Not The Last Warm Day

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Fall Afternoon in Raymond's Gut

Fall Afternoon in Raymond’s Gut

On December 1, 2016, in my post, Life by the Waters of the White Oak, I wrote “Our temperatures were well into the seventies on this year’s first day of December.” Here we are a year later and we have enjoyed an even nicer fall.

At our dock, three miles up the White Oak from Swansboro, the temperature hit 70F on December 5, 2017. Wearing shorts and t-shirt I spread mulch and put down pine straw for a few hours. I never got cold. The weather has been great for the last month or so. We only got three-quarters of an inch of rain during November. There has been no killing frost at our place as of December 6.

Yesterday, we picked green beans and the last of our tomatoes. Over the weekend I picked most of our pepper crop. Earlier last week, I pulled out most of our persistent tomatoes. We have enjoyed a ripe tomato from our plants every month for the last sixteen months and we have some green ones that will likely carry us into January. We can give the homegrown tomatoes a few-months break.

The weather forecast for the next few days paints a different picture for us. It has highs in the upper forties and some lows in the lower thirties. There is a chance that we might even get a frost. A winter day on the Crystal Coast is one when we barely get over fifty Fahrenheit.

However, this change to cooler temperatures is not like that first snow in Canada which comes in November and potentially hides the ground for the next six months. This is North Carolina’s Crystal Coast and we spend a lot more time thinking about beaches and warm waters than we do about snow. Summer in October is pretty standard, some beach weather is normal in November, and shorts weather is not that unusal in December. January beach days are not out of the realm of possibility here.

Living by the water tempers our weather and we take advantage of it whether in summer or winter. I usually take a few boat rides in December. Winter as we know it gives us some great opportunities to enjoy the natural paradise around us. We might see some frozen water but it will likely not be until January. Then we only have to live through February before thoughts of spring can provide some welcome relief and even the opportunity for wading in the water on a warm day.

If you need a break from serious winter, give the Crystal Coast and the beaches of Emerald Isle a try. You will find lots of guidance on having a great time here in Emerald Isle in our book, A Week at the Beach – The Emerald Isle Travel Guide.  The 2017-18 print editions were just published on August 15 and  are Prime eligible at Amazon. the Kindle version went live on September 20. If you are in Emerald Isle, you can pick up a black and white copy at Emerald Isle Books and Toys in Emerald Plantation.  The Emerald Isle Town Office carries the color version.

The sign-up form the Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter is below. Our last newsletter went out just before the middle of October.  This is a link to A Balmy Beginning To Fall, our October 2017 edition of the newsletter. I should have another newsletter out before the end of December. Happy Holidays!

The Lure of the Ocean

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Dredge Working on Bogue Inlet Channel

It has been a while since I have written a post, but sometimes experiencing life comes before writing about it. This spring on the Crystal Coast has been extraordinarily beautiful and few of us are complaining about the long string of blue skies and daily sunshine.

As often happens on the North Carolina coast, spring has transitioned quickly into summer but it has remained relatively dry. We had .75 inches of rain on June 8. It was eleven days before we got our next half an inch on June 19.  It certainly feels like summer now as we approach the last week in June.

Even with the blue sky, no rain and lots sunshine getting out on the water can be a challenge. My last kayak trip ended when the wind chased me back into our inlet. When I cannot get out in the kayak, I fall back to our skiff. Fortunately, this winter I got my lift repaired and a couple of weeks ago my boat got its spring maintenance and a new GPS installed. Finally on Friday, June 9, my work schedule cooperated with the winds, and I took an extended lunch hour and headed down to Swansboro. It is a short trip and one of my favorites.

We live on Raymond’s Gut just off the White Oak River about three miles north of the Intercoastal Waterway where it meets the White Oak at Swansboro. Just a short distance from there is Bogue Inlet where a marked channel takes you to the Atlantic Ocean. It happens to be one of the most beautiful spots in the world.

Boating is not my wife’s favorite activity, so she rarely tags along physically but like a good wife should, she worries about me when I am out in the boat and usually makes me promise not to go out in the ocean.  However, sometimes the lure of the ocean is too much for me and I venture out a little beyond land.

All navigational aids were removed this spring from Bogue Inlet because the old channel was not safe.  In our little boating world it was big news and I have been itching to visit the area since I heard that some locals found a very usable new channel. I had a good idea where the new channel should be and had watched some boats navigating it on one of my walks at the Point. I knew if I was careful and went out at low tide, I could fairly easily find my way.

I tried to convince one of my friends to tag along but he was too busy, so I headed off on my trip with the promise to my wife that I would not go in the ocean. I went well prepared and only intended to visit the marshes near Swansboro since I was alone on the boat. However, once I got through the marshes, I decided that it was such a beautiful day and things were going so well that I could not resist heading out Bogue Inlet to the ocean.

The trip out the Inlet went well and for those of you familiar with Bogue Inlet, the new channel goes to the east of the big sandbar in the Inlet and is a much more direct route. My trip went so well that I was itching to go back out again. I was able to do that a couple more times in the last week. On my Friday, June 16, trip I was pleased to see that the Coast Guard had placed the buoys in the new channel.

I love the new channel and think we are all going to enjoy it this summer. So if you were worried about wandering around Bogue Inlet without navigational aids, you can put that worry away. I have gone out as far as the Green 5 buoy without any challenges.

This is a map of the old and new Bogue Inlet channels. It is just for guidance. Please follow the new buoys and enjoy the new route through Bogue Inlet.

The water is almost 80F in Bogue Inlet so if you have to wade a little in the water there will be no shock to the system.  Boating is just one part of the the Crystal Coast. This is as nice a family beach area as you can find and early in the season is a great time to visit.  It will not be long before the Fourth so hurry down before things get too busy.

If you are new to the area, do not forget to check out our books including, A Week at the Beach, The Emerald Isle Travel Guide. It is available in print or as a Kindle book.  The 2017 print edition should be available in July.

The sign-up form the Crystal Coast Life Email Newsletter is below.  The next edition will be out shortly.

Life by the Waters of the White Oak

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The White Oak River

The White Oak River

Another November has come and gone and somehow I am not surprised that once again the weather has been unpredictable but beautiful. That this fall has been yet another great coastal fall is undeniable.

The nearly perfect weather has been an interesting contrast to the cold weather of November 2014 when we saw temperatures drop to 24F and the high for one day only reach 42F. We got through November 2016 without a killing frost along the edges of Raymond’s Gut. The narrow channel of Raymond’s Gut runs behind our home and out to the White Oak River. It is a great place to garden, fish, and enjoy life.  That is especially true when we have more than our fair share of summer-like fall days that have been the gift of November 2016. Our temperatures were well into the seventies on this year’s first day of December.

Fall 2016 unlike last year has been dry since early October. Hurricane Matthew dumped three inches of rain on western Carteret County on October 8. In the almost eight weeks since then we have only received 1.72 inches of precipitation. November 2015 was much wetter. We got 7.1 inches of rain just on November 19, 2015. On December 2, 2015 our rain total since June 1 stood at 59.4 inches. This year with a total of just 40.2 inches precipitation since June 1, 2016, we are over nineteen inches behind last year’s total. No one is complaining. It is the first time in a while that we had a chance to thoroughly dry out.

Variable weather comes with living along the coast. When water is at your doorstep there are some benefits like later frosts and extended spring weather. Each year the waters are slow to cool in the fall and sometimes not so quick to warm in the spring. We are also on the doorstep of a huge weather machine that often spawns storms just off our coast. We sometimes either get brushed by storms or watch them spin up and head north to clobber New England or the Canadian Maritimes.

Life along the water has other benefits. The cast of characters that frequent our marsh is entertaining to say the least. An early morning walk along the marsh is hardly complete without seeing some kingfishers swooping along the surface of the water. Sometimes we watch them capture a meal and proceed to tenderize it by pounding it on a piling. It is not unusual to see loons and otters and of course lots of ducks from mallards to mergansers. Our most famous visitor is Frank 29X, the great egret from Canada, who first visited the Raymond’s Gut marsh in December 2012. If Frank makes it back this year, it will be his fifth straight year to visit Raymond’s Gut.

This photo album taken during the winter of 2013 provides lots of bird and creature pictures along with shots from my kayak trips. More water and some beach shots can be found in this fall 2014 album. With great Crystal Coast weather, the choice of what to do is only limited by your free hours. Now that we are into December my kayaking will be much more limited with few if any more trips to the center of the river as the water cools. December 1, would have been a great day for a beach hike but we were scheduled during our too-short December daylight hours.

A body of water like Raymond’s Gut which stretches from the White Oak into the marsh is like a watery game trail and those of us living by it have ringside seats. Beyond the gut there is the superhighway of the White Oak River where anything from bottle nosed dolphin to blue crabs and a shark is possible. It is hard to believe that I took our skiff down the river almost a week ago and I was still wearing my standard uniform of shorts.  On that trip we saw kingfishers, great egrets and a great blue heron.

We are blessed to live by waters that delight us with a new window into the natural world each day. If you ever have a chance to park yourself along the water for a few years or even months, do not miss the opportunity. It is a wonderful way to watch the seasons pass. We have seen things from our kitchen window that some folks will never have a chance to see.  How many people have seen a great egret stand down a great blue heron,  a great blue heron go ice skating or an otter eating fish like a Popsicle? You cannot ask for a better place to appreciate our natural world than the shores of a place like Raymond’s Gut.

There will still be some warm days here on the coast, so come for a visit and enjoy the weather while it holds winter at bay.  For each warm day you can enjoy, you banish one day of winter and life seems just a little bit brighter.  Turning our backs on winter is a favorite game for those of us who live here.  We like to cheat winter as much as we can.

Our most recent Crystal Coast newsletter, Paddling Into The Holidays, was sent out on November 17.  The previous one before that was Back to the Beach, which was emailed out on September 12.

Our books make great Christmas presents especially if you are planning a visit to the Crystal Coast in 2017.

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Fall Waters

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White Oak River near Raymonds Gut

White Oak River near Raymonds Gut

The colors and the light have changed as we have moved into the fall season. While it is a subtle change, it is still very noticeable especially to photographers.

While we keep hearing that the weather is changing, the slightest taste of fall usually gets overwhelmed by the powerful sun that owns the North Carolina coast during September. The humidity leaves for brief periods then you open your door during midday and it feels like summer all over again.

It is still great beach weather and the water temperature remains close to 80F. Even as September draws to a close, my last hike at the Point on September 8, is still a fresh memory. The pictures that I took remind me of just how beautiful our beaches are here on the Crystal Coast. When you walk over on the Point, you enter a different world. While beach driving started September 15, I got my most recent hike in before the trucks started hitting the beach.  That meant that I had the far reaches of the beach almost to myself.

The hike which is shown on this map was a little over two miles. In the fall I try hike down to what is called Bird Island but I ran out of time, daylight, and energy on September 8. I am hoping to get back to the Point the first week in October. The highs are supposed to be in the low eighties or upper seventies. That will be perfect weather for hiking the beaches.

The weather folks keep promising us a front that is going to drop down and sweep out all the humidity. It seems to never quite make it to the Crystal Coast and now we have to keep our eye on Tropical Storm Mathew which has the possibility of swinging up the east coast and bringing more tropical air over us.

We have learned from past experiences to keep our eyes on the water. The last year or so, many areas, some not even on the coast (see Cedar Rapids, Iowa) are getting caught in torrential non-tropical storms that move slowly across the country. Last year areas of South Carolina were swamped. We were luckily only on the edge of that storm. Even with our area not in the bullseye, the storm gave us high waters and put an end to good weather for a while. Recently, Bertie County, which is north of the Crystal Coast, got nearly twenty inches of rain over three days. It caused severe flooding. Now as I write this Washington, DC is under a flood watch and might get eight inches of rain in two to three days.

The good news is that even in years like last year we usually do get a great stretch of weather.  In the fall as the tropics settle down, we get to really enjoy the area. Fall is without a doubt my favorite time on the Southern Outer Banks. The fish are biting, the crowds have dispersed, and the humidity is a lot lower. On top of that the water is still warm.

I managed to get out in my kayak last weekend. That is where I took the picture at the beginning of the post. It was great to be on the water. The previous time that I went out, I felt like the frog in a pot of gradually heating water. I was out very early in the morning but as the heat of the day caught up with me, there was no relief since the water was still in the upper eighties. Fortunately those water temperatures are gone and a kayak ride is back to being a very pleasant experience.

If you have the flexibility to visit this time of year, just watch the weather and pick your time carefully to really enjoy the treats of the Crystal Coast. As you can see from the beach pictures, there is plenty of room for visitors.

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 your 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, Back to the Beach, went out on September 12.  The one before that was  August Warmth. We hope to have our next newsletter out before Halloween.

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Watching the Water

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Kayaking on the White Oak River

Kayaking on the White Oak River

My second floor office at our home affords me a water view from my window. I look out over the waters of Raymond’s Gut which runs to the White Oak River. In a sense most of my day is spent watching the water. I even start my day with a walk around the boardwalk at our clubhouse.

Watching the area’s waters is pastime for many of the people who live along North Carolina’s Crystal Coast. We watch the tides on the river and beaches. You will sometimes hear us talking about how high today’s tide was and maybe about how exceptionally low this morning’s tide seemed. When you live in an area with lots of water spread mighty thin, how much of water is out there can be very important, especially if you are boating.

Sometimes you will hear us talking about the color of the waters along the shore. Are they clear enough to live up to our Crystal Coast name? Are the waters ruffled up and cloudy?

Then are the times when the water gets very high like it did with Hurricane Irene back in 2013. Actually all of us who live here along the coast are always watching the water. As we saw this last week of August, a storm can quickly spring up and just as quickly no longer be a threat.

We once had a water spout come up the river and turn into a tornado that grazed our neighborhood. This article tells the story and the pictures linked at the end of the article show some of the damage and just how lucky we were. There was no warning. The sky got dark over the water and then things started happening. It was a good thing my youngest daughter was watching.

Of course the water is also a great source of joy for us. I took the picture at the top of the post the previous week.  Just this past weekend I spent an idyllic three hours kayaking on the White Oak River. I spent a lot more time watching the water than I did catching fish. There is no doubt in my mind that watching the water is more fun than watching television. Certainly when you kayak almost three miles while doing it, it is also a lot healthier.

While I am looking at the water, I often end up taking pictures of the water or whatever I find out on the water. Those memorable pictures often are from unforgettable trips like this one out to the big water near Bear Island or this one when I took on the fog and mist on the river.

One of my favorite places to look out over the water is the Point on Emerald Isle. It is one of those spots where as you gaze over the water, you can imagine how things were long ago. There are places on the Point where you can also feel the wilderness wrapping its arms around you.

To look out over the water is as much a part of life here on the coast as your morning cup of coffee is in the city. The water is a huge part of our life here. Most of us moved here because of the water and to say that there is a lot of really nice water that bears watching is just stating the obvious.

The really good news is that even though I am writing this post the next to the last day of August, 2016, there are two to three months left in the best water season along the Crystal Coast. After Labor Day is one of the finest times to come and start watching our waters. The water is still warm and the air has lost some of its heat and humidity. It is a great time to take up watching the water as your next hobby.

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 your 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, August Warmth,  went out on August 8.  The one before that 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 just after Labor Day.

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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