A fixed bridge in the Dismal Swamp , I loved the columns 



As we motor up the Alligator River, I will try and catch up on our logs. 

On 29Oct, we left Sassafras River anchorage on the Chesapeake. We had anchored there after crossing the Delaware/Chesapeake Canal.  We left with NE winds . we did end up sailing at 10 and then the wind died down just before the Chesapeake Bay Bridge- a huge bridge spanning one of the narrowest parts of the Chesapeake. David decided to take down the sails just after the bridge before we noticed a huge submarine surfaced about 500m in front of us.  We soon heard from the coast guard warning all vessels to stay 500 m away. We hurried to get the sails down and then motored away from the sub.  There was a touring boat right beside the sub and I’m just surmising there might have been a collision as all traffic stopped and there were guard boats on the tips of the sub to protect it.  Freighters were stopped south of the sub and they don’t stop for anything usually.  The submarine was impressive. It was huge, and you could see armed people on top of it. 

We motored until dusk and reached South River anchorage which was very unprotected,but due to mild winds , it was adequate. We did catch an amazing sunset at this anchorage. The Chesapeake has about 11,000 miles of coastline. It would take a lifetime to explore it. We didn’t have the time so we had to motor south through it knowing we were missing lots- Baltimore, Annapolis to name a few. 

Both of us were getting really tired of motoring by this time and the Chesapeake is unending in size. So we decided that we were tough enough sailors to go all night! Our engine fix seemed to be holding well and confidence in TC was high. We left South River at 8 and motored pretty well until 9:30 the next morning! It was a little stressful due to battleships and freighters and crab and fishing traps. I felt like we were in a video game where you have to dodge the dangers.  Night was cool. We had planned on watches but David was not comfortable to sleep so we set up the queen bed in the cockpit (raised the cockpit floor and added the 3rd cushion). We grabbed our big sleeping bag, blankets and pillows and took turns navigating through the night and sleeping outside. The stars were amazing. It felt safer having the other person beside to double check lights and guess whether they were boats or just navigation aids or even lights in the distant shores. We got really good at identifying what was a freighter or battleship and what was an anchored freighter. The crab traps were unending and for us a danger because we stayed just outside of the channels most of the time. 

We had to slow down before coming into Norfolk as it was still dark and we wanted some light. I felt great. I had my second wind and the bright sunlight was waking me up. David on the otherhand, looked a wreck but to be fair, he had done most of the steering. Our auto pilot is not installed yet. We managed to motor into Norfolk at daybreak  and were amazed at the boatyards, naval yards and the battleships of all types. Truly an amazing display of the strength of the US navy. Many boats were surrounding the ships at anchor with big guns. We made sure to stay as far as possible while dodging freighters. This area was more of a challenge than the New York harbour had been. 


The battleships and aircraft carriers are striking. Norfolk and Portsmouth are busy ports.

We searched for an anchorage and came upon one that was pretty packed. David did his magic and got us anchored in between some sailboats. i was a little nervous as it was crowded but the holding was good and there was no wind. It happened to be Hospital Point anchorage in Portsmouth which is a city right beside Norfolk. It happens to be known as the symbolic mile 0 start point for the ICW. We didn’t know that when we chose it. It felt appropriate. 

After, some time to rest as we didn’t want to be awake all night, we rowed to shore (didn’t feel like unleashing the dinghy motor ) and wanted some excercise anyway). We walked to a dollartree store and provisioned a little. The houses are gorgeous in the historic section. We also saw palm trees in some yards! We are in the south now! 


Later, we met “Doug” a live aboard sailor with a Westsail who was anchored near us. He motored up to us in a red dinghy with his dog. We chatted for a while and shared politics and points on Bahamas and Florida. He lives up and down the coast and knew just about everything sail wise along the atlantic coastline. We picked his brain about Bahamas. He remarked that he had not seen as many boats heading south as this year. It seems many more people are heading out to the ocean this season. He felt the Bahamas would be very packed this year but you could still find isolated spots like David and I like. The difference is we don’t mind places with no bars or restaurants. When he got a call that his new sails had arrived, he bid us a quick farewell. It’s really neat to meet such interesting people who all love being on the water. 

After, as we were settling in with dinner, another sailor approached us to check TC out. It’s garnering some attention as it is a very different sailboat and sailors are a curious lot. He also offered to buy David’s Trinka as David had told him he had a Trinka as well and David’s is a little bigger. The Trinka though is quite tippy and heavy , we really like our small Highfield rubber dinghy as it is small, light and stable. 


We left Hospital Point at about 7:50 knowing we had to catch the bridge (Gilmarton Bridge , the first opening bridge after Norfolk harbour) at 8:30 . We sidestepped the crab traps all along the anchorage and headed out. Soon after, we were flanked by big motorboaters and yachts.  As we approached the bridge and slowed down we realized it was not going to open anytime soon. David is getting really good at keeping TC stable while waiting for locks and bridges. It’s not easy with sailboats especially when motorboats fly by with wake and freighters surround us. Unlike most motorboats, we don’t have bow thrusters. You have to play with the gear and move from neutral to forward and reverse while overcoming wakes, tides currents and those moving towards you while keeping an eye on depth. 

I WAS STRESSED!! We ended up waiting almost 2 hours surrounded by over 20 boats crammed in front of the bridge and I was losing my mind which, I can honestly say doesn’t happen often. I can handle stress but this was crazy. Freighters beside us, sailboats within 50 ft, arrogant yacht people budding in front and refusing to move even for big barges filled with sand!  I could’t believe it, you could hear them on the radio asking them to move and they would just ignore the barge.  How do you ignore a barge that is honking it’s horn behind you????

Finally the bridge opened, and the race began.  Strangely,  the night before, I had marked the entrance to the Dismal Swamp Route. It was the route David wanted to take but our friends Chris and Jackie, who have a 4.3 draft said they had touched bottom. So, David and I had decided not to take the chance. I had marked the entrance and as we passed the race of boats after the bridge, I saw the marker I had made and told David that if he wanted to do the Dismal Swamp, I would be ok with it. I wouldn’t complain if we got stuck.  I knew up ahead we were coming up to a lock and all these motor yachts and barges would be jostling for a spot in the narrow lock. We, along with the other sail boats, would likely be stuck there all day and stressed trying to avoid collision. 

David, who had been dying to do the Dismal Swamp, didn’t hesitate, he turned us 90degrees, almost heeling us in his joy and haste before I changed my mind and we entered the mystical swamp route. I didn’t even mind when about 5 minutes into the new route, David had a brainfart and grounded us as he had gone on the wrong side of the green navigational aid. The green needs to be on the left as you enter land and on the right as you head off-shore. It’s easy to get mixed up as you travel in and out of rivers and canals. David was able to drag us out easily from the mud and we proceeded up the Dismal Swamp.  I already sensed peace around the corner.

We discovered a green oasis.! My stress level dropped like a weight and I could smell the forest all around us. We navigated the Deep Creek lock with 5 other boats, only one a motorboat. It was so well managed. The lockmaster, an older man went up and down grabbing your lines, looping them around the post and giving it back to you. He kept control of how many and when everyone entered. It was actually PLEASANT to go through this lock.  We chatted with sailors all around us. Across from us was a Catalina 47 with 4 men who were delivering it to Fort Pearce Florida. They were curious about TC. Then David chatted with a young Canadian woman who was just behind and across on the lock and she told us to stop at Deep Creek Dock right after the lock. We badly needed food and DIESEL. 

Thank you , Cdn woman sailor!!! Deep Creek dock was perfect, although loud with the busy bridge nearby, it was across from a Food Lion grocery chain store  which turned out to be one of the least expensive grocery stores. PLUS across the bridge was a Sitco gas station with Diesel. David used the grocery cart, that they allow you to take to the dock,  to carry the diesel cans back and forth from the gas station and we filled up the fuel tank and filled up all our cans. Afterwards, we returned our cart and another cart that had been left at the dock. The fuel in gas stations is much cheaper than in marinas. We had been down to 1/2  a tank so that was adding to my stress levels as well. Unlike David, I like to be super prepared and have difficulty with “winging it”.  David, being the perceptive man he can be, knew I needed to be “talked down off the ledge” and treated me to a fastfood hamburger and coca cola!  Would’ve preferred KFC for my fix but Coca cola will do in a pinch.  I felt the stress of Norfolk drifting away like the duckweed in the Dismal Swamp as I sat back in the cockpit, snug as bug on a dock sipping my coca cola on ice. 

Deep Creek lock,, the easiest lock we’ve done!











Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>