Friday, October 31, 2008

It's Not That Dismal For a Swamp - This feels like it could be a long post. I promise pictures

It seems Connie and Bob sort of like the Dismal Swamp.

So What the Heck is the Dismal Swamp?

Well, bear with me. I will include pictures for those of you with short attention spans.

The ICW or Intracoastal Waterway actually begins in Norfolk, VA. Mile zero is at Hospital Point, just across from Nautica, a huge naval warfare museum and marina. This is a uniquely American concept.

Leaving mile zero southbound you pass through the Jordan and Gilmerton bridges. Then the ICW splits into two alternate routes: the Virginia Cut and the Dismal Swamp.

The Virginia Cut is the more heavily used route and so is of no interest to us or other right thinking cruisers. We take the Dismal Swamp.

To take the Dismal swamp you must make a hard right turn out of the main channel of the ICW at the first opportunity after the Gilmerton. It does not look like much but trust me: take the first right. It will not be the last time you feel insecure on the ICW.

You are now in Deep Creek, of no consequence except that it takes you to the Deep Creek Lock. The Dismal Swamp is higher than all surrounding ground. You lock up to get in and then lock down to get out. This seems strange but if they did not do this the canal would drain the swamp and wreak ecological havoc.

The best lock in the whole world is the Deep Creek Lock.

Meet Rob the Lockkeeper and his dog UTurn:

Two things of interest:

Rob starts talking before you tie up to the lock walls and continues until you have moved your boat too far for sound to carry. He is also one great guy.

His garden. The white bits are conk shells. Rob not only collects them he plays them. And I do not mean he makes a big honking sound. He plays thems like they are trumpets.

Every cruiser returning from the Caribbean brings Rob a new shell for his collection.

Why is Rob so popular?

Well, we were stuck on the free docks behind his lock for 2 days waiting for weather to clear on the Albemarle Sound. Boats were backed up all the way to Elizabeth City and there were no docks or anchorages with space.

Here is Rob's bridgehouse every morning:

We all met for coffee, run and raisin pancakes, donuts, quiche and just about anything else you wanted, all courtesy of Rob (we chipped in of course). He is a giant of a lockmaster.

Of course being stuck for two days on a lock is not all bad. How could it be?

One night Connie and I wanted to go for Mexican so we canvassed the group to see if anyone else would like to join us. Here was the result:

Here are Greg and Michel from Argonauta, Connie and Ken of Restless, Bob and Jan from Banshee and Dave and Lynn from R.J. Greenstone. Chuck and Barb from Goldwatch and Joe and Punk Pica from Carolyn Ann joined us when I was too unstable to take any more pictures.

We all started with jumbo Margueritas. At this restaurant these were 34 oz drinks mixed in the proper proportions. Most of us had two or more drinks. We found our way home.

To give you an idea of how backed up things were due to fear of bad weather in the Albemarle here is the scene at the South Creek Lock when we tried to lock down to the Pasquotank River:

We have never been so jammed up at a dam in our whole lives.

Two more boats came for a total of seven in the lockdown that run.

Finally, and this is important only for the next post, is a picture of Meredith's wake while transiting the Dismal Swamp. More to come on this.

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