Water that begs to be waded

Water that begs to be waded

Spring on the Crystal Coast can be a mix of all kinds of weather. With Mother Nature smiling on us, this year we have enjoyed a warm start to the spring season.

Though the journey to our summer season is a long way from being over in 2012. It has been great to have a taste of warmth so early in the season.  The real beach season usually begins around Memorial Day, and sometimes our first really warm days wait until June.  However, I would not be surprised to see summer’s heat on us even earlier than it was last year.

I do hope we can have a July that is a little different than the very warm and dry July we had in 2011 or even 2010.  Our current trend of reasonable spring rainfall might let us avoid a serious drought this year.  No one wants another dry spring and summer like 2011 which led to all the wildfires last summer.  We were amazed last summer on our Day Trip to Nags Head when we saw all the smoke from the Alligator River fire. It took Hurricane Irene to really end our drought of 2011.

With warmth and last year’s dry conditions on my mind, Friday, March 23, I made my way over to the Point at Emerald Isle. It is one of my favorite hiking spots.  I was hoping to see if my recently injured ankle could handle a couple of miles of hiking and to figure out if the salt water had warmed enough for my toes to get in it.

My trips by boat in the White Oak River earlier in the week had recorded water temperatures well above 70F.  With that experience I was expecting welcoming water on my Friday walk.  I was not to be disappointed.

It is no surprise that my experience in previous years found the water not so warm. In 2011, after a very cold winter, I first stuck my toes in the water on April 8.  For 2010 my first April post does not mention getting wet.  However, I did find that by May 1, 2010, I was knee deep in salt water.

With that history in mind, I made the under seven mile drive to Emerald Isle and turned onto Coast Guard Road.  It was just another five minutes or so before I parked at the Station Street Parking lot and headed off to a CAMA access where I could get some sand between my toes.

I did check the temperature before I left the car.  It was 77 degrees Fahrenheit. That is pretty warm for over on the beach in March.  I fully expected that once I got on the beach it would be much cooler.  Actually that was not the case.

It was more like walking onto the beach in mid-May than in late March.  I headed straight for the water.  It was only two or three minutes before I was wading in the water.  The water was far beyond toe-dipping water.

The air temperature over on the beach was very close to what it was in the parking lot.  After walking in the water for a mile or so, it is not hard to believe that the saltwater surf temperatures are already above 70F.  Unless there is a big cool down.  I will be wearing a bathing suit on my next beach walk.

Later in the day after my two miles on the beach, I took our skiff out on the river once again.  As I circled my boat and headed back up river under the Highway 24 bridges in Swansboro, my GPS unit recorded a water temperature of 74F.  When I left Bluewater Cove, where we live, the shallow water in the marshes as I piloted the boat through them showed as being 77F.

Now all of this can and likely will change somewhat.  This last week of March our low temperatures at night are going to be much more seasonable. Those warm nights for the last couple of weeks have made a huge difference in water temperature.   The third week of March 2012 we hardly got below 60F at night in our area just off the White Oak River.

For the final week of March, we will see low temperatures at night approaching 40F.  Some inland areas might be at risk for frost so you can almost count on water temperatures going down some.  However, they have been very nice and much warmer than normal for this time of year.  With the water what it is, I doubt we will have a repeat of last year’s frost by the water on March 29.

However, you just never know what the weather on the coast is going to bring this time of year.  Last year even on April 25 the water temperatures were just hovering around 70F.  Between changing temperatures and winds, it is hard to predict what it will be like on the water.

All I hope is that the weather is nice enough that I can spend plenty of time wandering the beaches and enjoying the water.