Monday, June 27, 2016

The Dismal Swamp Deserves a Nicer Name!

From the Ablemarle Sound, we made our way into Elizabeth City, NC which calls itself  the Harbor of Hospitality and it holds true to its name.  Since we were very fatigued after all the longer days of cruising and dealing with wind and waves in the Sound over night, we decided to stay in Elizabeth City for Thursday and Friday nights.  And as luck would have it, on Friday, 3 looper boats came to join us so we had a fun time making new friends.

This harbor town offers free docks along its attractive water front and a great free museum documenting the history of the Ablemarle Sound and the Dismal Swamp.  Good ol' George Washington and others, had the brainy idea of buying part of the swamp land and draining it for harvesting lumber.  Well, that didn't work so easily as there is still a lovely swamp.  But later in history toward the end of the 18th century, a canal was dug with shovels and slave labor to connect the Ablemarle Sound with the Chesapeake Bay bringing a lucrative trade route to Elizabeth City.  We chose to use the canal as our way up to the Chesapeake, leaving Saturday morning and taking 2 days to complete the 50 miles to Norfolk, VA.
We spied this chair nailed to the tree and wondered if it was a hunting or fishing spot at high tide, except this area has no tidal changes and the water level only changes small amounts with rain.

We had an overcast day keeping us cool and breezy and even with no sun, the area is beautiful and not so dismal!! We brought up the rear, following 2 of the looper boats we met the day before.
We locked through a rise of 8ft on Saturday and dropped down the 8 feet in a second lock on Sunday. 
The man made "ditch" is quite narrow and shallow so we kept our distance between boats to avoid logs and other floating debris that each boat churned up in their wakes.  Most of the time in the canal, we had 4+ feet of water below our keel so each boat had a few "thunks" along the way as we gently bumped into submerged logs.  No damage was experienced because the entire way is "No Wake" so we puttered along slowly. About half-way across this waterway there is a very nice visitor's center with a free dock that provided a place for us to stay Saturday night. We learned more about the swamp area at the small museum on the park grounds and strolled a boardwalk through the swamp where we swatted off the merciless horse flies that needed our blood for protein to reproduce! 
We are now in our ninth state on the loop and looking forward to spending the summer hucking around the Chesapeake Bay. We will be spending the next week in the area of Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown, while visiting our friends Dana and Marion Helsey.  Al heads out for a few days to return to Miami for another eye check up as well.  This should be a perfect area to celebrate the July 4th holiday!

1 comment:

  1. HI Al and Jane- another set of good posts! I always look forward to reading about your adventures and seeing the photos! You really give a good sense of each place- the history, the setting, the fun things you experienced. The outhouses! Al's new seat looks great.
    This past weekend, Page and I cleaned our boat again. I love to sit on it in the marina! So that's how I spent my relaxing Friday. When Henry got home from work on Saturday, around 5:30, the plan was that Henry, Charles and a buddy would take turns riding our little Zodiac jet boat (inflatable). Henry trailered it down the street to the launch and the buddy and Charles were in charge of launching it and taking it to our dock. Henry and I went back to the house for a minute and we got a call- "where's the stern line?" On the stern? No-there's only 3 ft. of rope. OMG- it had been sucked up. After two hours of hard work and much swearing, it was all good to go again! While all this was transpyering, another neighbor stopped by and told us that his jet boat had swamped and been saved in the nick of time from sinking, that afternoon. That's why I am in awe of your stories- we aren't quite there yet!! But we are all having fun! Happy July 4!!