Sunday, October 27, 2013

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday- October 24th-26th

The Dismal Swamp Canal

Thursday, October 24th

This morning is the day that most of the sailors that we met in Hampton Public Docks have planned to head out for the Dismal Swamp Canal.  It is cool outside but the sun is shining like a summer day!  Two of our friends were leaving while we were rolling up power cords and part of our enclosure. We were finally ready at 9:30 am to venture across the Hampton Inlet to the Elizabeth River and then on to the start of the ICW.

Before we left, I ran into Diana Doyle and got some tips concerning great places to stop along our way.  Diana and her husband have published new Waterway Guides. The guide and anchorage books look very interesting and easy to follow.  She seems to be very knowledgeable  about the ICW. 

Once we got out off the Hampton River, the winds were honking out of the NW and we zipped across the Hampton Inlet in no time to the Elizabeth River.  Luckily we didn't have to skirt around any freighters, aircraft carriers or submarines!!  What a sight entering the river.  The Norfolk Naval Base and Naval Air Station is off our port side. 

Huge aircraft carriers and warships were docked all along that spit of land.  Then a broadcast on our VHF radio announced that a submarine was coming down the river and that all boats were to stay 500 yards away.  This sub wasn't submersed as much as the one we saw two days ago.  In fact, navy men were standing on the submarine and some were armed.   Awesome.....we were really close......

Continuing up the river, we passed a large anchorage to starboard at Hospital Point.  This is on the Portsmouth side of the river while a short dinghy or ferry ride across the river takes you to Norfolk.  We continued on our course to the first of two railroad bridges.  Both of these bridges are usually in an up position.....well the Belt Line RR was until we got close and then it came down for a train!  After hovering for about 20 minutes, up the bridge went and we motored to the next, the Norfolk Western RR.  Chuck and I both held our breaths until we motored through thinking this bridge would drop down too.  We are on a mission to get to the Gilmerton Lift Bridge for the 1pm lift.  Anytime there is an unexpected delay, it throws us out of sync for the next bridge and possibly the Deep Creek Lock! 

Soon we rounded a bend and there was the Gilmerton Bascule Bridge.  Hey we made it in time for the 1pm lift.  When I called the bridge tender to inform him we were waiting for the bridge, he informed me that it would open at they are working along the side of this bridge and were only raising the bridge on the hour and not the half hour!  There were six boats that had to wait 40 minutes...hovering.....circling.....moving to the shore to let a barge through....all trying to stay away from each other and the shallows!!  Finally, the tender announced the opening of the bridge....Yeah!
Off we motored, one by one, just to go under a 65' fixed bridge. 

Right after the bridge is the junction(7.3 miles on the ICW)where boaters decide to take a turn to starboard and enter the Dismal Swamp Canal or continue straight and take the Virginia Cut.....we turned to starboard.

Cool, we are now in the Dismal Swamp! Which by the way is not dismal at
all!!Before we knew it the next 3.2 miles was covered very quickly and we were in front of the Deep Creek Lock.  We had an hour to wait since the two locks on the canal only operate at 8:30, 11:00, 1:30, and 3:30.   There were 3 of us waiting in anchored in Stormy Petrek, sv Brilliant,and sv Happy Hours II.  Around 3:20, Robert the lock tender, radioed that he would be opening the lock but not to haul up our anchors yet because he needed time to clean debris from in the lock.  Soon he called us in.....the lock was a so easy after doing the 35 locks on the Erie Canal.  It took about 20 minutes to lock through.  Robert was very talkative and gave us a history lesson on the canal.  Once through Stormy Petrel and us decided to stay at the free Elizabeth Dock immediately exiting the lock on our starboard side. 

It is an easy walk from this dock into a Food Lion and fast food restaurants at Deep Creek, Va which must be very close to Chesapeake, Va.  We walked it with Ron and Kathy from Stormy Petrel.  The four of us knew that we wouldn't have to get up too early in the morning because we had a lift bridge within sight and it works in conjunction with the lock. 

Friday, October 25th

Boy was it cold last night.  I finally broke out the down comforter!  We were nice and toasty all night and when it started to get light out, neither of us wanted to budge.  8:15 rolled around and we knew we needed to get up and be ready for the opening of the bridge.  Ron and Chuck discussed two options:  leaving the dock before the lock opened and hovering in front of the bridge to be first, or waiting until the 6 boats that were locking through motored passed us and then getting in line.....we decided to be last! ( The lock tender has to jumped in his vehicle and make 5 left turns in heavy traffic to get to the bridge that he also tends.)

It's a cold morning but gorgeous in the Dismal Swamp.  The leaves haven't started turning yet, but some are falling in the water.  The duck weed that was so bad the previous week is minimal now. The weed was so bad last week.....clogging boats' strainers.....that some boats quit running and their strainers had to be cleaned or boats had to be towed. 

The parade of 8 boats continued down the canal and crossed into  North Carolina.  Along the way,  we bumped submersed objects twice...not hard....and got good at dodging dead heads and other floating logs.  Near the Visitor Center, Chuck went to port to miss a log and instead hit tree branches with our mast.  It sounded like someone threw a brick at us from highway 17 which runs a good bit along the canal.  Leaves, branches, and pine cones rained on our deck!! Later that afternoon, Chuck discovered that our new anchor light that he just installed in the Solomon's also was knocked off the top of our mast!  Can you believe it?  Well it could be could have landed in the canal or got broken!!!!  What luck!!

At noon, we could see the Dismal Swamp Visitor Center up ahead where we were planning on spending the rest of the day and night.  The bulkhead had 3 boats already tied up to of the boats was Eleanor Q who we met in the Hamptons.  Stormy Petrel rafted off of her and we rafted off of Stormy Petrel.  By evening, we had 12 boats rafted.

The afternoon was spent with Ron and Kathy from the Stormy Petrel.  We
checked out the visitor center and then walked over the foot bridge to the other side of the canal.  They have a very nice Interpretive Center, a canal road to walk, trails, and a wooden walkway....very worthwhile seeing. 

Canal Boat

Cypress Shingles made and transported on canal

We had to be back by 5:00 because Frank and MaryMarie on the Gozzard invited us to their boat for potluck.  Before we made it to dinner, another sailboat came cruising down the canal and rafted off of us.  So, Denise and Dick from Willoway  also joined us for potluck.  What a fun night of good food and good friends!......We just heard that frost was expected tonight!!
Growing to 12
12 boats rafted

Saturday, October 26

 The 4 boats on our raft decided it was going to be way too cold to leave early and make the 8:30  South Mill Bridge and Lock! We were hoping that the other 8 boats would be energetic enough to move on out of our way.  As it turned out the middle 4 boats left and the remainder of us waited until 9:30. When everyone got up and started moving, we discovered a thin layer of ice on our decks.  How could this be?  We're in the south!  I guess not far enough lets get moving.

The 7 sailboats headed out one after the other.  We were 3rd in line.  The only trawler for some odd reason headed north up the canal.  We all paced our speed so when we got to the bridge, we wouldn't have to wait long.  However,  the first 3 boats were tied off near the lift bridge and the tender radioed on channel 13 that he would not lift the bridge until the remainder of the boats moved up tight to us.  They must not have had their ears on! Finally they moved up, the bridge went up, and then we motored very slowly toward the lock waiting for the tender to close the bridge and drive to the lock.  All went well and we soon entered the lock. 
between bridge & lock
South Mills Lock


When we motored out of the South Mills Lock, we are now in the Pasquotank River on our way to Elizabeth City, NC.  It is so pretty on this part of the river.  We haven't seem any birds but the turtles are out everywhere sunning themselves on logs.  I still feel as though we are in the swamps but it's quite a bit wider on the river.  Ever since we came out of the locks, we have been in 2nd position.  The sv Wind Rose disappears around each bend in front of us and the other boats have fallen a distance behind us so it feels that we are the only boat on the Pasquotank! 

We decided to take a trip into Lamb's Marina which is just north of Elizabeth City.  We need to fuel up and they are the only place that we can find that has diesel fuel.   We want a full tank in preparation for our trip across the Albemarle Sound in a day or two.  The channel entrance was marked well but very narrow. When we got all the way down the fairway to the pumps, the owner drove a truck with a tank over to where we were and pumped the fuel from the truck!  I hope it's clean fuel.   These southerners are so slow........By the time we got our fill, paid for the fuel, and got backout into the river, all the sailboats following us made it to the free docks at Elizabeth City. 

RR bridge before Elizabeth City
Rt 158 Draw Bridge

They all were wondering what happened to us! Luck for us, there were still about 3 docks left and it was quite interesting pulling in between the pilings!  We almost knocked our grill off the rail of the boat. That's how tight we fit!!   Very interesting trying to get off and on the boat. 

Now that we're here, it's time to explore. We walked with Ron and Kathy (Stormy Petrel) over to the Museum. After the museum we went on the Historic Walking Tour to see the old homes along the way.  We had to be back to the docks because everyone was meeting on the deck under the tent for our own wine and cheese tasting get-together.  It's been a tradition in this city for the 'rose buddies' to bring cheese and wine and a rose for each 'second mate' as a welcome to the city.  However, we found out that they don't offer this hospitality on the weekends. 

1 comment:

  1. If you like oysters, C & H Oyster bar in Elizabeth City is great! Oysters are fresh and shucked in front of you. No reservations. First come first serve.