Friday, October 9, 2009

The Dismal Swamp

As previously mentioned, the change in scenery between industry, military, transportation, condos, hotels, marinas, luxury yachts and the peaceful scenic tranquility of the Dismal Swamp is surprisingly abrupt. Watch this sequence of pictures as we round the turn past the bridge we have just come under.








And now it's quiet.  Distant sounds of traffic are muffled by the trees.  Half a mile ahead is a power boat, maybe two.  The background noise of the city diminishes by the moment.

The Dismal Swamp, as you can see, is anything but dismal.  The surveying for the Dismal Swamp Canal was done by George Washington, we are told.  The extended waterway connected much more of the interior of North Carolina and allowed for growth and prosperity.  It is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.  If you don't believe me, look it up yourself.


Small homes take advantage of the beauty and quiet of the Dismal Swamp Canal before we get to the first Lock.

 Here you see two boats; a Tayana 37, Pagan Chant, and a Sabre 38, Moondance, carrying friends we haven't met yet.  We are all drifting waiting for the opening of the Deep Creek Lock.

There you can see the lock gate and one of the power boats we had been following.

Once they open the lock gate for us, it gets a little busy and I took no photos of us entering the lock.  So you'll just have to imagine.  It's kind of like great big ugly doors and they open up and you go through.  Except there's water and you're on a boat.  You may have had a dream like that once, and couldn't figure out what it meant.  Now you know.

This guy was the last one in.  You can see how high the water is going to rise.  But first, the gate has to close behind us.

That's Moondance.  You'll meet them later.  You can see them holding lines which are looped over bollards with the help of the lock tender.  You'll meet him in a minute, too.

This is one side of the lock gate beginning to close behind us.

That's Robert, the Lock Tender.  The one I told you you'd meet soon.
He was voted the best lock tender in the U.S.  He's friendly, funny, efficient and says he can pack 24 boats the size of ours in that little lock.  And we have a fat boat.

That's Robert watching the lock gate close as I took a picture of him and it.  You could probably tell. By the way, if you ever get tired of the stupid commentary under these pictures, feel free to skip right over them.  I won't be offended as long as you don't tell me.  But I may quiz you just so I can find out, and there may be repercussions, so I guess you'd best go ahead and read the stupid commentary.  Except this one.

It's big and it's not attractive, but it works.

 There you can see both sides of the gate and it's almost closed.  You can also see part of our mizzen boom and our dinghy.  Not something we show to just anybody.  But we're proud, our dinghy is bigger than most.  And most don't even have a mizzen boom. We couldn't get along without one.

That's U-turn, the Lock dog.  He belongs to Robert.

The gates are closed and the water starts coming in and the boats start rising.  You were probably expecting that.  I know we were.

You can see the foam on the water as it surges in.

It's remarkable how fast the level rises.  It only takes a few minutes.

The foam is everywhere, the waters rising and so, fortunately, are the boats.

The current is flowing fast enough the the boats leave a little wake. 

If you compare to an earlier picture you can see how much we've come up. Go ahead, we'll wait.

 Lots of foam - looks like soap suds.

Remember these folks?  They've really come up in the world.  Sorry, you try to come up with commentary.

Apparently I like to take soap suds pictures.

On the next photo there will be no commentary.  That's my prediction.  So don't think something has gone wrong with your computer and shake it or hit it or something.  Don't even yell at it.

See? I told you.  Nothin'.

Now we sit and wait for the gate at the other end to open.  Interesting procedure, no?

Suzi ties off the line so she can relax a bit.  I'm already out and about taking photos.

There she is again checking the chart book.  She never quits.  I have to relax for both of us.  It's tough but I've learned to do what's necessary.

Here's what the top of the lock gate looks like.  It has a walkway on top.  But you have to wait until it's closed or you fall in.  Just a heads up, in case you're ever in that situation.

Here's the view from the helm heading down the straight and narrow path that Washington laid out and a bunch of other guys dug, probably reluctantly.  I thank them anyway.

Here's a happy guy just being picturesque.

And then we arrived at the North Carolina Welcome Center - the only one in the U.S. which serves both highway and waterway.  We rafted up next to a catamaran named Aurochs and met Tom and Jane.  Shortly thereafter the Sabre 38 named Moondance arrived and rafted up next to us and we met Skip and Harriet.  We had a good time with all of them in our cockpit - Skip and I got our guitars out and serenaded  the rest of the boats, who turned on their generators and closed their hatches.  So we sang louder.
This is the sign out front.  You can read it in the picture - or head down there and read it yourself if you want.  Your call.

Right near where we were tied up it was (and probably still is) very picturesque.  So being, I took these photos.  I hope you like them. 



Next morning, we headed out to the next lock.  Pretty much the same procedure as last time except the the gate is open waiting for us and after it closes we drop down.  Kind of deja vu all over again but backwards.  Vuja de, I guess. ou can see by the sign that we've got a long way to go to get to Key West.  But it's only 18 miles to Elizabeth City.
Here we are in the second lock maybe it's the unlock, anyway, next stop Elizabeth City, N.C.