Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Dismal Swamp, and things that go bump in the night.

The Dismal Swamp.  You have to admit, that's a great name.  It's actually a canal that cuts through from the Chesapeake Bay south of Norfolk and comes out in the Albemarle Sound in North Carolina.  It's narrow, shallow, quite beautiful, and full of things to hit along the way.

Lock entering the Dismal Swamp
All I could think of as we slipped by it's banks of overhanging trees was "the great grey-green greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever trees".  Does anyone remember that line from "The Elephant's Child", one of Rudyard Kipling's "Just So Stories"? I used to read that all the time as a kid.

Great, grey green greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever trees

On paper the route isn't too bad with 8-10' depths.  That's much more than the Rideau Canal where we traveled last summer and, by the way, never hit bottom.  But that theoretical depth doesn't account for all the crap on the bottom that seems to have crept in and died.  I suppose it's submerged branches and the like, but we went bump no less than a dozen times.  And every time the depth sounder continued to show 7-8' (we draw a little under 4').

Some people can just brush it off when they run aground or hit something, but I just can't get over it very easily.  To me the boat is supposed to be floating, not hitting the bottom.  We met a guy in Deltaville who apparently wasn't phased at all by running aground or by other gross navigational errors.  He crossed lake Ontario from Toronto to Oswego, and managed to arrive at the NY shoreline a whopping 70 miles from Oswego.  That's pretty far off course for a crossing that's probably only about 100 miles long.  But it didn't bother him a bit.  Then he told me one story after another about the rest of his trip where he ran aground, got towed, then ran aground again and got towed.  He must have grounded (and I mean hard aground, you aren't going anywhere aground) a half dozen times, all while saying how easy boat navigation is.  Go figure.

Welcome to North Carolina

Anyway, we made it through the Dismal Swamp with no damage - just a lot of cuss words.  I'm glad we did it.  After all, this trip is about seeing the inland parts of the east coast.  But I'll be happy to go around it next time.

Our trip through was rewarded by a wonderful night at anchor off Goat Island in the Pasquotank River which is the outflow of the canal.  Fall is coming too - we had frost on the fore deck in the morning.

Beautiful Morning off Goat Island

Frost on the fore deck this morning

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