Peace in the Inlet
You don’t buy a house on the water or move to a home near the ocean looking for excitement or a buzz that you can hear twenty-four hours a day.
When we lived in Columbia, MD between US29, US1, and Interstate 95 with the flight paths for Baltimore-Washingtion International Airport above us, there was always a humming sound from the extraordinary amount of “civilization” near our home.
At night the sky was an unusual color from all the artificial light in the area. To say that the Columbia area which is exactly half-way between Baltimore and Washington buzzed is an understatement. The funny thing is that Columbia is still considered an island of tranquility in a metropolitan sea of activity.
When we moved to the Crystal Coast, my number one goal was to be able to live on the water. We found a place in Carteret County which ended up meeting our needs in a number of ways. I believe the area is a great place for a home for those you love the out of doors and especially the water.
Living in a county that is over one half water is much different than living where you feel like almost the whole world is either paved or about to be paved.
I have enjoyed some wonderful, peaceful times on the beach especially when I am hiking over at the Point on Emerald Isle. However, where I find the world slows down the most is in Raymond’s Gut, the inlet near our home in Bluewater Cove. The best time of day to enjoy our inlet is either early morning or late evening.
I do enjoy taking our skiff out the inlet to the White Oak River and down to Swansboro and the marshes beyond the Intracoastal Waterway. However, riding in a skiff at over 30 MPH is not like being in kayak late in the evening when the only sounds you hear are your paddle dipping in the water, the wind, and the birds.
It is very hard to beat the view of the water from a kayak. Without a motor to worry about, you can just glide along and enjoy the view. With a skiff and outboard motor in our shallow waters, you have to pay attention to where you are going. It is pretty hard to get a kayak stuck even amongst our oyster rocks and shallow waters.
Life is just much more relaxed in a kayak which is probably why one of the first things that we did when we moved to the area was to buy a kayak. I have enjoyed some wonderful kayaking adventures, but most of all I treasure just getting in my kayak and paddling out to the river to watch the sun sink beneath the waters.
There are days when you can sit on the oyster rocks with your kayak in the middle of the river and enjoy the peaceful setting, but with a few exceptions, you will usually find more breeze than you want in the middle of our big coastal river.
However, if I stay in the little bay at Hancock Point or in our inlet, then kayaking is about as relaxing as anything I have ever tried. When I get back to the dock and wait for my tow out of the water, my spirits are always better than when I left. As I sit there looking at the marsh grass and our bulkhead, I often plan my next trip.
Our inlet is where I have found peace and refuge from some of the challenges of the day. If you love kayaking, there are plenty of great places here on the Southern Outer Banks where peace is easy to find if you just head for some secluded water.
Marsh edges from my kayak
Most often when people talk about scenic views, they have in mind large scenes like this view from the bridge across Bogue Sound at Emerald Isle. In fact I have written about how wonderful scenery like that can stretch the mind.
However, there is another, more intimate way of looking at our area that can be even more powerful in changing your perspective of the coast. I doubt that I will ever forget my first kayaking adventure on our coastal river, the White Oak back in 2006. Before that trip I was a veteran of many kayaking trips to Carvin’s Cove in the Roanoke, Va. area. Those did not prepare me for sitting on water that is nearly two miles wide.
Actually it isn’t just the large views that making sitting on the coastal river water so special. The small nooks and little places along the edges of the marshy shores are among my favorite spots. Then there is the fun of actually taking a trip on the river in a kayak to a place like Jones Island near Swansboro.
With a tidal river and the winds that are often prevalent here on the coast, it is rare that a round trip ends up being the same route each way. If you look at this trip to Jones Island that I did earlier in the spring, you can see that on my return trip I had to make adjustments to compensate for tide and winds. It took forty-five minutes of paddling each way, but the effort required was different for each leg of the journey.
Of course the water on a big river can get challenging fast, but with experience, even choppy water is relatively easy to handle. I would not want to try kayaking in 20 mph or greater winds, but I have done plenty of kayaking in 10-15 mph winds. While it looks a little scary when the wind is blowing, it actually isn’t that bad.
Even in conditions like the the linked YouTube video, the safety valve is to quickly paddle to a more protected section of the river. Within a few minutes of taking that choppy water video, I paddled back into Raymond’s Gut at Bluewater Cove and took this video of me being gently pushed by the wind back to our dock. The day before I took another video while gliding in the inlet and listening to birds.
The experience and views that you get sitting on the water in a kayak is totally different that what you might get from a tall bridge or flying down the river in skiff.
If you haven’t had a chance to explore our coastal rivers by kayak, it really is an opportunity that you should not miss.
Jones Island Beach
Most people living along the Southern Outer Banks came here because of the water. Even a casual visitor soon figures out that we have more types of water than the average spot.
I am pretty ecumenical when it comes to water. I like to enjoy it all whether it is a mountain stream, the White Oak River, Bogue Sound, or the Atlantic Ocean.
However, there is no question that some water is easier to enjoy than other water. When we moved to western Carteret County, one of the reasons behind the move was access to water.
While “access to water” seems like a simple concept, it is more complex than it might appear, and I have even called it a puzzle. Solving the puzzle is well worth the effort.
My wife and I wanted to be able to see water and to live right on the water. While getting a spot on the Intracoastal Waterway or the beach can be very expensive, finding a place on a tidal river can be a reasonable proposition.
After looking at a variety of places up and down the east coast, we chose a spot on a gut of water leading to the White Oak River. The White Oak is a relatively short river with no cities right on the river. Much of the thirty odd miles of the White Oak flows through some of the most undeveloped land in Carteret County.
While the lower part of the White Oak is two miles wide in places and has a few subdivisions along it’s shores, the upper part of the river is much narrower, wilder, and deeper. You don’t have to go far up river for it to shrink to under thirty feet wide and to deepen to sixteen feet. At the same time the shores of the upper river have huge stands of marsh grass which eventually transition to giant bald cypress trees growing right in the river.
But that is not all that is neat about the White Oak. Just three miles down river from where we live, the White Oak joins Bogue Sound at the town of Swansboro. While much of the White Oak now flows down the Intracoastal Waterway behind Bear Island, part of it still heads out Bogue Inlet in the Atlantic Ocean.
What all of that means is that if I lower the lift behind our house and put my skiff in the water, I can be in the Intracoastal Waterway in about ten minutes. With a climate that often has some relatively mild days even in a harsh winter like this past one, I manage to use my skiff twelve months out of the year. This year I even used it as an icebreaker when the gut behind our house froze for a few days.
Of course there are things that I would rather do with our skiff than go out and break ice. I much prefer a day like Wednesday, May 11, when I left the dock in early afternoon and only rode three or four minutes down the river before anchoring and fishing for a few hours. It was a warm afternoon, and I was almost alone on the river. I fished as long as I wanted to and then headed back to the dock. While I only caught one croaker, I know there will be better days of fishing. That time on the river was a special kind of relaxation.
We have had some great days fishing in Bogue Inlet and off the beaches of Bear Island and Hammocks Beach State Park. It only takes another ten minutes from Swansboro to make it to Bogue Inlet where the ocean and the sound meet.
But being able to take a skiff up or down the river is only part of the equation. It is just as easy if not easier to slip my kayak into the water and paddle down to Jones Island like I did on Thursday, May 12. Jones Island is now part of Hammocks Beach State park, and it is a great paddling destination from our Bluewater Cove subdivision. My Thursday trip to the Island was about 4.7 miles and took an hour and thirty minutes. The beach pictured in the post is the beach on the back of Jones Island.
While kayaking and boating might be enough for some folks, there is even more here on the Crystal Coast. We are fortunate to have miles of beaches where you can walk as far as your legs can carry you. It takes just over ten minutes by car to get to the nearest public parking at Emerald Isle’s Western Regional Access.
From the WRA and other beach access points, there are miles of beaches to explore on Emerald Isle. This year I have given myself a personal challenge to walk all the beaches within the town limits of Emerald Isle. I now have just two miles of beach left to cover. I have had a wonderful spring of beach hikes often between three and four miles each. Walking on the beach is a wonderful way to clear your head and put things in perspective.
With boating, kayaking, and walking on the beach at my doorstep, it would seem that most water needs are covered, but we are fortunate to have the neighborhood pool just across the cul de sac from our home. There are many warm days when a dip in the pool is just enough to take the edge off the heat, and if that doesn’t work my favorite technique is to head to the beach and let an ocean wave catch me right between the shoulder blades. That will cure almost any hot day problems.
With such a selection of water at our doorstep, it should come as no surprise that we have a hard time leaving home. Having “access to water” along the Crystal Coast has re-defined my life and made for a wonderful experience the year round.
I start each morning by walking out on our dock and then doing a walk around the neighborhood’s boardwalk. It is a great way to start a day, and if I am given a choice, watching the sun slide into the horizon from the White Oak River is my favorite way of ending the day.
I feel blessed to have so much water at my doorstep. If you are looking for more information on the area, try my Emerald Isle Travel Guide.