After finishing up the Albemarle Loop in Elizabeth City we started our route north again. The Pasquotank River took us to the south lock to enter the Dismal Swamp Canal. This journey was 38 miles of scenic waterway that reminded me of our small creeks off the lake I grew up on in Wisconsin, but so much longer. Picture turtles sunning on logs in water smooth as glass and birds flying over their own reflection in an area barely wide enough for two boats to pass. It's a bit too long to travel in one day as the entire length is a no wake zone and several free docks are available.
The Great Dismal Swamp canal is on the edge of the 750 square mile National Wildlife Refuge of the same name. The canal is the oldest continually operating man-made canal in the United States as it was opened in 1805. In 1859 the Albemarle-Chesapeake Canal opened rerouting commercial traffic away from the swamp leaving it for recreational boaters. Hundreds use this route for the annual spring and fall migration of snow birds. Depending on timing there can be so many boat tired up to overnight at the Visitors Center free dock that they raft up several boats wide.
At the north end we rejoined the ICW at the city of Chesapeake. One night in a marina and a couple of Uber rides refilled the larder and we were off to our last stop before entering the Chesapeake Bay.
Mile marker 0, the official beginning of the AICW, is smack dab in the middle of the world's biggest naval base. Naval Station Norfolk was established in 1917 and covers an area of approximately 3,400 acres. The USS Wisconsin is one of the largest and last battleships ever built by the U.S. Navy and sits proudly for the visitors to tour. This is a mighty impressive area to travel through in a little 32 foot boat surrounded by massive battle ships, aircraft carriers and supply ships.
We stopped to enjoy two free nights at the Portsmouth Town Dock. We were fortunate enough to arrive in conjunction with a street art fair and a farmers market. We toured the Portsmouth Lightship, walked the colonial streets and ate at a sidewalk cafe. This was another really charming town! It is obvious why the east coast has so much history, being where everything started, but to a Midwesterner it all seems awe inspiring.
This truly is a trip to remember. We finish this year on the southern Chesapeake at historic Cape Charles. We planned to end our incredible season with the MTOA Northern Rendezvous there but Hurricane Florence had other plans. Several boats had arrived before the event was canceled so we were able to participate in docktails and pot lucks before we all scattered to save harbors. We hauled our boat, secured it for the winter, rented a car and headed back to out motorhome.
Splash, Cruise, Haul, Repeat!
Be sure to look at more pictures in the gallery.
174 days since launch
1719 miles traveled