Quiet Waters

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Quiet Waters Waiting for the Nor'easter

Quiet Waters Waiting for the Nor’easter

I lived in the North just across the Maine border for many years.  The rhythm of life in New Brunswick is different from the way it is here on the North Carolina coast, but there are some similarities.  On our Canadian farm it was always a rush to get things done before the winter blanket of snow arrived.

Once the snow came, there was a sense of release.  Many projects were frozen in time until the next spring.  For a few days, you could actually relax until those regular winter chores began in earnest.  Along the beaches of the Southern Outer Banks November’s bright sunny days seem to urge us to be outside and on the water as much as possible.  In the back of our minds, we know the outside season that we love and cherish could be snatched from us at any time.

Some years the great weather goes on forever.  Then there are years like 2012 when November reminds us that it can be a fickle master.  Not surprisingly when the late fall rains and cooler temperatures arrive on the coast, there is a pause and a changing of the gears that is similar to what happens in the North when the first significant snows arrive.

Carteret County with more water than land is unlike the urban areas of the east coast.  The wind, weather, and temperature are of great importance since people here spend so much of their time in the out-of-doors.  I like to think that we live much of our lives in a world without walls here along North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks. Whenever I get a great day, I often spend it checking out the changes in The Point at Emerald Isle.  It is one of those places where Mother Nature is the mistress and I am often exploring the unknown.

We are very lucky here on the coast.  Even after fall has long given up on the interior of the state, we can snatch some summery days from the jaws of winter.  We have to change gears again and find our shorts, but it is just like a thaw up North when the snow leaves.  You take advantage of it and get back into your old routine until cold winds force you to change your habits and clothes once again.

Actually one of the treasured times up North is during a snow storm.  Most people who can will hunker down in their homes and adapt to staying inside until the weather clears, and they can get back to work.  Here on the coast when the Nor’easters blow with driving rain and wind over a day or two,  the feeling is very similar to what I felt during a snow storm in Canada.  When it is nasty outside we try to watch the weather through the windows just as much as we did in Canada.

Maybe it is a little easier to get around in our Nor’easters than it is in a Canadian blizzard, but there are some folks living along Route 12 between Nags Head and Hatteras Island who might argue the point.

Just as bright blue skies might follow a strong Canadian storm, it is not unusual for stellar weather to show up after a Nor’easter. Most skiffs, kayaks, and fishing rods are usually ready for action at any time here on the coast.  All it takes is a little good weather to get most people back out on the water.  As long as there is any hope of catching a fish, there will be a rod or two in my kayak or along for the ride with my skiff.

When it does get too cold to be serious about fishing from a boat, I don’t give up on the water,  I try to zig zag down the White Oak River to Swansboro at least once a week.  In January and February, I have to bundle up, but fortunately March regularly brings warmth to North Carolina.  March is often a hard month for me to resist the call of the water.

With even our coldest months of January and February struggling to keep me off the water,  Carteret County and our home of Bluewater Cove in particular end up being a very good place for wintering.

As I write this on Thursday evening, November 15, 2012,  our latest rain storm is moving off shore, and our local forecasters are calling for another Nor’easter to form off the Carolina coast this weekend.  I likely won’t be able to go chasing puppy drum in my kayak like I did last weekend when the temperatures surged into the seventies, but I am on track to have my new gas logs up and running by the time the storm finds us.

Of course we might get some fine weather between the two batches of rain so perhaps I should check my fishing rods before I go to bed tonight.

With the next storm in mind and getting closer to reality,  I suspect that I will be watching some Saturday football games from the backsides of my eyelids  while my wife cooks up some tasty rainy weather food.  I wonder if I dare dream for some homemade clam chowder?  It would make this Nor’easter almost as welcome as a good Canadian blizzard.

The Point After Sandy

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On the Point, Looking South

On the Point, Looking South

When you have a big storm like Sandy that slides up the coast, it does not take long for those of us who live in the area to start wondering what the storm did to the beaches.

In 2011 after Irene came through the area, I did a post called, “Walking between Irene, Katia, and Maria.”  In that post I chronicled some of the changes that I saw on the Point after Irene.  When I walk the Point, I use a piece of software called MyTracks. It runs on my Android phone and does a very good job of tracking where I walk.

In fact the maps that I create with my phone are much more accurate than what is typically posted on the web by Google, MapQuest, or Bing.  Their maps are updated infrequently, and the Point changes sometimes from day to day.  Often the Google maps show me walking across great expanses of water.  Unfortunately I have yet to master that skill.   I might get my toes wet, but on November 1, when I last visited the Point wading with my bare legs was not something I did.  At that time the water was cooling rapidly.

After Irene I calculated what I considered to be the new sand on the Point based on my previous hikes.  The Point has continued change throughout 2012.  In September 2012, I did another post, Back to The Point, discussing changes at the Point.  I also made another map from a hike which confirmed that sand was continuing to build up at the Northwest corner of the Point.

When I visited the Point on November 1, 2012, I really did not know what to expect.  At the time there were no newspaper reports discussing Sandy’s impact on our beaches.  It did not take me long after I got on the beach to decide that Sandy had smoothed the beach considerably but did not seem to damage it.

The cliffs of Emerald Isle as I call a series of sand dunes which are near where I enter the beach survived with no damage as you can see from this picture.  You can see from this photo that Sandy did level the beach and create some great walking conditions.

My hike confirmed that the Point survived Sandy without any major changes.   As I mentioned earlier, the long term trend of more sand at the Northwest end of the Point continues as you can see in this picture.

Though a lack of time prevented me from going all the way to end of Bird Island, if you look at this map of my hike and compare it to the one from August 31, you can quickly see that the changes have been minor.

I am pleased to report that there is a new dune building on the Point.  The Emerald Isle folks have it surrounded with warning tape, so I am hoping it will continue to grow.

The one thing that can definitely be said is that the Point has grown tremendously since I took this picture in November of 2007 when water was lapping at the vehicle ramp.  The Point essentially disappeared during high tides in late fall of 2007.  Using the map from my November 1, 2012, hike, I estimate there is now 1,742 feet of sand straight out from the vehicle ramp where there was only water in November of 2007. That measurement has not varied significantly since this spring.

After a lot of hikes around the Point, it is easy to say that there is a lot of sand out there.