We left Elizabeth City on April 30 on a wet and dreary day – a fitting start to our entry into The Dismal Swamp. It rained the entire route stopping briefly (and fortunately) when it was time to maneuver our first lock. What an interesting experience – to see water rushing into an enclosed space (with 5 other boats) and lifting us all up 8 feet. Everything went very smoothly and just as we exited the lock, it began to pour again and it continued to do so until we arrived at the Dismal Swamp Visitors Center. There we took advantage of yet another free dock. We rewarded ourselves with a cozy lunch on board of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches and settled into an afternoon of reading.
Later on, we visited the Visitors Center and learned a bit more about the Dismal Swamp which had its beginnings during the Revolutionary War era with George Washington as one of the initial investors in creating a more convenient link between the North Carolina coast and the Norfolk area. It also served as an important part of the Underground Railroad. Many slaves hid in the swamp as they tried to make their way to freedom in the north.
On Friday we were joined on the dock by our boating buddies – Corinne and Robert on Ariel and Duane and Diane aboard Diva Di. We had our first “party” on board when they all squeezed into our salon for wine and cheese and crackers to discuss the routes we were planning to take through the Chesapeake Bay and beyond. What fun!
On Saturday morning, the weather cleared and made for a perfect day for the Paddle to the Border. Scores of paddlers on kayaks and canoes of all sorts convened at the Visitors Center for a 7 mile paddle to the border of Virginia. The swamp was closed to all boat traffic that morning as the colorful and energetic paddlers made their way up the river. Robert participated on his converted stand-up paddle board and was the first to finish!
Later that morning, we left with Ariel for our next stop at the northern border of the Dismal Swamp just south of the Deep Creek Lock. There we stopped at yet another free dock and ordered pizza and salad from the local pizzeria that actually delivered it to our boat. We enjoyed dinner on our aft deck with Corinne and Robert and a nice bottle of wine!
On Sunday morning it was finally time to depart the swamp. We entered the Deep Creek Lock where we were lowered 8 feet back down to the Elizabeth River. It was there that we left Ariel (hoping to meet up again in the Chesapeake) and proceeded on our way to Norfolk. We’ll be in Norfolk for several days attending the Rendezvous, a conference for boaters who are interested in learning more about The Great Loop. Stay tuned!