Healy Report: Waterway Routes South of Mile Zero
There are so many considerations… To say nothing of personal preferences…
The two routes are the “Virginia Cut” and the “Dismal Swamp.” There is no significant difference in the distances of the two routes, but the Dismal takes longer. The Virginia Cut can be done in one day. The Dismal Swamp route can be done in one day, but more usually will take two or more. It depends on what you want to see and do.
The Virginia Cut is a salt-water route suited to fast boats and boaters who are “in a hurry.” It is the eastern route, the “main” ICW, runs through Coinjock, where there are marinas, is used by go fast boats with big wakes and inconsiderate operators, and has a couple of bridges that can bring the pace to a prolonged stop. There is one lock at Great Bridge in Chesapeake, VA, that has about an 18″ lift. That bridge operates on the hour. It’s tidal north of Great Bridge.
What’s good about the route?
3. Southern 1/4 of the route is beautiful.
The Dismal is a fresh water route through a cypress swamp with some old growth deciduous trees. It is the western route, suited to slow boats and boaters who are very comfortable taking their time. There are two locks, one at South Mills, NC, and on at Deep Creek, VA. Lift is about 8′, depending on Lake Drummond datum and tide on the north end. The locks operate 4 times a day, at 8h30, 11h00, 13h30 and 15h30. It’s 22 StM from South Mills to Deep Creek. If you clear into the system at 08h30, you have 5 hours to make the 22 miles to Deep Creek, which is less that 5 mph. There is a 6 mph speed limit on the canal. No wakes.
We are an 8 MPH boat. We depart Elizabeth City at 06h00 to clear into the system at South Mills at 08h30. People (usually sailboats) also anchor in the channel at the South Mills Lock if they can’t get going by 06h00. Anchoring in the channel is legal in the overnight when the locks are closed, but you must not interfere with traffic during the day.
The Dismal control depth is 6-1/2 ft. The usable width of the Canal is probably 70 feet. The crown of the forest does overhang the canal, and sailboats – all boats, really – will take their half out of the middle. There are some submerged logs. The trick is to stay 3/4 mile behind the boat in front of you – if there is a boat in front of you – so that anything that boat lifts off the bottom will settle back to the bottom before you get to that spot. No boat in front of you, just go slow. Many people complain of bumping something in the dismal. Many of them are “tailgating” boats in front of them. How to I know? I’ve see it over and over again.
What’s in the water in the dismal?
2. Visible dead heads ranging in size from twigs to logs
3. Submerged larger stuff
4. Wildlife and sea monsters
We prefer the Dismal. We take our time. We enjoy the peace and quiet. We rarely hit anything, and we never hit anything at speeds above idle.
What’s better about the route?
1. Elizabeth City
2. No wakes, boater courtesy
3. NC Visitors Center and Nature Center
4. Ample free docking (albeit w/o services)
5. Robert Peek
6. The magnificent scenery and wildlife of the Pasquatank River
If you draw 5′ or less, you won’t have a problem. If you are patient, you won’t have a problem. If you stay well behind the boat in front of you, you won’t have a problem.
Yes, this has all been discussed many times. It’s a natural and inevitable part of the AGLCA spring ritual.
Jim and Peg Healy
Monk 36 Hull #132
CRUISERS NET SPONSOR IN VIRGINIA CUT ROUTE
Click Here To View the VA to NC Cruisers Net Marina Directory Listing For Atlantic Yacht Basin
Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Atlantic Yacht Basin
CRUISERS NET SPONSOR IN DISMAL SWAMP CANAL
Click Here To View the North Carolina Cruisers Nets Marina Directory Listing For the Camden TDA/Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center
Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center
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