A strong but short lived thunderstorm passed through the Swamp at about 10 PM and brought constant lightning, strong winds but little rain. We were protected from the wind by all the trees lining the canal but we made sure the boats were tied up tight. Once the storm roared by the sky cleared off and it was a cool clear night for our last stay in North Carolina.
Four of the Five boats docked at the Swamp Welcome Center left at 0800 for the Deep Creek Lift Bridge 16 miles north. Southbound traffic on the Dismal Swamp has priority over northbound. The bridge is on a strict opening schedule and we were going to make the 1100 opening. The same government employee operates the bridge then jumps in his vehicle and drives back to the lock to operate it. We arrived at the bridge at 5 minutes to 1100 with a stiff south wind on our stern. We could hear the lock master call on CH 13 and ask if there were any southbound vessels needing to lock up. Since he didn't get a response he told us he would be down shortly to open the bridge and let us through to the lock. The timing for arriving at these locks and bridges is very important. If you are too late then you could be waiting for a few hours to get through. If you are too early and there is a strong wind at your back and there are several boats in your group, it could get crazy pretty quick in the tight quarters of the narrow channel. There is no room to pass without risking getting too close to the bank and hitting a log or running aground, so we made sure to time our arrival to avoid all that. Once through the bridge the lock master jumped back into his truck and took off to open the lock as we idled with the help of wind and current to arrive at the lock in time for the gates to swing open. All boats got safely tied up with the help of the lock master and he took a conch shell out, put it up to his mouth and blew a long, loud note that started the water falling in the lock. He marched back and forth on the lock wall telling us all kinds of things as he passed by to check on our lines. The 8 ft drop took 45 minutes from start to finish and we moved out of the lock and into Deep Creek for a few miles then back into the Elizabeth River. So the Dismal Swamp Canal connects the Elizabeth River with the Pasquotank River and a series of ditches in the swamp drains the water in to the main canal. I can't imagine what a task that was to dig back in the late 1700s.
The Elizabeth River runs north to the James River and took us from the town of Chesapeake to the fork of the Elizabeth River where lies the city of Norfolk and the Norfolk Navy Ship Yard. This is a very busy area with all kinds of marine traffic ranging from pleasure craft to ocean going container ships. There are huge tugs loaded with sand and gravel moving in the chanel and under a series of RR lift bridges and interstate highway bridges. One of the RR bridges closed as we were approaching so we had to orbit in circles and figure eights until the bridge could open again. The bridges are remotely operated from an unknown location so the person on the other end of the VHF is not located at the RR bridge and can't see us so we had to communicate that we need the bridge lifted as soon as it was possible. The wind forcast for the Hampton/Norfolk area did not look to good and were predicted to get stronger as the day went by. We had sustained winds of 15 to 16 mph with gusts in the 20s. There was an ebb tide running 90 degrees to the wind in the James River and made a confused sea state but not uncomfortable. Our trawlers made the 10 mile run north out of the Elizabeth River, into the James River and finally turned down wind into the Hampton River for a mile where the wind was still blowing but the water was much calmer. It took a while to get docked due to the wind being on our beam and the finger docks were only about 15 feet long. We used every line we had onboard to get tied up anticipating nasty weather for the next several days. The Hampton area is in the center of some great historical locations like Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown, Fort Monroe, several museums. A rental car agency is located at our dock so this makes it convenient for us to travel around. There are also several micro-breweries within sight of our dock! So let it rain!
That's the news and here are some views:
We are here
Today's Route from the Great Dismal Swamp, NC to Hampton, VA