Friday, October 7, 2011

Visitor's Center in Dismal Swamp Canal

The Dismal Swanp Canal - It's very straight!
We left this morning at 6:50 am from Hampton for the Dismal Swamp Canal. We've grown kind of fond of this way south and we like stopping at the Visitor's Center. The day was clear and sunny with temps promised in the 70's. You go by the naval docks with huge ships in for repairs including aircraft carriers but the waters were calm and not many boats were in evidence.

Only two deep here - went three deep later
However, once reaching the Gilmerton Bridge, we found our crowd, about a dozen boats queued up, waiting for the 9:30 am opening. On we went and made the turn to the Dismal Swamp Canal and arrived at the lock and found six boats waiting to go through! The dockmaster arranged two to one side and four to the other but it took awhile. Finally we made it through. The progression is like a convey at sea, you only travel as fast as the lead boat which in this case happened to be a powerboat but he was being cautious and we averaged only 6 kts. The canal had just been cleaned out after hurricane Irene and we had fair motoring until within 2 miles of the visitor's center when we hit something on the bottom of the canal three separate times. Clunks are always startling! We later found out that the boat ahead of us and after us had the same experience. There was no damage (although I may find a few nicks in the keel the next time I haul it) and we proceeded on.

Walkway at the Dismal Swamp Museum

At first there were only six or us tied up to the bulkhead at the visitor's center, two deep. Then two more powerboats arrived which was fun since they had trouble maneuvering in the current of the canal but everyone eventually got in, all eight of us. Hopefully, everyone leaves early in the morning so we can get started for the 8:30 am lock opening.

Just across the canal is the Dismal Swamp Museum which has exhibits about the denizens of the swamp and associated ecology along with a wooden walkway throught the swamp. If you even stop by, I'd highly recommend a 1/2 hour spent exploring the area, longer if you can manage it.

Saturday we're off to Elizabeth City and their free docks.