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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Enjoying Yourself on the Water

There are people who love being on the water, and others who would rather be on land. My wife is one of those land people. I have given up trying to convert her though I still manage to convince her to take a boat ride once in a while. She likes to joke that our skiff has two names, one for each side of the boat. One is "Living the Dream," and the other is "Glenda's Nightmare." She would prefer to not get her feet wet at the beach so her efforts to stay off the boat should come as no surprise. Perhaps having an astrological sign of Pisces has something to do with my love of the water. I cannot ever remember being afraid of the water, but over the years I have learned to be very respectful of the water. If you are a first time boater in Bogue Sound, you might find some of my tips and reminders useful.
First off, Bogue Sound, the areas around Bogue Inlet, and the White Oak River are very safe places to boat. The waters are rarely crowded except during a few holidays. Even then places like the White Oak River remain uncrowded.

One of the biggest challenges that lake boaters find when coming to the area is that there are places here which are not deep enough for every boat. We also have bodies of water like the White Oak River which have a number of oyster rocks. Having oyster rocks in the river means that the safest way of moving around the river at high speed is to stay in the marked channel. That is true when you are in the lower reaches of the river. The upper part of the river is safe if you avoid the spots with PVC pipes marking shallow areas. If you are heading south on the White Oak towards Swansboro, keep the green buoys to your right and the red ones to your left. If you are headed up river towards Stella, keep the red buoys on your right and the green on your left.

It is important to remember that there is plenty of water outside of marked channels in Bogue Sound and the White Oak where it is safe to explore at lower speeds. While it helps to have a depth finder, you can quickly tell the depth of the water by its color. Shallow water has a tan cast or lighter color to it compared to the deep blue or darker colors of the deeper waters. If you are moving slowly and paying attention, it is unlikely you will become very stuck. Flat bottomed skiffs get around better in really shallow water. If you do decide to visit one the tidal islands in Bogue Inlet, you can often guarantee an easier exit by nosing your boat ashore to drop off passengers and your anchor, and then backing back into deeper water once the anchor is secured. You can then pull yourself in, hop off the boat, and let the boat drift back into the deeper water. By doing that you are at less risk when the tide starts going out. Sometimes we will take a folding step stool in the boat if someone who might have trouble getting back on the boat is with us.

Speaking of tides, make sure you know when high and low tides are set to occur. You should also check the weather before you leave and make sure someone knows where you are headed and when you plan to be back. In the summertime, we try to be on our way back towards our dock by three PM since many days we see thunderstorms after that time.

Your boating will be a lot more fun if you keep well maintained equipment on board. While most boaters know you need a life preserver for each person, you should also be aware that they need to be in good shape with readable labels and no tears. You should have a floating throw cushion that is not stowed or tied to the boat. We also have a paddle and a long pole for pushing the boat around in shallow water. Of course an anchor with chain and fifty to one hundred feet of line is also a must. We have all our safety gear, including flares and lights, stowed in a waterproof bag. A Sea Tow membership card is also there.

We always carry an emergency radio, first aid kit, spare prop, some tools, bucket, towel, boat hook, and at least one cell phone.

If you get stopped for a safety check by the Coast Guard, it helps to have a picture id, your boat's registration, and your fishing license. I keep all those items in a water proof pouch.

While we have a GPS on board, I also carry charts of the area. Since the weather is often hot, we manage to always have a cooler filled with ice cold beverages. I stick with non-alcoholic beverages when I am boating. I have seen too many situations where unimpaired reflexes were required while boating.

I cannot think of a more enjoyable activity than going boating in Bogue Sound or Inlet. A little planning, plenty of sunscreen, and remembering to put the plug in the boat will ensure a happy trip.

If you have never had any boating training, I can highly recommend the Coast Guard Auxiliary courses. They are held regularly in Emerald Isle and Morehead City.

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