Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Going to Take it Slow and Easy Today - Elizabeth City

Oct 27, 2009
City Dock, Elizabeth City, NC

Coming through the Dismal Swamp, Meredith decided to take a layover at the Visitor Centre. The Visitor Centre is located about 5 miles from South Mills Lock, the south end of the Dismal Swamp. In real life the Centre is a Rest Area on a 4 lane divided highway. However it touches our waterway at one point.

The State has built a nice dock allowing overnight stays. It will accommodate 4 boats.

Three nights ago we had 14 boats. Two nights ago 12. We just rafted up across the canal.

You can imagine what the crew of 14 boats do when they have their first landfall after sitting out a 5 day Nor' easter followed by 3 days of hard running in adverse wind and seas.

And we did. Twice.

We waited at the visitor centre as the next good stopping place, Elizabeth City, would be full. There was bad weather on the Albemarle Sound and EC is the only place to wait for calm water.

The docks at EC are free but there are a limited number of them. It seemed better to us to wait in the friendly protected canal till the boats in EC got clear conditions and vacated the docks.

Good Plan and we set off on Monday morning with a forecast of N 5 to 10. This was perfect for crossing the Albemarle so EC would be empty.


Have you noticed a thread in the recent posts about the disparity between forecast conditions and actual? Monday was no different.

Within minutes of locking out of the canal and into the Pasquotank River, which would carry us to Elizabeth City, we knew it would be a difficult day. Wind was 15 to 20 knots out of the east and it was very cold. This was in the relatively protected Pasquotank. We could only imagine what conditions were like in the open water at EC.

The way boats were moored to the visitor centre dock left Meredith last to leave. This placed us at the end of a 12 boat train all looking for free docks in EC. Good luck intervened at the South Mills Lock when the 11 boats ahead of us had occupied all available wall space and we had to go to the head of the line and raft up to what had been the lead boat. Sob. Sob.

When the lock doors opened Meredith flew out of the gates and ran the Pasquotank at 6.5 knots. This river is a windy piece of water with several detours waiting to snare unwary navigators. This was our 4th time down the river and we had local knowledge. The bigger faster boats behind us slowed to a speed that allowed them to navigate the twists and turns for themselves.

The boats behind us were following the first rule in boating: NEVER follow another boat anywhere. Ever.

For the last three miles Meredith slowed to 5 knots and the bigger boats, now free of the navigational muck of the Pasquotank, speeded up to 7.

Arriving at the Elizabeth City bridge we asked the bridgemaster to hold off on opening the bridge until all of the faster boats had caught up. This way the bridge would not have to interfere with traffic and would open only twice - once for fast boats and once for slower ones.

When the bridge opened six of us ran straight for the docks - which were full!! Of course this is when the cold wet wind was joined by full on rain.

Fortunately there was overflow parking along a wall. Room for everyone but everyone had to dock along a wall on our lee sides. In the rain.

Everyone got in. Early arrivers stood in the rain to help the later, slower boats and ensure orderly positioning and room for all.

This morning, despite the fog pictured above and a forecast of heavy rain later today, all the boats, every boat in EC save the 3 biggest have left. Meredith will join Mystic and Kinvara down the wall so we do not have to walk so far for the parties.

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