Oriental, the sailing capital of NC, was our next stop after Beaufort. A great small town with a pleasant waterfront park for watching sailboats on the bay, a friendly local brewery and one of the best marine provisioning stores we’ve seen anywhere, regardless of the surly clerk! Plus, Blackbeard, the pirate shrimp boat was docked just a few yards away.
Then on to several more small marinas leading north to Abermarle Sound. Our decision to traverse the Great Dismal Swamp (GDS) enroute to Norfolk/Portsmouth VA (MM 0 and the end of the Atlantic ICW), meant we had a slightly shorter crossing of the Sound. But we still got rolled around pretty hard over the 16 miles to Elizabeth City. There was some slam-banging down below as we drove the boat from the upper helm. It was too rough to immediately investigate, but we later found that the microwave had flown off a shelf and hit the floor! Could’ve been worse. It was a relief to tie up at the free docks (no electric or water) in Elizabeth City, have lunch and visit the Abermarle Sound Museum before heading on to a small marina a little farther upriver to “plug in the AC” and get an early start to the lock where we would enter the GDS in the morning. In addition to the history and early inhabitants on the Sound, we learned about the important role that several blimps, housed in a hangar just south of Elizabeth City, had in reducing human and boat casualties along the Carolina coastline from German U-boats in WWII.
Started at daylight to make 15 miles to South Mills Lock as it only opens 4X daily. We initially hesitated to go through the GDS because of a recent explosion of duckweed, an aquatic plant that can clog the water intake that cools your boat engine and cause engine overheating. But it was a windy day and previous communication with the lock master and GDS staff said it seemed to be thinning and blowing off to the sides. Indeed it was! We traveled through a few long patches, but most of it was hugging the sides. It was a peaceful relaxing day with no other boats around. Stopped for a walk and exhibits at the Visitor Center and made it to the Deep Creek lock at the north end of the Swamp with plenty of time to travel the last 10 miles to the bustling harbor and shipyards in Norfolk/Portsmouth by late afternoon. What a transition!
After 2 days of exploring both Portsmouth and Norfolk on foot with the aid of a very cool free ferry that crosses the river every 15 minutes, we started our journey up Chesapeake Bay. First stop Yorktown. Lots of history and a neat 3-masted schooner across the dock, but also lots of tourists and summer heat. So north we went the following day to the Deltaville Marina, a wonderful stop with an on-site oyster bar and crab hush puppies that are heavenly. Stayed 2 nights due to high winds on the Bay, but hope to head out to Tangier Island in the middle of the Bay tomorrow. We’ll be up early watching the weather. And hoping to spot more species of jellyfish, which are abundant in the Chesapeake!