North Carolina — and, as it turns out, Virginia — has this AMAZING little cruiser-friendly thing going on. It’s called, “the free dock”.
As far as we understand, it’s a small town effort to attract cruisers to spend a night or two. Elizabeth City calls itself “the harbor of hospitality” and we found that to be quite true 🙂 I mean, come on! What’s better than a FREE DOCK?!?!
As we pulled in to this free dock (beside our great friends on “Sea Major”), Jon and I realized that the last dock we stayed at was in Bocas del Toro. Panama. Almost 2500 miles ago.
So to say that docking skills were a little… rusty? …is a very nice understatement.
Thankfully we didn’t know about this (slightly creepy but very cool??) webcam at the time, so nobody got to witness the docking fiasco except the good folks of Elizabeth City 🙂
We spent 2 restful nights in Elizabeth City, soaking up the good life (and the free wifi), and then it was on to a stretch that we’d been anticipating for quite a while: “The Great Dismal Swamp”. You can’t make a name like that up 😉
The Great Dismal Swamp started out with these amazing swirling patterns of green on the surface of water that is absolutely BLACK. Like, tall bold bitter Starbucks coffee black.
We *thought* it was getting quite narrow …but it turns out we hadn’t seen anything yet!
There were 2 locks (up and down) on the Dismal — a nice benign 8′ lift and drop that required minimal line-handling and no tires 😉 Quite a nice change from the Panama version!
And in the middle of the Great Dismal Swamp? You guessed it: Another free dock. This one attached to a highway rest stop (very convenient) and a State Park (good for stretching the legs).
The fog came out for the second half of the Dismal…
Absolutely creepily beautiful 🙂
And *very* narrow! We knew that the Great Dismal had a controlling depth of 6 to 7 feet (meaning if your draft is more than 6′ you really don’t want to try this route!), but we didn’t know it was going to be quite so tight on the beam.
So I was taking amusing photos of the mast to show how much the trees lean in over the canal…
And the necessary early-morning selfies…
Not knowing that a mere hour later, I’d get to take this picture:
We hit a tree. The tree won. The windex *definitely* lost.
But “the windex points the way” is a common refrain around here, and the mast is coming down for winter anyways, so we just have to remember to point directly into the wind and we’ll be set 🙂
At this point we’d also crossed in to a new state — Virginia! And yes, I’m continuing to learn my US Geography the slow way 😉
The Great Dismal Swamp spits you out in Norfolk, Virginia. This is a *serious* navy town, with warships and battleships and aircraft carriers every which way you turn…
And, wait for it: A free dock.
A very nice free dock (technically in Portsmouth, VA which is directly across the channel from Norfolk, VA) that is also right beside the $1.50 ferry to Norfolk. And in Norfolk? A free art museum. Can you tell I love free??
Okay, I’m almost done here… the last thing I want to say is that Jon and I had our first double-date (with the special bonus of Mitchell’s mom) in I think-maybe-ever, to an awesome 1940s restored movie theatre (complete with velvet chairs and a table with a phone on it for you to place your popcorn / dinner / drink order) and we watched “Guardians of the Galaxy” (which I had VERY low expectations for… but actually loved???) and it was fantastic.
So a big thanks to the crew of Sea Major for being our social life for the week 🙂