June 25, 2014:
Today was a nice day – as in, no stress, no long runs, just a dismal swamp. I usually like to come up with a catchy title for each post, but I think I’ll just go with the name of where we are.
Day 10 – Newport, NC to Dismal Swamp Welcome Center, NC, 56 miles, 5 hours.
Yep – it was a nice causal day – after we left Alligator River Marina we ran across Alligator River (duh), up along Albermarle Sound before turning into the Pasquotank River, past Elizabeth City and eventually angled into the Dismal Swamp Canal. The two locks that control the water level in the canal – one each at the north and south ends – only open at 8:30, 11:00, 1:30, and 3:00, so you are either there or you wait.
We got to South Mills Lock, the southern lock, at 10:50. Perfect. We waited for five minutes with a sailboat for the lock to open and then ran in. The Dismal Swamp Canal is pretty amazing – from its rust colored water to its primitive beauty to its absolute stillness, this often overlooked final section of ICW shouldn’t be missed. It’s a no wake zone the entire way (we’re a 20 knot boat, whereas no wake means 5 knots), but really, it’s only about 30 miles long, so what’s the hurry?
We tied up at the midway point – at the Dismal Swamp Welcome Center – along with the sailboat. Dockage is free here (no power, but free WiFi and water) and they give you loaner bikes to explore the Dismal Swamp Park if you wish.
We took advantage of the bikes and rode the 6 miles back to South Mills to Williams Strawberry Farm and Bakery where we bought some goodies for dinner (more on that in a second).
But before that I wanted to introduce Rupert and Richard, the two guys from the sailboat. A Welshman and a Brit (Richard, forgive me if I’m wrong there!), they were bringing Sandpiper, Rupert’s sailboat, up from Marathon in the Florida Keys (and that has traveled the likes of Cuba and Mexico). We shared some beers and stories with them in the air conditioned comfort of Sequel’s helm deck before we parted ways. Nice guys. I told them I’d pass along their Facebook pages. Rupert’s is “Voyages of the Ketch Sandpiper” and Richard’s is “Realms of the Day.”
Though the bugs were a bit crazy, such can be said for the crew of Sequel, and we grilled (well, Amy grilled and I ate) some tasty local “salmon” (we suspect trout), a dozen amazing shrimp, the freshest corn ever, and topped it off with a sweet potato biscuit and some Gruner (side note – we brought two cases of wine aboard ahead of time. We’re almost out…).
That’s it – tomorrow marks the last handful of miles (28 to be exact) of the ICW, then we’re on our own to find the rest of our way north. What do we do? Run outside? Run up the Chesapeake then down Delaware Bay? Where do we stop? Do we stop, or do we simply set a course for magnetic 90?
But first, enjoy today’s video compilation:
For more, visit John on his website, here.