LAT: N 36° 17.9'
LON: W 76° 13.1'
60s, mostly sunny, gentle cheek brushing breezes
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520 - With a blink and a stretch we take off into the darkness.
635 - Just entered the Dismal Swamp Canal, one of two canals to take one further south.
710-938 - We tie up outside the Deep Creek Lock to wait for the opening, go through the lock and have coffee with the keeper.
1133 - We have turned the one corner on the otherwise straight portion of the canal.
1252-1336 - At South Mills we go through the lock and chat with the keeper.
1434 - In the more windy part of the canal.
1618 - We are greeted by two of the "Rose Buddies" in Elizabeth City and pull into our free slip.
Arggg me maties, a cup o' dismal swamp every morning keeps me nice and perky.
The Prettiest Most Happy Joyous Place
Muddy Waters- Guest Editor
An early morning wake makes us not so bright eyed and bushy tailed and yet, at 5:20 we set off into the darkness. The dark Norfolk morning is mysterious and bit scary as we motor slowly ahead. We stayed up on the fly bridge for better visibility, so we could see the behemoths creeping towards us or behind us on the still canal. Fortunately, we only met up with two barges on this back street of the city. The lights of the ships meshed with the lights of the rest of the industrial buildings. These glimmers were the best we had to help us guess where we were and to determine what was moving or not moving.
This was going to be a day of first experiences. Leaving Norfolk we had to time things right because there were bridges we had to get under (one a lift bridge, and two draw bridges) before rush hour traffic. We called the bridge keepers on the radio and let them know we were coming. All were very nice and the train bridge even let us slip through after he had begun lowering it. (Good thing it was a slow train!)
The sun was rising as we made our turn into the Dismal Swamp Canal. We had chosen this route over a different way called the Virginia Cut. Both are part of the Intracoastal Waterway. We picked the swamp because besides being the one less traveled, it is also filled with swamp life! We entered the glassiest water we had seen so far and tied up with an hour to spare outside of the first lock we would negotiate during the day.
The keeper, George, let us into the lock early (the opening was at 8:30). A sailboat came in after us and we all chatted while waiting for the water to rise. George invited us into the office (a wonderful little building) for coffee and we introduced ourselves to Bethany and Perry, who were in their sailboat, Tevake, also headed to Elizabeth City.
After making some new friends, we left the lock and ventured into the swamp. Right away, we were enjoying the most intimate-with-nature experience we'd had so far on the trip. As if guiding us down the canal, a Great Blue Heron made its way in front of us. Straight as a road, smooth, and with lots to look at, cruising the canal was truly relaxing, liked we'd dreamed the trip would be. The sun came out and it was even hot as we slowly churned through the coffee colored water. [Coffee Waters? -Ed.]
After crossing into North Carolina, our next lock up date was scheduled for 1:30 in South Mills with lockmaster Tammy. We met up there again with Tevake to get let down about 10 ft in the lock. Cypress trees gathered to watch the Slowly parade as we continued. The straight canal dissolved into a swervy widening river. We enjoyed the afternoon immensely.
As the sun went down we were greeted with our day's last drawbridge and a very friendly operator in Elizabeth City. Speaking of friendly, Elizabeth City has its own group of boating hospitality experts, the "Rose Buddies." There was a very kind older man named Sam who helped us tie up at a free dock and let us know we were welcome to stay as long as we wanted. This was particularly nice to hear because we need to do our laundry and there is weather on the way. Expect more reports on Elizabeth City soon!
What is all this talk of locks and locking up? Smoked Salmon? We wish! Locks are used as the interface between waters of different heights. The lock is a big tub with a giant set of doors at each end. If a boat needs to get to higher water, the water inside the lock is lowered to the low water level, and the doors on that side open up to allow the boats in (this can be as many boats as will fit in the tub-- 15 have fit in the ones we used today). After the boats go in, the door closes behind them, and water is pumped in to fill the tub. After, the doors can open with ease on the other side. It's pretty simple, but so cool. As a boat, all we have to do is hold onto our lines (which are looped around bollards on the sides) and keep them snug as we move up or down.
Animal of the Day
The Beagle. There were two cute Beagles that hung out around the South Mills Lock. They apparently had the mange, but were on the mend. Beagles are scent hounds that can be used for hunting hare. They come in a variety of smallish sizes; the smallest is a pocket sized Beagle (9 inches!) that hunters can easily carry with them. They are very friendly dogs and need companionship, as we know from the most famous Beagle, Snoopy.
Tonight we had some of the best BBQ chicken wings ever. We were at Thumper's Bar in Elizabeth City, and boy do they have a chef. The best part about the wings was that they were actually hot, like tear a little, blow your nose a lot hot. And they had quite a lot of flavor. We also had some fresh-out-of-the-oven sweet potato pie. We were a little surprised to be getting such a superb pastry chef style dessert at the one local bar. We had Yeungling at the bar. On the boat we had some Budweisers and ate some Pastene Angel Hair, Santas Sweet Cherry Tomatoes, Cabot's Seriously Sharp Hunter's Cheddar and fresh basil and thyme.
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