The Dismal Swamp
As we started the day it was cloudy and looked like it might rain. I said out loud “Mother earth is going to hold the rain for us” and she did. The clouds parted, the sun came though and we saw the most gorgeous sunrise.
We left this morning before the sun came up. As we pulled the lines my heart was pounding. In a good way, excited but also a bit of anxiety. I had decided that if I let fear in, later I was sure I would be disappointed with myself. I told Andy that we really needed to do this thing called “The Dismal Swamp.” It was always our intention but as we got close to it, I got a bit freaked out by the “stories.” People have reported issues with floating logs that they hit and had bent their props, there was a report about an uncooperative dredge operator and very shallow water. It is one of the routes on the Great Loop, but there is another way to go to avoid going here. I was totally on the fence. We have a rule on this trip. Actually it was something we learned from others doing this trip as a couple and we adopted it. It is simply that BOTH of us have to be in agreement about everything. If one person is hesitant at all then you don’t go. So far me and Andy are doing well with all the planning and decisions along the way. This was the first time that’s I vacillated.
We woke at dawn because the first lock opened at 8:30. It was 15 miles from where we were and we needed to make that opening. The next opening wasn’t until 11, so we did not want to miss the first opening. We made it right on time. We also had the privilege of traveling with our new friend Ramie and Tim on Miss Norma. They were in front of us all day leading the charge. The fact that we knew they had done this before gave me just the right amount of comfort and I relaxed.
We reached the first lock right on time. We followed Miss Norma in and hooked the lines with the lockmasters help and instruction. This is our First lock!! There will be many locks on this trip so this a was our “start” and it was easy! Again, another fear checked off the long list of fears. I know the locks will all be different along the loop but I feel accomplished! The Lockmaster couldn’t have been nicer.
This canal goes along for miles and you cannot travel faster then 4-5 knots. We cracked up watching the cars wizzing by along the road through the trees next to the canal and even a jogger who ran faster then we could travel. It was SLOW!! It felt very much like a jungle cruise at an amusement park. I felt like someone was playing a soundtrack of chirping birds and russeling leaves from the trees. I smelt the most delious smells all day from the blooming jasmine and honeysuckle, like someone was running an essential oil diffuser under my nose. Here we were in a “Swamp” but it sure didn’t smell swampy.
The wildlife was incredible. We saw turtles all along the way, big and small on the tree braches at the edge of the riverbanks. I saw a snake slither across the water and up into the bank. I saw geese and ducks. I heard birds all day but never saw them. The chirps were beautiful and I wish I could identify what kid of bird made such music.
The vegetation was also amazing. Lily pads and lush green forest of trees. I felt like Tom Sawyer might emerge at any time. I love this day! I didn’t put the camera down and I wish this post could be a scratch and sniff for you to get the fragrance I had all day. The flowers must be blooming now as it is spring time. I bet if had done this in July it might now smell the same.
I saw this “brown thing” from a distance along the side of the river. As we got close I realized it was a cow. Just then Tim called us on the radio to announce “COW.” As we approached I could see something was really wrong with this cow. I thought “something is wrong with its butt!” Then I noticed its sides contracting. I realized she was giving birth and what I saw coming out of her butt was a calf. I wish we could have stopped but that wasn’t possible. I blew up my picture and confirmed what I had predicted. Ramie and I both got photos of this little miracle happening at the river edge. I just hoped someone would come along so as the calf dropped it would drown in the water. I will always wonder if it was ok. We told others that night about the day and the expressions were hilarious. “A cow having a cow in the dismal swamp, now I have heard it all!”
We had a little delay at the last lock, even though we went under 5 knots. We idled and we were fine until the scheduled time. The lockmaster here was hilarious and played a coach shell for us. It felt very ceremonious to me as this day had been so epic and we mastered some firsts.
We left the swamp and headed to Norfolk. It was just a few miles ahead. The contrast from the swamp to downtown Norfolk was uncanny. We were suddenly in Navy territory and industry. The Navy ship yards with all the metal and construction was a true dicodomy from the scenery of this day. I have to admit, I was a bit relieved that we survived. As I mentioned I had been nervous as we started. Those nerves went away immediately because I was so taken by the beauty. As we approached the city I felt excited and ready for some civization. I felt emotional as we saw the Waterside Marina. This was where the AGLCA Rendezvous had been last May. We attended and made the decision that we wanted to do this trip exactly a year ago. It felt so surreal to be pulling into this town a year later. In our boat!
When we got to Norfolk and docked the boat, I began to think back on this last year. So much happened. It was unlike any other year in my life. I decided to just write it out to review. As I began to write, the list got longer and longer. I thought to myself that we truely seized the year. Not the day, but the year. It’s hard to believe all that has changed for us. One thing is true. We are smiling a lot, we are connected like never before, we are letting go, we are learning to happy with less, we are enjoying the moment and we are HAPPY! Plus we are meeting cool new people along the way.
A little history on The Dismal Swamp:
This area was first surveyed by Colonel William Bird in 1728. He suggested draining the swamp and digging a north south canal thru it to connect the waters of Chesapeake Bay Virginia and the Albemarle sound in North Carolina. In 1763 George Washington joined several other prominent Virginians and North Carolinians to form a syndicate know as the Dismal Swamp Land Company. This group hoped to drain the swamp, harvest the trees and use the land for farming. The swamp was part of the Underground Railroad for the slaves seeking freedom in the north. It was tretorous with many snakes and wild animals that were abundant. The canal was hand dug by slave labor and opened to navigation in 1805 after 12 years of back breaking work in horrible conditions. Today us pleasure boaters get the chance to navigate this canal as part of our route on the ICW. These large carved granite pilars are original mile markers from George Washingtons day placed along the route.
From May 2018 — May 2019: This list is for my notes about this last year. A reflection and it is all blogged in great detail as we went.
* After the Rendezvous 2018, where I decided I could do this trip. We rented a car and drive the ICW all the way to Miami. Over 1000 miles. Stopping in towns like St. Augustine, Vero Beach,
* We flew to Martinique and cruised that area on a 65’ catamaran for a week with a small group of strangers.
* We returned to Miami and drove to Key West to explore for a few days. We stayed at The Perry Hotel, which I loved!!
* In June Andy had his second knee replacement. That was fun. NOT!
* I started cleaned out the house and closet by closet I purged and sold, gave away or packed up what I wanted to keep. This took months and was little by little. Overwhelming to say the least.
* In September, 8 weeks after his knee replacement, we went to Europe for 3 weeks. We started in Amsterdam to see my brother, then took the train to Hamburg Germany where we rode bikes and explored, then took the train to Copenhagen, then rented a car and drove to Sweden where we visited Art and Analysa, Andys older and wiser cousin (He had admired home as he grew up) who lived in a small coastal town called Mole. Then we flew to Stockholm for 4 days before flying home. We did all that just 8 weeks after Andys surgery!! He did great!!
* We listed the house for sale in Sept before our Europe trip. Big decision. We decided to sell everything and just go!!! (It didn’t sell real quick, but we left it empty and trusted it would all worth out!)
* The day after Thanksgiving we took our final trip of stuff to the boat. The Jeep was loaded!! We said goodbye to the dock mates of the last 11 years, we shed a lot of tears and hugged and when we pulled away the next morning I balled all the way out of the harbor. We headed to Mexico. The boat would be loaded onto the freighter from Ensenada. We had a lovely 3 day cruise down the coast and stayed at The Coral. We spent 7 days waiting for “our ship to come in!” I had lots of tacos and margaritas.
* We made our way back to Santa Clarita (Mexican Uber across the boarder) and said goodbyes to family and friends for the next week. Then we took off to drive across the country, car loaded up and we had a blast stopping all along the way.
* The boat was delivered to Port Everglades (Fort Lauterdale) Dec 23rd. It was AWESOME, SCARY, SURREAL AND EMOTIONAL. We spent days cleaning, unpacking and provisioning. The blog has all this ordeal written in great detail.
* Jan 7 we headed off to the Bahamas. We spent 2 months there. We returned middle of March. Again, all blogged in great detail.
* March 13th we flew homes for 2 weeks. We caught up with family and friends. We had friends gather to hear all about this journey and catch up with us. We had Dr. appointments and ate tons of comforts from our home town. It was much needed for this mama. I spent time hugging and cuddling the kids and dogs.
* We flew back to Fort Lauderdale and got ready to start the loop. We spent days shopping, getting fuel and an oil change and whatever we could think of.
* April 3rd we left our comfortable dock at a private home that had safely housed AQUAMAN while we went home. We started our “Loop”. It is also the exact same day our house closed escrow. It was not planned but totally synchronicity. I cried as we set off. Out of disbelief this was about to happen and totally thrilled.
* Today May 12th, we pulled into Norfolk. A year after deciding to do this crazy trip, ship the boat, sell everything we own. Cut N Run!! Totally surreal.
* We have traveled over 1000 miles so far, 5 states, and are in Norfolk VA. We need a few days to chill before part 2 of this adventure continues. The next section is the Chesapeake. We are mapping out our stops. We plan on a few weeks at least before getting to NY.