It is the time of the year when the winds rule North Carolina’s coastal counties including where I live along the Crystal Coast.
The winds that we get in March and April are no surprise. In fact it would be much more surprising if there were no winds in spring. The bigger the temperature differential between the water and the land, the stronger our daily dose of wind will be.
The land warms more easily than the water. That means as the air over land warms it rises. Conversely the air over the water cools and falls towards the surface of the water. Of course the rising air over the lands sucks the falling air over the water towards the land. It is like a conveyor belt for wind. The conveyor belt reverses at night and the winds go towards the water. When the water and land have greatly different temperatures, the effect is magnified and we have strong winds.
Understanding the scientific reason for our winds does not make the river any less choppy. I have taken a couple of new-to-our-area boaters down the river recently. Because I went out on the river at 10:30 AM and came back around 1 PM, I can testify to the midday warmth having a great impact on the winds on the White Oak River. The river became noticeably more choppy the closer we got to noon as the air temperature warmed. Very early in the morning, the river was much calmer.
In spite of the winds, it was nice on the river, but those of us who love the water will say that even when we have almost frozen our fingers off. Thankfully this early March trip required no gloves. I managed to survive in shorts and short-sleeved tee shirt. I am glad that I stayed out of the water since it was still a bone-chilling 54F.
As much as I love the water, I will not put myself as risk by kayaking in 54F water. The enticing look of the water has little to do with its temperature. Besides the ride in a kayak in water as choppy as we had today can be damp and pretty challenging. The wind has been blowing straight into our inlet during daylight for the last two or three days. Just the paddling against the wind would wear you down. There will be plenty of calm mornings for kayaking. I will never forget one early spring day when I moved out of the channel to let a neighbor by with his skiff. The wind was really challenging me and he offered to throw me a rope and tow me out to the river. I declined mostly because I knew if I was working very hard going out, the trip back in would be an easy ride with the breeze at my back.
The wind does not just slow down the beginning of boating season, it also can make walking on the beach a good way to exfoliate some of the skin on our ankles. When the wind is up to 15 MPH it tempers my desire to go for a long hike over the Point on Emerald Isle. As you can see from this YouTube video, the blowing sand at the Point can be formidable.
Back when I was newbie to gardening on the Crystal Coast, I remember having to buy bales of pine straw to protect my tender tomato plants from the wind. I have gotten better at growing strong tomato plants but the wind never diminishes for very long until summer when the temperatures between land and sea equalize. The wind is not all bad. It keep us cooler when summer comes early to North Carolina’s coastal plain. We get to turn off our heat pumps and enjoy open windows until the pine pollen explodes.
Wind, low water, and cooler temperatures than what our inland brethren enjoy are all part of the signatures of spring here on the coast as we ride the temperature curve to summer.
Our most recent email newsletter, Happy New Year from the Coast, was published on December 31. The previous one, Changing Coastal Seasons, was sent out on October 29. Our next email newsletter should be out in late April
It will not be long before it is time to make vacation plans for this summer’s trip to the beach. Do not forget our travel guide. The Kindle version is $3.99 and Amazon has the full color, 180 plus page paperback version for $24.95.
Updates to our travel guide are coming. Our target date for the new 2016 versions is the end of March.
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