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Thursday, July 31, 2008

How To Deal With the Heat

Sometimes people considering a move to the Crystal Coast worry about North Carolina's reputation for hot and humid summer temperatures. I often get the question of how do you survive the heat in July and August? The simple answer is that we wait for it to go away, but actually we manage to continue with our daily activities without a lot of changes. This is the South and in the summer it does get hot. There are some unique things about Carteret County that help us survive.
One of our secrets here on the Crystal Coast is that we are never very far from the water. We are cooler than most of North Carolina except the mountain areas. The water that nearly surrounds us often brings a breeze. Yesterday morning I mowed my yard while the temperature was in the upper eighties. The experience was not that bad because there was a breeze of ten miles per hour.

Only rarely are completely without winds. Recently I went for a bike ride in mid-morning. I'm lucky that our new street in Bluewater Cove is almost completely shaded with tall pines. Even as noon approached I was able to stay in the shade during my bike ride. Later I paddled my kayak out to the White Oak River. I had a light tailwind when I headed out, and there was a good breeze out on the river. it was actually very comfortable out on the water.

In late July and August our river, the White Oak, is considerably warmer than the waters near Boug Inlet. If you want more pleasant temperatures, a trip by water to Bogue Inlet will often fix the heat problem.

If you cannot make a boat trip, then it is good time to check out the pool or the beach. As long as the evening temperatures are getting into the seventies like they are now and we have some overnight wind, swimming pools in the area cool off enough to be pleasant during the day.

When the swimming pools get too warm as they do when the night temperatures stay in the eighties, the ocean water is close to perfect for a quick dip.

The truth of the matter is that we have few really hot and humid days compared to most of North Carolina. The really warm days can only be escaped by becoming close friends with your air conditioners or continually dunking yourself in the ocean.

My saving grace as a former Canadian is that I have adjusted to the heat and now find the warmth a better choice than snow and ice.

While we do get hot in Carteret County, we all know from experience that you only have to go a few miles inland for the heat to really crank up.

If we see ninety degrees we know that usually some North Carolina towns are approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

That thought often helps, and there are some tricks that also ease the challenge of warm country life.

Residents know that the best time to do outside work is early in the morning. It is also often the best time of the day for fishing.

We keep the thermostats in our home at around 78 during the day. We often find that even at that temperature, it feels very cool when you walk into our home.

We try to utilize natural shade and always have some cold liquids nearby.

Fortunately the serious summer heat only lasts a few weeks, After that we often have a magnificent fall weather which just begs for spending time on the beach

So whether you are from the Mid-west or from just west of here, you will find the Crystal Coast a place where you can escape from some of the worst of summer's heat.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Protecting Bogue Sound

You sometimes hear that we have to stop development in order to protect our waters. You can only subscribe to that opinion if you have never lived very close to Mother Nature. It has taken many years, but we have learned that if we never let fires burn in our forests, we end up creating a very dangerous situation. Now in Croatan National Forest we regularly see controlled burns. They get rid of the underbrush and make the forest much healthier. Animals find it easier to browse on the new tender vegetation. On top of that we end up with forests that are much less susceptible to catastrophic fires. There are parallels to the new forest management techniques in the way that conservation focused development not only protects our coastal waters but even improves them.
I live in Bluewater Cove which was developed by Bluewater Builders. While I was not around in 2000 when the first efforts toward development began, I have seen Google Earth photos of the area behind my home which sits on a small piece of Raymond's Gut which connects to the White Oak River. That area was a mud filled swamp which extended to the White Oak River.

What had once been bodies of water had filled with silt from poor farming practices and roads with uncontrolled drainage. Over the years the mud eventually drove out all the fish and shrimp.

Development of Bluewater Cove changed all of that. Raymond's Gut and its channels were dredged and tons of silt were removed. At the same time the roads were graded and erosion control features were implemented. Grasses were planted and the movement of silt to the river came almost to a halt. New conservation features were implemented which filtered runoff water.  Marsh grasses started to flourish.

My home which was built in 2005 has several bags of styrofoam chips buried behind the driveway. When water runs down our driveway, it goes down a drain and then is filtered through the bags of styrofoam before emerging crystal clear onto a grassy slope which then takes it to Raymond's Gut.

The result of these conservation measures is that Raymond's Gut is now teeming with shrimp and small bait fish. I often sit on my dock and night and listen to the sounds of life in the water. When I slide my kayak into the water I am always amazed at how many small fish are in the water. On one of my last kayak trips, a shrimp actually jumped into my kayak. The water often explodes around my paddle as small fish scurry away.

There is no question in my mind that the conservation focused development that took place in Bluewater Cove helped improve the waters of the White Oak River and Bogue Sound.

Proper development techniques in Bluewater Cove not only improved the water quality in Raymond's Gut, but it also created a new nursery for shrimp, crabs, and bait fish. It addition it provided a wonderful place for a number of us to live.

Bluewater Cove is a beautiful spot where we are able to enjoy our natural resources with the knowledge that we have helped improve the environment at the same time.

Monday, July 14, 2008

What Do Residents of the Crystal Coast Do For Fun?

Living in the land of vacations is actually a lot like living in paradise. There is always something great to do. One of the reasons people come here for vacations is that we have fantastic weather and plenty of things to do. While some residents maintain that they never go to the beach, there are plenty of us who go to the beach every chance that we get. I worked on Sunday, so this Monday was part of my weekend. With sunshine, blue skies and warm temperatures, the beach quickly got on our agenda today. I was beginning to feel a little disconnected with the beach since my toes had not been in warm salt water for over a week.
After a morning of biking, swimming, kayaking, and fishing, we ate a late lunch and and around 4 pm headed out to do some errands. If was so nice out that after a stop by the office, we decided to postpone our errands and go to the beach before any rain arrived.

A trip to the beach for us this time of the season usually means driving down the island. After crossing the bridge to Emerald Isle, we drove another six miles down the beach to the Eastern Regional Access.

We often go there during the peak summer months since it is rarely crowded. After Labor Day, we usually switch to the Western Regional Access. When the weather cools down a little, we will often switch to the beaches near the Point. Those beaches require a little hike so we tend to go there when the weather is nice for hiking.

Today when we arrived at the Eastern Regional Access, it was uncrowded as usual. There were a few people on the beach from the nearby condos, but there were less than ten cars in the parking lot at just after 5 pm.

My wife prefers the Eastern and Western Regional Accesses purely because they both have water to wash your feet after you come off the beach.

Today once on the beach we headed east along the beach towards Salter Path. We watched someone land a small fish, I took some pictures, and we said hello to a couple of well-mannered dogs. Somehow we both managed to get our legs wet. My managing to get wet is a little like a Labrador retriever somehow managing to find a person to throw a ball.

It was a relaxing time on the beach. We always keep our beach chairs in the car, but it was just a little warm for my taste so we didn't haul them down. Usually when we go to the trouble of hauling the chairs down to the beach, I end up swimming. Since I had already logged several laps in a near perfect pool this morning, swimming in today's big swells didn't appeal to me.

After the beach we headed to Dudley's Marina to fill my gas cans for our boat. On the way back from Dudley's we stopped Winberry's Produce stand to get some corn on the cob and another Bogue Sound watermelon.

We love the small seedless ones since a single one makes for two good watermelon meals for us. We were home in time to watch the six o'clock news and weather. Our whole expedition from our home in Bluewater Cove including the beach walk and other stops only lasted about an hour and forty-five minutes.

That's one of the great things about living here. No one is very far from water.

It was a really nice way to finish the day. Next time I am taking my swim suit.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Only Way To Guarantee Great Beach Weather

There is a simple way to enjoy the best of the beach weather. It requires moving to the beach. If you are always here, then finding the best days to be on the beach comes pretty easy. When we get a run of nasty weather, we just stay off the beach until the weather improves. Fortunately for tourists, it is rare that we get a full day of rain. This summer it has been rare to get any rain. Whenever I get stuck thinking about how unlucky we are when the weather turns bad, I try to remember that any day on the beach is generally better than the best day in the city.

Luckily for those of us who live here on the coast, the week after the fourth of July has been a relatively wet one. It has really put a dent in our dry conditions. Certainly it has not been the best week to visit the coast, but with the weather, you have to take what you get.

We do get rainy weather along the coast, but if you check the statistics, we also get more than our share of sunshine. Unfortunately that does not do you much good if you came for a visit and only have one day to spend on the beach, and the rain shows up.

June and July 2008 have been exceptionally dry and rain free up until this week after the fourth of July. I have a hard time remembering when we have seen more rainy hours than we have experienced on July 11. Our plants and yards really did need the rain.

Our typical summer weather is blue skies in the morning with some clouds and potential thunderstorms building in the afternoon.

April is the month in which we generally experience the most sunshine. We average 70% sunshine during April. By July we have dropped to just about 62% sunshine. We reach our lowest point of sunshine in December when we get down to 56% sunshine.

July, it turns out is the peak of our days with some precipitation at 40%. July is also our warmest with the average high temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Only August is slightly more humid than July.

During July and August, I like to think about our best months are September through June. Our average high temperature only dips slightly below sixty degrees for January and February. Most of the rest of the time we are in a very temperate range which allows for outdoor activity most of the year. The water can still be very pleasant in October and sometimes even into early November.

So if you come to the beach during July and August, just remember you have missed all the really good weather during the other ten months of the year.

One of the greatest things about living at the beach is that during the cold months of the years we are almost always warmer than places to the west of us, and during the summer we are almost always cooler than interior North Carolina except the mountains.

Even when we are warmer, we can usually just jump in the water except on those rare days when the rains just will not leave and the thunder never seems far away.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What Is It Like To Live at the Beach?

Not surprisingly it is a lot of fun to live near the beach. While people living in cities go for walks on sidewalks, we head over to the beach to enjoy some sand beneath our feet and warm salt water around our ankles. Many people might think that beach walking is only a summer pleasure. Most residents walk on the beach all year. My favorite time for beach walks is late fall. The water is still warm, the air is often less humid, and any crowds are long gone.
Living at the beach is dream come true for many people along the Crystal Coast. We start the year with New Year's celebrations just like everyone else. Yet our weather is usually warm enough for a pleasant hike along some of the trails of Croatan National Forest. It is not unusual for January days to have high temperatures in the sixties and seventies.

February is usually our coldest month, but it is also the time for the Chocolate Festival in Morehead City. We usually have a few days when the temperature doesn't get to fifty, but the sun is noticeably stronger and makes those outdoor activities even more fun. Almost all the restaurants remain open all year so the relative quiet of February is often a great time for locals to meet each other.

With March comes the first festivals of the year. Festivals and community events are a big part of life on the coast. The Emerald Isle Saint Patrick's Day Festival and the Swansboro Oyster Roast are usually the same day. They provide a great kick off for the spring season.

By April we usually have some fish biting and people are taking advantage of the warm days to get out on the water. April and sometimes even late March brings the first of the area's special farm treats. We usually have plenty of strawberries ripe by the middle of April.

In May the braver souls are wading in the ocean waters. The weather is often nearly perfect with much of the month being a time when people keep their windows open all day. May is a great month to visit Beaufort and stroll down the board walk along the harbor.

June can go either way. This year it was very warm and the water was just right for swimming early in the month. It is a great time of the year to take advantage of some of the low tide beaches that show up in Bogue Inlet or to take a trip to Shackleford Banks to look for shells. Last year June was a great month to fish and sleep with your windows open.

Most people know what the beach is like in July and August. As residents we tend to avoid some of the more popular restaurants on the beach. We also try to confine our main grocery shopping to Monday through Thursday. It never seems to be a problem to sneak in and pick up a few items, but it you go on the weekend you certainly might find the aisles a little crowded.

With fall the crowds disappear, and the fishermen show up. It is a great time of year. There are more festivals and the whole coast seems to relax a little.

By November we are thinking about holidays and decorations. Before December rolls around, people are planning flotillas and crab pot Christmas trees are starting to show up.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Best Things About the Crystal Coast

Lots of people know what it is like to come to the Crystal Coast for a vacation. Thousands of people have that experience every year. After spending time on our pristine shores, it is not unusual to start thinking about our area as a potential retirement spot or a place for a second home. Living here raises a lot more questions than spending a week relaxing on our warm beaches. Bluewater's Sales Blog will shed some light on life along North Carolina's best kept secret, the Southern Outer Banks that run along the shores of Carteret County.
What it is like to live near the beach in the winter? Does Carteret County even have a winter?

One of the greatest things about living near the beach is the temperate climate. While where you live in relation to the water can make a huge difference, it is safe to say that the ocean keeps us cooler in spring and early summer. The water also helps us stay warmer in fall and winter.

Living right on the water can provide a wonderful extended growing season. Last year, our last tomatoes came off the vine on December 19, and this year we got our first tomato on June 1.

It is fair to say that our "winter" is not like the winter that most people experience inland even in North Carolina. While snow is not unheard of along the coast, it is a very rare occurrence. I have been here two winters so far, and I have yet to see a flake of snow or any ice other than an early morning skim on the water behind our house. During January 2007, I actually tracked the temperatures. I was surprised to find that we only experienced nineteen hours of below freezing temperatures during the whole month of January.

We have also found that there are very few days when it is too cold to walk on the beach or hike one of the great trails in Croatan National Forest. Last year I kayaked through the month of December. The previous winter I rode my bike a couple days each week during the winter.

We often find that during our infrequent cold spells a few minutes with the gas logs on in the morning is all that we need to take the chill off. The quick warmth of the fireplace prepares us for another day of life along the Crystal Coast. Waking up to that slight chill is all the winter that I need to remind me of icy roads and more serious cold spells in the mountains.

A mild coastal winter which allows you to actually get out and enjoy the scenic beauty of the area is one of my favorite privileges as a local. It is pretty hard to complain when winter foot gear is sneakers.