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Virginia Virginia Virginia Virginia

Day 3:  Norfolk (Hospital Point - Elizabeth City, N.C.

Departure: 0700  (Departure delayed due to needing to refuel)
Weather:  Windy/Cool/Cloudy
Wind:  5-10 NE

ICW just prior to turn to Disma Swamp Route

Approach to Deep Creek Lock

Waiting for Deep Creek Lock to open!

Locking thru Deep Creek Lock

Our day began with a little anxious feeling, we were finally getting to head down the ICW on a trip that took five years of planning, and every conceivable problem and roadblock that one can imagine.  Yet, here we are, ready to begin what we hoped would be fun, exciting and rewarding.

As we passed mile marker "0", we were a little confused which way the ICW actually went!  We soon discovered through the various landmarks, that we were certainly headed in the right direction.  After passing under the first railroad bridge, which had to open for us, we soon came to Culmerton bridge.  The railroad bridge attendant was somewhat irritated with me as he radioed, "Captain", you better get that Catamaran moving, I'm not waiting up here all day."  Ah, my first encounter with a bridge operator.  I was actually puttering around with one of the instruments while waiting for him to open, and did not realize he was opening.  Lesson learned!  I shall pay close attention the rest of the trip when awaiting a bridge opening!

The Culmerton bridge was broken!  In a closed position!  Great, now we are going to lose a day due to mechanical problems of a bridge!  Actually, we were one of many boats waiting for the bridge to get fixed, along with a tug pushing a barge.  Finally, after only 30 or so minutes the bridge was fixed!  Ok, lets go!  Being a careful sailor, and not trusting the many powerboat operators, I was polite and allowed all the others to go.  Nice thing to do right?  Wrong!  The tug boat Captain became perturbed with me, and announced on the VHF that if the Captain of the Catamaran would get his "butt" moving I will follow him through the opening!  Ah, my second instance of being scolded!  Lesson learned, just allow the tug and barge to go ahead of you, besides, he is going to be close on your stern if you don't!

The turning point for the Dismal Swamp route, vice the Virginia Cut Route, was a concern for us as we had read on several occasions that this turning point was not well marked.  This is just one instance where the alarmist of the world express an opinon that eventually causes everyone who is following the same course, to also become somewhat alarmed and over concerned.  I found the turn to the Dismal Swamp sufficiently marked, and wondered why I had worried so much about it!  There is a SIGN that is FIVE feet wide and THREE feet tall point the way!

Ever wonder why they call the Dismal Swamp "Dismal"?  We decided to go through the Dismal Swamp for its beauty and the "Romantic" atmosphere.  Wrong!  I can well understand the desire of many to take the Dismal Swamp route, especially after reading so many articles and notes from other sailors who have made the trip.  From my personal view, now that I have done it once, I do not think I will do it again.  We had to be vigilant, which is not a strong enough word to describe it, however we were vigilant in watching for logs, stumps, branches, etc, that were floating in the Dismal Swamp.  The water is probably the most brackish I have ever encounter and it was somewhat boring.  It was a good experience but, one that you need only once.

As we approached Deep Creek Lock, we discovered they were operating on a "Reduced" opening schedule.  Which meant we had to wait from 1000 to 15:30 for an opening, a total of 7 1/2 hours!  After locking through, and getting past the swing bridge, which by the way the lock attendant also runs to swing bridge.  The lock master was a wonderfully friendly person and made the wait not seem so bad.

After passing through the swing bridge, we proceeded towards the North Carolina visitors center.  Unfortunately, it turned very dark prior to our arrival!  So here we are in the middle of no where, and it is so dark you can not see your hand in front of you.  We passed a "US Government" "Pier", if it can be called a "Pier", which was clearly posted that you could not tie up to their pier!  So we tied up, spent the night, and proceeded to the North Carolina visitors center the next morning.

A NOTE that one should really consider:  Prior to departing on our trip my wife made screens for the windows in the cockpit!  What a saving grace, I'm not sure we would be here today if we had not been able to lock out all of the bugs!


Day 4 & 5:  Government Pier (In Dismal Swamp) - Elizabeth City, N.C.

Departure: 0700)
Weather:  Cool/Cloudy/Fog
Wind:  0

Dismal Swamp, just past Deep Creek Lock

Bridge that operates in conjunction with Deep Creek Lock

A short stop at the North Carolina visitors center and we head for the next locks at South Mills.  We arrived at 1030, and of course waited until 1530 to get locked thru.  We enjoyed Turners Cut, and the Pasqotank River, as we proceeded towards Elizabeth City, N.C.

As we were traveling down the Dismal Swamp and through Turners Cut, we discovered some interesting sites.  Just prior to the Deep Creek Lock, we sited an area where benches were set up and a ramp of sorts was rigged, to perform baptisms. 

In Turners cut, it was somewhat amusing to discover that the "locals", living on the waters edge of the cut, had permanent silhouettes across the water, which were used for target practice.  We are grateful that target practice was not being conducted as we passed!

Another "Alarming" fact to deal with for first time cruisers, is the constant mention of "Submerged Pylons", which are shown on the NOAA charts and discussed somewhat in various cruising guides.  Although it is something to be aware of, it is not something to be overly concerned with. 

The many notes we downloaded from the Internet, and the cruising guides for the Intracoastal waterway, are most helpful however, it is really up to the CAPTAIN to accept the notes and guides as useful information or elect to go his own route.  We were overly concerned about far too many things and soon realized that we were accomplished sailors and took the notes and guides as useful and good information, and after evaluating the information, made our own decisions on what we were doing.

We enjoyed a good sail down the Pasqotank River, and arrived in Elizabeth City, N.C. just as it was turning dark.  For all first time cruisers, I would like to take this opportunity to caution you to expect to arrive in ports and anchorage's after dark, and be prepared to deal with shore lighting, and unmarked day markers to find your way to either an anchorage or a marina.  Fortunately, we had some experience sailing at night, and therefore did not experience any problems of note, however, our schedule was dictated by weather, locks, bridges etc., which caused us to arrive after dark in many places.


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