Thursday, August 1, 2019

Elizabeth City, Onward Into the Dismal Swamp

August 1
Elizabeth City, NC

We started yesterday in Manteo with a short dinghy ride up a beautiful little creek through the marsh across from the town's waterfront. Sitting so low in a dinghy while passing through a marsh is really nice. The grasses are at eye level, which provides opportunity to appreciate minute detail, a change from the broad vistas we see from the deck of Intermezzo when out at sea.

We raised anchor mid-morning, washing the foul smelling mud off the chain, something I'm getting used to doing in these waters. We left motored in calm conditions out of Roanoke Sound and into the broad Albemarle Sound. There were clouds in the sky as the weather was changing from a stable high pressure to an incoming low pressure trough, with rain and thunderstorms in the forecast.  The water of the sound was grey-blue in the distance, olive green next to the boat. A light, warm, humid breeze blew across the boat from the East.

We had to dodge hundreds of crab pots, the most dense array I've ever encountered. Navigating these waters at night would be very difficult; we saw another catamaran the other night with big headlights on its bow. They looked ridiculous but I now understand their purpose.  With all the crab pots we've passed by, it's a wonder there are any crabs left to catch.

While crossing the Albemarle (which I pronounce in Spanish "al-bay-mar-lay", as I think it sounds better that way),  I made telephone calls to secure docking in New York City. We scored a berth at One 15 Marina in Brooklyn, located right across from southern tip of Manhattan, with a beautiful view of the city skyline. It will be a major waypoint for Intermezzo, an opportunity to visit family and take on additional crew.

Once across the Albemarle ('al-beh-marl", yuck), we entered the Pasquotank River. The wind piped up to 10 knots, direct downwind, so we unfurled the Code 0 gennaker and started sailing. The wind grew stronger, 13, 15, then 17 knots, and we enjoyed a gliding sleigh ride on the small following wind wavelets.  We rolled in the Code 0 at 19 knots with some difficulty and switched to the jib for the rest of the trip up the Pasquotank to Elizabeth City.

Trees line the shores of the river, which is fronted by homes, a blimp-port (!) and a Coast Guard air station.  The water is brown, like a weak coffee to which a little skim milk has been added, the wind blowing streaks of flimsy cappuccino foam across its surface. Thunder clouds were brewing behind us. The air smelled moist, earthy.

Intermezzo was descended upon by hundreds of dainty flies which covered the surface of the boat, just sitting there, alive but not moving.  Maybe they were blown too far from shore and need an island to rest on? I don't know, but they were annoying to have all over the place and I inhaled more than one. I'm glad they didn't bite or buzz around us. That would have been hell.

We entered Elizabeth City through a draw bridge, our first since passing through the D Street Bridge in Petaluma almost four years ago. The city has multiple free docks to encourage visitors. We tied Intermezzo up at a nice dock fronting the Mid-Atlantic Christian University.

The town is pretty beat up compared to the more prosperous tourist/second home/retirement towns further south, but it's a nice enough place. You can tell by the solid masonry buildings that the town was once prosperous, with classic 1950 era downtown streets and shops, an all-American Southern town charm in its heyday, I imagine.

We enjoyed a nice Thai curry dinner on board Intermezzo, but put up the screens too late. I had to eradicate hundreds of the "dainty flies" that had come inside while Renee washed the dishes.

Today we continue up the Pasqotank to reach the south lock of the Dismal Swamp Canal. I am practicing groaning like Lurch from the Addams Family for our trip through the dark, depressing, heart-rending, dispiriting, disheartening, discouraging, demoralizing, Dismal Swamp.

I can't wait.