Sunset in Raymond’s Gut

Sunset, Raymond's Gut

Sunset, Raymond’s Gut, February 25, 2014

February is winding down and I am just one of many waiting for spring. All those of us around the marsh keep hoping for some additional warmth to make us feel like spring is on the way. It is not that unusual for us to have strawberries around the middle of April. With that being the case, a lot of growing has to be accomplished in a short period of time and that requires some consistent heat.

This has been a colder winter than normal and some of our outside plants have been damaged. More than just plants have been impacted. Most years the small fish in our watery world are around all the year. That often means that we have regular winter visitors like our great egret buddy, Frank 29X. This year after our third serious cold spell, the fish seemed to disappear. With no fish even the cormorants deserted us.

The week right after Valentine’s Day was closer to our normal temperature and we even managed to touch 70F a couple of times. With those warmer air temperatures,  the temperature of the water in the marsh started its upward climb. I was pleased to see a Kingfisher back that same week and also to see in the marsh grass a handful of the tiny fish that the egrets love to chase. It is a good sign that spring is on the way, but we will have some additional cold bumps to endure.

As far as humanly possible, we have scheduled spring to take place normally. Both the Emerald Isle Saint Patrick’s Day Festival and the Swansboro Oyster Roast are on track for the middle of March. It helps if the outside weather is in the nice range for the beginning of the outside festival season but the festivals generally survive any weather challenges.  I remember patio heaters at the Emerald Isle festival one year.

Still each day as winter slowly exits can be exciting. Coastal weather changes can cover a lot of weather ground in a day. The morning of February 25 we started the day in the upper thirties with blue skies. Well before noon, the temperature was approaching sixty degrees Fahrenheit.  I took my small forest of tomato plants out to enjoy the sunshine and the all around nice day which had a high temperature of 64F.

It is a good thing that the tomato plants were just outside my office because well before the afternoon was over some clouds started coming in, the wind shifted and the temperature started dropping. February 26 our high is supposed to be in the upper forties.

You learn to roll with the weather punches here on the coast and to structure your day to work around them whenever possible. This time of year we search for any trace of warmth even if all we can find are a few final rays of sunshine as the sun goes down. The situation flips by the time we get to August. We often have no choice but to work into the warm even hot hours of the day to get our chores done. When you do that, it is imperative to figure out how to cool off as quickly as possible or the heat can take you out of commission. Often the answer to the heat is as simple as driving over to the beach and jumping in the water.

Each season even winter brings its own treats. Though we haven’t had as many as normal, usually we can count on February for clear blue skies and spectacular winter sunsets. By March the ground is warm enough for planting. By April if the wind behaves itself, we are venturing out again on the water. By May most of us are making regular trips to the beaches and even sticking parts of our bodies into the water. June brings the start of the beach season and usually a little better fishing. Then we are into summer and spending as much time near the surf as possible.  Not long after we get used to summer, fall overtakes our beaches. Fall always seems to last longer than the other seasons. That is okay with most of us. Fall is the best season here on the coast. The waters are still warm, the air has less humidity, and the air temperatures are very comfortable. Also we mostly have the beaches to ourselves except for ever hopeful surf fishermen.

Then comes winter which some years is hardly noticed. This year was an exception with its colder than normal temperatures. Still our “winter” is nothing to complain about especially if you have lived through a few northern winters.

One of the other things that I like about February is our days are getting longer so it is easier to enjoy the out of doors after work.  That extra light makes a huge difference.

We will have plenty of nice sunsets even after February disappears so I will not miss them or the cooler waters as the month departs. I am anxious to be back on the water whether by boat or kayak. Life really is all about the water down here. Figuring out the water puzzle is part of the reason most of live here on the coast. We are an area where land and water can stretch your imagination. It is not unusual to hear people say that they live for the water.

I am always ready for the water as soon as it gets warm, but in the meantime, I’ll enjoy as many of those beautiful February sunsets as I can. There is some warmth in them even if they just warm my mind up a little for the better months ahead.

You can read more posts about why we live on the Crystal Coast at this selection of older posts.

If you would like to see some pictures of the spectacular scenery in our area during warmer times, check out our just published $2.99 Kindle reader book, 100 Pictures, 1000 Words, A Crystal Coast Year.  It is worth clicking on the link just to see the free sample of seven pictures.  Kindle reader software works on just about every platform including iPads and iPhones.

We recently sent out our first newsletter of the season.  If you sign up soon, I will be able to send out copies of the first newsletter to new subscribers before we send  the next edition about the upcoming season on the Crystal Coast.

You can also get our comprehensive travel guide to the area.  We will be publishing a free electronic update for people who buy the 2013 edition.  There is no greater place to vacation with a family than North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks.

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Thinking of the Point

Near the Point, Emerald Isle, NC

Near the Point, Emerald Isle, NC

Like most coastal people and everyone on the east coast north of Florida, I am ready for winter to end.  I would much rather be walking on the sands of the Point than sitting inside writing about the nasty weather.  My college friend, Scott, who lives in Chicago seems to be happy with the prospect of February closing out with temperatures in the forties with the chance of maybe fifty Fahrenheit on one day.

I can tell you that is not only an unacceptable end to winter, that is actually what we have been enduring and are trying to escape. While it might be unbecoming to complain about temperatures in the forties when our Canadian friends have just endured yet another snowstorm, it is certainly not the winter weather that we have become accustomed to in our several winters here on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast.

This winter I have not even dared to dream of any magic days on the beach much less letting my mind wander to summer days on the water.

We have had a winter on the marsh unlike any that we have faced. In most of the winters that we have been here, we have been able to enjoy lettuce and some other cold weather crops during January. That has been impossible even as we slide into February this year. While we have a good week on tap the week after Valentine’s Day, one of the European forecast models has us dropping back to well below freezing on February 26 so this is going to a rocky road to spring.

I know that we are officially still in winter and I have written that spring weather can be highly variable here along the coast. The problem is that we have grown used to having long breaks between these spells of winter weather and there have really been no breaks here on the coast this year.  I thought as we were thawing out at the end of January there might be some hope.  Unfortunately we got a mix of sleet and ice coating everything including our palms in the days just before our Valentine’s Day thaw.  We were lucky that was all we got since places in South Carolina had far more serious ice, the North Carolina Piedmont had its biggest snowstorm in decades, and our friends in the Virginia Mountains got a historic snowstorm.

A quick burst of warm air late in the evening on Valentine’s Day took us into the fifties and quickly melted all the ice.  Once again I thought we might be headed into warmth, but it was short-lived.  If you look at our average temperatures for February, we should be seeing an average high during this time of year near 59F with our lows around 38F.  We are nowhere close to that in 2014.  There were only two days above 60F in early February and in the next eleven days after that only two days did the temperatures above 50F. That is at the very cold end of  winter weather for us and unlike our normal middle of February weather.  Next week’s sixties and potential seventy degree day will really be some welcome relief.

What normally happens in much of North Carolina is that by the middle of February, the sun starts to seriously warm the ground and people start planting early crops. The water around us takes longer to warm but this year widespread snow cover extending just about everywhere north and west of us is slowing the middle February warmth we have come to count on over the years. We usually warm slowly here along the coast once we get to March but we are having trouble getting into our comfort zone.  Normally once we get pass the cold of January and a brush with cold in February the weather can be very nice if we just give it time.  This year February has been a very cold month for us.

I guess the real problem is that we expect February to have cold weather but to give us enough warmth that we can easily make it to March when we really start to feel better about our prospects for leaving cold behind for another year. February on the North Carolina coast is not normally the cruelest month of the year like it is in much of Canada.

All you have to do is read this post called Spring is here that I wrote on February 28, 2011, to understand what I mean. Or you can look at this post written in early March 2012 which starts out with the statement, “It is hard to say anything but “What winter?” when someone asks about our winter this year.” Even worse is the post called January Warmth to Remember that I wrote in January 2013.

Right now there is no way that I could write an article that even hints that we might have enjoyed some warm weather this winter. We have seen a few warm days, but the streaks of warm weather that keep us coastal folks smiling have been almost non-existent. To compound matters our lovely blue skies have been hiding and sometimes smiling at us above icy waters.

We live close to the elements here so the weather is more than an idle interest to those us of who spend time on the water and lots of time outside. We have been lucky to have missed most of the really serious winter weather, but that is why we live here. Now it is time hopefully for the true warmth of early spring weather to start pushing cold weather to the north and bring us back our wonderful blue skies.  Unless that happens, I suspect my office will soon be overwhelmed by tomato plants that should have moved to the garage long ago. I will remain hopeful because this is North Carolina and eventually the heat will win and we will wish that we could have bottled some of this cold air.

If you would like to see some pictures of the spectacular scenery in our area during warmer times, check out our just published $2.99 Kindle reader book, 100 Pictures, 1000 Words, A Crystal Coast Year.  It is worth clicking on the link just to see the free sample of seven pictures.  Kindle reader software works on just about every platform including iPads and iPhones.

We recently sent out our first newsletter of the season.  If you sign up soon, I will be able to send out copies of the first newsletter to new subscribers before we send  the next edition about the upcoming season on the Crystal Coast.

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Newsletter