December On The White Oak

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Headed Out Raymond's Gut To White Oak River

Headed Out Raymond’s Gut To White Oak River

When you live next door to the spawning ground of Nor’easters, life can be interesting especially if your home borders some water like ours does.

We just had another storm form off the coast. We did not get a lot of rain from it like the folks farther up the coast and even into Canada but we had plenty of wind for a couple of days. We are used to wind here, but sometimes it even surprises us. This time the wind was strong enough to push one of the heavy chairs off our patio. It only took a minute or two to locate it and return it to its spot, but I should have taken the missing chair as a warning to check around the house.

Instead of doing that, I went on my normal morning hike around the boardwalk that surrounds our neighborhood clubhouse. Much to my surprise I saw a kayak paddle floating in the edge of the marsh grass on the other side of the water from the boardwalk. I knew without thinking that my spare kayak paddle had blown off our dock into the water. I also knew that if I did not retrieve it pretty quickly, it would likely head down river.

Seeing the paddle in the water sent me scurrying home. I quickly let my wife know that I was going to put the boat in the water and retrieve my paddle. Fortunately our skiff is on a lift just behind the house.

It took only moments to put on my life jacket,  load my gear, get the boat in the water, and head over to where I spotted my paddle. Retrieving it involving cutting the motor off, drifting over to it, and fishing it out with the boat hook.

I was happy to have my paddle back but since I already had the boat in the water, I decided to ride out to the river and check the water temperature which I try to do regularly. There are only a handful of weeks, usually in January or February, when I do not make it out on the river.  Even during the winter is river is good for your soul.

Last week when I went out on the river, the water had warmed back almost to 60F. On this December 10, trip I had my suspicions that it might be a lot colder. On the day before my trip, our high temperature was 42F.

Most of the time the water that is close by us is a moderating influence to our weather. The ocean takes the longest time to cool down as we approach winter. Then there is our neighbor, the White Oak River, which cools down faster than the ocean. Finally there is the water in the marsh or the gut that leads to the river. The water temperature there fluctuates more than the river or the sound because it is the shallowest water. It can warm quickly on a sunny day but cool quickly on a chilly night.

Since I expected my trip to be a short one, I did not bother to track down my gloves which I have not used since last spring. The stainless steel wheel on the boat was definitely cold, but I managed get out the inlet and take a quick trip at 31 MPH trip down the river. I did not go far before I was quickly reminded that out on the river your air temperature in a boat is pretty close to the water temperature.

Our average high temperature for December 10, is 57F. When I went out on the river, I found the water temperature to be just under 46F. I am guessing today’s high of 55F was probably a little cooler because of all the cold water that is around. It was certainly cooler out on the water.

In the winter the water around us makes our air temperature a little cooler during the day, but it also helps us stay a little warmer during very cold nights.

The river is a quiet place in the winter. The fish have either gone up the creeks or headed off shore.  That being the case the fishermen have followed them.  About the only sign of life on the river would the water birds and the occasional commercial fisherman checking his crab pots.

While it is easy to tarry out on the river for much of the year, usually December through February does not offer up much weather that invites you to relax out on the water.  We do get some ice sometimes and with the river already this cold, the right conditions could bring us a skim of early morning ice any day now.

Even when the water is cold, the river still is a powerful attraction. I will often leave work a little early and go out and enjoy the sunset. Sometimes I will bundle up and make the ten minute run down to Swansboro where the river meets Bogue Sound and the Intracoastal Waterway. There is something really nice about zipping down the river if you can manage to keep from freezing while doing it.  An open boat at over 30MPH creates its own windchill and if you add a cold north wind, things can get frosty quickly.

Still as you can see from this slide show of a White Oak River boat ride from January 2013, it is not unusual to see water temperatures in the fifties instead of the forties.

Living along the White Oak River not far from the Emerald Isle beaches gives us lots of options even during the cold part of the year and one of them is to enjoy some winter boating when the sunshine, winds, and temperature cooperate. I have found that some time on the water even when it is chilly helps make winter just a little shorter.

If chilly water is not concern and you are ready to visit, you will find some great information in our free online guide to Emerald Isle.  It is a great time of year to visit and enjoy the peace that comes to our Crystal Coast waters.  If you think you might be interested in living here, try visiting The Crystal Coast, Saltwater on my feet.   There are 129 posts there.

We also send out an almost monthly newsletter. Our most recent newsletter was sent out on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  It is available here on the web.  You can read our October newsletter online at this link.

We will be sending out our next newsletter the week just before Christmas.

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