15 November 2006

the Dismal Swamp

November 15, 2006

Hans and KitKat after breakfast

At 8.30 on Wednesday morning we entered into our first lock, the Deep Creek Lock, which Robert, our lock tender, informed us is part of the oldest continuously operating lock system in North America. Deep Creek lock raised us 8 feet into the Great Dismal Swamp Canal. While we were waiting for the lock to fill with water, Robert offered us danishes & fresh coffee which he provides every morning for the first lock opening. Robert is a very friendly, informative man who seems to really enjoy his job. After we passed through the lock, Robert jumped in his truck and drove a quarter mile down the road to the drawbridge which he then opened for us and 5 other boats. He encouraged us to stop at the Great Dismal Swamp Visitor Center to pick up some free literature.
Whisper & crew in Deep Creek Lock (photo courtesy of lock tender, Robert)
everybody leaves their boat name & direction of travel on the walls of the locks
Kristen holding the bow line in the lock while the lock fills with water
Hans in Deep Creek Lock

The first 20 miles of the trip to South Mills was beautiful. Highway 17 runs parallel to the canal on the east side and the Dismal Swamp runs on the west side. The traffic was light so we were able to hear some birds and appreciate the wildlife. Kristen found herself wishing she knew more tree types. Many slaves used the Great Dismal Swamp as an escape route on their way north. Some lived off the land in the Swamp while others just traversed through in order to catch a boat north in Norfolk, VA. It's easy to see how the Great Dismal Swamp could be used as a hiding place as we could barely see more than 10 feet in past the riverbanks because the undergrowth was so thick.

Parade of boats heading south

By the time we got to South Mills Lock, we were old pros at locking with a sailboat. This lock lowered us back down 8 feet. From South Mills it is 18 miles to Elizabeth City, NC where the city offers free docking to transient sailboats. (Elizabeth City also offers free wifi which helps with the blogging.) About 4 miles after South Mills, the canal ended and we entered the Pasquotank River, which, in turn, empties into the Albemarle Sound. The Pasquotank River is very scenic & windy with almost no development. It was a little odd to see sailboat masts winding their way down through the turns.
Wakeboarding in November

Boris, Whisper's 13.5 hp Beta engine, was not only able to keep up with bigger boats, but we passed a couple easily. Just in the past 2 days, people have been asking "what do ya got under your hood?". Way to go Boris!

We arrived in Elizabeth City a little after dark and, with a few tribulations, were able to back into a slip, which we discovered today is the "Clark" Slip (each slip is named and dedicated by local residents, similar to park benches). We went on a short walk to get some beer and found a seafood market which sold us 2 uncooked crabcakes for $5! Dinner was rice, asparagus & crabcakes with beer. Hard to beat!