Monday, April 18, 2011

Dismal Swamp

THANK YOU to those of you that took the time to become a "follower" on my blog! Loved seeing the new names and reading fun comments!  I love sharing our story and it's truly motivating for me when I see the response from all of YOU!

We endured the storms as the rest of the country this week and so glad to have it past us. Wind plays such a large role in the everyday life of a cruiser.  Even though we're on the ICW, weather is checked often daily by ALL cruisers and is taken pretty seriously.  Our forecast of over 40 knot winds was exceeded as we were tied safely to the dock in Elizabeth City.  Although I don't have any good photos of the actual storm I wanted to show this 27 foot boat that was docked next to us during it all. The captain and crew left the day before the storms hit and arrived back onboard two days later when it all died down. Craig on the other hand spent some time babysitting the vessel as lines were tied in strange ways that made for some serious chaffing and eventually sliced the lines free through it all. Morgan actually noticed the first broken line.
Notice in the photo that the sailboats propeller is actually out of the water as it bobbed feverishly the entire day.  See Craig's 'line of defense' fenders out just in case..

 We walked past a fabric store and Morgan found the perfect material for a pillowcase. She sewed these two in less than 45 minutes. Huge thanks to her two grandmas for their continued support of her love for sewing! One grandma bought her a machine with lessons and the other taught her how to make the pillowcases.
As we entered into the Dismal Swamp is was quite evident that we had never seen anything like this before. During this portion of the trip you can choose to go through the "Virginia Cut" or "Dismal Swamp" with a name like that, how could you not take the route! We started our day following two vessels down the twisty turns of the canal and it was amazing! 
 Notice the chair in the trees!  If you put a person on each side of your vessel you could just about touch branches on either side.
 This is the first of two locks we had to go through on our way north.  Six of us locked through together.  We were told that we are about 10 days in front of the mass group of people that travel the ICW this time of year.  Lucky for us dockage and anchorages are still available. 
 Hard to believe it's been 1,200 miles since we were in the keys. 
 Laying on the bow of the boat, looking up at the trees so close together.  Sailboats have to pay particular attention to some areas and the depths can get quite shallow too. 
 We stopped at the North Carolina Welcome Center which offered free docks and fresh water.  Pictured here with 'Midnight Sun' who are fellow loopers from Canada that we've traveled with at various times throughout our journey.  We originally met them in Rogersville, Alabama thousands of miles and months ago. How ironic to be traveling with them again. 

This is also a rest area for those traveling by land. Although the welcome center was closed there were many nice people that stopped to visit and the kids loved playing on the grass and riding their scooters in the parking lot of the state park that closes in the evening.
 Directly behind us was the Dismal Swamp State Park with a bridge that's drawn now to allow visitors to walk through.  The bridge opens four times daily as the vessels locking through can pass.  This is a barge bridge that actually floats.
 It was a great museum that offered a lot of detailed information about the swamp, wildlife, vegetation, etc. along with a video and history of it all.  The Dismal Swamp was actually owned by George Washington along with his partners. They planned to drain the swamp and mill the timber. There is so much to the story and an awesome place to visit. 
 This is one of the nations highest population of black bear.
 We enjoyed walking the trails.
 It's so hard to describe how narrow the canal really is. It would be difficult to turn around in such a tight area with limited depth.  Notice the "Welcome to Virginia" sign! 
 We left the next morning and made our way to the 'feeder ditch.'  Upon entering you can see this dam structure and then a waterway off to the left.  This is about 3 miles off of the ICW. We tied up the boat and took the dinghy to explore.
 The waterway on the left lead us to a conveyor belt which allowed us to continue on through the ditch into Drummond Lake. 
 We loaded the dinghy onto the trailer very easily...
 and then, Ryann pushed the button and held it down while the dinghy was lifted out of the water, over land, and back into the upper part of the ditch.  Notice Morgan on the left signing the guest book register and looking for our looper friends. 
 Once the pulley and track system had done it's job we hopped back onboard to continue our ride.
 It reads...Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
 Very picturesque as we entered Drummond Lake.
 As we looked back into the canal we came through it was hard to tell where we had been. Thanks to the sign there wasn't a problem returning.
 This is Drummond Lake. Imagine in the middle of the huge swamp is a lake so large and untouched. The same trees line the entire shoreline and not a boat, house, person, trash or anything in site.  We had a picnic lunch as we turned the engines off and enjoyed the peaceful serene setting of it all. You wonder what lives in was eerie being out in the middle of nowhere on an old dinghy?
 As we left the 'feeder ditch' once again, the kids had to touch the 'root beer float' looking substance from the water surface.
 Three peas-in-a-pod. They are best of friends and can make the most fun out of any adventure we encounter.
 The Negotiator safely along a 15 foot dock while we went out for some fun. She's a part of our family really, as many people on this trip value their vessel in so many ways. She's kept us safe through so much and has been a dependable asset to our journey.
 This is a farmers make-shift traveling slide bridge (next to it is the original pontoon bridge that has deteriorated).  He had permission from the government to deploy his bridge and move his cattle across the canal.  Very unique design and luckily was open when we passed through.
 As the sign reads: Superintendents place.
 Our last and final lock in the Dismal Swamp brought us to this cute hospitable grounds as "U-Turn" the dog welcomed us happily as we arrived (see dog on the right).  The landscaping was full of conch shells gathered after years of transiting people donated from their island excursions.  We did not have one to donate, but when the lockmaster heard we didn't have a queen conch of our own, he gladly shared one with Morgan that was perfectly cut off and ready to play! 
 Robert, the lockmaster, even showed us a few techniques and told many stories during our transit.  In the end Morgan gave him a little toy boat we found in Ft. Lauderdale and he gladly displayed it out front. She gave U-Turn a bowl of water and helped with lines the entire time. 
We made it to Portsmouth, Virginia that evening which is across the river from Norfolk.  Next posting will go into more detail.  Looking forward to 80+ degree weather this week and hoping for low winds!! 


  1. Your adventures look grand!

  2. I follow a lot of looper blogs but I've never seen a better "description" of the Dismal Swamp. Thanks!

  3. What a great guided tour of Dismal Swamp and Drummond Lake. It's a fascinating area that many of us may not get to see first hand and few others have documented through great photos and description. Thanks!

  4. Hope you get a chance to visit the Children's Museum in Portsmouth just a few blocks from the public landings on High Street. The kids would love it.
    Pete Showalter

  5. I just found your blog and read it from start to is so nice to read a power boaters blog.....Most of them are sailboaters and i do enjoy them too....i thought you were going to bank a left and head east to the bahamas....that is my three passage