just off the White Oak River seemed especially beautiful as you can see from the post picture.

Yet the night before we were glued to the television listening to tornado reports until the power went off around 9 PM.  Fortunately by the time the power went off, the worst ofl the storms were well past our location.  The bad storms never made it to Carteret County.

We also heard a number of times that the storms would weaken as they neared the maritime climate close the water.  That’s some comfort when you are watching nearly continuous lightning, but it still doesn’t take all the worry away.

It was the first time in nearly five years of living here on the coast that we have lost our power.  Fortunately we were prepared and had some battery powered lights in easy reach.  What was more challenging was finding out any news.  We have a battery powered radio, but radio stations seem to have given up on providing news.  We did get to enjoy some music and eventually NPR, but we never heard any radio news.  I was able to use my Droid smartphone to check on things, but it was almost in need of a charge when the power went out so it did not last long.  I did boot up my MacBook laptop and hook my Droid to the Mac with its USB cable.  I then put the Mac to sleep and the battery on the MacBook charged my Droid.

By then it was bedtime, and the stars were shining. We could still see lightning in the distance out over the ocean, but it was well away from us.  When morning came around, I was surprised to see some clouds, but I was happy to see some blue sky mixed in with the clouds.

A morning walk around the docks near our community’s clubhouse confirmed what I saw from our own dock.  In spite of gusty winds, there was no visible damage.  Even a bluebird was out enjoying the morning sun.  We actually got very little rain, probably less than a tenth of an inch.  We could have used the rain, but I am happy that the storms actually missed us. Our friends in Roanoke, Virginia got four inches of rain.

There actually was a tornado that hit in Jacksonville on Piney Green Rd. near Old Route 30 about thirteen miles further inland than our location.  There is a very populated area so it is lucky no one was killed.

Saturday April 16, the day of the storms, was something of a strange day since we knew the storms were coming, but for all practical purposes before the storms arrived it was a nearly normal day except for strong winds.  I spent a few hours mowing our yard for the first time this year and doing some trimming.  Then we drove over to Bogue Inlet Pier where I took this picture of a surfer out beyond the  end of the pier.  There were a few nice waves but not enough to attract a crowd of surfers.

After our visit to the pier we drove down to Clyde Phillip’s Seafood which is located between the bridges at Swansboro.  The water in the Intracoastal behind Clyde’s was very choppy so I wasn’t surprised that there was no one in the parking lot at the Wildlife Resources Ramp in Cedar Point.

On our way home, we drove through the Marsh Harbour subdivision and stopped to tour one of the homes under construction.  They certainly seem to offer a lot of square footage for your dollars.  We were home before dark, and the storm didn’t get serious in our area until just before 8 PM.  Then the power went off around 9 PM.

We went to bed just before 11 PM, but the power came back on around midnight, and I got up to make the morning’s coffee.  Everything was normal Sunday morning except for the clock on our stove which is still misbehaving.

All my tomato plants survived the winds as did our palm trees.  On our way to church we noticed that Buck’s Corner Farm in Peletier had their “Ripe Strawberries” sign out so on our return trip, we slipped by and bought some beautiful local strawberries.  I am sure they were happy all the golf ball sized hail stayed farther inland.

Sunday evening we felt blessed to be sitting in our undamaged home enjoying fresh local strawberries and homemade shortcake while other our picking up the pieces of their lives.

April is still a great time of year to be here by the waters of the White Oak.  I am hoping to slide my kayak back in the water this week. I had a short but very nice kayaking trip on April 14.   These are some pictures taken while on the water, and this a map of the trip.

Spring is quickly headed to summer with eighties expected this third week of April. I hope for everyone’s sake that April 16 was the last of tornadoes across North Carolina this year.  I am pleased that none made it into Carteret County here on the Southern Outer Banks.

Saltwater on my feet

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A view to the north at the Point on Emerald Isle

A view to the north at the Point on Emerald Isle

April 8, 2011 was a pretty special day in my book.  It was the first day of 2011 that I intentionally stuck my feet into the saltwater.  Given the cold weather that we endured for much of this winter, I am pretty happy about it.

We had someone here late last year who poked fun at our area when we had a brush with snow after the first of the year.  In a nice turn of fate, our visitor got to endure temperatures in the thirties at his home in California on the very same day which banished all memories of the cold winter for me.  The hike which I did along the beach took me up as far as the border between Lands End and Dolphin Ridge.  Then I hiked back down to the westernmost tip of the beach at the Point.

I took the picture in the post standing facing the north with Bogue Inlet on my left.  Obviously I was standing in the water when I took the picture, but it was by no means the first time during the day that I had ventured into the water.

My hike ended up being 3.75 miles.  The hike was in stark contrast to one that I made two days earlier on April 6.  While I was a few miles up the beach at Third Street.  It wasn’t the location that made the hike different.  It was the temperature and the winds which are often persistent this time of year.  On my April 6 hike, I wore a light shell with a hood and walked 2.75 miles.  I had to keep my hood up and over my head to keep my ears from freezing off.  I did have shorts on, but I would have probably been more comfortable in blue jeans.

On April 6, I walked almost six tenths of a miles without seeing anyone.  I only saw a couple of people during the whole hike. Two days later, I saw people and plenty of dogs all along my route.  While the beach still had very few people on it compared to summer, it was crowded compared to my walk earlier in the week.

Of course the real difference was the weather.  On April 8 the temperature was in the seventies, and there was almost no breeze, and the sun was on full display. I had on my straw beach hat, a tee shirt, shorts, and my beach walking crocs.

About halfway through my hike I got hot, and decided the only way to cool off was to get part of my body in the water.  I waded in a little above my ankles, and my overheating problem was solved.  The water which was probably around sixty degrees felt absolutely great.

However, it did not feel so great that I was tempted to throw my whole body in the water, but it was certainly tolerable for wading. It is usually June before I let ocean water hit the middle of my back.

I spent much of the rest of the trip weaving in and out of the water. When I had to hike the 1400 ft back across the soft sand to the access point at Inlet Drive and Bogue Court, I wished some of the water that has been vanquished by the sand could have been a little closer so I could cool my feet again.

Going to the beach is pretty special to me, besides the exercise of hiking, I get to let my mind relax and dream of things which might otherwise never enter my thoughts.  It is a special time to fresh mind and body.  I actually enjoy company on the beach, but I am not one of those people who wants to talk while they walk on the beach.  I would rather let my thoughts wander while my feet automatically keep me moving towards my predetermined destination.  The sound of the waves is all that I want to hear.

I like to think that the time I take on the beach more than pays for itself with my increased ability to do focus on other tasks after I get back from the beach.  I think my wife was surprised that after my hike on April 8 that I was willing to come home, eat a late lunch, and head off on a trip to SAMS Club without any thought of a nap.

Maybe I am just a little addicted to beach walks so I guess it a good thing that we are in that best of seasons to enjoy walks along the shore.  Much of the summer I have to do my beach walks late in the afternoon in order to avoid the heat and sun.  In early spring I can go in early morning and be done during the warmest part of the day.

Perhaps one of these days, one my small business ideas will take off.  If it does, my business will be here in the Emerald Isle area.    It would not take me long to offer employees a paid hour a day to walk the beach.  I am betting the beach walking would pay for itself in increased employee productivity and healthier employees.

Just think about coming to work each day and having one of your tasks being to take an hour walk along some of Emerald Isle’s beautiful beaches. It would definitely make going to work more enticing.  You just might smile in the morning when getting ready for work.

It looks like the sun is trying to come out, I think it is time for me to head over to the beach.  You can check out a large album of photos from the April 9 beach walk on my Picasa web site.  If you are curious about the location of the beach, this linked web album was created with photos from my Droid which attaches GPS information to each photo.

While some of the photos look like they were taken in the middle of the water according to Google’s maps, don’t worry. That is just Mother Nature showing Google that she can move sand faster than Google cares to take aerial pictures of the Point.

If you would like to visit the area, here is my travel guide to Emerald Isle.  If  “Saltwater on your feet” sounds like a great idea, I have a blog by that name.  It is devoted to helping you answer your questions about moving to the Crystal Coast.

 

Back to the Beach

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Third Street Beach, Emerald Isle, NC

There are days when we yearn for simpler times.  If we are lucky, we have memories that keep alive the good times that we had when we were children. When we were young, the burdens of modern life hardly existed.

I remember those times well.  My mother was raising me as a single parent.  She worked long hours fifty weeks a year as a beautician.   She often worked late into the evening, and I even learned to cook a bit at an early age because of that.  Saturday mornings were devoted to doing the hair of our many relatives.  I don’t think she ever charged them for her time.

After all that hard work, there were always two weeks in the summer dedicated to vacation. Having those two weeks of time away from work was a critical part of life.  Mostly we went to the North Carolina beaches.  There were not many that we missed from Kure to Nags Head.  I hardly remember the cottages that we rented except that air conditioning and swimming pools were not part of the deal.  We had simple cottages often a block or two from the beach.

But we didn’t go to the beach because of swimming pools, internet connectivity, media rooms, or fitness centers.  We went to the beach for the beach and to walk the streets in the evening.  We enjoyed maybe one big meal out during the week, but mostly we lived off tomato sandwiches and food that we brought from home.   We didn’t come to the beach for the food either.

In the fifties and sixties, you came to the beach for the sun, sand, and surf.  If you loved fishing there was also room for that.  We also came to the beach to meet some new people and to have fun riding the waves.  We spent most of our time in the water and perhaps broke the week up with a few rounds of putt-putt.

For kids who spent most of their after-school time at home roaming the fields and woods of Piedmont North Carolina, the beach was an exotic place.  It was a treat to come to the beach because a lot of kids never made it on vacation much less to the beach.

Times have changed, and I suspect it is harder and harder to interest today’s children in a simple pleasure like the beach.  It is hard to listen to the waves if you have an iPod plugged into your head.  It is a challenge riding the waves if you cannot put down the controller to your game machine.

I have often thought that one of the greatest gifts in life is to be able to entertain yourself in any situation. That’s actually pretty easy to do on a beach if you have learned to let the waves wash away your cares and turn your thoughts inside out.

The secret is being able to focus in the moment and let everything else drift away.  If we can leave one lesson with the next generation, perhaps a good one would be teaching them to appreciate sand, water, and wind. A lot of fun in my life has resulted from just those simple elements.

Each time I walk the beach, it takes me back to those days when sun, surf, and water were all that mattered.  I’m glad the beach is only ten minutes from my house and a regular stop for me.