Norfolk to Dismal Swamp Visitors Center

Leaving Norfolk today begins much later than normal. About a half- hour or so on our journey today is the (infamous) Gilmerton Bridge. Unfortunately, this time of year, the Gilmerton Bridge's first opening of the day is at 9:30 am. Yes, I'm not kidding. So, like it or not, there is no point in leaving bright and early as we prefer. Once we reach the basin in front of the bridge we gather with no fewer than 19 boats and a barge closing in behind us waiting for this opening. What a nightmare! Then, for reasons indeterminable, the darn bridge opens almost 15 minutes late!

(sorry, I forgot to take pictures)

Shortly after the bridge and the lock, the ICW takes a kind of fork. One can choose to go to starboard through the "Great Dismal Swamp" or go to port and through the "Virginia Cut". Yesterday, after teaming up with our other 2 new friends - Whichaway and Toucan- we decide to take on the Great Dismal Swamp. Last spring we took the Virginia Cut so we decided to check the swamp out this time. We had read other Krogen blogs and knew that may others had done "the Swamp" so we decided to give it a try. We had also heard that the Army Corps of Engineers had very recently cleaned up the swamp and that the depth was higher than normal. SO, the swamp it is.....

Here we see evidence of work having been done all around us. Stumps and trees are secured with ropes to hold them in place.

The swamp is areally narrow and dark. Very creep in this gray weather. I've read that on a sunny day it is quite beautiful, but our experience is dismal (surprise), swampy (surprise) and downright creepy.

Shortly after the beginning of the swampy part, and about Mile Marker 10, is the "Deep Creek Lock". There are a total of 8 of us that are "locking" - 3 motor vessels and 5 sailing vessels. Unfortunately, 2 other sailboats behind us did not make it in. Sorry guys..... it's along wait (2 1/2 hours) for the next lock opening....  But, the lock master is a really nice guy and I suspect he may just lock them through if time allows before the next scheduled opening. Good Luck!

Here we are entering the lock.... we are boat #3 on the starboard side....

here are the doors closing at the back....

here is the water rushing in from the front of the lock....

So, how was our experience in the Swamp so far? Well, it's a mixed review. We experienced quite a few "thumps" from under us. All were minor taps but we didn't love that part at all. That and the dark and drearies, with the super narrow navigation ...we're not so sure this was the best choice for us....

At the end of the day, our only stopover was about 3/4 through the swamp and is at what is called the "Visitors Center". How can I describe what we found when we arrived at the Visitors Center? Well... imagine about 150' of face dock space, enough for maybe 4 boats. Only there were already 8 boats rafted up to the dock and oneanother. They had all been there one day already and were not planning on moving either. With some questionable weather projected for tomorrow, many of the boats had decided to stay put for another day (at least), so they never left to make room for the new ones (us) coming through. So, with literally, no where else to go, no safe places to anchor, we also raft up for the night to the boats already there. We were really a big boat compared to the others in there, and I know some were not happy to see us at all, but we had no other choice but to make it work. We did our best to double up our lines (lengthwise) and run them all the way over to the pilings so as to not stress the cleats on the smaller boats. To top it off, by the end of the night there were 4 more boats (after us) needing to raft up. That made it a toal of 13 boats in the space of 4.  Imagine...  4 rows at 4 abreast plus one.... It was quite an experience and quite a sight to behold!

This is what most of us looked like...I couldn't even fit all the boats in the picture... there was NO way! Of course, we're the giant boat in the middle....