I often tell people visiting the Crystal Coast to ignore the big roads if they are looking for our main street. I actually believe that the Intracoastal Waterway deserves that title. You certain get that impression if you take a boat ride on the Intracoastal. This time of year most of us are not on the water very much, but even during the cold season the Intracoastal Waterway means a lot to our area. There are very few days when I cross the bridge over to Emerald Isle when I do not see a sailboat or boat of some type making its way throught the water. In a large city a beltway often lets you get from one location to another quickly. The Intracoastal plays the same role for us. Many times you could pick your way carefully through some back channels and bypass the Intracoastal, but often it is easier and faster to just take the ICW where the channel is well marked.As the weather gets colder in January and February, few boats venture out into the water. We still have a number of boats passing through the area. Most of them are heading south to warmer waters, but they often drop anchor and spend a day or two with us.
It is in January and February that I miss our main street the most. I will usually try to drop my skiff into the water at least once every other week. If I can find a nice day I will bundle up and ride out into the river. Sometimes I will even brave the cold and go down to Swansboro where the Intracoastal and the White Oak River meet.
If the weather isn't too cold, a ride like that is like a shot of spring tonic. It does not take much to start thinking about getting your gear ready for the spring season. Last year we had a long, cool spring, and it was April before we got on the water with the skiff. In the spring it is usually the winds that keep us at the dock.
As May and June get here, boat season rapidly takes hold. With warmer waters and usually more reasonable winds, the Intracoastal gets busy once again. We often come
down the White Oak River and head up the Intracoastal until we take the turn towards Bogue Inlet and the ocean.
There are days when even on that short trip, you will see a half dozen boats beached on the islands that line the Intracoastal. Sometimes we will slip into one of the creeks or inlets for fishing instead of going out Bogue Inlet.
While the Intracoastal seems like our main street to me, heading out Bogue Inlet always makes me feel like I am on an adventure. When we come back from the ocean and finally get to make the turn back onto the ICW, I feel like I am almost home.
I used to get the same feeling driving down Interstate 81 from Northern Virginia to Roanoke. Whenever I could see Tinker Mountain, I thought the trip was almost done.
There is another thing that always intrigues me about the Intracoastal. It is like an Interstate Highway. It is not just for local trips. It can take you far away. Our longest trip on the ICW was to Beaufort on our way to Shackleford Banks , but it really seemed like we had gone somewhere after we got home.
The next time you ride over the Intracoastal, take a quick look to see what is happening on our main street, and remember it will be a lot busier in just a few short month.