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Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Tuckahoe to... somewhere on the Dismal Swamp, dock

It's been said you cannot make plans when boating. Things frequently don't go as planned, so in addition to that "plan A" you'd better have a "plan B".

Or, in our case, a "Plan E."

Plan A: Get up early and get the Albemarle done. That part went very well. Winds were higher than expected but from the NE, which meant we were taking waves on our quarter bow. Catamarans love that. The heights were around 2 feet at the beginning, then dwindled to under a foot as we progressed. Great crossing. So all we had to do was get up the Pasquotank River and onto our favorite free dock, get some water, do some yoga, take some naps, go to the brewery, grab some dinner...

Early up and out
We like the little dock behind the little University in Elizabeth City. When we first started boating and did the loop, staying in the town docks was "da bomb". Those were free, close to town center, and the locals hand out flowers to welcome boaters. In the last couple of years, however, they fell into disrepair, some bound with yellow "keep out" tape. Also, if the weather is coming from the south (not the case now) they can be bouncy. They had tiny (read that "useless") finger piers, making getting off the boat a challenge for most boaters. Lastly, they were on the south side of the Elizabeth City Bridge which you have to time to leave in the morning. The university dock is 1) clean, 2) had a friendly dockmaster, 3) free, 4) on the OTHER side of the bridge and 5) a pleasant walk to town. I shouldn't be surprised it was popular. However, we arrived around 11 am and the dock was full, largely because lazy boaters hadn't left yet. Sail boats.... just sayin'.

Plan B, stay at the city docks. Plan C, go into the Dismal now and stay at the visitor center, which we always do. It was just a couple of hours away. We picked "C" and kept going.

The Dismal Canal is bounded by 2 locks, the south one (South Mills) and a north one (Deep Creek). They only open 4 times a day, at the same time (8:30, 10, 13:30, and 15:30). That's because water in the canal is rather precious. If both locks just opened whenever anyone wanted to the canal could be totally drained. Thus the schedule.

Hangin' out on the lock wall
Of course, we were going to arrive at the south lock at 1:40 pm, just missing the 1:30 lockthru. There are dolphins there, just outside, so we figured we'd tie to those, take naps, eat some lunch, and do the 3:30 lockthru. 

Using our AIS we noticed 2 boats behind us, following us onto the Dismal, one we looped with, Inshallah. We also saw a boat leaving the lock chamber heading north (so, that's one boat we're certain will be at the visitor center... and the dock holds 3 - 4 boats). Upon arriving at the lock we heard a boat hail the lockmaster, hoping to still make the lockdown. We didn't think (now that it was passed 2 pm) he would, but lo! He locked them down. Sadly, that meant we couldn't tie up to the dolphins because we'd be in the way of the boat leaving the lock. We stood station and waited. For 45 minutes. Oh... I have stories about this lockthru but this blog entry is already long... 

We've never thought the Dismal was
all the dismal.
Once the boat passed us we were making our way to the dolphins when the lock master just waved us into the chamber! So we complied. He wasn't going to lock us through, but was letting us wait in the lock. Very nice! We snugged up to the front to make room for the 2 behind us, and went to take a quick nap. 

The lockmaster clearly wanted to get us out of his way so he started locking us through at 3:20, and all 3 of us were back at it by 4 pm.

Turned out, not one but 2 (sailboats... it's always the sailboats!) were already at the visitor center dock. Inshallah was a larger boat. If we took some of the dock ourselves, they wouldn't have room. The third boat could easily raft to Inshallah. Yes, we could have just taken the spot ourselves but that didn't seem fair. We knew there were a couple of smaller docks up ahead. We hailed the following vessels and told them the situation and that we would press on.

Stuff you see on the Dismal
Plan D was the Lake Drummond Feeder dock which our documentation said was 17 feet. Looked way too small for us.

Plan E was the Douglas Road dock, which we've always thought looked cute. So here was our chance to try it.

By the time we came to a full and complete stop we'd been underway for over 12 hours.

Btw... we did have a Plan F. It involved waffles. We still may do that in the morning.
The Douglas Road dock. I told you it was cute!

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