In 2003 an impromptu anniversary celebration along North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks ended up changing our lives. For years before that trip to Beaufort, NC, a lifelong attraction to the sand and surf kept pulling me back to the towns on the Outer Banks from Corolla to South Nags Head to Hatteras Island.
Now in the fall of 2012, we are beginning our seventh year of living by a quiet inlet of the White Oak River not far from Emerald Isle. How we ended up in this beautiful, peaceful place and what we have learned from living here might offer some guideposts to others looking to relocate from the urban world.
One simple explanation for my love of this area is that I started going to the beaches of North Carolina when I could hardly walk. Other than the years we lived in Canada, there was hardly a break in my annual pilgrimage to the shifting sands. I was even camping on Ocracoke Island when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. The feeling of being close to the sea that you get on the thin strand of sand that is North Carolina’s Outer Banks is hard to duplicate. Many evenings while working in Northern Virginia, I would wish for an evening on the beach.
While I was deep in a career at Apple, the town of Buxton perched on Cape Hatteras offered a special attraction. We could go stay there for a week and forget the not so nice corporate world of Apple. Much to my liking, you could not even find a telephone in the room much less Internet access. I think my annual trip to the coast was one of the strongest incentives to mentor potential new managers. I needed people whom I could trust to cover for me because going to Buxton put me off the grid.
However, our anniversary trip in 2003 was different. Beaufort gave me the first inkling that I could live on the coast. Over the years we vacationed up and down the East coast from Chincoteague down to Bald Head Island. No place, not even Charleston which I visited on business trips, piqued my interest like Beaufort.
It took three years, but we finally found a place to call home that satisfied the need that Beaufort had awakened. Once we really made the decision to find a place to live, it didn’t take long for us to decide that if we were going to live on the coast, we wanted to be able to see and smell the water. We also wanted a place where we could live among permanent residents instead of just people on vacation.
We are about three miles up the river from Swansboro and the Intracoastal Waterway. Our life revolves around Cape Carteret, Emerald Isle, Cedar Point, and Swansboro. Morehead City is also a big part of our life, and when needed we venture up to Jacksonville. We haven’t found much need to go to larger cities.
The water is a little over twenty-five feet from our garage. I can see if from my upstairs office. My wife can see it from her laundry room/office. When we eat a meal, I look out on the water and often we have some interesting visitors in the tidal gut behind our home.
Because we choose to live by the water, the water is a big part of our lives. I always walk out on our dock before I go retrieve the morning newspaper. When the tide is high often determines how I organize my day. Most nice mornings I hike a road that parallels the length of the gut. I usually spend a few minutes on our community boardwalk where I often play hide and seek with Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Green Herons, and Kingfishers.
It is a rare night when we close up for the evening and don’t hear either the hoot of an owl in the forest or a heron squawking about a territory invasion. When it is dark at night and the skies are clear, we see more stars than most people can imagine. The deep blue of our evening sky is hard to appreciate unless you have lived outside the glare of city lights.
While I spend much I my day writing, I rarely let slip an opportunity to get out on the water. Sometimes I slide my kayak in the water for a quick fishing trip in our inlet. Other days I lower the skiff in the water for a visit to the marshes behind Swansboro. Sometimes in the evening my wife and I ride out in the skiff and just watch the sun sink behind the trees on the other side of the river. Coming back into our inlet is truly special.
The soil and climate by our inlet are favorable for growing things. We got our first tomato this year before the end of May. This tomato season was even better than 2011. I had far fewer plants, and they produced almost as many tomatoes. We grew lettuce during the late winter. We enjoy watching our flowers and palm trees grow, and I don’t mind taking care of our low maintenance centipede yard.
On Saturday, September 15, I left for a fishing trip designed to coincide with high tide. It only took me five minutes or so to reach my favorite fishing spot which is the picture at the top of the post. It wasn’t long before I caught the first of three puppy drum that I enjoyed catching that morning but quickly returned to the water. Mixed in with the drum came a couple of flounder, and it turned out that one was a fat 16.5 inch keeper.
After a couple of hours of fishing, I made the short trip back to our dock where I cleaned the flounder and put it on ice. After a refreshing shower, I pan fried the flounder and my wife fixed some vegetables. We had a great lunch which was an exclamation point on a very nice day.
Three mornings I made the same quick trip to my fishing hole. Each time I caught some feisty puppy drum. Catching those fish in sight of our house is as close to a validation of our choice of a place to move as anything that I can conjure up.
We wanted quiet living in a natural setting not far from modern services. I’m happy to report that we found it along the White Oak River in Bluewater Cove. Even our experience with Hurricane Irene and a very rare tornado that visited the area have not changed our opinion of life here along the coast.
This is a great place to live. The peace you find here is a sure road to recovery from the stress of the modern world.