Saturday, September 28, 2013

North Caroline Welcome Center - at a free dock

We passed by Norfolk early this morning, several aircraft carriers were in for repairs
We left Hampton at 6:45 am in order to ensure making the 9:30 opening of the Gilmerton  Bridge so that we would also make the 11:00 am Dismal Swamp opening. So deadlines piled upon other deadlines and I got up at 5:30 to start getting ready.

Entering the Dismal Swamp, we first see palm trees!
Somewhat to our surprise, the wind piped up and surpassed 20 kts as we headed towards Norfolk and we rocked and rolled. We were fortunate to reach Hampton before the winds turned strong later this week. As we entered Elizabeth River, the winds persisted but they had no reach and so little wave action. As it turned out, we were 1/2 hour ahead of time for the bridge but we wanted the extra safely margin since we could have been caught at either of the two railway bridges before Gilmerton which are normally kept open but close when a train approaches.

The locks at the Dismal Swamp are in full action
We were also surprised that we were the only sailboat waiting for the 9:30 opening and as we turned into the Dismal Swamp entrance, we were all alone. Eventually a small motorboat joined us as the lock was opening and we continued on into the canal. We were greeted with duck week from shore to shore for the first 14 miles, ugh! Eventually we ran out of it and the rest of the trip to the welcome center was almost without incident. As we approached the free docks, we saw a mat of grass in the middle of the fairway so we swerved to avoid it and didn't notice the overhanging branches of a large tree on the side. Fleetwing swiped the tree limbs and branches came tumbling down! Luckily, the branches only touched the shrouds and not the top of the mast where the wind speed sensor was located! So there was no damage but a lot of surprise at the resultant gravity fall of tree debris onto Fleetwing.

Just the start of our adventure!
After that  bit of excitement, we finally docked Fleetwing next to the only other boat present, a trawler going north, and we settled in for the night. The welcome center has an interesting nature display that's free so we all marched over to see that along with several nature trails, interesting.

Hummm, I think we got too close to a few trees!
We'll set out at 10:00 am on Sunday to overnight in Elizabeth City where Rudy and Alison plan on leaving Fleetwing for home. We'll continue on south and meet up with former PYC members Don and Liz Bunch and hopefully Bill and Pat Zeising at Washington, NC. We look forward to seeing long-time friends!
At peace at the welcome center