Salt marshes near Swansboro, NC

Salt marshes near Swansboro, NC

Friday, July 29, I got up, had a cup of coffee, and ate a piece honey dew melon, and then headed out back to my skiff.

I really felt like I needed a trip out into the salt marshes.   A salt marsh is a place where you can find peace and beauty.  Friday morning, I needed some marsh time.

Once or twice a year we venture down to Wilmington, NC.  I don’t have anything against Wilmington, but it is a city and has far more traffic than our rural section of Carteret County.  It also has just about any store that you could want, and plenty of restaurants. A round trip for us to Wilmington takes about 3.5 hrs in the car. We don’t usually need any of the city services, and our recent trip was no exception.

Our Wilmington journey was to visit my wife’s college roommate and meet her family. For the last few years we have found a lot of enjoyment in reconnecting with old friends.  Earlier this summer we took a day trip to Nags Head to visit with some Canadian friends.  We also had two other sets of Canadian friends visit with us on White Heron Lane this spring.

When I spend more than a few minutes in a car, I have to find some peace and quiet to balance it.  That is why I headed out with the boat early Friday morning.  Fortunately there aren’t many places that boating is as easy as it is where we live.

The only place better might be living right on the Intracoastal, but there are some challenges living there, so I doubt that I could live in a much better place for boating.  Our small subdivision is tucked in along the eastern shore of the White Oak River. We are about three miles up the White Oak River from Swansboro and the ICW.

Our twenty foot skiff rests on a lift just a little over 25 feet from our garage.  I boat at least three or four times most weeks in the summer and fall.  It is a rare week that I don’t go boating.   I doubt that I have missed any this year.  Even in the depths of last winter’s cold, I took my boat out and used it as an ice breaker for the herons that feed in the gut behind our home.

With our skiff ready to drop into the water at any time, it just takes me five to ten minutes from the time I think about boating to when I am in the boat lowering it into the water.  I have my gear organized so that I can carry everything that I need to the skiff in one trip.

My routine starts with putting on my life suspenders, next the GPS and my camera go in the bag, I slip my tiny card wallet with driver’s license into a waterproof case, then I clip my waterproof fishing license to my belt, stick my Droid phone in one pocket, put a couple of multi-tools that I carry in  the other pocket, and finally I grab the emergency radio phone from its charger just as I am walking out the door.  In the garage I have another bag with some emergency gear and spare parts, along with a bucket that has a first aid kit, towel, and a throw pillow.  All this plus my fishing rod and boating cap heads out to the boat with me.

Before I get in the boat, I untie the bow line, and lower the lift a little.  Once in the boat, I mount the GPS, check that the plug is in, secure all the gear, and clip the kill switch cord to a belt loop.  Then I finish lowering the boat into the water, start the engine,  back off the lift, turn on the GPS, and start heading towards the river.  It takes about four minutes to idle out our channel, Raymond’s Gut, to the White Oak River.

The first buoy is Red Sixteen.  As I turn into the channel there, I bring the boat up on plane and throttle back just a hair.  The trip down the river is usually at 25 mph to 35 mph.  It just depends on conditions of the water and the direction of the wind.  The time on the river is six to seven minutes, and the total time from Bluewater Cove to the Swansboro Harbor is about ten minutes in decent weather.

One of my favorite easy to access marshes  is just across the ICW from Swansboro Harbor near what is now called Huggins Island.  A couple of times I have been lucky enough to see dozens of Great Egrets, know locally as White Herons, standing along the edge of the marsh.

Friday morning I had the marsh to myself, and I could see forever. Only the thought of how much trouble I might get into with my still sleeping wife stopped me from anchoring and wetting a line.

She doesn’t mind me fishing, she just likes to know ahead of time that I am planning on staying out for a while. She also watches the clock when I am out in the boat by myself.  I wasn’t thinking about going to the marshes before I went to bed, and my normal before breakfast boat trip is usually just down to Swansboro Harbor.  A trip to the salt marshes takes a little longer so I knew she would be watching for me.

Actually I was okay not fishing on Friday.  The water was very warm, and  it was just enough to be back in the marshes instead of driving through the traffic on Military Cutoff in Wilmington. The day was warming quickly, and it was great to start the day in the salt marshes, and still be back home before 8 AM in time for some real breakfast.  There will be better weather for fishing.

It is undeniable how special it is to be in a place where the water, marsh grass, and blue sky all cooperate to create a scene of hard-to-describe beauty   That it is just twelve minutes from my house is really something that keeps me humble.

On a big marsh like the one that stretches from where I was on Friday over to Hammocks Beach and beyond, it is easy to understand what a small part in the universe one person plays.  The marsh will hopefully be there long after I am gone.  I hope other generations get to see the same beauty that I see each time I guide my skiff by its edges.

We are really fortunate in Carteret County. There are several boat ramps that make viewing the marsh by boat possible for many people who might not otherwise get access to these special waters. From the Wildlife Resources Ramp in Cedar Point to the Cape Carteret Ramp, the new one in Emerald Isle, the isolated one at Haywood Landing on the White Oak to the private one at Boondocks in Stella, there are lots of spots just on the western side of the county where you can start your own salt marsh journey.

Then there are places like the Croatan access in Cedar Point for small boats and kayaks and the mainland side of Hammocks Beach State Park in Onslow County where you can launch kayaks.  Finding a marsh once you get in the water is not a problem.  There are salt marshes everywhere.

Kayaks are even available for rental right on the Intracoastal near the salt marshes I visited on July 29.

Carteret County is place where access to the water is important.  It is one of the reasons that I live in the county.  Where else could I find such convenient and beautiful marshes and glorious water?   That the salt marshes and blue water wash away any memories of city traffic almost instantly is all the reason I need to live here.  Places that restore your senses through their beauty are precious.

While you might not be near a boat that can take you on a salt marsh trip, this is a YouTube ride down the White Oak and a YouTube ride into the marshes. A virtual trip is better than no trip at all.

You can also see my journey on a Google map at this link.  Whether you see the marshes from a kayak or powerboat, or even by taking a hike on some of the area trails, you will not be disappointed.   The salt marshes are special.