2nd-4th November

Wednesday, 2nd Nov: At the Deep Creek pond anchorage:

A lot of fog/mist on the water this morning, very quiet (except for Route 64 traffic, as the highway runs right along the canal).

I rowed Shuki to shore forgetting about the tides. The tree I tied up to yesterday afternoon, whose roots were an easy step from the dinghy to land, was now about 2 feet higher. I was coming up to it in mud. I managed to tie up to a lower root, and using Shuki’s life jacket’s handle, lift him up to land. I had to climb like a monkey to get up the bank as well. We had a shorter walk, as we were planning to haul anchor and head to the Deep Creek Lock for the 8:30 opening.

As we motored out of the cove, I saw a large double masted sailboat anchored in the middle of the canal. Then we came around the corner, turning right into real pea soup fog. At first we thought we would try it, we have radar and GPS. But we would have to move it at 6 knots in order to get to the lock in time, and we just didn’t feel happy with that speed in the fog.

So we turned back , with me at the helm, and went back into the cove. Again, forgetting the tides….Though I sure remembered quickly as I saw the depths shallowing at the entrance. I got readings of 2.5-3.5 feet, and had to keep telling myself to add 3 feet, the depth gauge is mounted 3 feet below the water line. We draw 5′ 6”. And later Jack told me he felt us slow down. I was concentrating too much on staying in what I knew to be the deepest parts to notice. I decided not to freak Jack by telling him how shallow it really was! After all, we hadn’t really run aground.

We dropped the hook again, this time so we could see the entrance to the canal from our anchorage. There were a couple of small fishing boats in the cove again. I got offered more speckled trout, for breakfast! And this guy filleted it for me as well. While I was watching, one of the men caught a 6 pound trout. I washed the two fillets (from a smaller fish) and put them in the freezer for another time.

We made the 11 am lock, along with another 9-10 boats. The height added was 8 feet of water, and we had to constantly bring in line as we rose. The turbulence of the water was pretty strong, especially as we were at the front of the lock. This lockmaster has a tradition of blowing the conch before he let’s us go, and it was actually quite moving!

We arrived at the Dismal Swamp Welcome Center ( as my mother says, “ a hilarious oxymoron if ever there was one”) at about 15:00. We were in the middle of a 3 boat deep raft up, and by the time it was dark, there were 10 boats rafted up in 3 rows.

I went to the museum ( dogs not allowed and Jack wasn’t really so interested). There were real animals in there, so I understood why dogs weren’t allowed, but these animals were not alive, just stuffed. But I saw what a black bear looks like ( not as big as some) and other interesting critters. As I came out, I saw two deer grazing a little bit away in some bushes, and managed to take a couple of pictures.

The raft up was going to break up around 7:15, so we hit the sack early.

3rd Nov: Up before dawn again. Took Shuki to do his thing, and as we were climbing over the bow of the motor boat between us and shore, Shuki took a slide across the deck: ice! It really was that cold, and I gingerly worked my way around holding tightly to the bow rail.

We had the pack mentality, following the motor boat’s lead. Very nice folks, but then they don’t have a problem hovering before a lock or bridge as do we sailboats. We got there at least ½ hour early and spent the time trying to keep from banging into one another. Jack decided to put down the anchor, a bit too much rode, we started to swing too much, brought up the anchor a bit and it was fine until it was time to “lock” again. The more than 8 foot drop from our level down to the river again looked very unnatural, and seeing the land disappear as we sank back down was odd. Once again, the “pack” moved out.

This part of the canal was even more beautiful, more wild. If we hadn’t had to have an engine running, we would have been able to hear the birds. I had a lot of fun taking pictures, of interesting trees, patterns in the water with foam and leaves and images reflected. Our wake, well the swirls we made as we moved through the water, created fascinating images. It felt as though we were on a water highway through a forest/swamp. The canal was mostly straight, having been man made.

Actually, I learned at the museum at the Dismal Swamp Welcome Center that the canal was made by slave labor. It was terrible work, combating vines, dangerous animals, biting bugs, and the work itself of digging. The canal was to improve shipping between Virginia and North Carolina, and a company formed by George Washington engineered it. With slaves. Hmmm.

As we neared the end of the canal, it widened into the Elizabeth River. The other boats passed us as we slowed down from about 6 to 4.5 knots. We wanted time for Jack to research our options for where to stay in Elizabeth City, and to enjoy the last of the swamp.

We decided to start at the city docks. They aren’t bad, but the gap between the boat and the dock is too wide for a single step across. Jack found a plank of wood , so now we “walk the plank” each time we need to get to shore.

Shuki was really agitated and barky all day. At one point, I even muzzled him, which made no difference: he was still able to whine. It was hard to concentrate on docking with him barking, it was so distracting. We have to figure that out. I’ve tried putting him below, with treats in his bed: he eats them and carries on barking.

At 4:30, there was the little “Rose Buddies” ceremony for any mariners who arrived that day. Started in 1983 by some local guys to welcome sailors who arrived at Elizabeth City, it’s still carried on today by successors. Each woman is given a beautiful red rose, and everyone has a drink of wine. We were also told some tips about sailing the Albermarle Sound , which can be challenging because it is relatively shallow and with a long fetch. This creates a lot of waves.

4th November Friday:

One of the woman from the Tourist Info Center took me to the supermarket. People in North Carolina are very helpful, we often find. The pace is starting to be a slower one than in the NorthEast. It’s also warmer: in the 60′s during the day, still chilly in the 40′s at night. On a boat, you feel that more. Especially when at a dock with no electricity, so we can’t run our heater.

The weather prediction for the next couple of days calls for high, gale force winds, and today, rain. So we are here until Sunday, at least.

Jack managed to get a wifi connection at the Tourist center, sitting at a table there. He worked most of the day.

We need to fill our water tanks, to pump out, do laundry, get electricity: we could get all that at the marina across the river, Pelican Marina. Their pump out is out of order at the moment though. But the winds have been blasting us all day, onto the dock, and we wouldn’t be able to get away from the dock to move over to there. So we stay here, with the waves slapping the back of the boat sounding like a log is hitting us each time. Every hour or so we need to go out and adjust the lines and fenders. We moved the dinghy from the side of the boat to behind, tied off at both ends to hold it off the boat and the dock. We are rocking and rolling. Ahh, the joys of boating!

I escaped this afternoon and went across the street to the Museum of the Albermarle. Saw a special exhibit on pottery of North Carolina, it’s development from practical to art. Saw the exhibit on the history of the area, took some photos of some handwoven and handsewn women’s garments from 100 years ago. Interesting weave structure, one of them.

I may go to the local Art Center tomorrow, it shouldn’t be raining, just windy.

I turned on the navigation to see what the wind was gusting up to : steady between 15-25 knots, gusting to 35. The weather report got that right. Just not the wind direction: was supposed to be from the north, it’s from the southeast. Which is why we are mashed up against the dock. Tomorrow will be even better: gusts up to 40! The boat is vibrating, and I think the gust we are now feeling is more than 35….It’s going to be an interesting night.

Every time we have a new experience, our tolerance levels go up one more notch. Sitting in the cockpit with 25-35 knot gusts didn’t feel so scary as they once might have. The banging of the waves I could do without. We may not get much sleep tonight.

I hope we can get to New Bern by next Friday!

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