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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Why We Love Living Here

Carteret County residents are a very satisfied group of people. While other areas are filled with people who had no choice but to move to the area, we are lucky in that almost everyone living here on the Crystal Coast is here by choice. Aside from the military, we have no large organizations who move people to the area. People come to the Southern Outer Banks because they find the area a compelling place to live. Part of that attraction is the water which is so much a part of our lives. What the water brings us is an opportunity to enjoy an active life in gorgeous surroundings. Water is our neighbor, we do not have to get in a car and drive hours to find it. There are very few places along the Southern Outer Banks which are more than a few minutes from the water.

I have written about it before, but it is worth repeating that Careteret County is all about water. Houses are priced based on where the house is in relation to the water Recently a friend and I spent much of the day on our own private Iow-tide island half way between the Point at Emerald Isle and Bear Island.

We fished in peace and quiet for several hours. The closest civilization was a glimpse of house at the Point at Emerald Isle. We had a wonderful time, my partner caught a few fish, and I took some great pictures since the fish were ignoring me.

It was not a sunny day, but I am always amazed had how many different colors can play across the are. Our waters and the sky can be any number of subtle colors. They are rarely the same every day, and they changed several times that day. We even had blue sky and sunshine on the way home.

While fishing I got to watch a couple of Herons looking for something too eat. Other than the Herons and the few fish, we really were not bothered by another boat or person.

It was a truly peaceful and isolated place less than twelve minutes by boat from my house. It was our own world insulated from the challenges of modern life.

As I sat there feeding the fish some fresh shrimp, I wondered about one of my friends who still lives in Northern Virginia. I worked in the same environment for twenty years. Usually for those in these intense jobs, the first week of your vacation is unwinding enough so that you can really enjoy the second week.

When we made the decision to come to the Crystal Coast, one of the main reasons was the wonderful lifestyle that people manage to enjoy here. While I am an avid fisherman, I have friends who golf even more than I fish. If you can do your favorite thing and still manage to get some work done in wonderful surroundings, it truly is a dream come true.

While you cannot get away from stress at work, it is pretty easy to leave it at work in Carteret County.

With little traffic to bother us and a way to enjoy whatever outdoor activity strikes our fancy, This area is pretty hard to beat. From the Beaufort Board Walk to walking the beaches of Emerald Isle, I can guarantee you will not be bored.

I have achieved a couple of my initial goals. You can no longer tell that I ever wore a watch. My tan has taken care of that. Secondly I cannot remember if my sports coat is down here or at our second house.

That works great for me. You cannot wear something that you cannot find.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sometimes the Best Days Are a Suprise

Most of this last week of Septermber 2008, we have listed to weather reports of a storm forming off our coast. First there were reports that the storm had tropical characteristics and might be a really bad nor'easter. While no one seemed to panic, people did keep a watchful eye on the storm. At the middle of the week we even drove over to Bogue Inlet Pier to see if there were any exceptional waves. We did not find any great waves, but I did learn that the Bluefish were showing up regularly at the pier. Finally Wednesday night we heard that the rain would soon be upon us within hours. That night we got some wind and showers but nothing very exciting. Thursday morning I woke up to more showers, but the rain gauge only showed one quarter of an inch of rain.
Thursday initially looked like not such a bad day. The wind was blowing pretty hard, but there was almost no rain for most of the day. I was surprised that Carteret County and many other counties canceled or delayed school on what seemed like a pretty normal but windy day on the coast.

Then about four pm, the skies opened up and buckets of rain descended upon us. By the time I got home a little after five pm my rain gauge was already showing an additional inch of rain. The rain continued to pour down during dinner. Just after dark, I checked the gauge and we had surpassed two inches of rain.

By that time we were nearing high tide and the water was approaching the bottom of my boat which was on our lift. The extra high water had come as a surprise to me. Since the winds had died down, I put the plug in my boat, checked the lines, and decided it could float a little above the lift if necessary.

Once the tide started going down around 10 pm, I came out and pulled the drain plug on boat just in case we had another downpour before morning.

Friday morning was partly cloudy and windy, but the weathermen were promising stellar weather for the weekend. After a week without our standard blue sky I was beginning to need some beach time to catch some rays, so I remained hopeful that the weathermen might be right.

We actually got a shower during Friday night, but when we woke on Saturday morning the sky was the beautiful Carolina blue that we often see at the coast. The weathermen apparently were on target. The storm was gone and had pulled in some great weather.

Before we headed out for the day we talked to friends in Mount Airy, NC and Roanoke, VA. Both areas were cool and rainy while we were approaching 82 degrees Fahrenheit by lunch. Enjoying that summer which extends into the fall is one of the things we do best down here on the coast.

When we finally got to the beach, we were surprised by the number of people who had also come out to enjoy what had become a stellar late September summer day.

After enjoying the beach, we headed back to our subdivision, Bluewater Cove, to enjoy an evening, outdoor birthday party for one of our neighbors. The evening weather could not have been nicer. It was a warm evening under a beautiful canopy of stars.

On Monday I would have never guessed that we would go through all sorts of cloudy, windy, and rainy weather only to get to an amazingly beautiful Saturday.

The nice thing about today is that it put me in the mood for another great day. Fortunately having a beautiful day on the Crystal Coast this time of year happens regularly. In fact Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday look great.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fall Winds, Coastal Breezes, and Weather

One of the many reasons why the Crystal Coast is such a pleasant place to live and visit happens to be our persistent coastal breeze. While there are times that we chave more wind than we would like, much of the time the soft breeze that we have during the day and especially late evening is very welcome here on the coast. It turns out to be great natural cooling that helps us deal with the heat and humidity. Weather becomes a much more important part of life here on the coast than it might be in a city.
We have some absolutely wonderful homes here along North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks. It is certainly easy enough to find a home that shields you from the weather, but because of our coastal location weather ends up being much more important to our lives.

Part of that revolves around people spending more time out of doors when visiting or living along the coast. However, mostly it results from living very close to the natural elements.

People often come searching for homes close to the ocean. It usually does not taking much riding around to figure out that almost all of Carteret County is close to the ocean. Because of that what happens with our waters ends up meaning a lot to most of us.

The winds blowing in a particular direction can great enhance the tides. Sometimes we have an extra dose of water in the sounds because of winds and sometimes we have less than normal because the wind is blowing in another directions.

As we watched Tropical Storm Hannah slide by the area, it was surprising to find that the salt spray from the storm had impacted areas far inland. Because the storm brought us very little rain, we had to wait until the set of rain storms before plants got cleaned off.

We often hike the trails in Croatan National Forest and especially enjoy the Tideland Trails in Cedar Point. Generally we stay away from the Tideland Trails during the summer because of heat and some bugs through the marshes. There are plenty of trees so the Tideland Trails also become a great place to hike in the winter in case the wind is blowing on a cool day.

As this recent storm has been gathering strength, there have been some stiff breezes. Earlier this week when it was in the eighties, we decided to check out the trails to see how many bugs were still left. We had gotten through the first set of trees when I swatted the first bug. We hurried on to the bridges over the marsh where we connected with the stiff breeze and found no bugs. It was a trade-off, in the woods we found a few bugs and on the bridges we found a great breeze and no bugs.

I have often found that in the middle of summer, the one thing that saves me when I am mowing my yard is the consistent breeze that we get from living by the water. While it can get very warm in Carteret County, those winds that we usually have can make life here very pleasant.

Of course there are some days like today when the winds are swirling around at more than 20 miles per hour. When that happens walking on the beach is not much fun and riding around in your boat can be dangerous.

The good news is that weather systems usually do not hang around the coast for long. While today is windy and tomorrow supposedly rainy, next week looks sunny and warm.

When the temperature gets back up to eighty degrees like the forecast calls for next week, those soft breezes will again be very welcome even when I am out on the water.

This past weekend I was kayaking while we had a pretty good breeze. I managed to get an almost free ride out to the river and then the wind changed and I got a very easy paddle back to my house.

I think that might just be a case of living so close to the elements that taking advantage of them becomes second nature.

The more time you spend in Carteret County, the easier it is to understand how the weather can become a positive part of your life especially.when you do not have to worry about snow and ice.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Making the Move Decision

It is interesting how complex the moving decision can be. Thinking about moving can create as much churning in your life as tropical storm Hanna recently did to these waters off of Emerald Isle, NC. Most people worry about the same things. Can we make friends in a new area and will it be the right thing for us? If you throw in schools,jobs, and different preferences for climate, then you can easily see how the decision to move can be as stressful as any in your life. Perhaps the most challenging of all moves is the one that you do not have to make. It is really easy to not move if nothing is pushing you. Yet there are things that can nag you into a move. We often see people who can no longer endure cold, snowy, dark winters. They hope a move to the Carolina coast can bring a new perspective to their life during the winter. The good news is that it usually does.
The winter climate along the North Carolina coast is mild enough that outdoor activity is possible during all months and much of the time in the winter coats are optional and snow is nearly unheard of among local residents. Yet it is cool enough that we do not get bored wit the climate.

The worry about making friends is a little more complex. To make friends, you have to be willing to get out and put yourself in situations where you will meet other people. That is highly possible along the Crystal Coast where we live, but there is nothing magic in the air here that will turn a hermit into a social butterfly.

Our own move is a good example of how to make friends. One of the first things we did was join a local church. We like going to church and have always found it a great way to meet good people. We were lucky that our church, Cape Carteret Presbyterian, has pot luck meals after service once a month except during the summer. It is a great way to get to know some new faces.

We also bought a home in a well designed subdivision, Bluewater Cove, which continues to have community focused events where you can get to know your neighbors. A few hamburgers and beers can make for good fellowship. Last Saturday night, we had an end of summer Lobster Fest with hot dogs and hamburgers for those already filled up with Lobster.

The small towns of the Crystal Coast present a number of opportunities to take part in community events of all sizes. We greatly enjoyed the Lobster Festival being held last weekend, September 13, at the Swansboro's St. Peter's Episcopal Church. We had as much fun meeting people as we did eating lobsters.

As with any move, lots of unanswered questions put you in touch with locals who can help with the situation. We have managed to meet some great folks in getting settled in our new home. Some have become friends.

Before we moved we had also made the decision that we were going to become boaters so we could really enjoy the pristine waters of Bogue Sound. Learning all the ins and outs of boating has introduced us to a new world of people who are very knowledgeable about being safe and having fun on the water. Boaters are also very friendly people.

We made one other important decision before we moved. For most of my professional career, my job has driven my life. In this move we made sure that my life would drive my job.

I really enjoy real estate and want to be successful at helping my clients, but this is not the time in my life to give up everything for my job.

We have continued to take time off so we could maintain our friendships and visit our old hometome of Roanoke, VA. With the technology that is available today, my office is wherever I am. I think it has worked out well. The balance that we have achieved is certainly sustainable.

Still I have managed to make some good friends in the office where I work, and for me that was a change since my most of my professional career was spent in a home office situation where there were no co-workers.

While my wife might have a slightly different scorecard, I can say that the change which came with our move has been very positive. I love living here on the coast.

It is a dream come true being able to hop on my bike and go for a bike ride. That's something that I could not do at our mountaintop home in Roanoke.

Being able to slide my kayak in the water for a quick paddle after work is also a bonus that was unavailable in Roanoke. I had a kayak there for a few years, but I had to put it on top of a car and drive twenty minutes to get a place where I could kayak.

I am also not complaining about having the community swimming pool just across the cul de sac from our home. There's nothing as relaxing as swimming a few laps after a bike ride.

One of the great pluses for me in the move is finally having that boat which I can drop in the water with the push of a button. In a couple of minutes I can be on the river or in less than ten minutes I can be in Swansboro on the Intracoastal Waterway. The ocean is only another ten minutes away.

Having a small skiff like ours just opens up a number of wonderful recreational opportunities. Last week we took a couple of new friends fishing. We actually caught fish and enjoyed the amazing scenery of Bogue Sound for a whole afternoon.

A year ago, I would have been nervous about being responsible for others on the water. Lots of time on the water and plenty of boating with others more experienced than me have given me the confidence and skills that I need to be safe when taking others out. It's now a lot of fun, and I think even my wife is starting to relax and enjoy it.

In the end, any move is a gamble, but I believe the risks are minimal if you do your research up front and go into it with a positive attitude.

If you are convinced that you are already living in paradise on earth, do everyone a favor and stay there. No one enjoys hearing negative comparisons of where they are living with where you decided you did not want to live.

Yet if you are to the point where the change which a move introduces into your life could be positive, do not let a few worries hold you back. You could end up having some wonderful memories like we have from this past Labor Day.

I do not miss the ice and snow of winter. Almost all of our good friends have made the trek to our new home. We have actually been able to spend more quality time with them here than we did at our other home. The new friends that we have made here are ones that will likely stay with us through the rest of our lives.

The bright blue skies of Carteret County are wonderful to wake up to in the winter. The fact that I can go for a hike on the beach or on one of the area's trails without freezing on a winter afternoon is just one more reason why I am happy that we took the risk and made the move to the coast here on the Southern Outer Banks.

If I can just catch that big Red Drum this fall, I will be one very happy resident.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Storm Watching

Tropical storm Hanna was the second storm we have seen from our spot on the Crystal Coast. We were fortunate with Hanna since we got some rain which was needed and gusts of wind which did very little damage. It was interesting to note that parts of Nova Scotia got more rain than Carteret County. Storms are amazingly complex. They are part of living on the coast and can cause serious damage, but they also bring welcome moisture and sometimes flood areas that need to be flooded in order for established vegetation to thrive. We spent a lot of time listening to people who had been through many more storms than us as we prepared for Hanna.
We are lucky these days to have technology which closely monitors tropical storm movements. While they are not perfect, we certainly know well before landfall that we need to be prepared.

The week before Hanna arrived, most of us on the coast paid close attention to the various predictions. It was early in the week when I first heard that Hanna might come ashore at the North Carolina-South Carolina border.

While there were some scenarios presented later in the week that had Hanna coming ashore in Onslow County, it turned out that the predictions from earlier were right on target as Hanna came ashore in the early morning hours of Saturday, September 6.

We had gone to bed well prepared. Earlier in the week, we bought three gallons of water for each of us. We also got some new electric lanterns in case the power went out. Finally we had picked up a few extra canned goods. As it turned out, we did not need any of the supplies, but we will keep them as additions to our permanent hurricane preparedness kit which already included a first aid kit and our important papers.

During the early morning hours of Saturday as Hanna came ashore, both wind and rain became part of the background noise of the nigth, but what we heard from the storm was not nearly as impressive as a couple of thunderstorms that had awakened us during the summer months.

When I woke up Saturday morning, I could smell the coffee brewing so I guessed we had gotten through the storm with almost no effects. After resting my eyes for a few more minutes, I noticed that the power had gone off.

After I got up, I was pleased to find that the coffee was still hot. Soon after enjoying that first hot cup of coffee, I went outside to check for damage and take a few pictures. What I found besides gusty wind was some high water that had reached levels similar to what we had seen in a Nor'easteer last winter.

Our yard had some minor debris from neighboring Pine trees but that seemed to be the extent of the damage. After recording the event in pictures that I could share with my geographically dispersed friends, I headed back inside. I was not surprised to find the power back on considering we have buried power lines in our subdivision and the utility company installed some amazing power poles last winter.

All in all Hanna was a good practice event that let us get our emergency gear together and also let us test procedures.

Should we ever get a serious storm, I think we will be ready.