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Tuesday, 3 December 2013
CT to FL Day 13
Elizabeth City, NC to Belhaven, NC
We departed from the Jennet Brothers Docks in Elizabeth City at 0600. We immediately had to hail the Elizabeth City Bridge for an opening. No delays for the bridge and we were underway out the Pasquotank River toward the Albemarle Sound and saw an awesome sunrise. This trip we have experienced some of the best sunrises and sunsets in a long time.

The forecast was for 5-10 knot winds and 1 foot seas... again the forecast was all wrong... it was glass smooth calm and winds were maybe 5 knots at times but most of the day there was no wind. Absolutely, the best day of cruising we have had so far... bright and sunny and flat calm.

We did see quite a bit more boat traffic that were definitely moving south... two SeaRay type boats passed us in the Alligator River... and we heard them talking too several others as they moved south passing everyone... at least they were courteous and gave us a no wake pass.

Destination for the night planned to be Belhaven, NC... a new town dock that is free.... no power or water but the price is right. We arrived to Belhaven just after sunset so we were not quite sure of the exact location of the docks but had directions to it from ActiveCaptain. Sunset was at 1641 so by the time we reached the area where the dock was it was nearly dark... had to use the spotlight to locate it... no lighting on the dock at all and it's located north of town and basically in the middle of no where... we walked Beecha up the dock and as far as the nearest street... the dock is in a large field and a lot of reeds and saw grass... very well built dock and very new... did have evidence that there is a sea gull problem as the docks were stained with sea gull poop... but it had been recently cleaned off... just the white stains remained.

We were securely docked at the dock at 1730. We traveled today for 11.5 hours covering 76 nautical miles averaging 6.6 knots. We are located at N35°32.533', W076°37.823'.
Posted at 6:28 PM
Monday, 2 December 2013
CT to FL Day 12
Chesapeake, VA to Elizabeth City, NC
We departed from Chesapeake Yachts today at 0730 and headed west on Deep Creek. We had only 2 miles to reach the Deep Creek Lock and the north end of the Dismal Swamp Canal. We arrived to the lock at 0805 and had approximately 25 minutes to wait for the first lock opening at 0830. There was one small sailboat waiting at the lock as we arrived.

We were hailed by the lockmaster at 0835 that it was clear to enter the lock. He requested that we enter before the sailboat due to our high freeboard. We needed to be located at a specific spot where the lock bollards had collars. He did not want our line to pop off as we rose in the lock above the lock wall where the bollards were located. We were going up 8 feet to reach the water level of the canal.

At 0900 we had the green light to exit and proceeded to the Deep Creek Bridge... the lockmaster after locking us through has to drive to the bridge and open it... he told not to rush... so we did not rush... did not even get above idle speed... a few minutes later he hailed us on the VHF and said he had arrived and he was starting an opening. We were through the bridge and brought our speed up to 5 knots... this was the speed it would take to reach the south end of the Dismal Swamp Canal for the 1330 lock opening at South Mills.

Well, we tried to maintain the 5 knots but the depth of the canal ranges from 5.5 feet to 9.1 feet... at least that is what we saw today... anything over 8 feet we could make 5 knots... less than that and we were good to keep 4 knots... we were fighting our own bow wake off the bottom... if I increased RPM all I did was cause the stern to squat lower in the water... and this is not the area to do that... there are numerous deadheads laying on the bottom. Last time we went through the Dismal Swamp we ended up damaging both wheels (propellers) hitting deadheads on the bottom. As it was we must of heard 2 dozen or more thuds and bangs on the hull... only one did I actually feel something hit one of the rudders.

About two thirds of the way down the canal you come to the North Carolina Visitors Center. As we approached this I could see what appeared to be something extending across the waterway from bank to bank... looking in the binoculars I could see it was a bridge... there was not suppose to be a bridge here... I checked in the cruising guides and discovered that there is a pedestrian foot bridge that is sometimes closed to allow visitors to cross the canal from the visitors center... guide stated normally open... today it was closed. The guide listed a phone number to call and we made a call and asked about the bridge... they said no problem they would open it... takes only 5 minutes... we slowed to allow as much time as possible... I know 5 minutes was most likely going to be more... but it was not... 5 minutes later the bridge was open and we passed through heading toward the South Mills Bridge and Lock.

According to the chartplotter our ETA to the South Mills Bridge was about 1300... 30 minutes early but figured they would open and we could wait on the bulkhead between the bridge and the lock... We arrived exactly as anticipated at 1300 and hailed the bridge on the VHF. They answered and asked where the second boat was... they were told two boats were coming through at the 1330 opening of the lock. I said there was a small sailboat but he was well behind us... well... the bridge said we would have to wait for the sailboat to arrive and he would open for both of us at the same time... I checked behind us and I could barely see the sailboat without binoculars... we had a good wait ahead of us.

25 minutes later the sailboat arrived and the bridge opened and we proceeded south toward the South Mills Lock... I could see the green light so we would be able to enter with no delay. Of course this lock and bridge are the same as the north lock and bridge... same operator handles both the bridge opening and the locking. And this operator was not Mr. Speedy or very friendly... total opposite from the north lock operator who is fantastic! Anyway, he finally drives up in his truck and slowly walks out to help with our lines... I can reach the lock bollard easily from the bow but it's impossible for Susan to get a line on from the stern deck without help from the lock.

We get secured and we watch as this operator just takes his time... his speeds are slow and slower... and he lost his personality sometime in the 60's... he did speak once as he walked by... "Going down 8 feet Captain." Oh well, I guess he was having bad day or something. We exited the lock at 1350 and next stop was Elizabeth City, NC.

We arrived to Elizabeth City at approximately 1605 and rounded the last bend and saw the Elizabeth City Bridge... forgot all about this bridge... checking the opening schedule we found the bridge does not open on demand between 1600 and 1800... only opens hourly on the half hour... so next opening was 1630... we had planned to go to the Elizabeth City Free Docks but just did not feel like waiting 25 minutes for the bridge. There were some other free docks before the bridge so we just pulled into them. The Jennet Brothers Food Distributors has docks that they allow boats to dock free as long as you visit a local restaurant while docked... Not a problem for us.

At 1615 we were securely docked at the Jennet Brothers Docks located at N36°18.107', W076°13.052'. Today we traveled for 8.75 hours covering 37.8 nautical miles averaging 4.3 knots.

We went into town for dinner and had a very good meal at Toyama Japanese Restaurant. Very reasonably priced and very very good.
Posted at 7:37 PM
Sunday, 1 December 2013
CT to FL Day 11
Deltaville, VA to Chesapeake, VA
We departed from Deltaville this morning at 0630 and headed out the channel into the Chesapeake Bay. The forecast for the day was N winds 5-10 knots switching to W winds 5-10 knots with 1 foot seas. The winds seemed accurate but the seas were way off... it was flat calm all day long and the sun was out all day as well. It was an awesome day of cruising.

Well not totally perfect... about 3 hours into the trip I had a bilge alarm light come on for the aft compartment... lazarette... I turned the helm over to Susan and went to check it out... sometimes the rudder stuffing boxes will leak a little more and their overflow reservoir will overflow... but other than that the bilge in the lazarette is dry.

Upon entering the lazarette I notice d a small amount of water in the lowest part of the bilge where the pump is located... just barely enough to raise the float switch. I checked the rudder post reservoir and it was empty and totally dry... my mind then started spinning... where was this water coming from... I tasted it and it was fresh water... that's a relief... if it was salty then I had water coming through the hull some way... but fresh meant it coming from the interior of the boat. since it had been so cold I then figured it was condensation that had frozen and with it being warmer today had thawed out and formed the water I saw... it was maybe a gallon at most. I went and got a sponge and bucket and began to remove the water. I sat my flashlight down so I had both hands free... the flashlight was shinning to the starboard side of the boat... while I was sponging up the water I noticed a shimmering of light on the lazarette wall... the kind you see when light is reflecting off a water surface.

I stopped sponging and moved some things that are stored in the lazarette around to inspect the starboard side... low and behold I discovered a small lake... at least it looked that way to me when I first saw it... the entire right side of the lazarette was filled with water... The sides of the lazarette do not drain into the center until quite a bit of water is present... the weep hole is located in the middle and there is quite a bit of slope to the hull in this area so it holds a lot of water before any ever weeps into the lower bilge area where the bilge pump is located.

So, I scanned round the lazarette for a source of a fresh water leak as there was no way frozen condensation caused this much water. Then I saw it... a pin hole leak in a water line that feeds the rear deck shower head... and I mean "pin hole"... it was spraying a fine stream of water straight in to the side wall of the lazarette. It took all of 2 minutes to fix... tightened the hose clamp and it was fixed.

It evidently had been leaking for some time to accumulate this much water... a sponge was not going to come close to handling this. I retrieved a hand pump and began pumping the water from the right side into the center portion of the bilge where the bilge pump did it's job and pumped the water overboard. I estimate there was 20-30 gallons of water.
I cleaned up the small portion the pump did not remove with the sponge and we were good.

Boat traffic was again way up from what we have seen so far... even several other boats heading south. Tons of small fishing boats. We did have one neat encounter with another boat as we were entering the Norfolk area. We were hailed by "Curious Cat" on the VHF... and found it was one of very good friends that we visit quite often in Smithfield, VA... Wayne McPhail... this was his new boat he had just purchased and was on his way home with it. It was nice to hear his voice and wave to him as he passed by... wish we had had the time to go to Smithfield and visit him and his wife Judy... they are the best!

This trip we decided we would skip the Virginia Cut and take the Dismal Swamp route for a change. We have been stopping in different spots so this seemed the logical thing to do... we have not been this route since October 2008. We will miss the hassle with all the bridges starting with the Steel Bridge, Great Bridge Lock and Bridge...particularly the Centerville Turnpike and North Landing bridges... they have opening schedules that are just impossible to make at 7 knots... so you either have to push really hard or slow way down... pushing very hard with SAILS is just not happening... we have tried to make this in the 30 minutes between openings and just can't do it... so we have to slow down and take an hour to go 5 miles... really sucks.

So we opted for the Dismal Swamp route... two locks to deal with, one each end and two bridges at each lock. We had hoped to make the last opening today at 1530 for the northern lock... the "Deep Creek Lock"... but we were running about 15 minutes too late... we had current against us all day long... 4.5 to 6.3 knots.

So unable to make the 1530 locking, we stopped at Chesapeake Yachts... they have a large floating dock... it's about 2 nautical miles from the Deep Creek Lock and best part it is FREE... no power or water but FREE works for us.

Our location for the night is N36°45.403', W076°18.079'. We traveled for 9 hours covering 55.8 nautical miles averaging 6.2 knots.
Posted at 4:23 PM
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