Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Play Day

Days on Cruise:  37

Today’s distance:  4.5 miles

Travel Time:  1 hr, 23 minutes

Total Odometer:  1,039 statute miles

We slept well at the free Dismal Swamp Visitor’s Center dock last night. One thing that surprised us, as we’d never heard it from other Loopers or read this detail on any Looper blog we followed in the previous year, is that the Visitor’s Center is adjacent to a 4-lane divided highway! It’s not a terribly busy highway, but we were still surprised to have the Swamp noises sometimes overwhelmed by the highway noises. Only one other boat was at the dock.

This morning we pulled our bicycles out of the guest stateroom where they live when we don’t have visitors and went for a 10-mile ride to the town of South Mills.  Turns out it’s a tiny town, with not a lot there besides the Lock and Bascule Bridge we traveled through yesterday, but it was a pleasant ride, the first half of which was on a bike trail immediately adjacent to the Swamp. And it felt good to get off the boat and get some exercise.





After the bike ride, we cast off our dock lines and moved 6 miles further north on the Canal, at idle speed in order to keep a watch for deadheads, and minimize any damage if we hit any. No problems.

We saw a snake in the canal, the first of several!


Shortly before we finished our brief cruise, we crossed the state line into Virginia:  State #5 on this journey!


After 6.3 miles, we pulled over to this 20-foot Corps of Engineers dock and tied up for the night. Our boat is more than twice as long as the dock, so we’re hogging all the space, but we set out lines and fenders so anyone else hoping to stay tonight can raft up with us (tie to our side).


Looks like a pretty nice spot to spend the night, huh?


The Corps of Engineers could use some Marketing assistance. Immediately across the Canal from tonight’s dock is something called the “DSC Feeder Ditch. in actuality, it’s a 3-mile long side canal leading to Lake Drummond, which has a dam at the junction with the side canal and is used to regulate the water level in the Dismal Swamp Canal, to keep it at regulation depth even in dry weather conditions.  Can’t they come up with a nicer sounding name???


We dropped the dinghy into the water and traveled up the Feeder Ditch, which varies in depth from 3 to 16 feet, is narrower than the Dismal Swamp Canal, and not suitable for large boats. It also has lots of tree debris and deadheads, so navigating requires constant attention, especially in an inflatable dinghy; wouldn’t want to puncture it.

See the turtle on the log? Another  Swamp wildlife critter! Again it sounded like an aviary on this stretch (with no highway noise, yea!!), though we weren’t able to positively identify any birds other than Cardinals since we didn’t have our bird book on board the dinghy.


On arrival at the head of the Feeder Ditch, we found a small dam and were surprised to learn there was also something they call a “trolley”, otherwise known as a Marine Railway, which can be used to transport a small boat around and over the dam to the higher level water of Lake Drummond. For those of you who know us personally, you know that Bob worked to establish the light rail system in Seattle, built lots of public works projects, and bought trolley buses, so this felt like a teeny, tiny throwback to his career days!


This trolley moves so slowly it took 10 minutes for our boat to climb the tiny hill from the canal, then descend to the water on the other side of the dam. A boat trailer on rails, pulled by a twisted steel cable on a pulley driven by a diesel motor. Sort of like the San Francisco cable cars?


Heading out toward Lake Drummond the path narrowed even further and became so blocked by debris that it was like navigating an obstacle course to get through.


Lake Drummond is pretty, entirely remote, and very quiet. We didn’t see any other boats when we were out there.



Just before we left to do our Feeder Ditch trip, a group  arrived at the dock where our boat is parked – a family with 4 young kids and a few other adult friends, and they all kayaked up the Feeder Ditch to Lake Drummond. Those kids were troopers!  When they returned to the dock, the Mom, Sarah, got back in her kayak to practice some kayak rolls!  We heard splashing outside right next to our boat and went to see what was going on.  Here she goes!  One of the guys in her group goaded her into doing repeated rolls so he could videotape her, and she did about 6 in a row, declaring she was dizzy afterwards. She climbed up our swim ladder and got back on the dock via our boat, much easier since we were blocking all the dock space!


It was great to take a day to play in benign, if cool, weather. Tomorrow we head for Norfolk, Virginia to try to find a replacement sender for our starboard engine to see if that solves the oil pressure problem we had in the middle of Albemarle Sound two days ago.

By the way, we were vindicated in our decision to make the crossing that day (Friday) in sort of marginally high (for us) winds. It turns out Saturday was EVEN WINDIER, so if we had decided to wait, we’d probably still be sitting at the Alligator River Marina amongst the omnipresent flies and mosquitoes.

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