The Dismal Swamp
11 November 2010 | North Carolina Welcome Center
Jill (Second Hand)
They chose to take the Dismal Swamp Canal. Since Earendil only motors at about 8 mph, taking the route with all the boats going 25 or 30 mph and throwing off wakes reminiscent of the ride at the end of the Chesapeake was not appealing. So putting aside Bud's worries about depth, they took the slow route.
Early in the trip there is a lift bridge. It does not lift from 6:30 until 8:30 AM because of morning car traffic. Getting there before 6:30 meant starting in the dark. Bud didn't want to do that, so they arrived at 8:30. Unfortunately, that meant they arrived at the first lock at 9 AM and its next scheduled opening was 11 AM. The lockmaster told them they could tie off or anchor in the channel. They chose to anchor, and did so without too many problems. Rick did have to get a couple of kinks of chain out of the hawse pipe.
Before they got there, they went under a 65-foot fixed bridge. We measured our mast, twice, at Annapolis because Bud wanted to make sure we would make it under these bridges. We thought our mast was 63 feet from the waterline, but it actually measured less than 60, and when I looked up the brochure I have on the Norseman 447 it listed bridge clearance at 58 ½ feet. But anyone who's taken a sailboat under a bridge anywhere near the height of the mast knows it's a nerve-wracking experience. You have no depth perception looking up the mast and you're sure you will hit. Bud stood and watched the VHF antenna as Rick took the boat under. It never bent. Immediately after the bridge the Dismal Swamp cut off to the right. Bud missed one buoy and Rick had to turn a 360 right in front of the bridge. Gave the commuters a show.
When they finally made the first lock, there were 5 sailboats going through at once. The lockmaster put on a regular show for them. The lockmaster explains all the local attractions and even plays a song on a Conch horn. It took 50 minutes to clear the lock.
The 5 boats went on together. I asked Bud if he touched bottom, but apart from the initial turn into the canal there has been plenty of water. He said there was one snag but the group went around it. The problem turned out to be trees! At one place the Army Corps of Engineers must have been dredging. They had the pipes floating along the edge of the canal and where they were working they took up over half the width. Rick was at the helm and he actually touched one of the floats holding the dredging pipes as he was trying to stay out away from the trees. The branches hit the furled genoa, well below the top of the mast. No damage was done except some greenery on the deck, but Rick was pretty worried.
The 5 boats all ended up tying off for the night at the docks at the North Carolina Welcome Center. The center also serves the highway there. There were also 4 other boats at the center. The dock would accommodate 3 boats, so the boats are rafted 3-deep; Earendil is in the middle of one group. It didn't really matter because there is no power anyway.
Bud hasn't tried to run the air conditioner/heater because it hasn't been that cold. They were warm today, even though the temperature was still only 55 degrees. It was sunny and protected in the canal. The entire crew, including Fuzzy, enjoyed the change from yesterday. So it was a good day even though they only made 28 miles and if they want to get where they'd like to end up tomorrow, they are going to have to skip the free dock (with power) in Elizabeth City, as it's only another 22 miles along.
(Check out the Reedville entry, I added a photo. That may be the only one that gets posted until I get back, as Bud is having a hard time with the technology. Rick Sindoni was not much help. He suggested mailing the camera chip to me.)