Friday, June 27, 2008

06/15/08 NC to Virginia

My sister, Dee and Al visited Dowry Creek
so we had transportation to visit Little Washington, NC and walk the docks.
We've seen bears painted in Maine, whales in Mystic, CT and in Washington, NC it was crabs! We had just missed a big festival/celebration.

I'm checking out the local stores while Bob watched this little guy try his first flight. He landed on this awning afraid to try again. He eventually fell to the ground where Bob rescued and returned him to the tree with the other fledglings till their next attempt at flying.
We were intrigued by the North Carolina Estuarium. North Carolina's sounds and coastal rivers --or estuaries-- are extremely important ecologically. In the United States the only estuary system larger is the Chesapeake Bay. This is an aquarium with a focus exclusively on these systems.
A couple of days at rest and it's time to leave Dowry Creek.
One last look at the bottle tree and its' folklore.

It's a beautiful day and soon we are on the Alligator - Pungo River Canal.
There have been fires burning in the forests of North Carolina and Virginia. There are smoke warnings posted for various parts of the ICW . We're coming into one of those areas.
We call a tug boat that passed us a short time ago and find out that we can expect to be dealing with the smoke right up to Norfolk, Va. The fires are burning to the west of us. It all depends on how the wind blows. This is the way home and it could take weeks more to put out the fires, so we continue.
The smoke becomes thick as any fog we've ever seen and we smell like we're downwind of a campfire. Eventually it clears where we can see the side, we pull over and let 3 boats that have been following us take the lead. Maybe they can make better time? But not so, it's slow going and we can barely see the boat ahead.
Bob quickly shut off the engine. We need steerage in order to keep off the stumps alonf the side of the canal. Earlier we had heard one boat in danger of sinking as it had hit a stump, so we're concerned. I take the helm and Bob jumps into the dink we're trailing behind. I lower the outboard motor to him, he attaches it to the dinghy and starts it up. Love that's pushing us along at 3+mph keeping us safe. We've lost a fan belt so Bob quickly replaces it and another that is looking tired, starts the engine and Hakuna Matata is once more under her own power.

We leave the smoke behind as we enter the Alligator River with fresh air and a good breeze.
We've relaxed and enjoying the ride when we realize that what we see in the distance is not smoke but a brewing Thunderstorm. Quickly we make the boat ready for the blow, grab our foul weather jackets just as the rain hits - and it's heavy. Bob is wearing glasses that he can no longer see through. I don't need mine for distance so I'm the lookout giving him instructions to keep on our marks. Ahead I see a bridge.#*%! It's a swing bridge with a narrow passage. Thankfully the rain stops and the wind eases as we near the 1/2 mile mark and call the bridge to announce our intentions. It's clear again as we make our way through the bridge and to our anchorage in Little Alligator River for the night.

The sunset lets us know there is more bad weather coming. It hits around 11:30. We are on deck taking down the awning, the winds are much stronger than expected; the tie down lines from the awning are thrashing about wildly. One catches a wind generator blade and breaks it off. The generator is now seriously off balance and shaking the stern of the boat. Soon as the awning is out of the way, Bob climbs the wind generator pole to tie it off. Enough excitement for one day....we're wet and cold for the first time in months, careful what you wish for. Dry off and try to get some sleep for an early morning start.
Early morning turned into late morning as our first attempt to leave the anchorage sent us back. The river was choppy and we were making little progress. We weren't willing to be bounced about after our last day and neither were the cats. So we waitied till it was smooth sailing past all the duck blinds on the horizon.
We were surprised to see a blimp moored along the river. Seems there's a factory here.
Our next stop is Elizabeth City where they provide you with a free slip and make you very
We watch this tug push a barge through the narrow little bridge .
You can see the span up in the air.
So we headed out through the bridge and into the beautiful winding
Pasquotank River.
At first there's a little smoke haze...but it cleared to a beautiful day.
Occasionally we would come around a bend just in time to see the boat ahead of us.
Otherwise we felt alone with this primitive beauty.
Not really alone - there was always wildlife around us usually complaining about our intrusion.

The waterway becomes very straight as we enter Turners Cut through
The Great Dismal Swamp.The Dismal Swamp Canal and the Albemarle & Chesapeake Canal form alternative routes along the Atlantic ICW . Our trip down we took the A&C Canal and stayed overnight at Coinjock. The Swamp was closed due to low water, but today it's open.
Soon we're entering the South Mills Lock.
(notice how low the water level in the lock is.)
Notice the water level in the lock now.

There's a set of gates to the left as we leave the lock.
The lock attendant quickly drives down to a small lift bridge to let us through.

Just as we enter the confines of the bridge's fendering, a group of ducks decide to cross in front of us. I had a few anxious moments but Bob assured me that at our slow speed the shape of our hull would just push them safely aside.
He was correct...but the ducks are a little annoyed!
Or do they do this every time a boat passes just for a fun ride and he's laughing?

When the canal was first built through the swamp it had many more locks and a great deal of commercial traffic. I don't think you would have experienced the serene trip we have.

We tie up overnight at the only Welcome Center on the ICW. Thanks North Carolina.
We take the opportunity to get to know the people on the boats that we've been following
Cat Nap & Our Dream.

We also visit the (free) Dismal Swamp Museum and learn about the rich history of the Dismal Swamp and some of its mystery. In the foreground is the pontoon bridge to walk from the Welcome Center (US 17) across the canal to the museum. The bridge is swung out of the way for boat traffic. Since you have to be locked through to get here they know you are coming ahead of time.
One of the fires that was burning acreage was in the swamp. The peat in the swamp had caught on fire and was proving very difficult to put out. As a precautionary measure to protect the museum sprinklers were set up to keep the grass soaked. It was very hot so we didn't mind walking through them as we returned to the boat.

Next morning we're back in the swamp keeping an eye on our mast & the overhanging branches,
our hull and the things poking out from the side of the canal.
We slip into Virginia
Everything is flowers and green

I guess the wind has shifted because we see smoke ahead.
It only lasts for a short time and we're back to a beautiful day.

This is a rake used to drag branches and debris that might be blocking the canal.

Here's a small dock for overnight tie ups. There's a little lingering smoke ashore.

Notice the sections of a bridge on either side of the canal ahead. This is a pontoon bridge that allows the farmer to move his cows across the canal. There's a section to swing into the middle that temporarily closes the canal to traffic.

For a short section there seems to be pollen on the water.

There's a picnic area for motorists to stop and watch the boats on the canal.

You are held up at the bascule lift bridge just before the lock
till all the boats are together to be locked through.
A last look down the canal before we are locked into Deep Creek

The locktender plays a tune on a conch shell as the water fills the lock
and we are on our way to Norfolk, Virginia.

The transition is a little shocking with all the hustle and bustle
of this very busy port. We need to stay alert to what's going on around us, and that's plenty.

There are festivals going on in the area adding to the busy excitement.
We've passed mile zero and the end of the ICW.
There's still many miles to go before Hakuna Matata is at her mooring is Stonington, CT.

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