LAT: N 36° 50.3'
LON: W 76° 17.8'
is still a blast
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Don't Count Your Chickens...
Slowly For Sale
It's hard to say goodbye, but we know she will give a new owner a place to live or cruise, pride and projects!
Click here to see more recent photographs and specs of Slowly.
Failing at the Finish Line
Slowly Limps in After A Lovely Day
Exiting Elizabeth City was smooth. We were pros, we had done this before. The best part was it was Sunday so the Elizabeth City bridge opens on request, not at particular hours, as well as the Gilmerton bridge in Norfolk. Last time we had to wake up very early to make sure we could get through everything in time to make it through the entire swamp. We were pleased that it was cloudy since it had been difficult enjoying the fly-bridge to its full extent when it was bright and sunny. The winding path to the first lock reminded us that this was one of our favorite days, among the most peaceful and interesting.
Before we arrived at the South Mills Lock we found ourselves in a familiar long channel with an unfamiliar obstruction. A pine tree had fallen straight across the dredged waterway. We called the visitors center and they informed us that it had been down for a couple of days and that boats had apparently gotten around it. Hannah got out the lead line and we slowly worked our way into the side of the narrow channel that is notorious for its shallow waters. We had just enough room to sneak around the tree and under the upright trees on the side. We were left with a souvenir pine cone on our decks. The other boat in the swamp that day was right behind us. "Morning Star", also a motor boat, came around the tree and made it fine, though they took a few branches with them, or as they called it, gave their boat a hard scrub down.
Onwards we went until we arrived at the first lock where we waited until the 11:30 opening. We spotted two bald eagles there as well as numerous dragonflies and other interesting insects. Locking up went well and we were quickly lifted up to meet the waters on the Dismal Swamp.
As smooth and quiet as our previous trip we pushed through the muddy waters and investigated the shores with our eyes. This time we found numerous green heron, turtles and dense growth. The canal seemed thinner as the green walls crept inward and over our heads. The journey brought back some of the carefree feelings of cruising that we had been harboring, but not giving into, in the past days. It has been difficult to forget about our obligations and needs, but the swamp shook it out of us and let us just be there, observing, moving forward. We bumped Slowly's bottom a handful of times, as is customary, but she keep us moving straight through to Deep Creek where we caught up with lock master George.
George let us and "Morning Star" in early through the bridge and to the lock. It was nice to see the crape myrtles in bloom and the charming seashell garden in front of the lock master's house as back held on to our lines, dropping back to the regular water level. Soon after we took a turn and beheld the lights of the big city. Well, more like the factories and massive naval ships of Norfolk. The clouds gathered as we pulled up to the Gilmerton bridge to wait for a train to go by.
We noodled around as the sky darkened and finally, after the long train passed we were able to pass through. Tim noticed that the boat felt different. At the wheel he had to adjust his steering to the port, something was amiss with the starboard engine. At first we weren't sure if it was the heavy currents coming into the harbor but Tim went down to take a look in the engine room and found that our starboard shaft had fallen out of the transmission a few inches! We turned the engine off as the sky opened up and we limped under the last bridges and into Norfolk in the rain. We turned into the North basin in Portsmouth where the ferries dock and where we had stayed before. It is a public dock but overnights are not allowed now, which is unfortunate but we figured we had a pretty good excuse as to why we weren't somewhere else.
It was evening when we came in and we spent some time trying to figure out what had happened. The key that holds the shaft into the transmission had fallen out and there was a small pile of ground metal on the floor beneath it. It was too late and too dark to get in the water to check out the prop or to find a place and get hauled out. So we decided to make the most of our location and took off toward the Bier Garden which helped us wind down the day. Pirates of the Caribbean 2 was playing at the Commodore across the street and we figured we would make that another night since it looked like we might be staying in the area for awhile.
The shaft is the part of the boat that connects the engine transmission to the propeller. In our case, it is about a 20' long and 1.5" diameter stainless steel rod. It's wicked heavy and, as it turns out, a rather expensive hunk of metal. A shaft must be custom lathed to fit the propeller and transmission coupling in the boat. At each end, it is notched out to fit a "key," which is a small block of metal that sits in such a way to keep the shaft turning in sync with the parts it connects. In our case, the key fell out from where the shaft meets the transmission coupling, which allowed the coupling to turn and grind away at the end of the shaft. This explains the metal filings that appeared under the scene of the crime. Once the shaft was chewed up adequately, the shaft was spit out when the transmission was shifted into reverse, the propeller simply pulling the shaft free from the engine. Luckily, the paint on our shaft prevented it from skipping out more than a few inches. In some cases, a shaft can drop completely out of the boat, not only leaving the boat without a means of transport, but also a large hole that was once plugged with a shaft. There is much to rejoice that this was not our fate.
Animal of the Day
Our national bird, the Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, has an 80" wingspan and was declared the national emblem in 1782. It is hard to miss, especially when flying over our heads in the Dismal Swamp. It is always exciting to see one, more so in the east where they are more rare than in the northwest and Alaska. They feed mostly on fish. Until 1995, the bald eagle had been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 43 of the lower 48 states.
Needing a quick dose of satisfaction, we depended on our good fortune from our last visit here. The Bier Garden provided that with some Knackwurst, spaetzle, green beans a red cabbage coleslaw. We also had some delicious double-bock beer, though we can't remember the name!
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