Friday, December 23, 2011

December on the Beach

It is hard to believe that the four days leading up to Christmas Eve have had temperatures over 65F along North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks.  While it has been a warm winter so far on the east coast,  it has been terrific along the south facing beaches of the Crystal Coast.

The Crystal Coast runs roughly from Beaufort, NC to Swansboro, NC.  It is just enough off the beaten path to miss the huge crowds during the summer.  Most of us living here year round enjoy the few weeks each year that we have tourists.  The area seems festive and busy for about eight weeks during the summer.

Then we slide into the fall which is the favorite season for most of us.  The water is warm, the beaches are empty, and this fall the fish were biting.  It is the best time to be on the coast.  As the fall progresses and the water cools, the fish don't bite as much, and most of the fishermen start thinking about next year.

As late November arrives, usually we cool down considerably.   That didn't happen this year. December has been full of days when the temperature got to seventy degrees and even better.  It has been shorts weather all through our last month of 2012.  There have been some stellar beach days.

When the holidays get close, the beach gets very quiet.  A few restaurants close for part of December and January.  As the new year gets into sight, residents often wander inland to visit family and friends.  A lucky few enjoy the piece and quiet along the waters along Bogue Sound and our coastal rivers as Santa makes his rounds.

With crab pot Christmas trees adorning many yards, and few places to go crazy shopping, the peace of the Crystal Coast seems to remove some of the commercialism from the holiday season.  It is a very quiet time on the coast, but there are still boats on the water and even a few fishermen trying their luck.  The beaches, while uncrowded, are far from deserted.  You can still buy some fresh shrimp and a nice flounder for dinner without much difficulty.

Only during the coldest weather do the beaches become completely empty.  When we do get our cold weather, usually defined by temperatures during the day of just under 50F, the herons, egrets, and pelicans retire to the sheltered creeks and marshes where they find protection from the cold winds.

Winter rarely lasts long.  Even last year's record winter started to fade in the middle of February.  By the end of February the warm North Carolina sun always heats up the soils of Carteret County.   By March things are starting to grow, and sometime between late March and the middle of April, the strawberries announce the beginning the berry season.

By late April or early May, the fishing begins to show some life.  The tourists start showing up on weekends during the spring, and by the second or third week of June, we're back to being a tourist beach.

The rhythm of life along the Crystal Coast doesn't change a lot.  It is a pleasant mix of warm and cool weather with plenty of outside festivals to keep us busy. We have visitors just long enough to make us feel festive.

Join us in the coming year if  you have never been or you can't make it down for the 2012 holidays.  If you need to relax and find the real you once again, we are a good place to start looking.  More information is available on this welcome page.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fall on the Crystal Coast

We're lucky along North Carolina's Crystal Coast.  Fall sometimes is the most gentle time of the year.  It is not unusual to wake to cool mornings, but by the time you get moving around after a cup or two of coffee, the air temperature is already quickly warming.  With little humidity, a bright sun, and cloudless skies, you cannot complain about the weather, especially the beautiful brilliant blue skies.  By late morning, it is usually warm enough for shorts and a tee shirt.  Fall in 2011 has been just such a year.

The weather is so good that it is easy to forget the work that needs to be done.  In the last week, I have boated, walked the beaches, kayaked, biked and fished.  Saturday afternoon, November 12, I was so tired from paddling around the river, that I couldn't help myself from a little napping.

It was one of those perfect naps where you are still aware of what is happening, but your mind is resting peacefully.  The warm sun was shining on me, and my interest in football was so little that napping seemed much more important.

This summer we were on a roller coaster of weather. Fall, however, has been pretty amazing in comparison.  There are times that I have suggested that the weather was good enough to bottle.  At the same time, we have had more moisture than we did during the summer.  The fall plants have been gorgeous.  We still have some beautiful geraniums and our hydrangea has some great blooms on it.

Unlike the bluegrass and fescue yards of the Piedmont and mountains to the west of us, our centipede yards have been dormant for a while.  No grass to mow just gives us more time for the important fall things like fishing.  We have also managed to plant our fall snap dragons and pansies.  We will enjoy their blooms all through the winter.

The week of November 7, 2011 has been the best week that I have had for fishing in a while.  I have fished three times this week.  One day my fishing was just a few minutes, and the other two days, I fished for a couple of hours.  I caught fish each time, and on November 12, I caught a nice 20" trout that weighed 2 lbs and 3 oz.  The trout was the perfect size for dinner for two.  It is nice to have fish in my backyard.  This week it didn't seem to matter whether I was in my kayak or skiff, I was catching fish.

Water access here along North Carolina's Crystal Coast cannot be beat, and in late fall, there are no crowds.   If you want to get on the water, there are plenty of places to do it even with the Cedar Point Wildlife Resources Ramp being closed for a month, it is still easy to find a spot to launch.  Even if you just want to walk the beaches, there are plenty of places to do that.   It is also cool enough to walk the trails at the Cedar Point Croatan Access.

I watch a couple of the beach areas, Emerald Isle's Third Street and the Point,  pretty closely, and it is not unusual for the beaches to change from day to day even in the fall.   We were at Third Street about a month ago, and were surprised to find a huge amount of sand had disappeared.  About a month later, the waves put the sand back.

On Thursday, November 11, I walked about 2.5 miles along the beaches at the Point on Emerald Isle.  I wore shorts and a tee-shirt, and I was very comfortable even wading in the water at times.  While the water is cool, it isn't bone chilling like it is in early spring.

The only problem that I have this time of year is that there isn't enough daylight left to do everything that I want to do.  I have to pick and choose my activities, which is okay since I would rather have too much to do than not enough.

It you have never visited the Emerald Isle-Crystal Coast area, there is no better time to do it than fall.  The annual Christmas Parade in Emerald Isle is coming up soon on November 26.  This is a movie of the 2008 event.  The town always loves to have visitors.  Without lots of visitors during the parade, there is always a risk that there will be more people in the parade than there are watching it.

When you drive across the Emerald Isle bridge this time of year and look out at Bogue Sound, it is hard to not be impressed with the beauty of the scene, the blues, greens, and golds are never prettier than they are now. The view like many others in the area will renew soul and stretch your imagination.

If you need some quick information on the area, visit my free online guide to the area.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

High water at the dock

The more that the out of doors is part of your life, the more attention that you pay to the weather.   Yet each place you live usually requires paying attention to different things.

Not many in this generation of Americans have the experience of spending most of their lives in one area.  I have some family members who are living within ten miles of where their grandfather and great grandfather were living in 1910.  I have some friends in Canada living in a settlement not far from where their families first put down roots in the late eighteen hundreds.

I never got the chance to walk the banks of the long-gone millpond where my mother grew up with her family.  My grandfather and the millpond were gone before I had a chance to learn about them, but I did get to visit the site of the old dam once.  I still remember the walk through the woods.

I can imagine that if you were living on a millpond, dependent on water flow in a small stream, when and how much it rained would have been very important.  However, the first public weather forecasts did not show up until 1925.  My mother and the family had moved away from the millpond by then.

The early years of my own life showed a strong taste for wanderlust.  I moved to Saint Croix Cove on the shore of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, and only marriage stopped me from giving Newfoundland a try.  When we lived in Nova Scotia one of the most important things in the weather during the summer was fog.   A partner and I were trying to farm with a few cattle.  Making hay in the "summer" was how we got feed for the cattle in the winter.

We lived on the north mountain of the Annapolis Valley.  The mountain sloped rapidly down to the Bay of Fundy.  The scenic beauty of the area and the charm of the old farm were undeniable.  Yet the almost inevitable fog during the summer made it really hard to make good quality hay.  As so often has been the case in my life, there was no real local weather forecast.  The only way to figure out the fog was to become a keen observer of the signs which were often followed by fog.

We eventually moved to just north of Fredericton, New Brunswick.  We happened to end up in Tay Creek, which was known locally as a "snow belt."  Our first year there, I measured twenty-three feet of snow.  Once again it did not take long to figure out that the only real local forecasts would have to come from us.  Fredericton, which is the capital of New Brunswick was twenty miles away and much lower in elevation.  I came to learn that Fredericton could easily be eight degrees Fahrenheit warmer than Tay Creek.  In a Maritime climate that makes a huge difference in how much snow you receive.

As we went through our city phase, living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Columbia, MD and eventually Roanoke, Virginia, it was easier to find forecasts that matched reality until we moved to Roanoke where we ended up living on a high mountain above the city.  Sometimes the weathermen would call for rain, and we clearly got snow.  While living on the mountain was great for getting beautiful sunrises, it made getting an accurate weather forecast challenging.   Once again, we had to learn how to watch the signs and predict our own weather.  Fog also came back into our life.  There were mornings when the fog made the rest of the world invisible.

Now that we are living on the North Carolina coast, I think we might be in the most complex weather area of our lives.  While we have a number of reporting weather stations very close by, it is rare that they can accurately forecast our weather.  When I see a long-range forecast I just chuckle knowing that the odds of it being right are very slim.

Yet here at the coast, the weather is a huge part of our lives.  We have to get ready for events like Hurricane Irene, and often what we are hearing from the weathermen is more focused on other areas than our spot just off the White Oak River.  When Irene visited, I took to issuing my own forecasts to a number of neighbors.  It was helpful to me and them.  Things are a lot different than in the days of the millpond.  Much of the information needed for a forecast is there, you just have to know where to look and how to interpret it.

It is October 11, and for days we have been hearing about a tropical low that forecasters were guessing would dump up to three inches of rain on our area.  Three inches of rain doesn't mean a lot to our area which has seen some extreme precipitation over the years.  However, the forecasters were also calling for high winds and tides.  I knew to watch the morning tide to see if I needed to raise my boat a few inches.  Sure enough, at about 11 AM, I had to raise my boat a little.  However, so far the rain total is only eleven-hundredths of an inch at 1 PM and the sky is significantly lighter than when we got up this morning.  I suspect that my feeling that most of the rain was going to miss us is going to play out accurately.

Snow, heavy rain, and fog might not be problems here, but high water and winds can make us pay close attention to the weather.  The attention we pay is not much different I suspect than how my grandfather watched for rains around the millpond.  I would love to know if he got some great weather suitable for bottling just like we have recently seen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A perfect beach day is always around the corner

Few people on the east coast would disagree with the statement that "This has been a hot summer."  There are also plenty of folks in the southwest that are still being slowly baked.  The middle of August uncharacteristically has turned out to be a lucky time to be on North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks.  August certainly doesn't have a history of being a time when we have our most pleasant weather.

However, the one thing about living at the beach is that you get to hang around until the weather turns perfect for a beach trip even if it is in the middle of August.

July 2011 was the hottest July that we have seen in our five years of living in the Crystal Coast portion of North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks.  The Crystal Coast is often defined as the area in Carteret County from Emerald Isle to Atlantic Beach sometimes including Beaufort.  For all practical purposes, the area runs from Swansboro in Onslow County to the east to Beaufort in Carteret County.

Usually in our little piece of paradise, July can be a relatively pleasant month.  Sometimes we have have our windows open at night and in the morning through early July.  This year things warmed up quickly, and the heat was almost inescapable except for a few nights in July when we were able to have our windows open.

The heat of the 2011 season has been compounded by a stubborn drought which started in early May and is still clinging to the area.  With the drought came some wildfires which were started by lightning in some large natural preserves.  Three have been three of those this summer, and we have had some days when we needed to escape the smoke.  You know it is dry when the swamps are catching on fire.

Since we live near the beach, we go to the beach a lot especially to escape the heat.  This spring, I walked all the beaches within the town limits of Emerald Isle at least three times.  That is a lot of beach walking. I am approaching 100 miles of beach walking for the season.  It is not unusual for me to go for a noon beach walk over on the beautiful sand at the Point. However, when the heat is on, even I avoid the beaches.

In July 2011 and the early part of August hotter than normal temperature that kept me away from the beach more than I like.  Even our evenings were warm, and the area waters heated up so quickly that there was little relief from the day's heat even at night.  It was still more pleasant at the beach, it just wasn't pleasant enough to lure me out regularly.

So when the middle of August 2011 rolled around and our high temperatures dropped to the upper eighties from the low nineties,  and we had some lows in the sixties, I knew it was time to get back to the beaches.

I boat several times a week during the summer, so I am acutely aware of the winds. I will often take our skiff down to the marshes on the other side of the Intracoastal Waterway at Swansboro.  It is a good way to know what the water temperature is doing and how the winds are blowing.

On August 16, my morning boat ride told me that the White Oak River had cooled to slightly under 80F which was a drop of almost eight degrees in a week.  I also found some steady winds from the north.  In my mind, that along with the day's beautiful blue skies, set up the possibility of nearly perfect beach conditions.

We had some errands to run early in the afternoon which was fine since low tide wasn't until 4 PM.  I enjoy the beach on a falling tide or even right at low tide.  It is the best time for a beach walk.  It didn't take us long to finish our chores, and head across the bridge to the beaches of Emerald Isle.

This time of year when some of the larger beach areas can be crowded, it doesn't take much to convince me to drive east along the beach for a few miles.  Somewhere just before mile marker 12.5 we usually turn right off of Emerald Drive and then left onto Ocean Drive until we get to Third Street Beach.  It is one of our favorites.  It is rarely crowed, and there is a nice picnic table with platform where my wife can relax if she doesn't want to get her feet wet.

I almost always want to get my feet wet, and August 16 was no exception.  While I didn't go on one of my long beach walks, I did stand knee deep in the surf and enjoy what I thought was nearly perfect water with just the right amount of breeze under a wonderful blue sky.  There was just enough heat in the air to make the water pleasant.  August 16 was a perfect beach day, and I am glad that I knew enough to head over to the beaches and grab a taste of it.   This is a YouTube video that I made while standing in the surf.

I am hoping it is just the first of many this season since we are headed slowly but surely towards fall which is often the best time to come to the beach.


Saturday, July 02, 2011

Fourth July 2011 on the Southern Outer Banks

The beach and boating season is here. It has been a challenge to enjoy the last couple of weeks.  Finally as June departed we got a taste of our blue skies which have been hidden a number of days by smoke from North Carolina's two large coastal wildfires.

We have been prisoners of the fickle winds which control  whether or not we have blue sky and sun or just smoke.  It has been been strange waiting for the smoke to go away so we can get out on the water.  We have had enough bad mornings that I was happy recently when I figured out that we were having a fog event instead of another smoke attack.

Our preparations for the Fourth always include some early grocery shopping.  One of the things you don't do on the Southern Outer Banks if you are a local is go to the grocery store on the Fourth of July weekend for any significant shopping.  You might sneak in for a few items, but a major grocery trip is not a good idea.  If you happen to live actually on the beach at Emerald Isle, it is unlikely you could find a parking place at Food Lion even if you wanted one.

The other option would be to leave the island, but then you would have to come back across the bridge which can take a long time.  Most holiday weekends leaving the island if you are a resident or visiting the island if you are a local main-lander  is not a good idea, but this July 2 was even worse than normal.  Some of the longest traffic backups since 2005 were seen in the area according to some knowledgeable locals whose opinions I respect.

I did have to go out to  place some real estate flyers on Saturday, July 2, so we rode down to Swansboro.  If you have never been to Swansboro, Front Street is a something of a challenge even when there is little or no traffic. The main street is a two way street with parking on both sides of it, but unfortunately there is only room for one lane of traffic.  Locals tend to operate by the rule of the biggest vehicle gets the right of way.  With the holidays, we have a lot of folks who have no idea of the way things work.  They often refuse to yield on Front Street so it doesn't take much for the whole system to fall apart and gridlock to take over Swansboro's main street. We were close to that yesterday for a short while.  It is a good thing Front Street has a high quotient of cuteness with lots of little shops.

Fortunately we lucked into a great parking spot at the far end of Front Street,  I went to deliver the flyers to the tourist office while my wife checked out the crafts fair by the new Pavilion where the Fourth of July concert will take place on Monday, July 4..

Afterwards we had lunch at Church Street Deli.  The sandwiches were delicious but at $8.95 each they were a little pricy for what we got. My wife's Reuben was the best choice.  We should have gone across Hwy 24 and eaten at Trattoria like we usually do.  There a split cheese steak sub is more than enough for the two of us and the meal is five dollars cheaper.   After lunch we headed back towards Cape Carteret with the plan of dropping some clothing off at the local consignment shop.  We never made it to that stop.

Traffic was backed up in both lanes of Highway 24 all the way from the bridge to Walston's Hardware so we took a back way through Marsh Harbour over to old Highway 58 and then VFW Road which brought us back to Highway 58 North and the way home to Bluewater Cove.

Later I had a form to deliver to our real estate office so we headed out again at around 3 PM.  Unfortunately traffic was even worse.  After getting the form to the office and making some copies of a flyer, we took the long way once again and went home for good.

Still it is great to see lots of people here.  I am willingly yielding my home turf for a few days.    I was at the beach July 1 and out on our boat on June 30 so I am happy to wait until July 5 before venturing over to the beach or dropping our boat into the water again.  The local businesses need the traffic to survive the quiet season, but I do wish people wouldn't drive like idiots.

I had a car full of youngsters zig zag around me at close to sixty miles per hour after I pulled out of the real estate office.  The speed limit by the office is thirty-five, and usually anyone driving over forty-five will get a quick ticket. Yesterday my only satisfaction was they got caught in the mess at the intersection and had to wait to pass me yet again another mile down the road.

We get the privilege of living here all year so sharing the beach with tourists for a few days isn't much to ask. Our area is a little off the beaten path.  That is one of the reasons we chose the area.  It has always been my experience that the easier the beach is to reach, the higher percentage of bad tourists that you get.

Fortunately you cannot take an interstate highway directly to us.  We are a location which takes a little work to find, and I think that the people who come here in general come because they love the area.  They often come year after year and mostly treat the area like their home.  Of course there are always exceptions, but I don't think we have as many exceptions as some of the more convenient beaches.  It doesn't hurt to have Emerald Isle's very efficient police department either.

So I welcome those who come for a visit and want the area to stay as nice as it is now for their children's children.  The world needs more people like that, and I am proud that we are the vacation spot for many of them.

I have a webpage with quick links to information about the area. There is a link on the page for a downloadable PDF map for those who would like a visual aid for my narrative.  Or if you are in the area, you can pick one up at the local tourist bureaus.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A May to remember on the Southern Outer Banks

While summer has been elusive to many people in the Northeast and Canada, it has found us along the Crystal Coast of North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks.

Anyone who is worried about not having enough warmth along the beaches in late spring of 2011 should immediately banish those thoughts.

On the last day of May 2011, the temperature along our coast soared into the upper nineties.  Those temperatures are rare any time of the year here, and almost unheard of in May.  With all the warm air,  the water temperature along the beaches of Emerald Isle has been pushed to 80F.

While some places above the Mason-Dixon line have been straining to see the sun, we have seen no significant rain since May 7.  The skies have been blue, and sometimes clouds have been completely absent.  And for the most part, we have had steady breezes to keep us relatively cool in the warmth.

Unfortunately our winds died down somewhat on May 31 which I'm sure will turn out to be the hottest day we have seen in a long time.  If I heard the forecast correctly, the winds are coming back later in the week.

Stunning is perhaps the best way to describe most of our May beach weather.   Even with the weather being fantastic, we have just seen our first crowds this Memorial Day weekend.

One of my many beach hikes took me to Emerald Isle's Point at lunch during the week before Memorial Day.  The beach was almost empty.  With so much great weather, it has been challenging figuring out the best ways to enjoy the area.

All the water at our doorstep tends to push me towards boating and kayaking with some fishing thrown in for good measure, but this spring, I have spent a lot of time hiking the beaches.

In addition to beach and water time, the weekends have been filled with things to do.   If you mix the local festivals with great water access and some fantastic weather, you get the essence of the Crystal Coast.

2011 has been a great spring to be on the coast, and if you are thinking of moving, there is no better time to start checking out potential homes or cottages.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April at the Beach

Lots of folks think the only nice time to be at the beach is after the middle of June.  While it is true that the ocean water is warmer in mid-June, there is a lot to be said for an April beach visit.

One of the nicest things about coming to the beach in April is that there is so much space that you will think that you own the beach.  Most people don't swim in the water anyway, so if you are just looking to relax on the beach,  is April really a good time to visit North Carolina's Crystal Coast.

As it is with much in life, the answer is "It depends."  The only way that you can count on beach weather is to live here and never leave.  Then you will be assured of finding some great weather. You can, however, find some great weather in April along North Carolina Southern Outer Banks which tend to warm up faster than the more famous beaches of Nags Head, Duck, and Manteo.  Still whether or not you beach visit will be a great one does depend on the weather, and that varies from year to year.

April 2011 through April 20 has been a stellar month with mild temperatures and very little rain.  While we have seen our share of wind, it has mostly been wind that could be ignored.  We can have wind here that is very hard to ignore, but so far in April 2011, the wind hasn't kept me off of the beach very much.

So if your April beach trip is somewhat dependent on the short term weather, it means that you might be better off waiting until the last minute to book your trip.  Actually for most of April that will likely work.  Easter weekend which this year is April 23 and 24 might be an exception.  It is late enough in the year to give people some hope of real warmth, so I am guessing that we will have a good crowd especially since we have some eighties in the forecast.  But even if we have a good Easter crowd, it will be nothing like a 4th of July crowd.

On Emerald Isle almost everything stays open all year, so even in early April you can find all the area restaurants and services open.  The only thing missing this year at Easter will be our McDonald's in Cape Carteret. The restaurant is being rebuilt.   There is also a new Dunkin' Donuts being built in Cedar Point, but it won't be done until summer.

An April beach visit often means that you can get a great deal on accommodations even at the last minute, and still have plenty of space on the beach for yourself.  With one or two exceptions, you will likely be able to walk right into most restaurants without a wait.

As of mid-April, the water temperatures are already in the mid-sixties and climbing.  I went surf fishing earlier this week, and standing in the water was not a problem.  I did see some people out in the water, and not all of them were youngster. However,  I figure for the most part that they must be Canadians or New Englanders seeking any hint of ice free water since most locals usually wait until June before they dunk their whole bodies in saltwater.

April weather is certainly nice enough for kayaking on most days as long as the wind hasn't kicked up.  I have already been out a couple of times myself.  So far it has been a little windy for a whole afternoon of fishing from a skiff, but the wind can stop at any time. You can't enjoy those rare moments unless you are here.   I managed to get one short skiff  fishing trip in during March but that has been it so far.  There will be plenty of time for more fishing as the water warms.

So if you want some pure relaxation, fewer crowds, and lots of room on the beach, come visit us in April.  One of the hidden benefits is that in April the weather is so nice that we often sleep with our windows open.  It has been nearly three weeks since our heat pumps have run.

I have been walking the beaches regularly, and I can assure you that they are in fine shape for those beach hikes.

And if you need one more reason, the local strawberries are ripe, and as usual,  they are delicious. Produce is starting to come to the stands, we had new potatoes and local asparagus for dinner on Tuesday night.  There is nothing like fresh produce and some fresh fish with near perfect strawberries for dessert to make you certain that spring is here, and summer is on the horizon.

This is my Emerald Isle Travel Guide to help you plan your trip.  You can find out more about the Southern Outer Banks at my Crystal Coast Life Blog.
Here are some pictures that I took on my most recent hike along the beach.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Learning to take the weather in stride

Most of the US has seen a pretty tough winter with temperatures colder than normal.  Here in Carteret County the rumor is that this was the coldest winter in the last 100 years.  For the most part the rivers did not freeze over, and our one big snow storm of four inches disappeared within hours of arriving without any shoveling.

However, our weather recently has been so nice that it has been easy to forget that we are in spring and that cooler weather is never far away.  Wednesday, March 23, was so nice that a friend and I managed to sneak in an early spring fishing trip.  Earlier in the month, I managed to explore all the new sand over at the Point at Emerald Isle.  A week later, I even managed a much longer walk on the beach.

All of this was accomplished in shorts and temperatures ranging from the upper sixties to the eighties.  It should not surprise anyone that we assumed that spring was here.  Even the plants got into the swing of things.  Our Bradford pear blooms only lasted a week.  The daffodils didn't last but a couple of weeks. Recently we have seen some tulips, wisteria, and even dogwood trees blooming.  I even put my tomato plants in the ground the same day that I went fishing.

The pelicans, great blue herons, and white herons that have been hanging around the water behind our home headed off for bigger waters.  There were a couple of days when the bluebirds were so noisy that I was sure that spring was entrenched here on the Southern Outer Banks.  Even the bait fish in Raymond's Gut which runs out to the White Oak River could hardly stay in the water.  They were swarming around our dock and jumping all over the water as I idled my boat out to the river.  I even wrote a post talking about figuring out the puzzle being near the water in Carteret County.

Mother Nature sent a warning shot across my bow on Thursday night.  I managed to go on my first White Oak River kayaking trip of the 2011 season.  It was late in the day when I left our dock, but the temperatures were in the upper seventies.  By the time I got back only a little over an hour later, the temperature had dropped to the middle fifties, and the water taken on an appearance not nearly so inviting.  The picture at the top of the post was taken about when I figured about that a front had just gone over me and taken away all of my warmth.

Still the next two days weren't so bad.  We managed to get into the upper sixties each day.  Then came Sunday, March 27.   It was a cold day with temperatures in the middle forties when we got out of bed.  They actually drifted downwards during the day to the low forties.  Areas to the north and west of the Crystal Coast haven't even made it into the forties.  Snow has been reported in West Virginia mountains, and the mountains in southwest Virginia and North Carolina are likely to get some snow during the evening of March 27.

It just goes to show you that you cannot count on the weather.  While it appeared spring was with us for good, we now have a slight bump in the road.    We will have to worry about those blooms on the strawberry plants and my tomato plants.    The cold temperatures stretch well into South Carolina and Georgia so we are not alone.  However, that is not much comfort.  I was hoping for another long beach walk this weekend, but it will have to wait.

It appears that we will be back in the fifties and sixties by the end of the March.  I guess we will have to dream a while about the return of those eighties.  That is not a problem.  This time of year I am used to dreaming about summer days.

Oh well it is nice to see our great blue heron buddy back behind the house for a last visit before spring.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Close to the weather and even closer to reality

It is something of a local sport listening to weather reports and guessing how long it will take them to catch up with the reality of the local weather.

Living along the coast in the middle of a string of small towns is a lot different than living in a compact urban area under the microscope of a number of weathermen.  Urban areas like Northern Virgina, Washington, and Baltimore are only a fraction the size of the coastal area that our weathermen deal with when trying to come up with a forecast.

Carteret County would be about half the area of the combined Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area.  The problem is that the weathermen looking after our area cover about fifteen counties of which we are only one.  Our closest weatherman is three counties away and pretty far inland.

On top of that our weather changes radically depending on where you are in relation to the water.  Then there is the little fact that weather systems can form or intensify off our coast.  So how many times have you heard the phrase "a low will form off the North Carolina coast?"  That would be our area.

Friday morning, February 11, we got a second dose of seeing how difficult it is to come with an accurate forecast in an area as complex and large as coastal North Carolina.

When we listed to the forecast on Thursday night at 11 PM, we were told to expect a few morning showers followed by clearing in the afternoon with a high temperature of around 50F.

Friday morning we even heard the same forecast which was strange since I awoke to blue skies.  Unfortunately the blue skies did not last very long.  Before nine AM, we were seeing rain showers which not only did not stop but continued until almost ten PM Friday.  On top of that our temperatures never got out of the upper thirties much less to 50F.

I would class that as a miss almost as big as our last "snow storm" when we were supposed to get maybe an inch, and we ended up with four to seven inches of snow.

Of course I don't blame the weathermen, it is just difficult to try to guess the weather in a large complex area intermingled with so much water.  All it takes is a system moving two or three miles closer to the coast, and our weather is totally different than the weather just a few miles inland.

What happens is that residents stay close to the weather forecasts, but they also have to use some common sense.  It you see a line of storms on the horizon, you pay attention to them even if there are no storms in the forecast.

It is not a bad way to live, much of what we hear and see on the television and Internet could use a little more fact checking just like we give our weather forecasts.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Coastal NC, An Interesting Mix of Old and New

I recently ran into a tide table dated 1969.  It came from a restaurant in Morehead City.  It is likely that my uncle Austin and I picked it up on a fishing trip that summer nearly forty two years ago.

In those days what is now called the Southern Outer Banks or the Crystal Coast was a pretty undeveloped place.  We drove across the bridge at Morehead City and eventually cut over to the beach when the roads disappeared.  We managed to drive down to the Point at the end of Emerald Isle.

The Point is a much different place today.  The area is filled with homes, Coast Guard Road, and in the summer, a fair number of people.  I made a recent visit to the Point to take a picture of snow on the beach and gather material for a post on the colder than normal winter that we have endured this winter of 2010-11.

The previous Saturday a snowstorm had come about as close as you can get to snowing us in down here on the coast.  It brought back some memories of years and blizzards in Canada, and even got me to decide that just maybe being snowed in isn't so bad even on the North Carolina coast.

Having a day to contemplate things and fix our computer network gave me a chance to contemplate what an interesting mix of life we have along the North Carolina's beaches.

One the one hand, ancient birds like pelicans are our everyday neighbors.  We live in area rich with wildlife.  Just today, I have enjoyed herons, pelicans, and hooded merganser ducks, and I have not even walked more than 100 yards from my house.  There was also a grey fox that I caught sight of this morning.  Having 158,000 acres of the Croatan National Forest on one side and the fifty-six miles of the Cape Lookout National Seashore does not hurt.

Yesterday as I took my afternoon hike, I had to marvel that I was recording my hike with my Android based Droid phone.  After I got back I was able to send the GPS track of my hike to my Google maps.

Having 3G phone service here on the edge of the continent is not that amazing given the reach of technology these days.  Of course 3G service doesn't come in a lot of flavors down here.  If you are an iPhone lover, you might be out of luck.  However, Verizon does do a good job here so I guess you could switch carriers if you just cannot live without your iPhone.

Several years ago I wrote a post about the Instant Economy  and how easy it is easy to find the services needed to start a business.  I was living in Roanoke, VA at the time, and it is a much more populated area than the Southern Outer Banks.

After being down here over four years, I cannot see much difference between the technology I find on the Crystal Coast and what I find in Roanoke.  It might be easier to get a Macintosh computer repaired in Roanoke, but that is about the only thing that I can see.

In fact my cable modem service provider is a little more reliable here on the coast.  Where our home is in Roanoke, it is still impossible to get Internet phone service through the cable provider. We can do that here on the coast and save a few dollars by bundling television, Internet access, and telephone services.
Winds, storms, and water have a huge impact on our life here at the coast.  We are close to the land and sea.  We pay attention to the weather, but at the same time, we have all the conveniences of modern society like grocery stores, shopping malls, restaurants, health care services, good schools, and very good roads.

In fact you might say that we get the best of both worlds.  Our services and stores end up being over built to handle the short influx of visitors that we have during the summer tourist season.  In the winter, late fall, and much of the spring, we are here by ourselves.  Our stores and roads are uncrowded, and everything moves to a slower pace.  It is not a bad way to live. 

We have almost the best of the Internet world in a place where there are still farmers' markets along the roads, and you can still buy local fish fresh off the boasts.  It is a little like a wired paradise.

We enjoy the visitors in the summer. They bring some hustle and bustle to a normally very quiet area. Other than crowding the grocery stores some on the weekends, there are almost no challenges that come from our summer visitors.  We are blessed with a tourist area made up almost exclusively of single family homes.  While there are a few condo complexes sprinkled around, the density of housing for our summer visitors is very low, so we just don't get the crowds that other places have.

It does not hurt that we also have four lane roads coming at the area from two different ends, and that we have the Northern Outer Banks to handle many of the tourists who often have never even heard of our area.  Myrtle Beach also helps us by drawing off the golfers, and Wilmington picks up many of the day trippers.  We have our own little niche, and in this case it is not so bad to be a niche player.

So while many of us feel very close to the sea and the creatures that swim in it and fly over it, it is very possible to be a person immersed in technology here.  You can twitter and post to Facebook just as easily as you can in more urban areas.  You might even be more likely to actually know the people online than you would be in a city.  While you might not have access to Verizon FIOS, you can probably survive quite well on the technology that you find here on the Southern Outer Banks.

Few people may have heard of Foursquare, but you might find it easier to get to know a real mayor.  In fact if you come down and buy a beach house from me, I will make it a point to introduce you to the mayor of Emerald Isle.   He is a very nice guy and much more accessible than your average mayor.

I have not seen any limitations that come from living in this beautiful area.  That is one of the reasons that I am proud to help people find homes in this special spot.  It is a beautiful area, and I am excited to wake up here every morning.  You just never know what you might find in the Gut behind our home.

You might even get to do some heron noodling.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Winter Storm on the Horizon at the Beach

Here it is the heart of winter.  We are supposed to be seeing January average temperatures in the mid-fifties with lows in the mid-thirties.

January 2011 is not turning out that way.  We started warm, and it brought some crowds to the beach, but we are going to have to wait until the middle of the month for our next nice weather.  We are lucky in that there are four days supposedly on tap in the mid-sixties.

Four warm days could definitely put a dent in winter, but first we have to get through the impending winter storm.

Winter storms are serious things even at the beach.  If we are lucky we will just get some cold rain and winds.  We could get sleet and freezing rain. With freezing rain comes the danger of power outages.

Of course you don't have to live at the beach to face the threat of power outages because of freezing rain.  If I had to bet on those places facing the most impact from freeing rain in this next storm, I would guess a few miles inland all the way to Greensboro and maybe even in to South Carolina.

Looking at this storm in particular, the Greensboro to Raleigh area might be the sweet spot.  I have faced plenty of iced up roads in Virginia and Atlantic Canada. Ice in my opinion is never nice.  I even have some chains for my feet.  They are indispensable when things get really icy on the mountain. Unfortunately they won't me any good hanging in the garage in Virginia.

I doubt that we will not face a situation like the one depicted in the linked pictures. While ice is bad in the flat country of coastal Carolina, it can be deadly in the mountains.  Anyone can go up an icy hill, only someone with a divine guiding hand can make it down safely.  I am thankful for the absence of hills and mountains in Coastal NC.

Actually I don't even have a snow shovel down here at the beach.  Going into our fifth winter, I have yet to see the need for a snow shovel.  I hope it stays that way.

While we had good crowds a week ago, yesterday things were quiet almost everywhere including the beach and sound.  A little more of this winter weather, and we will have to kick off our annual visits to the museums of the area.

We are about to run out of football to watch, but fortunately the warm Carolina sun should start making itself known fairly soon.  Then we can start thinking about gardening and boating.  I have to get my tomato plans started very soon.

The first of the week January storm is going to bring us a taste of winter, but as usual I suspect we will come through it in fine shape.  I have not heard any predictions of damaging winds or surf.

I can't wait until there are people on the beach once again.