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Monday, February 28, 2011

Spring weather can throw anything at us

Swansboro fogged in viewed from the White Oak River

Swansboro swallowed by the fog
Sunday morning we got up to a very foggy world.  You could hardly see the White Oak River from our clubhouse in Bluewater Cove.

It took me a while to get going anyway, and the fog certainly did not help things.  As we got ready to go church at Cape Carteret Presbyterian, the fog began to clear
When we left the house, the skies had cleared and our neighbor was washing his truck.  On the way out of the subdivision, we met a couple of other neighbors walking their dogs in the fine weather.  By the time we got out of our of our car after the drive of seven or eight minutes, there was no question that Sunday, February 27,  was turning into a nice day.

After church, people seem to linger in the parking lot just to enjoy the warm temperatures instead of rushing to their cars as has been the case for most of the winter. Even our minister must have wanted to get outside, since his sermon seemed a little shorter than usual.  We were almost home when I looked at the clock and noticed that it was only five minutes after noon.

We had a simple lunch of leftover orange chicken which my wife had made from a recipe in the Eat What You Love Cookbook the previous Friday evening.  After cleaing up the kitchen, we "rested our eyes" for about ten minutes, and I checked on my tiny tomato seedlings growing in my upstairs office, then we loaded some cameras into the car and headed to Beaufort.

I am in the process of revising my popular area travel guides, and I wanted to get some fresh pictures of Beaufort before I started working on the web page.  The thirty-five minute drive to Beaufort was uneventful, but it did take place under a beautiful sunny blue sky.

We parked at one the dockside parking areas, and I started wandering the mostly deserted streets and snapping pictures of some of my favorite Beaufort spots.  My wife gamely tried to guess where I might wander and keep up with me but still stay in the warmth of the sun.

There were a fair number of people in Beaufort this particular Sunday, and some of them were out on the water.  While it was five or six degrees cooler than it was in Bluewater Cove, that is nothing unusual, especially this time of year.

After tiring of snapping pictures, we loaded up and headed home.  As we often do, we made the decision to go back down the beach instead of back on Highway 24 which was the way we came.  Going back down the beach in the afternoon close to sunset can be a real challenge.  It is an interesting enough experience that I even wrote a post, Driving into the sun, about it a couple years ago.

As is our normal practice, we made a stop along the beach to enjoy some ocean air and to snap some additional pictures.  The place we stopped was just inside of the town limits of Emerald Isle and high on a dune. After examining the waves through my telephoto lens, I almost wished that I had my fishing rod with me.  There were a number of seagulls feeding on small fish close to the shore.  Still it was fairly windy and the waves would have made fishing difficult, but it was still nice to be by the ocean on a sunny afternoon.

We pulled back on the road and headed on towards Emerald Isle.  We were enjoying the brand newasphalt pavement when I noticed that the cars coming towards us had turned on their head lights.  It was only another mile or so before we also disappeared into a fog bank which seem to clear only as we crossed the bridge from Emerald Isle to Cape Carteret.  From the bridge we could see that Swansboro was also engulfed in fog.

After the short drive home, we were unloading the car when I noticed a car had pulled into the house for sale just up the street from us.  As I watched them back out of the driveway I made the guess that they were coming in our direction.  Since I am a Realtor® and have my neighbor's waterfront home listed, I decided to amble out to the flyer box in case they stopped to get one.

I wasn't surprised when they stopped, and I did answer a few questions for them.  It turned out they were already working with another real estate agent who is a fishing buddy of mine.  They were curious about boating in Bluewater Cove and on the White Oak. I  suggested a couple of places where they might find homes in their price range.  Their parting question was whether or not there was enough water at that moment to go boating.  That was an easy question to answer since I had already looked at the tide level and decided to take my boat out to try to catch a sunset picture on the river.

We are lucky in Bluewater Cove.  The wind, weather, and tides have to work really hard to conspire to take most of our water away.  It is a rare day when we cannot get out on the river.  It might not be nice out there, but there is usually plenty of water to let us get there.

It only took me about five minutes to get my gear on the boat and the GPS hooked up.  Then I headed out the inlet to the first buoy, Red Sixteen, to try for my sunset picture.  I was not very surprised to see that Swansboro was still in a fog bank.  I was pleased to see that the recent warm temperatures have raised the water temperature to 60F.   I cannot believe how fast the water has warmed.  It was down to 36F in December.

The boat ride back to the dock was short and pleasant.  Sunday night the fog has found us again.   Monday I hear we are in for some high winds and very warm temperatures.  You just never know what Mother Nature is going to throw at you here on the coast. I can take anything but snow.

You can check out a few of my Beaufort pictures that I have managed to get onto the web.  They are not labeled yet, they are still nice.   You can also see our trip to Beaufort and back on a Google map.  It is a multi-page map.  Also if you are interested, you can even view my quick boat trip on another Google map.
Finally if you want to visit the area, here is my newly updated Emerald Isle Travel Guide for 2011.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Grabbing Blue Water When You Can Find It

No one living on the Crystal Coast and in fact most of the US is going to deny this has been a tough winter.  We have seen snow here on the coast.  It is not something that is normal here, but after three shorts visits this year, people know what it looks like.

While we have warmed up from those really cold days that made our December and January average temperatures several degrees below normal, we have enjoyed some relatively warm days in February.

But as the cold weather has departed, we have ended up dealing with rain.  Friday and Saturday of the first week of February ended up as a washout.  We got about 2.25 inches of rain during the two days.  We did get warm temperatures along with the rain.

Sunday dawned with blue skies, and I was determined to get out on the water if possible.  We made our normal trip to church and took advantage of the youth group's "Souper Bowl Sunday" meal which gives you a chance to enjoy some homemade soup for a small donation.

Then we had an open house that we wanted to check out in a waterfront community over on Queen's Creek.  So by the time we were done with that it was the middle of the afternoon.  My wife wanted the fireplace turned on once we got in the house, but I resisted the urge to get in my easy chair and take a nap.

I switched to a sweatshirt and then put on my life preserver suspenders and a windproof jacket.  Then I grabbed the gear that makes for a safe boating experience. That includes a spare life preserver, a throw cushion, my emergency gear, radio phone, and our GPS.  Some of the safety gear stays on the boat even in winter, and I always have my cell phone.

It only took a few minutes to load the skiff, untie the bow line, put in the drain plug, and hook up the GPS.  Then I dropped the boat in the water and headed out Raymond's Gut which cuts through Bluewater Cove and leads to the White Oak River.

Near the clubhouse I managed to spook a great blue heron.  I noticed the water temperature had warmed a lot since my last trip in January.  Mostly the temperatures that I saw Sunday, February 6, were in the fifties.  I idled out the gut until I entered the river where I gave it a little more throttle to maintain better control in the stronger current and winds.

As I turned down river at the Red Sixteen Buoy, I moved the throttle forward and trimmed the boat until it got up on plane.  Then I backed off on the throttle just a little and enjoyed my ride across the bright blue waters of the White Oak River.  It was a pretty smooth ride considering the chop.

It was definitely not a warm summer or fall boat ride.  The air temperature this time of year close to the water is pretty close to the water temperature so I basically rode down the river at 50F traveling at 30 MPH going into a 10 MPH breeze.  I pulled my hood tight around my head, and it was not too bad.  In fact my last trip in January, I had only made it to Jones Island.  This time I made it all the way to Swansboro Harbor which is on the other side of the Highway 24 bridges.

I snapped a few pictures to go with the ones I managed on the way down and headed back up river.  The ride back up was warmer since I did not have the added breeze.  I managed to catch our neighborhood king fisher sitting in a tree on the way back to our dock.  I added his pictures to the collection that I have been working on this winter.

Since I was tracking myself with my Android phone you can see the track at one of my Google maps.  I have linked a few pictures to the map track.  Click on the camera icon, and then click on the text link to see the actual picture.

I can hardly wait until the weather gets warmer and spending more time on the water gets a lot more comfortable.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Early morning blue sky a false hope

Well I can say that I am really glad that the blue sky that I saw early this morning was at least accompanied by warm temperatures.  Had this much moisture shown up two weeks ago, we might still be digging out from our snowstorm.  While the blue sky didn't stay with us, the warmth has.

It pretty much rained all yesterday, but when I walked out on the dock this morning the rain had stopped, and I was impressed with the temperature change.  It was a big improvement from the thirties yesterday morning when it was not only damp on the dock but also cold.  We just barely made it into the low forties yesterday afternoon.

Just before noon today, we had managed to sneak up to slightly over 60F which at least makes all the wind and rain not so bad.

We have just come out of January.  It is typically our month with the least percentage of sunshine (55%).  Even then we don't normally get two back to back days of rainfall.  The good news is that by the end of February, we are usually enjoying 60% sunshine on the way to our peak in April, so hopefully this rainfall will just be a damp memory in a week or two.

I have my tomato seeds on order,  and I am ready for spring and maybe some fishing.  I checked our rainfall gauge when I had lunch, and we are approaching 2.25 inches.  It should take care of any lingering drought here along the coast at least for a while.

There are lot of areas south of us for which this rain is very welcome.  I know a mountain valley up in Virginia which would love  this rain.   I guess we will take what we can get since we will likely need it later in the spring as the growing season starts.  If it stays warm, we could get strawberries in late March or early April, but the earlier cold weather could make them slide to later in April.

The average high for the first five days of this February  this year comes out to 57 degrees.  That is a welcome change from our recent weather.  It is nice to have some relief from the cold and ice breaking adventures.

The average high temperature for the first week of January 2011 was around 48F, but that was better than the second week of January when the average high dropped to 39F.  We have been rebounding since then.

Our normal average high in January is around 55F.  I think January 2011 had an average high of 46F, nine degrees below the normal average.  It is definitely been a cold winter everywhere.

I never would have guessed that the Dallas-Fort Worth area would be fighting five inches of snow the day before the SuperBowl.

We got one more peak at blue sky earlier this afternoon, we have now returned to wind, clouds and mist, but it is still warm.