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.