Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Dismal Swamp

As you can see from the postings, we have been out of wireless connections for the past 3 days. I hope this is not going to be the way the whole trip goes! But we're here in Newport News at my brother's house right now, doing wash, having a delicious lunch (thanks Nancy!), and letting me post our last three days' blogs. Now, I will finish catching up from yesterday to today.

Friday, May 16th, we left Elizabeth City early in the morning and waved "goodbye" to Joe--our favorite bridge tender--who was on duty. We traveled the Pasquatank River 20 miles up to our first-ever lock--the South Mills Lock. There we secured the Bella Luna to the side of the lock, wrote the name of the boat & the date & the direction we're traveling on the wall, and proceeded to rise 8 feet. I was nervous, but our transit was a piece of cake! Then we were in The Dismal Swamp.

The Dismal Swamp is a canal, approximately 20 miles long, built by slaves in the late 1700's. It takes you from North Carolina into Virginia and Highway #17 parallels it almost the whole way. The water is a dark coffee brown color preserved by the tannic acids from the bark of the trees growing in the water--and it is very narrow. We saw several turtles sunning on logs, beautiful banks with trees overhanging the water, and the smell of fresh blooming honeysuckle was just delicious! I'm told we were experiencing the canal at its' best.

However, we were told at that first lock that all boat traffic on the canal was halted at the Visitor's Center because a car had run off the road and into the canal and a boat had struck the submerged car. What a mess! So, all 9 of us boats rafted up at the Welcome Center for a couple of hours, and just waited it out. Fortunately, no one was injured, and repairs to the damaged boat should only take a few days.

At the end of the canal, we had to lock through again. This time, we would go down 8 feet at the Great Bridge Lock. Robert, the lock master, is quite the host. If you get there for the first lock of the day, he brings coffee and danish out to the boats. And then for the rest of us later on in the day, he gives his conch horn a good blow, tells us to hold tight to our lines because we are going down! What a hoot! He has quite a collection of conch shells from all over the world--boaters bring him one when they can--evidently he's quite famous! We'll know next time.

After the second lock, we traveled 20 miles up the Elizabeth River to Portsmouth, Virginia. Again, we got to the marina later than we had anticipated (because of the car/boat mishap), and were tired to say the least. But brother Jay was there with outstretched arms to catch our lines and help us tie up. We're in a pretty marina now --Tidewater Yacht Marina--for three nights, where we plan to rest, catch up on laundry, clean the boat, and visit with family. We have lots of pictures, but we've left the camera on the boat--so, we'll add them later.

We've met other "Loopers" at every stop, and boy, are they all great people! We're sharing and gathering good information. And "Buddy" the dog is doing great on the boat, but he really does enjoy his off boat times. He's also making friends. So for now, all's well. We plan to pull out Monday morning and head towards Deltaville. Fair winds, please blow!

1 comment:

Jay Stockard said...

Y'all are always welcome at our house, and it was really special to have you "boat-in" for the weekend. It was our pleasure to have you over for the day, and glad you could use the time to catch up on laundry and blogging! We look forward to following your progress throughout your FANTASTIC voyage, and only wish the Bella Luna was big enough for us to stow away and join you! Fair Winds and Following Seas to both of you (and Buddy too!) Love ya!

"Brother" Jay