Glassy Water Morning

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Calm water on the White Oak River

Calm water on the White Oak River

There are few things that I love as much as kayaking on the White Oak River. I usually manage to kayak ten months out of the year. With a river as beautiful as the White Oak it is hard to stay off the water.

Raymonds Gut which flows into the White Oak is in our backyard. Kayaking is just a matter of moving my kayak from our dock to the break in the marsh grass and sliding into the water.

Early season or spring kayaking has more than its fair share of wind. Sometime in May after I have had my fair share of choppy water, I usually start dreaming about some glassy water kayaking. Finding those beautiful mornings even in summer is often illusive. That is especially true if you have a full time day job.

This year it has seemed especially tough. I have been on the water by 6AM a couple of times with my skiff but neither of those days would have been special in a kayak. Even July which is usually a good month for water as smooth as glass has not been kind. Part of the problem is that July 2016 has been a particular warm one. The heat has been with us since early in the month and has kept shady spots popular along the Crystal Coast. The excessive warmth has also enhanced the winds.

The heat wave we endured for the last two weeks of July 2016 has been as bad as we can remember from our ten years on the North Carolina coast. While heat can be tolerated if your kayak is in cool water, water in the upper eighties and midday summer heat together enhance the conveyor belt of wind that is part of our lives on the coast. That has been the case for much of July 2016. We have had plenty of 15MPH or greater winds with the White Oak River often whipped up to whitecaps by the midday. That makes it hard if you sometimes sneak a late lunch hour for kayak fishing.

Still people like me who kayak and fish are extremely persistent. A friend recently told me that the fish seemed to surviving the heat by having a feeding spell just as the sun was first hitting the water. Friday evening, July 29, I got all my tackle ready and made plans to get up by 5:30AM and be on the water by 6:45AM. Things went relatively well except as is sometimes the case, the anticipation of my trip kept me awake until 1:30AM which means 5:30AM came quickly.

After springing out of bed, everything went well and I even reset the coffee pot for my wife to 8AM and had the newspaper on her placemat ready for her as I have been doing the last forty-plus years. Then I slipped my kayak into the water through the marsh grasses by our dock and paddled out towards the river. I was not surprised that the heat was still with us. The air temperature was close to 80F even that early in the morning. Fortunately the sun hung behind the clouds and there was no breeze. That was a two edged sword.

No breeze meant that I could count on some calm waters and that I would not be fighting the wind and the current. It also meant there was no breeze to cool me. Still it was a great morning just to be on the river and I did manage to land a short red drum and a short flounder. Red drum or the puppy drum that we chase are magnificent fish. Though you can keep the drum at 17 inches, I will not bring one home unless it is 20 or 21 inches long. Once they get over 27 inches they have to be thrown back.

Besides catching some fish, the reason it was so nice on the river was the paddling was as easy as it has been this year. The sun did come out but the clouds were not quite right for one of those drop dead beautiful days. It was still very nice on the river. The heat unfortunately was still lurking in the air and the river water was far from cool. As I started paddling home around 10AM the breeze that started to pick up was a lifesaver especially since the sun was working hard to get the temperature back up over 90F.

Since I paddling against the tide, the slightly over one mile journey back to my home dock was good exercise and I was happy that I had brought along a bottle of water. When I entered our inlet, Raymond’s Gut, the cooling breeze disappeared and the afterburners on the sun seemed to flip on in an attempt to cook me. By the time I relaxed in the shade under our dock as I waited for my wife to hook up my Acura SUV and pull my kayak up through the marsh grass, there was not a dry thread on my t-shirt.

Even so, I will be plotting my next kayaking adventure right after I have a nap to catch up on some sleep.

If  you are thinking of a vacation, we are now on the downslope of summer.  Of course fall is stunning here on the Southern Outer Banks.   If you need help planning your visit to the Crystal Coast, you are in luck.  Our five-star-rated travel guide, A Week at the Beach – The Emerald Isle Travel Guide, can help turn a vacation into a truly memorable one..  Even if you have been here a number of times, I have some secrets to share about the area beaches. This is a recent review published in Island Review by the owner of the Books and Toys Shop at Emerald Plantation.

The Kindle version of the travel guide is $3.99 but it is free if you have Kindle Unlimited.  The Kindle version includes over 100 pictures and extras such as printable maps and a few of our recipes. Our completely updated 2016 version went live in late May.  Amazon also has the full color, 142 page 2016 paperback version for $19.99 and it is prime eligible. There is a black and white version available for $7.95.  In order to make the paperbacks more affordable, we limited the pictures to sixty-six and the maps to nine.  There are no recipes in the paperbacks. However, if you buy one of the paperbacks from Amazon, the Amazon matchbook program will let you get the Kindle version for only $1.99.  If you want to purchase books locally in Emerald Isle, the Emerald Isle Town Office sells both versions and the black and white ones are also available at Emerald Isle Books and Toys in Emerald Plantation.  Color copies are $20 and black and white ones are $8.

Our last newsletter went out July 3 and it can be read on the web, Beach is Summer’s Heart.  We hope to have our next newsletter out in early August.

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Looking for the Shade

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Shade at Duke Marine Lab

Shade at Duke Marine Lab

This is our tenth summer living along North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks so this summer’s heat is not much of a surprise. However, this is one of the longer stretches of July heat that we have seen. Also the temperature staying near or above 80F at night is more typical of August than most of the July months that I can remember.

It is hot enough early in the morning, that one of my chores is to roll down the windows of our car that does not have a spot in the garage. On a recent Sunday I pulled our car out of the paved parking lot at church so I could park in the shade under a tree. The picture of the shade in the post picture was taken at Duke Marine Research Lab on Pivers Island near Beaufort. We attended their open house on Saturday, July 23, 2016, and many of the exhibits were outside. Shade was at a premium but the combination of a little shade and a sea breeze made the 90F heat bearable for an hour or so.  The closest tree in the picture is a cedar and the the next one is a live oak.

I recently mowed a couple of small pieces of our yard in the heat of the day at 1PM. There was method to my madness since two of the three spots had slipped into the shade for a few minutes. Still I was happy that it only took thirty minutes behind the lawnmower. I got to take my second shower of the day and as is my custom during the heart of the summer, the shower was all “cold” water. Except here along the coast in the summer our cold water is more like lukewarm water.  Three showers in a day are not out of the question during a Crystal Coast summer.

None of this should be considered as a complaint.  We typically enjoy our warmth. We were born in the Piedmont of North Carolina so the heat is no mystery to us. We actually grew up in the days before air conditions so the only mystery is how we managed to survive back then. I remember awnings over windows and a carport over our car which had windows and vents for air conditioning.  There were also many Sunday afternoons spent under shade trees sometimes eating watermelon or homemade peach ice cream. We played in the dark woods during the heat of summer.  Even today in midsummer, most of my grilling takes place in the evening because the grill is in the shade then.

We only have about six more weeks before the heat starts slipping away and this hot spell like all the others before it will like abate well before that.  We adjust to heat like this by doing most of our gardening early in the morning or late in the evening just before dark. Sustained heat like this does have some impact. Our late season tomato plants will likely be unsuccessful in setting fruit with nighttime temperatures remaining this high.  We might plant some to come in during the fall to compensate.  Fortunately we have had plenty of moisture, 14.25 inches since the beginning of June, so the heat just makes our cucumbers and centipede grass grow even faster.

As to the beach, it has been a long time since I have been a middle of the day beach person so by five or six PM when I usually arrive, things have already started to cool off. Most people that I see staying for a significant time on the beach bring their own shade with them. That is a little like the boats going out in the heat of the day. Many have bimini tops to keep folks from being fried. Since I am a fairly serious fisherman, we go out very early usually leaving the dock by 6AM and returning by 9AM so we miss the heat of the day.

Usually I recommend just one place when it is really hot and that is the ocean.  I have been known to suggest standing in the ocean and letting a wave hit you right between the shoulder blades. However, when I was at Third Street Beach this last week, the water seemed to have lost most of its coolness. Perhaps finding some shade is not such a bad idea since heat has been the main topic this month on my blog.  Warm nights are also perfect for late beach walks so it all works out in the end.

If  you are planning a summer vacation, now is the time to catch some pure summer beach time.  If you are visiting the Crystal Coast, you are in luck.  Our five-star-rated travel guide can make for a great vacation.  Even if you have been here a number of times, I have some secrets to share about the area beaches. There are some changes in the restaurant scene this year.

Our Week at the Beach the Emerald Isle Travel Guide Kindle version is $3.99 but it is free if you have Kindle Unlimited.  The Kindle version includes over 100 pictures and extras such as printable maps and a few of our recipes. Our completely updated 2016 version went live in late May.  Amazon also has the full color, 142 page 2016 paperback version for $19.99 and it is prime eligible. There is a black and white version available for $7.95.  In order to make the paperbacks more affordable, we limited the pictures to sixty-six and the maps to nine.  There are no recipes in the paperbacks. However, if you buy one of the paperbacks from Amazon, the Amazon matchbook program will let you get the Kindle version for only $1.99.  If you want to purchase books locally in Emerald Isle, the Emerald Isle Town Office sells both versions and the black and white ones are also available at Emerald Isle Books and Toys in Emerald Plantation.  Color copies are $20 and black and white ones are $8.

Our last newsletter went out July 3 and it can be read on the web, Beach is Summer’s Heart.  We hope to have our next newsletter out in early August.

Sign-Up for the monthly Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter

Heat Calls on the Crystal Coast

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Crystal clear waters at Hammocks Beach

Crystal clear waters at Hammocks Beach

The second week in July is upon us. Summer has rewarded us with a full dose of heat and just in case it was not humid enough already, mother nature dropped about 2.5 inches of rain on us in the last few days.

While some of the crops including our yard needed the rain, no one put in a request for temperatures in the mid-nineties. This is the coast of North Carolina in the middle of summer so heat is no stranger to us. Some summers it finds us even earlier like it did in June 2015.

During the Fourth of July weekend, we had plenty of heat, but we still have a slight advantage since this is not August and the heat has yet to penetrate our bones. The area waters are barely above 80F so they still have a little coolness to the touch and there is no doubt that 80F feels cools when compared to 93F. Because of that the water still offers relief from the heat. In August when the waters of the river reach 90F, kayaking can be a little like being a frog in a warming pot of water on a stove.

In early July you can still pick your relief. A trip to the beach early in the morning or late in the afternoon will let you enjoy some of the precious coolness that finds us at the beginning and again at close of the day. You can get the same relief by going out in a boat or kayak. I did that July 3. It was extremely pleasant on the river when I anchored there this holiday Saturday morning. That first few feet of air above the river draws either coolness or heat from the waters. In the spring the coolness can be enough to chill you, this time of year it is just enough to cool you. In August it will cook you and in November it will warm you. Water temperature is more important than air temperature along the Crystal Coast.

No one moves to the North Carolina coast for a cool summer. Mostly we enjoy our warmth but that does not mean I will go outside and start working in the yard at noon on a hot day. You do have to respect the heat and learn to live with it. It is much easier today than it was years ago when there was no air conditioning. In the fifties and sixties shade trees were worth their weight in gold. No one wanted to sit in a hot house on a Sunday afternoon. You gathered under the shade trees for lemonade, homemade ice cream, and watermelon. It was the way of the South.

However, we do move to the coast for the water and we are lucky that this batch of heat has come while the water can still take a little of the edge off of it. As long as you can find a spot to stay cool during the middle of the day, early morning and late evening still can be comfortable here on the Crystal Coast.  A month from now, it will not be so easy, but by then fall will be close enough to offer hope.

Until then I will count the days until things cool off this weekend. If you find it to hot to check out the beaches, have a look at some beach and water pictures that I took recently.

If  you are planning a summer vacation, now is the time.  If you are coming to the Crystal Coast, do not forget our five-star-rated travel guide. Even if you have been here a number of times, I might have some secrets to share about the area beaches. There are a lot of changes in the restaurant scene and not everything new has great food.

Our Week at the Beach, the Emerald Isle Kindle version is $3.99  and includes over 100 pictures and extras such as printable maps and a few of our recipes. Our completely updated 2016 version went live in late May.  Amazon also has the full color, 142 page 2016 paperback version for $19.99 and it is prime eligible. There is a black and white version available for $7.95.  In order to make the paperbacks more affordable, we limited the pictures to sixty-six and the maps to nine.  There are no recipes in the paperbacks. However, if you buy one of the paperbacks from Amazon, the Amazon matchbook program will let you get the Kindle version for only $1.99.  If you want to purchase books locally in Emerald Isle, the Emerald Isle Town Office sells both versions and the black and white ones are also available at Emerald Isle Books and Toys in Emerald Plantation.  Color copies are $20 and black and white ones are $8.

Our last news letter went out July 3 and the article, Beach is Summer’s Heart, can be read here.  We hope to have our next newsletter out in early August.

Sign-Up for the monthly Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter

Another Beach Fourth of July

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Shallow waters near Swansboro, NC

Shallow waters near Swansboro, NC

This is our tenth year living on the North Carolina coast. The Fourth of July is pretty special on the coast. If you have a place already booked, you will likely spend some time on the beach, maybe watch some of the area’s fireworks, and have some local seafood. Most of those things are easily accomplished once you make it across the bridge to Emerald Isle or one of the other Crystal Coast beach or river towns.

With so many coastal Fourths under our belts, we have seen all the fireworks we need and tend to stay fairly close to home. Like many area residents we have a pretty good idea about what to attempt this weekend and what might not be worth the challenge.

Even many of the people who live here and should know better are drawn to put their boats in the water this coming weekend. When I took a run down the White Oak to Swansboro on June 29, I was struck by the lack of boats. The Intracoastal Waterway, Swansboro Harbor, and the White Oak River were all pretty well devoid of boat traffic. The picture at the top of post was taken June 30 in area where there is usually some boat traffic.

My skiff, a fishing buddy, and I were out early the morning of June 30th fishing the marshes near Swansboro. We saw almost no boats.  It will be our last trip to Swansboro until at least the middle of the week after the Fourth. The Fourth of July is when you will find the most boats on the water all year long.

I have learned that the closer you get to the Intracoastal Waterway in Swansboro this holiday weekend, the more boats that you will find. The boats are not the biggest problem. This next week is also the peak of the jet ski season and you can almost guarantee that someone will be hurt. So if you find me on the water, it will not be in the Intracoastal Waterway.

One of the places that rarely gets crowded even on the Fourth of July is the White Oak River. We also fished there this morning and managed to find a trout that came home for dinner.  If I can find a few hours without a lot of wind and with some blue skies, I will likely be back on the river this weekend in my kayak. There is nothing better than being on the water and if I fish the oyster rocks, I will have a natural barrier between me and any power boats and jet skis that happen to wander up river.

A remarkable stretch of beach weather stayed with us during the first three weeks of June. The only wrinkles during that time were some winds strong enough to get the ankle-defoliating sand moving one afternoon and some showers that cleared the beach late one afternoon last week. A little less than 6.2 inches of rain has fallen in June. However, all of it but .70 inches fell on two days between June 1 and June 7. The three weeks since have been dry with almost no rain in the last ten days except the less than one quarter of an inch of rain we got on June 28. That barely settled the dust. Last year we were much wetter with 7.75 inches of rain spread through June.

The seven day precipitation forecast continues to hint that at least part of this year’s Fourth of July week at the beach will be wetter than our recent stretch of dry weather. That does not mean the week will be a rainout. The way our weather works, we could get 2.5 inches of rain in an afternoon and the rest of the week could be dry. Coastal weather is even less predictable than inland weather.

Given the potential rain in the forecast, I have some things in mind that will still let me still enjoy the Fourth. My Saturday morning will be planned around the Emerald Isle EMS Pancake breakfast and the tides. I plan to be heading across the bridge before 8AM for my pancakes. If I can get back and on the river by 10:30AM on Saturday, I will be set to fish the falling tide. The winds are also forecast to be light on Saturday morning before picking up in the afternoon. The forecast is also calling for almost no chance of precipitation on Saturday morning.

After I am done my kayaking, I will likely take it easy for most of the day, but if the bridge does not get plugged up, I might try to go back to enjoy the grand opening of Goose Creek Growler Company located at 200 Mallard Drive on Emerald Isle. They make beautiful growlers (reusable beer containers) and have wonderful beer to go in them. Both our daughters were visiting this past weekend and we managed to polish off a couple of growlers. I know they are expecting a crowd, but a special cold beer on hot summer day is nice touch to the holiday.

If some rain does visit us this weekend, one place that I will likely avoid is Emerald Plantation Shopping Center. Check-in traffic will swamp the Food Lion parking lot anyway and experience has shown that people take shopping to another level when it rains at the beach. Last week we had some showers one afternoon and I let myself imagine that we might be able to have an early dinner at Shark’s Den restaurant in Emerald Plantation. I had wings on the brain since Tuesday is their wing special day. All it took was one pass through the parking lot near the restaurant to determine that there were no parking spaces at the Emerald Plantation Shopping Center. We reconsidered our foolishness and headed back to Swansboro and the Highway 55 Burgers and Shakes restaurant. It is one of the places we often retreat to when there are crowds on the beach. After I enjoyed a shrimp po’boy and my wife had a burger, we stopped by Piggly-Wiggly for some groceries. If you must have groceries this weekend, you should consider a visit to the Piggly-Wiggly in Swansboro. While it will be busy, it will not be as chaotic as either of the Food Lion stores or the Lowe’s Grocery store. If we go out to dinner on Saturday, we will likely drive twenty minutes to Fat Fellas in Newport instead of waiting in line at a local restaurant.

Sunday will start with church service at Cape Carteret Presbyterian Church. The Men of the Church are cooking hot dogs and hamburgers and visitors are welcome.  Drop by to worship with us and have lunch and some fellowship with one of the friendliest congregations around. If the weather is good Sunday or Monday, I will likely be back in my kayak on the river. If not there is always plenty to do around the house or in the garden between showers.  If the weather turns good, I might try to escape the crowds by going for a Point hike either early in the morning or late in the evening.

It is time for summer vacations and if you are coming to the Crystal Coast, do not forget our five-star-rated travel guide. Even if you have been here a number of times, I might have some secrets to share about the area beaches. We have a lot of changes in the restaurant scene and not everything new has great food.  Our Week at the Beach, the Emerald Isle Kindle version is $3.99  and includes extras such as a few of our recipes. Our completely updated 2016 version went live in late May.  Amazon also has the full color, 142 page 2016 paperback version for $19.99 and it is prime eligible. There is a black and white version available for $7.95.  If you buy one of the paperbacks, the Amazon matchbook program will let you get the Kindle version for $1.99.  If you want to purchase books locally in Emerald Isle, the Emerald Isle Town Office sells them and the black and white ones are also available at Emerald Isle Books and Toys in Emerald Plantation.  Color copies are $20 and black and white ones are $8.

Our next news letter will be out before just before July 4.

Sign-Up for the monthly Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter

Last Parking Place at Third Street

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seventhcandidatewaveofthedaywm

It has been an extraordinary spring with more than our fair share of spectacular weather. Today for the second time this week I felt compelled to head over to the beach. The waves seem to be calling me and given it was a Saturday, I was powerless to resist. While the seven and one half minutes to cross the bridge was a little longer than normal, I never complain. I actually go with the hopes that the traffic will stop at the top of the bridge so I can take pictures of Bogue Sound out the car window.  On a recent trip I got a shot of the Captain Phillips headed out for some shrimp.

The weather has been pleasantly cool but it has been windy at times. The second weekend in June is always the Swansboro Arts Festival. Those who know local traditions will confirm that the Saturday of the festival is usually one of the hottest days of summer. When heat comes to the Crystal Coast, water of some form is usually the answer and today the slightly cool beach waters were exactly what I needed.

Third Street is something of a hidden beach since there is no Third Street. You have to know to turn at Fifth Street or watch for one of the Town’s newly installed signs. My start to the beach was a little late since I was recovering from a late night return from a business trip. When I drove east along the beach by the Eastern Regional Access, there was a line to get in and they looked like they already had a crowd.

By the time I turned at Fifth Street and headed east on Ocean Drive, I was worried. As the tiny parking lot came into sight, I thought I was going to be out of luck, but luck was actually with me and there was just one spot left and it had my name on it.

Third Street is one of my favorite beaches for four reasons. One Bogue Banks Island is very narrow at Third Street so you really feel like you are on an island. You can even see Bogue Sound and the Atlantic Ocean from the picnic table platform at Third Street.  Second the water is reasonably close to the parking area so while it is something of a drive, it is a a shorter hike to the water than many areas. Third the beach is never crowded because the parking lot is so small. Fourth sometimes I catch some fish from the beach. This time I left my rod at home because of the time of day and the desire to walk the beach.

You will notice a couple of things as you move from the platform with picnic table to the beach. One, there is no ramp like there is from the parking lot to the platform. This makes the actual beach inaccessible for our friends in wheel chairs which is unfortunate since there is only a short stretch of soft sand before the more solid sand that would easily support one of the EI beach wheelchairs. The second thing you will notice if you look to the right or west along the beach is a Bogue Banks water tower. It is about one half mile from the beach access point. It is a good landmark which is always handy on a beach hike.

This year Third Street is a gently sloping beach but storms have been known to cut a shelf into the beach. Fortunately the sand tends to come back fairly quickly. It is easy to get a good taste of the Atlantic Ocean at Third Street.

My Saturday trip was such a success that I repeated it the next day. I got there earlier and there were at least three parking spots when I arrived on Sunday which made me happy since I had tried the Station Street Parking lot on Coast Guard Road with the hopes of a Point Hike. At 10:30 AM there were already two cars waiting for an open parking spot there so I quickly headed up to Third Street.  The Point can be mighty popular during peak hours.

On Saturday, I waded down to the water tower since the water felt so good. On Sunday I walked up to the town line between Emerald Isle and Salter Path and then made my way a little ways west of the water tower, spending plenty of time in the water. Both days were nearly perfect beach days and the colors in the water were mesmerizing.

People were enjoying themselves all along the beach, but I did see a parent trying to encourage a toddler to try the water. Fortunately the toddler had more sense than the adult who was encouraging the toddler to wade in a place I would not have chosen. Most people pay little attention to where they plop down on the beach. I encourage people to read the water a little before they choose where to swim or wade.

Before you even let your children get in, you should wade out until the water is up to your knees and face the shore and feel how hard the current is in the place you have chosen. If it feels like it is going to pull you off your feet, you should find another spot. The toddler rightfully ran away from a spot that looks like this. It is a spot that because of its shape concentrates the outflow of a lot of water in a small area. I always look for broad, flat areas like this where the outflow of the water is spread over the same area as in incoming water.

Just a little forethought can make for some wonderful memories on Emerald Isle’s beautiful beaches. This is an online photo album of mostly wave pictures that I took on my two hikes at Third Street this second weekend in June 2016.  I think you will find the waves very inviting.

It is time for summer vacations and if you are coming to the Crystal Coast, do not forget our travel guide. Even if you have been here a number of times, I might have some secrets to share. We have a lot of changes in the restaurant scene.  Our Kindle version is $3.99  and includes extras such as a few of our recipes. Our completely updated 2016 version went live in late May.  Amazon also has the full color, 142 page 2016 paperback version for $19.99 and it is prime eligible. There is a black and white version available for $7.95.  If you buy one of the paperbacks, the Amazon matchbook program will let you get the Kindle version for $1.99.  If you want to purchase books locally in Emerald Isle, the Emerald Isle Town Office sell them and they are also available at Emerald Isle Books and Toys in Emerald Plantation.  Color copies are $20 and black and white ones are $8.

Our next news letter will be out before just before July 4.

Sign-Up for the monthly Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter