I could not agree more with Captains Diana and Mark. If you are not in a hurry, and are willing to take a small chance of encountering semi-sunken debris, then by all means “Do the Dismal,” as AICW veterans would say. Cruising the canal, particularly early in the morning is a very unique ecological experience. The water is the color of coffee, with just a hint of cream, and morning mist can often be seen rishing from these colored depths. The canal is bordered by almost all-natural shores, overlooked by tall cypress trees trailing their beards of grey moss. South Carolina’s Waccamaw River justifiably has the reputation as the most beautiful stretch between Norfolk and Miami, but I, for one, think the Dismal has a good claim on being #2!
We always advise cruisers … don’t take the name too literally. The “Dismal Swamp” is in fact a stunningly beautiful alternative route through the lowlands (okay, swamps) of Virginia and North Carolina.
Every boater should do the Dismal at least once, for the experience as well as a change of scenery over the Virginia Cut Route.
Goat Island Anchorage is located along the Dismal’s Pasquotank River, just before you reach the bustle of Elizabeth City. It’s your chance to experience the swamp for a peaceful night at anchor, tucked safely behind mosquito screens. Listen for owls and frogs, seemingly in the wilderness, but safely within earshot of homes hidden along the oxbow canal.
It’s an ideal anchorage: wide and deep yet boasting all-around protection. You can anchor anywhere in the oxbow behind Goat Island, selecting a spot to get the best protection for the night’s forecast.
Goat Island even has a small dock with a boardwalk (the Goat Island Camping Platform) where you can go ashore to explore or land a pet.
The anchorage is well-positioned for both north- and southbound staging. Only 7 miles to the south, you can treat yourself to dockage at one of Elizabeth City’s free options: Mid-Atlantic Christian University Docks, Jennette Brothers Bulkhead, or the Elizabeth City Courtesy Docks and Bulkhead.
And cruiser-friendly Elizabeth City is the perfect pit stop, with many stores and restaurants, and free rides to and from the local supermarket.
Best and see you On the Water,
Captains Mark & Diana Doyle