Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Home again in Williamsburg

Captain Pete and new swabbie Jake back MicMac into her slip.
We can now cross out "cruise up and down the ICW to Key West" on our Bucket List.

Seven months after MicMac left Deltaville (10-11-09), she backed into her old slip at Stingray Point yesterday, thanks to help from good friend, Jake.

This "first rate first mate" gladly turned over the crew position for the final day because 1) Jake is always happy to sail, and 2) some feisty winds were still possible. Jake and Pete had a rolicking good sail up the bay and it was indeed "rolly," chilly, and drizzly. I picked them up in Deltaville. We loaded the SUV to the top with LOTS of clothes (many of which were neither worn nor needed since we only got in the water once) and many of the 40+ books we've read during this voyage. Most marinas have book exchange shelves, so we kept swapping.

Our laundry room now looks like a disaster area because I want to wash everything that was on the boat. The pile of magazines is gargantuan, and the yard has lots of weeds. So it's back to normal for now. I don't think I need any long cruises on MicMac for awhile either. We did fly home in December for about a month and again in March, but 7 months is a long time.

 Captain Pete compiled some nifty figures about this voyage.
  • Departed: Oct. 11, 2009
  • Returned: May 11, 2010
  • Farthest point south: Key West, FL
  • Total days: 212
  • Days on board: 115
  • Days ashore (flew home twice, ashore with friends, famiy visits, travel etc.): 97
  • Miles covered: 2728 statute miles
  • Marinas: 56 (more than we really wanted)
  • Anchorages: 37
  • Engine hours: 530 hrs.
  • Diesel fuel consumed: 300 gallons
  • Wine consumed: Don't ask!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tied up in Hampton, VA

Where did all this scrap metal come from?
The day we left the Dismal Swamp Canal was delightful and much cooler than the day before. We were happy to see the sights of Norfolk and Portsmouth, commercial though they are. Even the huge pile of scrap metal looked great. The Norfolk Navy Shipyard and Navy Base never looked so good to me either.
"Star Wars" anyone?
This stealth ship was impressive too. I called it a "Star Wars Ship."

Sailing through Hampton Roads always involves dodging barges, tugboats, and Navy warships. Today was no different, but Captain Pete remained calm as usual.

But the weather forecast for the next three days did not look so appealing for sailing up the Bay to Deltaville the next day. Winds of 30-35 knots and 5-6 foot seas in the Bay? I think not.

So MicMac has been tied up at Bluewater Marina in Hampton since last Friday night. We phoned friends Jake and Diane to come rescue us and drive us home. Yeah, they were happy to oblige. Three or four nights at home (with the big luxury of flush toilets) sounded too good to pass up, as we wait for less wind--and NOT from the north.

Back in Virginia

Last Thursday night, just before dinner onboard at the Dismal Swamp Visitor Center, four more sailboats arrived. They needed to raft up with us and the two other boats on this short dock. We finally got to meet Dwayne and Janet on Mystic Rose (after talking to them on the radio several times during the past few days) as they rafted up on our port side. Then we enjoyed happy hour with them and Warren and Patty from Warr de Mar. Those blasted no-see-ums and skeeters drove all of below after impromptu cocktail parties. It was really hot then. Thank heaven for fans.
That's a LOT of honeysuckle.
After awakening to a bird concert (there are 200 species here) and a cool morning, we enjoyed a “Honeysuckle High” as we passed through the upper half of the Dismal Swamp Canal the next morning. The honeysuckle (probably the invasive variety) was in bloom and covering the banks up to 30 feet high along both sides. Guess it’s better than kudzu, but it really chokes out everything, and the scent was almost overwhelming.

The canal is only a small part of the Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge’s 112,000 acres. We noticed that the trees immediately changed when we entered the manmade canal. Maple, oak, cedar, and the infamous sweetgum (Jeez, I hate those gumballs) joining the loblolly, tupelo, and bald cypress.

Bambi had to find a rare spot along the honeysuckled banks to get a drink.

A state park staffer showed us on a map where the 3-month long fires burned in the Virginia portion of the swamp bogs a few years ago. Nothing burned along the canal!

We really felt like we were getting close to home when we saw this sign. Goodbye North Carolina; you offered some great sites and sights.

After about 20 miles (and one thunk as we hit a small submerged log), we arrived too early at the lock and bridge at the north end of the canal, so Pete had “fun” keeping MicMac in the deeper center. Ever try to tread water with a boat?

The Dismal Swamp ICW passage cuts through the heart of the great swamp that straddles the North Carolina-Virginia state line. Part of the route is composed of the long Dismal Swamp Canal, which is situated between two locks, one at Deep Creek, Virginia, and the other in the small North Carolina village of South Mills. Both locks raise or lower cruising craft about 8 feet, and care must be taken when mooring to the lock walls. The locks currently operate four times a day, and skippers must take this schedule into consideration when planning their voyage.

Deep Creek lock is filling up.
The Deep Creek lock-tender (and bridge tender), Robert Peek, is a legend of sorts among the cruising folks. He can blow a conch shell like you've never heard. He can coax an entire song out of one! He has a "conch garden" (gifts from cruisers) and some healthy looking banana trees growing nearby. Our last look at tropical foliage for a long time as we waited less than 30 minutes for the water level to fall!

He easily fit all six of us boats along the sides of the canal. He's been at this job for 16 years. He told me had once fit 32 boats into the lock at once. That's gotta be tight!

The Dismal Swamp passage is definitely a treat for those interested in natural scenery and isolation. The canal allows a magnificent view of the swampy terrain, still for the most part in its natural state. The water is like strong coffee, although at this time of year, it has some pollen on top. We encountered very little boat traffic either. It's definitely the "road less traveled." Robert Frost would enjoy it.