Friday, December 4, 2009

In the Swamp

Its early Friday morning, and I have just a bit of catching up to do. I am now back in Elizabeth City NC, where I was moored 8 months ago at the Pelican Marina, prior to heading up to Maryland. I lived aboard at the Pelican for about 5 months, it is a great little marina, in a pretty nice southern town, that is hailed as "The Harbor of Hospitality." I will spend a few days here with friends, and then head on further south. Just a note: the colored text highlighting some of the words are links to sites about that particular business or place. Some of the links are extremely interesting, giving insight on the history or purpose of places, such as the Dismal Swamp Canal.

So to catch up on the past few days:
Tuesday morning came much too early. After getting into Ft Monroe at 3am, I woke around 730 or so. Breakfast was hot tea and peanut butter sandwiches, and it looked like it was going to be a really nice day when I peeked out of the hatch. I made a ton of phone calls, letting everyone know I was ok, and then I weighed anchor around 9, and began to motor over to Portsmouth, where I would anchor in the little cove off of Hospital Point.

I made the anchorage around noon, and then bailed out the dinghy. It must have had 30 gallons of water in it, it seemed like it took forever to bail out. Once that was done, the first item on the agenda was to get Spook to land, where she could do her business, having gone about 48 hrs or so without making a mess, and the next thing was to get some fuel and some items I had forgotten to get before setting out.

Beth came and picked me up at the Tidewater Yacthing Center dock, and ran me around on errands. We went out to the farm to feed her horses, and then it was out again on Wednesday, I got an eye exam, some new contacts, new gloves (which I found out later were only water resistant, not water proof) and a trip to Jeannie's Used Books. I got some training pads, a new brush and an extra bag of food for Spook at Petsmart. Hopefully I can train Spook to do her thing out on the foredeck, so far she has yet to do so on the boat. The idea is to have a piece of indoor/outdoor carpet up there that has a line attached to it, once she uses it, I can heave it all overboard, and drag it for a mile or so and let the ocean do the clean up for me.

I motored up the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River on Wednesday around noon, past all the shipyards, the old neighborhood, and what is left of the Jordan Bridge. The Jordan Bridge was a lift type drawbridge linking Portsmouth and South Norfolk, which is actually in the city of Chesapeake. It was the oldest drawbridge in Virginia, having been commissioned in 1928. Now its lift span is gone, and it does make the trip up river a bit different.

I made it through the scheduled lift of the Gilmerton Bridge not long after, and then it was up a small leg of the Elizabeth River to the Deep Creek Locks, the start of the Dismal Swamp Canal.

I was passed by a Mainship Trawler on my way down the Elizabeth River, and I radioed him to see if he was going south via the Dismal Swamp Canal. If your destination is Elizabeth city, it is by far the shorter of two routes, but many sailors are fearful of transiting this really nice scenic passage. He had heard there were snags and blow downs in the canal, and was going via the Albemarle and Chesapeake canal.
When I got to the Deep Creek Locks, I was let in almost immediately, and as I tied up, the lock master recognized me from my trip north a few months ago. Robert, the lockmaster, and I talked for a good bit while the lock filled, I learned that it is the lockmasters duty to not only operate the lock, and the bridge at Deep Creek, but also to maintain the proper water level in the canal as well. He explained that the water level varied by only about 6 inches throughout the year, and this was controlled by a spillway at either end of the canal. I motored out of the lock, and then through the Deep Creek bridge, where I turned Arden around and tied up at La Familia restaurant. I had tied up here before on the way north, but for years I had passed this spot, thinking to myself "one day I will be on a boat tied up there, heading south to warmer waters", and lo and behold, here I am, tied up, on my trip south. I had dinner there with Beth, Steve and Scotty Ray, and then it was time to unload all the stuff I had gotten while in town, and time for bed. Yes, more stuff to be stored on board the boat, where in the world am I going to put it all?

Thursday morning came early, a nice warm day, not nearly as windy as forecast, maybe it was but down in the canal it was not bad at all. I started out at around 0645, destination Elizabeth City via South Mills.

Motoring along the trip was beautiful. I only passed one other boat, and that was a work boat from the Army Corps of Engineers, which operate the canal. He was out checking for logs and downed trees, and I let him know I had passed a few floating logs a mile or so back. As long as you are fairly alert and stay pretty centered in the canal, there aren't many dangers to worry about in the canal.

I passed by the visitors center at the NC rest area, and motored on in to the South Mills area. The bridge lifted not long after I got there, and then it was into the South Mills Lock which lowers you into the Pasquotank River. The normal operating time for the lock is 1130, but as I was the only boat there, north or south bound, the lockmaster let me into the lock and began to lower me right around 11. He said they normally get about 30 boats through a month, The day prior there were 4 boats south bound, but today I was the only one.

I continued to motor south, through the meandering Pasquotank River, this section of the river curves back and forth and around, it is just over 9 miles to Elizabeth City as the crow flies, but just about 17 miles on the water. Quite a relaxing trip, the river is extremely peaceful, and I was just kind of laying back, making great time heading in to town.

Just about 1430 I had the Camden Causeway bridge in sight, and the bridgemaster opened the span as I came through - I didn't even have to slow down. I called the Pelican, and anchored off the marina just about 1500. A quick motor over to the dinghy dock, and I was back among friends, the crowd in the marina office had changed little in the months I was gone, and I was greeted by "look whos back" and "where did you get off to". I wasn't fast enough on getting Spook outside for her walk, and I was totally embarrassed when Mike Taylor, A live aboard and one of the guys that works at the Pelican said "hey, I think your dog is doing her thing on the floor" as Spook christened the floor of the store shortly after we got in.

No comments: