Saturday, 2 November 2013

Dismal Swamp

We have just had a beautiful trip down the Dismal Swamp. The oldest canal system in the US, hand dug by slave labour in the late 1700's, connecting Albermarle Sound and Norfolk/Portsmouth. It was like its own world and we found it very magical.

quite the ride up!

Not everyone is able or wants to take this route while heading south. It is not a deep canal, we followed a boat down with a 6 foot draft and witnessed him "bump" ground many times. Actually, 14 in total is what he told us when we stopped for the night at the visitors centre about half way to Elizabeth City. Some find it boring or mundane as the upper part of the canal is extremely straight with tree after tree. Anyway, not for everyone, but we thought it was the best couple of days on the water yet.

We stopped for the night at the visitor centre about 20 miles down. Service to both canal transistors as well as the freeway. Lovely, friendly staff in the visitor centre. Washroom facilities and park like setting.

After all the boats transiting were tied up together, Al and I pulled our bikes off and went for a tour into the woods and down the canal.  Later on we had drinks and visited with many of the other 9 vessels that were rafted with us.

leaving the visitor centre in the morning

lower Dismal Swamp

We are having so much fun meeting fellow boaters. Jim, Barbara and Harris who were out for a weeks vacation from Williamsburg. Al and I were talking earlier about whether "local" used this waterway other than snowbirds. So there was our answer. They were doing the loop in Jim's 39' Bristol, Manitou, down the dismal swamp then back up the Virginia cut on the other side and back home. Very adventurous for late October, they were clearly having a fabulous time.

free town dock in Elizabeth City - So, interesting story...the boat to Haven's starboard side is "Harmonium". Turns out that their home port is Ashbridges Yacht Club out of Toronto. We had actually seen this boat and talked to the owners last year while visiting Paul, Joanne and Chloe on our summer holidays. Small world eh!  Great people and we hope to meet up with them again on our journey.  

We had a blast visiting with lots of folks in Elizabeth City at the free dock. The locals through a little wine and cheese meet and greet at the docks called the Rose Buddies, a tradition that has been going on for over 30 years. We visited with the crew aboard Manitou and Phil and Krista from Harmonium. After the bourbon tasting we all walked over and had a fabulous meal across the street.

Barbara and I with our roses (and free fly swatters!)

dinner with some new friends

Gus, the unofficial dock master. Here he is helping me fill up with water.
The camaraderie in the sailing community has been so incredible. You never feel like you're out here all alone, always meeting new sailors or bumping into those you have met from somewhere along your travels. Sharing stories, cocktails and a laugh. I didn't think Al and I had it in us to be so social. I guess it's easier when there is such a common bond. I had my first "emergency" doggy question and I was glad to be of help.

Impromptu social, it started with Al sitting in the sun on the yellow chair. Lots of fun.

Our time in Elizabeth City was great spent 2 nights. The locals are amazing and really go out of their way for the boating community, they are so happy to have us stop in their community. They recently received a grant to build washroom/shower facility dock side and have already begun construction. Should be up and running for next season. It was a shame to see how much the town is struggling. So many businesses in the downtown area are closed up and real estate sitting empty. Hopefully times will change soon for them.
There is a beautiful museum a short walk away. Highlighting the history of the area, a civil war exhibit as well as a really neat exhibit on the making and history of Gone with the Wind. Lots of fun.
I scrubbed the bottom of our dingy and Al managed to check something else off his list (New nav light)

outside the Museum
Leaving Elizabeth City, Anne took this photo aboard Sea Angel

We travelled 71 SM down Albemarle Sound into the Alligator-Pungo Canal. We hadn't planned on going so far but we were having a great day on the water and the plan A for anchoring wasn't very pretty. We anchored for the night just before sundown then up early heading off towards Oriental, about a 45 mile run.
Swing bridge entering the Alligator River
Alligator-Pungo Canal

At anchor in the Pungo River
Ducking out of some very snotty weather, we are now at dock about 5 miles from Oriental NC. A place called River Dunes, the nicest marina we have stayed in by far! Amazing setting, and facilities with a beautiful club house and fabulous folks looking after it all.  A community living development with spectacular vision.  The restaurant is usually closed during the week but because the docks were so full they threw a impromptu party with live music and a buffet dinner for $15/person. Great night!  There is a courtesy car that we took advantage of the following day, sharing it with  3 other boaters as it booked up quickly. Did a little touring of the VERY small Oriental, some grocery shopping and had our propane tanks topped up. Shrimp boats have their fleet tied up to the docks downtown and we were able to purchase some fresh shrimp for dinner last night. Incredible, taste like we were back home on the west coast eating the prawns we had just pulled from our traps. 
The boat cabin is clean again and the V Berth re organised.

Entrance into River Dunes
River Dunes club house
Boaters meet and greet

View from across the bay while on our bike ride
The weather has switched around this morning and the winds have eased so we are heading out again soon.
Bye for now.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic pictures. We went on Google Earth and tried to follow you but we couldn't figure out how you got through the Dismal Swamp. Tim is in the living room seeing if he can pin point you while I read to him where you are. Oriental NC is what he is looking at now. Thanks for calling and can't wait to Skype again. Take care of each other. Love, Mom