It does not take much of a brush with winter to get me dreaming of the warm waters of Bogue Inlet. As much as I enjoy going to the beach any time of year, a winter beach scene just cannot match the colors of a summer day on the beach or the waters Bogue Inlet shown in the picture above.
That we have a relatively mild winter is little consolation when you know that the water is just too cold for the kind of boating that we love. Boating here on the Crystal Coast often involves jumping out of the boat and wading in the warm salt water. Getting in the water while boating is just part of the fun. Most of us do not consider we have been boating in the summer unless we get wet. Sometimes getting wet is the only way to stay cool in the heat of summer.
I love riding down the river and boating through the marshes almost any time, but it is just not the same when I know that I have to keep dry if I want to avoid turning blue. While we are lucky to have waters that often stay warm well into December, once the waters have picked up a chill, it takes a lot of warmth to get them to the point that you can jump in without a little shock to the system. Usually the waters warm by late April or early May. You might not choose to swim in them at that time, but you will not freeze if you happen to get wet.
Some years the waters warm earlier than others, and then there are days when you just cannot wait any longer. The blue sky and warm air can be so nice that you just have to take advantage of the weather. My wife is not too keen on me going out into the ocean by myself so I am always happy to have someone who is good with a boat to ride with me or even better take the helm so I can focus on capturing some great pictures. A good boat partner makes the water at least ten to fifteen degrees warmer.
Here in the middle of February it seems like boating weather is years away but the truth is that in a good year, we often enjoy the water in March and April. In 2012 March started out warm but cooled by the end of the month. The cool weather lasted into early April, but by the third week in April it was warm enough to fish and get out in the ocean. A trip out beyond the beaches is always a treat especially when it happens in April.
It is a rare week that I am not out on the water at least a few minutes in my skiff. As much fun as that is, it just is not the same as a warm weather trip on water that is approaching swimming temperatures. While the water temperatures were hovering in the mid to upper fifties in the middle of February, the cool weather that hit us the weekend of February 16-17 will drop them down a lot. There might even be a light skim of early morning ice on Monday, February 18. (updated: picture of ice from February 18)
I would not be surprised to see the water temperatures get back down to around 50F but I will just have to guess until I get a chance to take the boat out on the river later this week when we get past this cool spell.
I pretty sure I no longer own enough clothes to go for a 30 MPH boat ride when the air temperature is in the thirties. The forecast for the week has us back touching the sixties by the middle of the week so I will wait until then to check the river water temperature.