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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sparkling Waters

I sometimes wonder what the Crystal Coast would be like if our waters were beautiful but inaccessible. I suspect that is a holdover from living along the shores of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. It was an equally scenic area, but boating was not for amateurs since the tides could be well over twenty feet. 
Actually you even had to be careful about walking along the beaches. That high point of land that you could walk to at low tide could easily become an island at high tide. Fortunately we do not have to deal with huge tides here along the Crystal Coast. 
We have some high tides and some very low tides but the range is still around a couple of feet. Actually the potential for boating in a relatively safe area was one of the many reasons that we ended up moving to the Crystal Coast. 
I had a lifelong dream to have a powerboat and to be able to fish from it whenever my mood and the weather allowed. The sparkling waters of the Crystal Coast allowed me to do that.
The picture at the top of the post is looking across the Intracoastal Waterway from Cedar Point to the sparkling waters of Bogue Inlet. Turning between the buoys and heading out Bogue Inlet is one of the thrills that we have in boating in the area. Making that turn means you are leaving behind the relatively calm water of Bogue Sound and heading towards potentially more exciting waters.

Finding a place where it is safe to boat is more than just finding some water where you can boat. Even as we made plans to become new boaters, I doubt that we appreciated all that makes the Crystal Coast a great boating area.

First off we have relatively easy access to the water in Carteret County, and the access is getting even better. Recent improvements in Beaufort, Cape Carteret, and at the Wildlife Resources Ramp in Cedar Point make getting a boat into the water easier than it has been in several years. There are also plans on the board for a large launch facility on Emerald Isle. When you combine all the public access with the communities that have boat ramps and the fee based launch areas, getting your boat into the water is not a big challenge here on the coast.

Of course before you put your boat into the water, it helps to have some education. The Coast Guard Auxillary's Boating Safety Course is offered regularly in the area. I took advantage of the course even before I bought our boat. The course is certainly well worth the one day's time. Knowing the basic rules of the waterways helps tremendously in staying safe.

After getting my training, I spent the whole first winter talking to boat dealers and local boaters. There is no shortage of boat dealers along the Crystal Coast. I often joke that our area has more boat dealers than car dealers. While talking to boat dealers was fun, most of them were more interested in selling me their particular boat than in helping me find the right type of boat. I talked to a lot of neighbors and determined that for our uses, a skiff of twenty feet in length would work best.

A couple of key needs drove our choice. Number one, we wanted to be able to beach our boat easily on the low water beaches in Bogue Inlet. Secondly the boats primary use would be fishing in relatively shallow waters including the White Oak River.

We settled on a Sundance skiff almost twenty feet long. It has a slight vee hull in the front to help on turns. It has turned out to be an extremely versatile boat both in shallow water and off the beaches of Emerald Isle.

After we got our boat in the summer of 2007, I hired a local captain to spend a few hours with us giving us some good hands on instruction. It was well worth the money, and we even booked him to ride with us on our first long excursion to Shackleford Banks.

Now over two years later, I have spent a lot of time at the helm of our boat. I had my doubts whether a kayaker could become a power boater, but I have come to enjoy each type of watercraft for the special times that they provide me on the water.

Getting out on the skiff is one of those immediate pleasures. Living on the water in Bluewater Cove with our skiff on a lift makes water access as simple as pressing a button. Kayaking takes a little more planning, effort, and attention to the wind, but I have a great time every time that I go.

While the fishing trips and days on the water are wonderful, even more special are short trips like the one my wife and I took to watch the sunset on the White Oak the other day.

In the end, there is a lot more than just the sparkling waters that make this a great place to boat, live, and visit. We certainly have the beautiful waters and a great climate unless you are trying to go boating November 11 and 12.

We also have the boating infrastructure that makes boating fun. From the Coast Guard doing boat checks to friendly local boaters on the waters, you will not be out there alone. If there are problems, both Sea Tow and are represented in the area.

This is just a great area if you are looking for a spot to become a boater and create some wonderful memories for your whole family.

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