Southbound – Dismal days

It has been an eventful few days beginning with our departure from Hampton Roads. First stop was at Hospital point – the popular staging point for the AICW. Two routes are available that join in the Albemarle Sound about mile 80. The first is the Virginia Cut that runs easterly with one lock and several bridge openings. The second, a senic tour, is through the Dismal Swamp. We chose the latter…..thus the title, in part, of this post.

From Hospital Point, we followed the well marked ICW route, raced to make the Gilmerton lift bridge that is timed for the north lock on the Dismal Swamp route.

Gilmerton BridgeGilmerton lift bridge, mile 5.8

IMG_2044Entrance to the Dismal Swamp route at mile 8.8.

IMG_2042IMG_2045Deep Creek (North) lock on the Dismal Swamp Route, mile 10.6.
Then on to  the Visitors Center where we joined several other boats, rafted two deep on the free bulkhead. It was a pleasant evening with cool but dry weather.

DS visitor ctr

Next morning (October 30) we made an early start and followed the Dismal Swamp channel dodging patches of duck weed that are known to foul engine heat exchangers.  Then through the south lock , mile 33.2.

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It was a pleasant and beautiful trip that was first a straight canal, then wandered though cyprus swamp.

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As we came out near civilization at Elizabeth City we encountered several boats of waterfowl hunters, and a friendly sounding shotgun at one point.

We chose to bypass Elizabith City, though several new friends stopped there. Rather we continued down the Pasquotank River to an anchorage just north of the Albemarle Sound. Weather forcasts (more later) encouraged an early morning trip across the Sound to take advantage of light winds and quiet waters – a good decision.

So, the eventful day started with a smooth ride across the Sound in flat water and almost no wind – it was beautiful and peaceful.

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We entered the Alligator River, followed the new marks around the shoals and pulled into the Marina just short of the swing bridge. We needed fuel – and an ice cream sandwich!

After a long wait at the bridge, it opened and five boats, 4 sail and a trawler, made it through to run up the Alligator River. This is where luck failed us, and the forecasters were wrong. Instead of light south winds we got 10-20 building through the afternoon, along with 2-3 foot chop from the long 10 mile fetch down the river. When we turned the corner at the end, the squalls hit in rapid succession – 15-27kt winds just as we were looking for a safe, sheltered anchorage for the night.

As I wrote this the squalls continued to march through. We have ample ground tackle down in seven feet of water with no one behind us in case the anchore drags…….

A glass of wine and a peaceful evening made all right with the world.

The run from the Aligator river anchorage to use to Belhaven (mile 135) and a pleasant nigt at the Belhaven Waterway Marine – and Tiki Bar

The motor/sail from Belhaven to Oriental was a great ride. Finally with wind NOT on the nose we made good time at 6-7kts most of the way with only the head sail flying. Oriental is a sailor’s town, and deserves more than our brief stay. But we found the shrimp fleet and the local dragon, got hot showers and laundry done.

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From Oriental, the plan was a shorter sail (downwind!) to Beaufort, but we made such good time we went on the Swansboro – a 48 mile day!

That brings us to today (November 4, and crew Carl’s birthday). To catch up, we are taking a down day at Swansboro, NC – Dudley’s Marina with electric, water, showers and wifi – all for $0.75/ft. Almost cheaper than a days diesel use. The sun is shining, though the temps are still pretty chilly.

Tomorrow we’ll head further south, and the forecast promises warmer…….

3 thoughts on “Southbound – Dismal days

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