The next day we went through a long cut called the Alligator-Pungo
canal and anchored for the night in the Alligator River. The following day we actually thought we might be able to sail. No way. As we entered Albemarle Sound winds came on the nose at about 20 knots, and with the shallow waters of the sound we were practically stopped. It reminded us of going up the Red Sea, where often we went out, found conditions unpleasant, and turned around. We have learned something in all these years, so we turned right around, found a calm and secure anchorage near the mouth of the Alligator, and rested up to try again the next morning. All was calm, seas were quiet, and we put the mainsail up for the first time since April 2012. This photo is proof.
While we were rafted in the canal we met lots of other cruisers, and as cruisers do we shared information. One boater had tied up the night before in a nice little harbor-park in the historic part of Portsmouth, right in front of the Lightship Museum. It is right off the busy Elizabeth River, which is lined with naval shipyards and crisscrossed by ferries and tugs. A stern wheel paddle ferry docks here, but the rest of the area is available, FOR FREE. We tied up at 2 pm, went to find ice cream, toured the Lightship Museum, and are now enjoying "sundowners" in the cockpit. We hear the city lights at night are beautiful.
We'll stop in Hampton, VA, just on the north side of the harbor, for a few days while we check out possible places to leave CORMORANT for the winter--if that's what we decide to do.
At the last post, we were leaving Oriental, NC, after a wonderful visit with cruising friends Dick and Donna. It was a beautiful, calm morning, but cold. Slowly, the winds came up and the temperature rose as we wended our way up the Neuse River and then through the narrow cuts in the waterway. Our night's anchorage was in Pungo Creek, with 33 knot gusts just as the anchor went down.
Our goal was to stay for 2 nights in Elizabeth City, which has a wonderful reputation with cruisers. They offer 14 free docks, often greet boats with roses and a wine and cheese party,. The largest Coast Guard Air Station in the US is here, and the blimp hanger was an amazing sight from the river. For us, the biggest reason for going this was was that we wanted to go through the Great Dismal Swamp. When we came down the waterway in 1997 the swamp route was closed because of low water. Right now it is open, but the controlling depth is only 6 feet. It is narrow and there are half sunken logs to watch out for as well as overhanging branches to snag your mast, but it was wonderful. Parts made us think of the "forest primeval", as we puttered along to the sounds of birds and frogs.
The canal was dug in the late 1700's and operational by 1805, in order to connect what is now North Carolina with the large seaport and markets of Norfolk and connect those areas by water and road. George Washington evidently had over 50,000 acres of land which his company logged, and one of the connecting canals is called the Washington Canal. Because the swamp route of the ICW is shallow and entirely a no wake zone, the fast cruisers who proceed at what we call "swamping speed" all go the other way. Two full days without constant passing traffic.