Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dismal Swamp at the North Carolina Welcome Center

Typical View at Hampton Roads
“Okay Ann, back her out”, TWANG!, “What’s happening?” I forgot to release the line on the forward cleat!? The boat swings towards the standing pier, RUB/RUB., I finally get enough purchase to release the line and it falls into the water, still attached to the dock cleat. I leap into the dinghy and with one oar, standing in the bow, row back to retrieve the dock line while Ann hovers Fleetwing in the channel. Another adventure begins…

First Lock at Dismal Swamp Canal

Now thoroughly awake after getting up at 5:30, we head out towards the Dismal Swamp Canal. The route takes us through the heart of Navy country at Hampton Roads and lots of busy barge traffic. One time we had five huge ships all headed for us, they were three abreast in the channel, I ducked to the side! We had to wait for a few bridges to open and then took a left turn into the Dismal Swamp canal after the I95 bridge.

The canal is actually a river until you reach the lock when it becomes straight as an arrow. I think we are still ahead of most of the snowbirds and we turned out to be the test boat for changes they made to cope with the 18 inches of rain they had from the last storm. The lockmaster had a cute house complete with a banana tree out front! He advised us that a 10 inch drain pipe had been installed across the bottom of the canal at the Feeder Canal point, which supplies water to the canal required to operate the locks. He and others had asked for the pipe to be buried but it was laid across the bottom instead. He advised us to go through at idle speed. Humm, we thought – how bad can it be? The controlling depth is supposed to be 6 ft and we only require 5 ft, subtract 10 inches and we have 2 inches to spare.

Nice - Lockmaster's House
 So motoring along, I notice many trees along the side of the canal that have fallen in and in passing one in particular, we hit something, tree limbs?, with a terrible scratching, scraping sound – but Fleetwing continues on and clears the obstruction.

Now shocked to alert, we approach the Feeder Canal and we can see the huge pipe as it exits the canal to the left. I put Fleetwing in creep mode and watch the depth meter as it slides down to 5.2 ft as we pass over the pipe. It was 7 to 8 feet on either side of the pipe. I reported both problems at the welcome center and was told it would be given to the lockmaster for corrective action.

Kinda of Narrow - Watch Out for those Tree Limbs!

Everything is peace and quiet now. There are six boats here but only room for three to be tied up at the face pier. So we now have a boat rafted to us. I’m told that sometimes there are as many as 15 boats tied up with rafts all the way across the canal. We’ll take it easy Monday and hopefully not forget to uncleat all our lines!

Peace and Quiet at the NC Welcome Center