Sunday, May 3, 2015

Special Report Leg 2 Dismal Swamp ICW

"Med moored" after the lock master called us back for coffee
Leg 8/Day 2 Dismal Swamp ICW:  We slept GREAT!  There is very little current or wind here so you can't even tell you're on a boat.  This was a short stop.  We're up early to catch the 8:15 am bridge before the lock opens,  for a 20 mile run to the Visitor's Center.  It turns out there is nobody in the queue for the lock, so we have coffee with the trawler crew from Tadhana, and Robert the lock master.  We learned a TON about the swamp and cruising the ICW (we even obtained an extra cruising guide--On the Water Chartguides ICW by Doyle is excellent!).  We finally got underway around 12:30 pm when some boats showed up requesting a bridge opening.  (The Captain later admitted, I need to learn to be more patient.  That was a great experience.)  There's a gentle rain as we motored along, mostly by ourselves.  The First Mate was at the helm, while the Captain sat back and enjoyed the view.
Dismal Swamp tannic acid
The water here is brownish--like coca cola.  It turns out it's tannic acid (the breakdown of decaying trees that results in clean drinking water without bacteria.  It will actually kill any growth on your hull, while staining it brown).  We saw lots of wildlife and the scenery is amazing.  We crossed the North Carolina border (We're here, NASCAR fans!)  We had planned on staying at the Feeder Ditch/Arbuckle's free dock, just before before the Visitor's Center, but while backing to the dock, reverse and neutral goes out on the port engine (Thor!) and we launch forward.  Rafting up at the Visitor's Center it is!  The Captain troubleshoots as I continue to motor ahead, but no dice. As we near the Visitor's Center, there are 4 boats on the dock.  Our fellow boaters show up on deck to take lines and we are quickly rafted up to a friendly Trawler.  They don't teach you that at school! (Zendo will turn out to be our longest neighbors so far--they just retired 3 weeks ago!)  My Captain, Oh Captain has reverse fixed in less than 30 minutes--the clamp that holds the shift cable housing was loose, so the shift cable was stuck.  
Virginia/North Carolina border
6 boats rafted up at a 3-boat dock (Dismal Swamp Visitor's Center)
(Carib Moon, a Leopard catamaran is here.  Look's familiar.  Can't figure it out.) 

Day 2 @ Visitor's Center (free dock):  We're up early to watch 4 of the 6 boats head north for the Deep Creek lock.  (Everyone keeps saying, "Aren't you going the wrong way? {smile}"  A majority of the boats we are encountering are snow birds headed back up north--25% of them to Canada, for the summer.  "We like to be different.")  Blueberry smoothies for breakfast. We checked in at the Visitor's Center and get our "We did the Dismal 2015" sticker, followed by a 5 mile hike (I saw a bear's butt as he ran into the woods.  I swear.  Husband doesn't believe me!)  We headed back for lunch and while down below, 3 more boats show up so we scurried out to help.  A beautiful 1957 wooden ketch (Snow Goose) rafted up with us for 30 minutes, while they waited for the next lock.  Ariel & Diva Di--a PDQ 34 power cat also arrived.  We visited the museum, then successfully ran our wifi booster antenna up the back stay and get free wifi.  (Netflix!)
Dismal Swamp State Park boardwalk--labor of love by the employees

Snow Goose departing for the lock @ Dismal Visitor's Center
Nice SUP!
Day 3 Visitor's Center:  It was the Paddle for the Border this morning.  300 kayakers (including our boat neighbor on a SUP with a rowing set up) left for a 7 mile paddle to the Virginia border.  At 9:45, we got word the bridge would be opening so we scrambled to depart, with our wonderful dock neighbors, again helping us clear the dock.  We motored south another comfortable 20 miles.  North Carolina is BEAUTIFUL!  We love it here.  All short-term plans are exploring this area.

We clear a few more bridges, pass a lot of fishing boats and arrive in Elizabeth City, NC.  We tie up in front of a city park, along a "bulkhead" considered free parking for cruisers.  People strolling the park stop to say hello, including a couple that went to Clayton High School.  We have a good dinner for a reasonable price at Groupers, walk 3 miles round trip to the liquor store (the pirates now have more RUM), buy a new fender and used winch handle, and arrived back at the boat to find the high school kids taking prom pics.  A good day.  Another boat did a slow pass and we popped out to a monohull asking for a few line handlers.  We have a neighbor for the night.

US 17 Bridge @ MM 31.5 (65 ft)
South Mills bridge before lock
Norfolk bridge @ MM 47.5 not what we expected--watch the current
Elizabeth City bridge--smaller opening that originally anticipated (look close)

Stats:  Total time 3:46, 5.4 kts average, 20.2 miles.

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