I am sure this is not how all ocean views are in the north. First off, I WAS in a harbor. Second, it is a fishing town. Third, There were way to many boats in such a small area and may have accounted for the gray look due to shadows and such.
My point being, I don't really have a clue if this will help anyone going into those waters. But I am sure that there are some very nice ocean beaches in the north, so it may help after all. But growing up and living in a state where the ocean is not present, and I was surrounded by fresh water, my first experience (as well as my second, third and sixth) swimming in the ocean was quite different from those of fresh water. The ocean in The Gulf of Mexico was VERY different from that in Salem. It is blue and clean and straight out of a movie. It is beautiful and inviting. And it looks like this:
1) Shave the day before. The ocean is made out of salt water. This means that if you are going to go into the water after shaving you will feel a dozen fish nipping at your skin. (If you have ever swam in the waters in MI this is a familliar feeling since the fish are apparently very hungry for human flesh.) Once you scoot back and get out of the water you will realize that the nipping fish feeling has come with you. The reason is this... there are no fish. The saltwater is attacking your freshly shaved skin. It may take you a few seconds of looking down at yourself for your brain to make the connection, but it will get there. After coming out of the water this feeling will go away after about a minute, but will come back as soon as you go back into the water. Avoid it by shaving the night before and giving your skin time to heal a bit.
2) Don't swim with open cuts. Remember how I said that thing about the ocean being made of salt water? Yeah. If you do this, this feeling will NOT go away like it does in #1. It will dull down, but immediately upon entering the water, it will feel like the area with the cut (or scrape or whatever) was set on FIRE!!! Even if you get out of the water, it doesn't go away. You will need to flush this area with fresh water, but even that won't take it completely away. Why? Apparently the salt in the ocean is made out of glue and sticks to the parts of you that hurt the most. The ocean is evil and likes to see you in pain. That's why it so pretty, so it can lure you in. However, I'm pretty sure the water will burn away any infection, so there is a plus side. Right?
3) Keep your mouth shut! I don't mean be quiet, I mean, literally, keep you fucking mouth shut! The last thing you want to do is swallow a mouth full of that seaweed laced water. Just trust me on this one. Although the waves aren't very big, they are very strong. If you get hit with one (which you will) it's sort of like being in the mosh pit at a death metal concert. Depending on how big you are (or in my case, small) it may just knock you on your ass. When that happens the water will explode around you and if your mouth is open it will go down your throat. If you have ever had a sore throat and had to gargle salt water...times that taste by 100 and you might begin to get an idea of what it's like to taste the ocean. Maybe.
4) Plug your nose. You don't have to do this constantly, but when you see one of those waves baring down on you, plug your nose. The only thing worse than swallowing ocean water is inhaling it. It will, however, clear out your sinuses. Forever. Unfortunately, it will burn like you just shoved the sun up your nose and lodged it into your brain. And no amount of blowing will make it stop. If you are real adventurous, you can do like I did and snort some fresh (bottled) water and this will at least make the tears stop. Maybe.
5) There is nothing you can do about the sand. No matter how hard you try the sand will get EVERYWHERE. Even fresh water beaches have this problem. Remember how I said the sand was made out of glue? Yeah. Even if you dry off and wipe the sand off or go in one of those shower things and rinse off the sand will find you. Oh, did I mention that not only is it made of glue, but sand is also derived of ninjas? The shit is stealthy as all hell! You will see no sand anywhere on you, but lo and behold, when you pull up in your driveway and look down at your floorboards of your car they will be coated in sand. For weeks after you will be vacuuming sand out of your living room carpet, sweeping it from your kitchen, brushing it out of your bed and watching it fall from your hair. And all after not seeing a grain of it anywhere on yourself.
6) Use sunscreen. I cannot stress this enough. Even if the sun is behind some clouds you will still burn. And I suggest you get some of that waterproof kind. And reapply. reapply, reapply. The sun down here is not the same as in the north. The sun in the north is a weak, pantywaste of a star. Here it is only about 1 mile above the surface of the earth and will fry you in a matter of minutes. If you find yourself smelling like a side of bacon, it's time to reapply. Or go inside. One of those.
7) Don't freak out. If you sit down to go to the bathroom, don't freak when you wipe and it comes away as a slimy green substance. This will happen. Much like the sand, the water is full of seaweed that you can't always see. And also like the sand, this stuff gets everywhere. Up in all the cracks, in your hair, even in your ears. When you get home, take a shower. Don't freak when you see a lot of green booger-like stuff running down the drain. I can only conclude that seaweed is invisible while on the body and once it attaches itself it multiplies at an exponential rate.
I'm sure there are other tips I could give you, but, for now, these are the most important ones and I wanted to share them so you won;t make the same mistakes I did. And still do. That's right, I have made all of these mistakes. I have shaved before going to the beach and flipped out when I thought something was eating my legs. I jumped into the water and then jumped out when I thought my toe (that I had cut a week before) was going to fall off. I got knocked on my ass and carried half-way down the beach by a wave I wasn't expecting to be so strong and swallowed about a gallon of saltwater. I had the runs for the rest of the week. I inhaled the water up my nose and then had to snort a whole bottle of water just to get a tiny bit of relief. To this day I have sand in my car from my first visit. That was 3 years ago. I can't get rid of it no matter how often I vacuum my car. It always LOOKS like it goes away, but then it comes back. I wore sunscreen, but forgot to reapply. Needless to say, air hurt my skin. We won't talk about how my clothes felt. And if you have ever been a girl you can appreciate wiping and seeing a green jelly come out of an area that should never produce anything green.
Hopefully you will all find this helpful and not make the same mistakes I did. Cause that's what I'm here for. To help through sharing my experiences. No matter how humiliating.