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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Perhaps A Great October Day At The Beach On Tap

I would have to say that the weather forecast for this coming Wednesday looks great. While my Latin is a little rusty, I believe it would be a great day to "Carpe Litus" or seize the beach.  To see the weather folks calling for a high of 81F and a low of 70F with partly cloudy skies on October 27 is something that should excite us all.

While we have enjoyed a mild fall, and the predictions are for a mild winter, an eighty degree beach day at the end of October calls for some sort of celebration or at least a long walk on the beach.

In fact I am organizing my week around trying to enjoy some of that warmth on this coming Wednesday.  We recently made a trip to the Virginia mountains.   I left the coast in my usual uniform of shorts, tee shirt, and sandals.  We were fine all through North Carolina, but I knew that we were in a different world when I got out to put gas in the car in Martinsville, Va.  The temperature had dropped to fifty four degrees.

The next morning I was running around turning on the furnace, and before we went out on some errands, I had changed to blue jeans, long sleeved tee shirt, and sneakers.  Two days later the morning temperature had dropped to 35F, and I was wearing a sweat shirt.

With that fresh in my memory, I plan to soak up all the warmth that I can in the remaining days of October. On Monday, October 17, we had a great walk on the beach in early afternoon.  There were plenty of people out there enjoying the late fall warmth.  I am hoping for as good or better day on October 27.

Later in the week of October 17, it was warm enough for a boat ride in shorts and tee shirt.  With the water still holding close to seventy degrees, we can hope for an extended warm period that might ease our transition into the winter months.

We never know what winter is going to bring or any other season for that matter.  However, what we know is that the Coast is warmer than the Mountains and Piedmont in the winter. The South is also almost certainly warmer than the North during the winter, though last winter was pretty close.

As they say the devil is in the details.  I have yet to have need of a down coat here on the coast.  My winter shoes are tennis shoes, and I only keep gloves in the car for our frequent trips back to the Virginia Mountains.  There are no snow shovels on our coastal property.

We have seen some ice on the "Gut" which run out to the White Oak. That water behind the house get a skim of ice a few times each winter.  Usually it melts by nine AM, but we did have one stretch last winter where the ice held on in places for a few days.  There were rumors of an unusually cold winter back in the late eighties when the river froze over, but I never saw any pictures to confirm it.

I do know that I shoveled a lot of snow in Virginia last winter, and I have yet to shovel any snow in North Carolina.  We did miss the brief snow storm last winter on the coast, but I was told the snow melted off the driveways before anyone had time to consider shoveling it.  That was a stark contrast to the situation of our friends who live near Pulaski, Va. and had snow on their long country driveway for over six weeks.

I will take that eighty degree weather on Wednesday, enjoy it, and use the memories of it to fend off those first cool days of the coastal winter.  I am hoping that the long range forecasts are correct, and that most of this winter's snows will be from New Jersey to the north.  At least they have the equipment to handle it.

We are much better equipped to handle visitors on the beach than we are to take care of snow on the beach.

Let us hope any snow we see this year on the beach is just a dusting.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Southern Outer Banks Fall on the Water

One of the reasons that we moved to the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina was to enjoy the area's beautiful waters.

Before our move, our investigations covered a lot of territory, but we eventually narrowed our search to Carteret County for some good reasons.  The area met our needs and offered us the opportunity to be on the water at a reasonable price.

I spent our first winter here examining our boating options.  In early summer 2007 we bought a boat, and we have been enjoying the area's waters ever since.

We actually don't take many long trips mostly because there is plenty of water to enjoy within a few minutes of our house.  Part of my dream was to be in a place where it was possible to continue working but be able to grab a few minutes on the water when the weather conditions are right.

The nice thing is that we can boat most of the year.  While an early summer morning trip out Bogue Inlet is a definite delight, there is nothing wrong with a quick trip like I took with a couple of neighbors on Tuesday October 19, 2010.

We all had some chores to do in the morning so it was noon before we pulled away from the dock behind our home in Bluewater Cove.

The boating weather was less than perfect because of some surprise winds, but it was warm and already almost eighty degrees.  We have enjoyed great fall weather this year so having a warm day in late October was just continuing a pattern.

We spent about three and one half hours on the water and really enjoyed ourselves.  Of course we were still all dressed in the uniform of the coast, shorts and tee shirts.

With a beautiful coastal river at my back door, the ICW only ten minutes from my dock, and Bogue Inlet less than twenty minutes from the house, there is plenty to explore.  We sometimes wander the waters behind Bear Island-Hammocks beach.  The Point near Emerald Isle is one of our favorite haunts.

A couple of times each summer I venture out on the river to catch a sunrise.  It is not unusual for me to go out three or four times in a week just to catch a sunset on the White Oak River.

If it sounds like being on the water is a big part of our life, that is no accident.

Of course the best time of year on land or water here on the Southern Outer Banks is fall.

Sometimes that last gasp of summer seems to stretch for too long, but this year fall came as expected

One of the reasons the best of seasons is fall is that it is a time when you can fully enjoy the waters of the Crystal Coast with no crowds unless you happen to run into a school of spots that have been found by the fishermen.  Also there is no lingering August humidity to cause heat problems during the day.

Fall makes for some memorable afternoons on the water here along the Southern Outer Banks.  If you have never visited us in the fall check out my Swansboro, Emerald Isle, or Beaufort travel guides.

There are still some weeks to enjoy a visit before Jack Frost finds us.  The fifteen day forecast shows only one day where the evening temperature drops to 39F.  Eleven of the days have temperatures in the seventies, and I see at least one day has a forecast that we will make the eighties.

Come on down and enjoy our fall and find out how much fun you can have on the water is this time of year.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Friday at the Dock

There are a lot of pleasures that come with living here on North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks.

One of them happens to be the friendly people than inhabit our shores.  This past week was a really busy one for me.  I was juggling a number of things including home repair, yard maintenance, changes to the listing of our home in Virginia, modifying websites, showing property, monitoring repairs on a client's property, putting the finishing touches on the software for our new small business, and getting ready for a presentation on social networking at our local board of Realtors®.

On top of that I took delivery of my new I5 iMac and got it up and working at full speed while dealing with a problem with our boat.  Certainly having friends and neighbors to lean on made all of this much easier.  Having your boat not running is a crisis in a world where boats are part of life and the fall fishing season is just around the corner.  A fishing buddy took the problem of fixing the boat off my hands.

I was able to focus on the other items on my plate.  By yesterday afternoon around 4 PM everything was done except putting the center console back in place on the boat.  I did not do much other than hold it up at an angle while Brian, my fishing buddy, put the sealant under the edge of the console and around the screws.

Still it was nice to see it finished and reflect back on all the accomplishments from the previous week.  My presentation on Social Networking went very well.  I even recovered from the jammed copier at work which kept me from doing flyers exactly as I had wanted.

Standing in front of crowd with my MacBook hooked to a projector put me back into the world that I lived in for so long at Apple and later as a consultant for the National Lambda Rail.  Over the years, I have presented to some very high level folks whose names I will avoid dropping.  It is safe to say that I thrive in front of a group.  Doing presentations became second nature while at Apple.  I even had to fly out to Cupertino to do a few.

While I really enjoyed doing the Social Networking Presentation, it occurred to me as we were sitting on the dock yesterday "helping" with the final touches that would bring our skiff back to life, I would really love to stand up before a group and talk about our Southern Outer Banks or what is often called the Crystal Coast.

Like most of my presentations, I would start with some history, possibly discussing how the area developed with close ties to the land and sea.  I might even mention the 56th Annual Mullet Festival which was last weekend in Swansboro.  The festival tradition is alive and well here on the Crystal Coast.

Then I would likely talk about the present.  While like most areas, we would like to see a stronger economy, we did not boom as much as some areas south of here, so when things deflated we did not have as far to go.  We still have at most a handful of homes in financial trouble.  On top of that our area has seen many new businesses in the last three or four years.  Construction has started on a new Hampton Inn in Swansboro, and there was an announcement that Dunkin Donuts will build in Cedar Point.

At the same time Emerald Isle has extended its bike paths and improved the accessibility of their beaches. Both of the big regional beach accesses have handicapped accessible platforms for viewing the beach and ramps which make it easier for all of us older folks to enjoy the beaches.

The area has also seen a number of small locally owned restaurants open and thrive.  I really enjoy ChowdaHeads on Emerald Isle and Nicky's of Swansboro located between the White Oak River bridges.

When you add that to the Best Buy, TJ Maxx, Olive Garden, Buffalo Wild Wings, Starbucks, Harris Tweeter, and Panera Bread that have been built in Morehead City over the last few years, you get the picture of slow but steady growth.

In my real estate world I can feel some slight hint of recovery.  Three homes have sold in our small subdivision of Bluewater Cove.

While there are some resale homes available, there is only one brand new home left on the market in our subdivision. Steady growth looks really good when you compare it to some of the areas of the country which have not done so well.

Last weekend I hosted a client from California.  Her stories of the economic troubles of their California Valley made Carteret County sound pretty good.

A lot of what appeals to me about this area is the mix between the old and the new.  We can have a wonderful place like  Clyde Phillips Seafood at the same time construction is starting on a new concrete pier on Emerald Isle.  We can enjoy a wonderful small restaurant like the Fairway in Cape Carteret or the food and tradition at T&W's Oyster House while knowing that there is a brand new Olive Garden twenty minutes away.

I can shop in a modern Harris Teeter or Lowe's Grocery store and stop on my way home at Winberry's Produce Stand  for whatever local delights I might find including Bogue Sound Watermelons in October.

As is my custom in presentations, I would try to shed some light on the future.  I would probably start with a discussion about how I think the 158,000 acres of the Croatan National Forest and the 56 miles of the Cape Lookout National Seashore give us lots of hope for the future.

I might point to the 1778 Ringware home in Swansboro as a point of hope that the past and future can continue to co-exist here on the Crystal Coast.   The rebirth of Beaufort would likely get a bullet or two in my presentation.  The ongoing efforts to protect the wonderful White Oak River would also get a slide.

My talk would include some mention of the protections now in place to prevent out of control development like you see when you cross the border into South Carolina on your way to Myrtle Beach.  I suspect that I would mention the wonderful reputation and national awards that have come to the Carteret County Schools.

I would probably close with a recommendation that people visit the site which I maintain to showcase information and pictures about the area.  As my parting shot I would suggest that the only way to appreciate the area is to visit it.

I would then show this picture from last weekend and let it speak for itself.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Swansboro's 56th Annual Mullet Festival

We live in Carteret County, but we definitely consider Swansboro part of our home turf.  I always think of it as a more down to earth Beaufort.  Swansboro has some homes from the 1700s, but it is also a place where real people live.  It is a living and breathing city that has few pretensions, but lots of friendly people.

I also cannot think of Swansboro without thinking about the two bridges over the White Oak River which separate the town from Carteret County.  I go under one of those bridges at least six or eight times each week this time of year.   My number of trips is always a round number.  At least I hope it remains that way since I pass under the bridge on my way out of the White Oak and back under the bridge on my way home headed back up the White Oak.

Some years I have worked in a booth at the Mullet Festival, but this year our company decided to pass so I was free to wander the streets and booths.  I am not a big buyer of crafts and fair items, but I love to look and take pictures.  My wife loves to wander through the booths.  Since there is plenty of football later in the year, I was content to let her have all the time she wanted at the festival.

Eventually it warmed up so much in the sun that she was ready to head back to the car and home.  We were lucky because one of people who attend our church let us park in their driveway so we would not have to walk so far.

Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, especially those eating the featured Mullet dinners.  I enjoyed the antique cars as much as anything.    I was especially pleased to see that Spill the Beans is also a bakery in addition to being a place for coffee.  They are located in the same building as the Ice House Restaurant which is down by the water just off Front Street.

For some reason our booths always seemed to be either by the bandstand where we had a hard time understanding anyone asking us a question or in one of the few areas of Swansboro which do not get a breeze.  If we had gotten a booth like the one Spill the Beans had with a view of the water and a breeze right off the water, I might have been a more willing volunteer for booth duty.

I have posted lots more pictures of the 2010 Swansboro Mullet Festival at my Picasa Web Albums site.

On our way home we stopped at Winberry's for some sweet potatoes, but we ended up taking a watermelon home instead.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Some Episcopalian Lobsters

This was our fourth annual trip up to Salter Path to enjoy some fresh cooked lobsters.  Saint Francis by the Sea is the site of the annual Lobster-fest. The church sold 840 lobsters back in 2007 on the Saturday of our first visit.

The 2010 event managed to cook and serve 1100 lobsters.  Obviously the event is growing in popularity.  We timed it just right this year arriving just before 1 PM.  As we were handing in our tickets, we heard the staff turn away a couple because they had already sold out of lobsters.

Besides dining in, you can get your lobsters live or cooked to take home.  We have alway enjoyed being served our lobsters in the church sanctuary.   It is very pleasant place to have a meal, and we always meet someone nice and have an enjoyable conversation to go with our meal.

This most recent trip was no exception.  We met a couple from Cedar Point who know my friend, Ed, who was born in Cedar Point and has lived there all his life.

After your tickets are collected in the upstairs sanctuary, you are given a plate and an opportunity to pick up your sides, potato salad, cole slaw, and a roll.  In addition to that you have a choice of some lovely homemade desserts.  Then you take a seat at one of the tables and wait for your lobsters to show up.

The event is very well organized.  We only waited a couple of minutes for our lobsters to be handed out by the smiling staff.  It took me about a minute to do the preliminary cracking for my wife's lobster, and then I was off to the races with my own lobster.

Actually I took my time eating my lobster.  I only have one a year now, and I want to make certain that I enjoy it.  This one was perfectly cooked, and the sides were all delicious.  I did stay focused on the lobster.  As I was sucking the last bit out of the tiny legs, I noticed that I had forgotten to even have a drink of my iced tea.

Our timing was near perfect.  When we finally got back outside, folks were lined up waiting for parking places.  We had walked right in and eaten our lobsters.  It was like we had called ahead and placed our orders.  I believe each of our meals was $22.  I don't see enough lobsters these days to be an expert, but I would guess these were around 1.5 pounds each.  It was a good meal well worth the money, and the drive.

It is always a treat to see so many lobsters in one place.

We have a little special history with lobsters. On my first date with my wife back in 1973, I cooked her a lobster meal.  Thirty-seven years later, I am still cracking lobster claws for her.  I pretty sure that she could handle it herself, but helping her with her lobster is good way to bring some memories of that first date.

Assuming Saint Francis holds the event again in 2011, we will be back.

After leaving the church parking lot we drove through Salter Path, and I stopped to take a picture of the tractors and boats in place for the annual mullet blow.

Later after showing a couple of houses, I took some friends for a boat ride to Swansboro Harbor.  It was the best way to visit the Mullet Festival of Saturday.  With some luck we might actually walk the booths late on Sunday afternoon after the crowds have cleared.

Speaking of cleared, the water in the White Oak is stick a little different color from all the rain.  Perhaps we will see some changes soon.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Some reflections on Coastal Life

Last week was a tough week in Eastern North Carolina. Right on the Crystal Coast, we fared much better than some folks. Our patch of ground along the White Oak River came through the torrential rains in good shape.

Swansboro officially reported 21.35 inches of rain last Thursday. The government precipitation maps show us at 20 inches. My own simple weather station recorded 20.25 inches of rain in one 24 hour period.

In spite of that, our area escaped a lot of serious damage. Areas to the north and west of us are having a tough time. The last I heard the New River will not crest until this Thursday.

When weather deals an area a serious blow, and you happen to escape personally, about all you can do is be thankful for your luck. Man will never conquer Mother Nature so we just have to be prepared for what comes.

We have lived on mountains and in the wilderness. I have seen melting snow blow a 24 ft long 36" culvert out of the ground in Canada. I have watched as the normally peaceful Roanoke River has spilled over its banks and closed highways in Roanoke, Virginia. I once even drove in the wake of a tractor trailer along the banks of the mighty St. John River in New Brunswick, Canada.

While I am in awe of the power of water, I am also appreciative of the great beauty and peace that water can bring to us. Our neighborhood was having an end of summer party last Saturday night, and I noticed that we were heading for a beautiful sunset.

It took me less than ten minutes to walk back to my house and have my skiff headed out the Inlet so I could take some pictures. The whole ride probably did not last twenty minutes.

However, the beauty that I saw and photographed might last a lifetime or more. Time on the water can be really special. Perhaps those moments mean even more at a time when we have been reminded of the power of water.

The pictures that I took Saturday evening and the ones I snapped this morning remind me of just how important water is to my state of mind.

In a world which is often so busy that people have little time to appreciate its natural beauty, I am thankful that I live in a place where being on the water is so easy. With water at my backdoor, I feel like I have an escape valve which lets me maintain my sanity.

Sometimes, however, being on the water is just not enough. You have to completely lose yourself in the sounds and noise of the water. I can accomplish that with a beach walk which is easy to find about ten minutes from our home.

Whatever it is that is special about seeing water is something that I cherish. Maybe it is because I am a Pisces or perhaps my mother just spent too much time on the beach. Whatever it is, I cam going to continue to enjoy it as long as I can.

It looks like this week we will be a great one for enjoying the water on the Crystal Coast