"2000, November 7-ICW through Norfolk going South" Deep Creek Travelogue by grandmaR

Deep Creek Travel Guide: 2 reviews and 29 photos

Leaving Old Point Comfort - Crossing Hampton Roads

Bob had the alarm set early so that he could help Fred cast off his lines. They have to get fuel first. Then he got us ready to leave, and took up the trash. I had some stuff I wanted to go to the pay phone to send (where I don't have to pay extra) but he was too impatient to give me time to walk up, so I sent it via the car phone. We had very good connections in Norfolk. He came back and said the office didn't open until 8.

There was virtually no wind, so getting out of the slip went smoothly. We left about 7:30. Fred and Sharon still didn't have their fuel, so we started out across the harbor. It was overcast, cold and raw, damp weather. I charged the digital camera, and finished up a roll on the regular camera. I used the bag phone and e-mail.

I had been worried that there would be so many large commercial vessels and Navy ships that we would be overwhelmed with watching them, but this was not so. I could see another sailboat ahead of us. There was a big Navy ship and a big container ship (photo) leaving the harbor but nothing going in our direction. We have channel 13 on the good radio, and channel 16 on the new radio. Most of the traffic was on channel 13.

There was some adverse current in the harbor - I have the nav program set to show how much there is and which way it flows.

Coal Loading on the Elizabeth RIver

We started down the Elizabeth River, and we could see Fred and Sharon across the harbor behind us. They are catching up.

We watched cranes loading container ships, and in one place they were 'bumping' coal cars (running them up a ramp and letting them slide down to move them over). We passed the Corp of Engineers building with their boats painted black and yellow.

Hospital Point is the zero mile mark for the ICW. It was 12 statute mile from the marina to this point. I looked in the anchorage there, but didn't recognize any boats I knew.

Elizabeth River Ferry

The Elizabeth River ferry paddle wheel came out from his dock and turned down the river along our port side. He started to pass us and got almost all the way past, and then decided to come over to the other side of the river, and turned almost right into us. We speeded up so he went behind us.

I had long ago lost track of the first sailboat, but saw another one ahead, and I heard the guy call the Jordon Highway Bridge (a draw bridge) while we were opposite the Naval Shipyard. I called ahead and said there were two more sailboats behind him, and the bridge operator waited until we were all there to lift the bridge. .We went through the open RR bridge at 10:40 and the Jordan bridge at 10:45.

Deep Creek

We had intended to go through the Deep Creek Lock at the 11:00 a.m. opening, but it didn't look like that would happen. We didn't even get to the Gilmerton lift bridge until 11:15, and he didn't open for the 3 of us until 11:19.

Just after we passed under the big highway bridge (which was right after the Gilmerton bridge), we turned starboard (right) into the Dismal Swamp Canal. The other sailboat went down by the VA cut, and Fred and Sharon entered the canal behind us.

The canal was beautiful - all the trees were turning colors, there were numerous mallards along the banks and it was mirror calm. Too bad it wasn't sunnier. A kingfisher flew past giving his clacking call.

We reached the Deep Creek lock about noon (22.3 mile @ 5.1 mph), and the next opening wasn't until 1:30.

Deep Creek Lock

I heard a boat called Raggy Waltz call the Gilmerton Bridge to ask if the Dismal Swamp Route was open. He said he wouldn't know, but that he'd seen two sailboats go up there - guess that was us.

We tried to tie up to a dolphin (a group of pilings), but it was too shallow around it, so we anchored. I told Bob not to bother with a lot of scope or setting the anchor - I mean there was no wind - we just wanted to stop the boat a bit. So we had lunch. I ate my steak from the night before, and Bob had tuna salad, and we had grapes. Fred and Sharon anchored too.

Pretty soon another boat with a very smoky engine came and anchored, and then a pretty boat with green topsides and a second boat appeared.

I called the lock on the radio and got no response, so I called on the phone (I still had good cell phone service), and the lock keeper said she'd start to prepare the lock about 1:15. So we pulled the anchor after 1 and sat idling in the creek while she let the water out of the lock.

When she gave us the green light (there was a traffic light on the front of the lock) we went into the lock which is 300 feet long, up to the end and the lock keeper picked up our lines with a boat hook (we had lines fore and aft) and looped them over a stanchion. Her two dogs were running around with her - one a spotted mutt and one a Chesapeake.

The green boat (who turned out to be Raggy Waltz) was behind us, and then Fred and Sharon were next behind them. Then the other boat with Raggy Waltz, some Canadians in a boat called Camelot II were on the port side opposite us, and the smoking boat, which was a Westsail 32 being single-handed by an old man with a Santa Claus beard was behind them.

When the lock tender started to let the water in the lock it was quite turbulent. I should mention that the water has so much tannin in it that it is the color of coffee. The Canadian's fenders weren't adequate and they were quite upset at the turbulence of the water, although the lock keeper said she let the water in very slowly.

As we came up in the lock, I saw a sign that said "No swimming in the lock" which I thought was funny in view of the water color.

Deep Creek Bridge

The lock tender said she'd locked through 9 other boats, and that she thinks only 4 went on the Elizabeth City.

We all left the lock, and went down to the bridge and waited for the lock tender to open that. We went through the bridge at 2:15. Raggy Waltz and Camelot II passed us because they wanted to take some pictures of the undisturbed water in the canal ahead.

Dismal Swamp Canal

The canal is absolutely straight, but you can't just leave the wheel or the boat will dive toward the side. Sometimes the boats ahead will deviate around something in the water. Sometimes things that we don't see bump into the hull. There were a couple of places where it got a bit shallow, and Bob got the spreaders into the trees once, so we have a lot of leaveson the deck.

We passed a barge with a dredge on it near the 18 mile mark, and the feeder ditch to Ft. Drummond at the 21 mile mark. The traffic on the highway is rushing by noisily on one side, and other the other is completely deserted except for an occasional duck or bird.

NC Dismal Swamp Visitor's Center

It is getting toward dark, and I am getting worried as the Visitor's Center dock is closed at 5. I try to call on the phone. Eventually I get a lady who says they have 5 sailboats already rafted on the dock, and everyone is very friendly and we won't have any trouble.

Raggy Waltz and Camelot rafted on the back boat. We rafted off a PDQ catamaran, and we are sticking out in the front over another boat. The single-hander rafts onto the boat in front of us, and Fred tied up beside us. There's another Canadian boat from Toronto there. I have a good gossip on the pier and get e-mail via the pay phone.

The visitior's center is closed and has bathrooms, but no showers. For some reason, I expected that bathrooms would have showers.

Bob gets tired of talking and goes to fix dinner and eats before I get back. After dinner, we go to bed. I try to plan the next day's trip and listen to the radio some, but give up and go to sleep.

Next, the finish of The Dismal Swamp

  • Page Updated Apr 16, 2009
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