After clearing the Norfolk complex, the timing for the Great Bridge/lock set was not right for our orderly passage. Instead we hung out at the junction of the Dismal and Virginia cut routes and pushed the decision on which, to the next day. On Monday, the last day of November we opted for the Dismal Swamp route. The first lock, Deep Creek, was manned by a friendly lockmaster with his toy poodle. Usually the place is run by Ray and his mutt U-Turn, which we have covered in previous entries. The subs proved equally as entertaining as we fell in behind a couple of sailboats. In the cut we also enter the area of “coffee’ colored water. The tannic content of the largely brackish water is high.
The twenty two miles of straight running passed quickly; for fully ten of those miles, we had a beautiful grey heron jumping ahead from perch to perch as we approached. We soon found ourselves at the southern lock with more than an hour to spare for the mid-day opening. Again the lockmaster at South Mills proved to be an accommodating fellow and quickly ushered us in. There seems to be extra benefit for late arriving snowbirds since the bridges and locks are seeing a withdrawal of activity by the end of November.
After some twists and turns of the Pasquotank River at the end of the cut, we headed into Mariner’s Wharf at Elizabeth City. This city is famous for an hospitable citizenry that turn out at the free dock to welcome travelers and dispense local info. Our greeter was Sam of WWII lineage and had lots of stories as he slowly tied us up. On a hot tip we headed off to the local cinema-cum-diner that featured John Travolta and Robin Williams in “Old Dogs”. Bill had just spent the last 12 hours on his feet dodging logs and decided his old dogs needed a rest. Instead, we played a couple of games of Skip-bo and retired .
Tuesday proved an ideal time to cross the Albemarle, but we delayed the departure enough to get breakfast at the local deli. Over coffee and egg sandwiches we held hushed discussions with new friends from "Hanalei Moon" as a men’s bible class held forth in the back corner. They must have included us in the prayers, because the crossing to Miss Wanda’s Alligator River Marina was picture perfect. Arriving mid-day, Jean headed off to the laundry and Bill got the boat all washed up. This marina has been a regular stop for us over the last six years and it is clear that they are feeling the tough economic terms that much of the nation is facing. One fueling station was inop and there were few overnight boats.