Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dismally Delightful

We're on the move again! Happy to be! We left Cobb's Marina in Norfolk and had a rough crossing of the Chesapeake Bay but it only took two hours. 25Knot wonds and 4ft waves, it was a pretty jarring way to regain our sea legs after not having been at sea for over a week but we had to get out of there and get moving again. Once out of the bay we passed by even more battleships & aircraft carriers then through downtown Norfolk and officially into the Intra-Coastal Waterway (ICW). We missed the famous Mile Marker 0 (would have been a good photo) but are now in the land of inland protected waterways. The ICW is a 1000 mile long network of rivers, canals and waterways that allow cruisers to go from Norfolk Virginia all the way to Key West Florida inland, protected from the ocean. Relatively shallow the Army Corps of Engineers maintains the ICW at a minimum controlling depth of 6ft, with government cutbacks and shifting shoals this cannot always be guaranteed so it's important to still stay vigilant.

After spending the night at a boat yard's free dock we passed through a lock into a section of the ICW called the Dismal Swamp. Coming out of the lock I noticed the engine was spewing white smoke. The trawler ehind me radioed us to tell us the same. This was because our raw cooling water intake being clogged by all the grass in the canal and in the lock. To clear the water filter I had to close the seacock valve at the water intake throught he hull. This meant shutting down the engine. Now we're in a very narrow canal here and if we lose too much speed then we lose steerage and drift into the side banks getting all tangles in logs, fallen tress, mud etc. Not ideal. Cassy took the helm and we actually increased our speed; Our plan was to get enough speed & momentum to let us steer for a few minutes, shut down the engine, close the seacock valve, open the filter, clear the clog and put it all back together again. We got everything ready and executed the plan successfully. It was weird just drifting silently down the canal. The raw water filter was all clogged with “duck grass” a bright green grass blanketing areas of the Swamp.

The Dismal Swamp is one of the oldest canals in the US, apparently encouraged by George Washington and mostly hand dug by slaves. It is the route less travelled of two from Virginia to North Carolina and, while slightly longer & shallower, it is the more historic & scenic. It is also known for dead heads, not the stoned music fans but instead logs floating just below the surface. It hard to pick these out and they can be damaging to hulls, propellers and rudders. It is actually recommended to stay at least a quarter mile behind any power boats in the Dismal Swamp to allow any debris they's stirred up time to settle back down.

The depth was a pretty constant 6 feet all the way through and while I don't think we touched bottom we sensed two minor bumps. We did however have some tree branch strikes up at the mast head, due to the overhang and deviated a bit from the center line.

The dismal swamp canal has a popular visitors centre but we bypassed it in the name of progress. We ended our day in Elizabeth Town, known as the Harbour of Hospitality for cruisers. They have free town docks with free WIFI and even have a daily 5 o'clock cocktail for visiting cruisers. Unfortunately due to bridge opening delays we only arrived at 18:30 and missed the activities. While we'd like to stay another night here in Elizabeth City we'll depart early tomorrow and put more miles under the keel.

Follow the path!

Mirror mirror...

Where's Jerry Garcia man...

See that bright green clump on the lock wall

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