Friday, July 4, 2008

Elizabeth City, NC to Solomons, MD

We timed our departure from Elizabeth City so we could hit a scheduled opening of a nearby bridge that would also allow us to reach the lock into the Dismal Swamp Canal at one of its scheduled openings. The two locks on the canal only open four times a day, so some planning – or waiting - is required. It was a pleasant trip up the Pasquotank River with its tree lined banks.

This is an osprey nest on the Pasquotank River. The interesting trees and stumps are typical of the area.
As we traveled slowly up river – even slow for us in order to keep our wait at the lock to a minimum – we occasionally passed houses or fish camps. The area seemed pretty desolate, but when we passed one small group of houses we could see what they did for fun. Guess they’d heard about the Marines launching artillery across the ICW and decided to try it themselves.
We didn’t think we’d like to make this trip in the dark anyway, but we were sure we’d have missed this turn to the South Mills Lock.

This snake was crossing the river near the lock. Joe tried to convince me it had made its way t o our swim platform, but I’m sure Rocky the guard dog would have protected me.

The canal is eight feet above the river level and there is only one lock to take you up the full eight feet. The ride at the front end looked pretty rough. We were about halfway back in the lock.
We’ve heard pros and cons to taking the Dismal Swamp route, but had also been told to take it at least once. We were glad we did. It is long and narrow and slow – it wouldn’t help to go any faster because you’d have to wait for the lock at the other end anyway – but riding on the fly bridge you can hardly hear the engines as you glide through. It was so peaceful – except for the areas that route 17 runs close to!

There were fires nearby, and we were affected by the smoke at times, but we also saw several great blue herons and other wildlife.

We reached the Deep Creek Lock in time for the 3:30 opening and met lockmaster Robert. He seems to really enjoy his job and told us to time our trip back south to stay at Elizabeth Dock which is near his lock. He promised coffee and doughnuts in the morning so we may have to take him up on it.

We’ve heard that some of the lockmasters keep gardens and are rather competitive about them.
His was the first we’ve seen – there was a little bit of everything in there including lots of conch shells – one of which he picked up and played a tune on!

It was still early after we locked through so we decided to continue on to Norfolk before stopping for the night. An anchorage in Portsmouth that was mentioned in our guide book looked pretty full so we went in search of a free dock that was also mentioned. We’re not sure we found the right spot, but we tied up near where a passenger ferry arrives and departs every 30 minutes – blowing one long horn blast as it departs every time. Lucky for us it was a week day and it only ran until 9:35pm. We were surrounded by condos and a waterfront park that is sometimes the site of concerts. Joe kept his badge handy in case we were rousted during the night, but we had an uneventful night’s sleep.
When we were about ready to take off, we noticed what appeared to be coral growing on the pilings.

The trip through the Portsmouth/Norfolk/Hampton Roads was impressive to say the least. The numbers and sizes of the ships was just incredible as was the tug traffic.
The radio was constantly filled with the chatter of the tug captains negotiating around each other and sometimes trying to convince the bridge operators to open at unscheduled times.

After the hustle and bustle, we went up into the Little Wicomico to anchor so that we could make our crossing of the Potomac River in the calm early morning. We had a nice spot to anchor – buggy, though – and the a/c had finally quit working at all.

The next morning we set out and saw this tug pulling a barge down the bay. We never could tell for sure what was on the barge – but it was big. The mouth of the Potomac in the early morning was co-operative and we made it to Solomons before noon.

Our former next door neighbors in Golden Beach, Jim and Judi, now live on Helen Creek near Solomons and had offered us dockage there. We’d also had the new a/c pump shipped to their house.
We all liked this shot of their Lil’ Toot and Carolyn Ann out on the creek together. Jim and Joe managed to install the new a/c pump – which, of course, was not identical to the old pump so a trip or two to the store was in order – and we visited for several days.

We really enjoyed our time there and so did Rocky with his new friend Jessie!

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