Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Deep Creek to Elizabeth City

June 17, 2013
We woke up bright and early at 6:00 AM.  Bella needed a walk, so Charlie took Bella out and I cut up some strawberries for our Honey Nut Cheerio breakfast. We had set the coffee pot the night before, so it was brewing already.  After breakfast, we very easily left the dock and headed back north to make the turn toward the south into Deep Creek.  We needed to be at the Deep Creek locks by 8:30 opening. The chart books say that there is anchorage and tie up at the docks.  So we figured if we got there a little early, we would be ok. On the way, we passed about 6 large Benetau sailboats heading north. They were docking at near the mouth of Deep Creek.  We quickly reached the locks, which were closed. I wondered out loud where the sailboats had come from since 8:30 AM was the first opening.  After calling in to the dockmaster, we waited for instruction. First the dockmaster told us we would pull in on the starboard side and to have a long line on the bow and stern. He recommended fenders.  While Charlie maintained position, I put the lines and fenders on.  In about 10 minutes he called back and said he had six sailboats from the Benetau Boat Club coming into the lock also.  He needed to load them in from the starboard side which would push us to the front of the lock. He said when the water rushes in the boat will rise 8 to 10  feet and it could be quite a ride the closer to the front of the lock you are.  He asked if we would prefer to be port. We agreed and I changed the lines and fenders to port side.  I was a little worried how I was going to handle the lines and throw them up 8-10 feet and around a piling inside the lock. But the dockmaster, Robert, made it easy.   As Charlie pulled Rainshadow up to the port side, Robert, had a long boat hook. He took the line from my hands and easily placed it around  the piling.  I was told to hold the line at the bow and Charlie would hold the line in the stern. While we were waiting for the sailboat club, we secured the lines. 

Soon we saw the sailboats arrive.  One sailboat went up front on starboard, and three went behind that one. Then all of a sudden, a fifth came barreling up between us and another sailboat. The dockmaster yelled to Charlie, “Captain, defend your ship!” Charlie ran over to the starboard side of Rainshadow, ready for a collision. All of a sudden the sailboat put on the bow thrusters and expertly averted a  collision. The dockmaster said he was never so glad to see bow thrusters.  That same sailboat tied up to the sailboat next to us, so we were three abreast.  One more sailboat tied abreast to another behind us.  Once we were all in, the dockmaster explained that when he lets the water in, the boats in the front will have to work the stern lines aggressively to avoid the bows going into the sides of the locks and for the boats to not hit each other.  As the water came in, I videotaped on Vine and posted it.  I like using Vine because it has stop motion capability which was perfect for this very unique experience.  At one moment I was staring up at the dockmaster and a few minutes later, I was at eye level.
The Deep Creek Lock

Afterwards, the dockmaster stepped up to picnic table and gave us a brief history lesson on the Canal. George Washington built the canal 30 years before he became President.  He wanted to harvest the timber.  His crew built the canal by hand – from mile 7 to mile 23.  It is sometimes called Washington’s Ditch.  He cautioned us that while the sailboats need to worry about depth, they equally have to worry about logs and their masts hitting the canopies of trees.  Then the dockmaster blew a Conch to announce the opening of the lock.  After the last sailboat was through the lock, he somehow got to the bridge in front of us and opened that bridge as well.  We led the Benetau Club down Washington’s Ditch to the visitor center. We planned to spend an hour there and then head to the South Mill’s lock for the 3:30 opening.  Apparently, that was the Benetau’s plans also. So we figured we would have to line up in the same fashion in that lock. However, the depth is being lowered in that lock. We were all novices, unsure what that would entail.  As it turned out, this lock was a lot easier.  There was no rushing water or sterns of boast crashing against the side of the locks as their bows broke away.  After the water lowered about 8 feet,  we took off leading the six Benetaus to Elizabeth City, about 18 miles.

Benetaus and Rainshadow at Visitors Center
A storm was approaching and it looked wicked on the radar with rain, thunder and lightning.  As we began to meander down Turner’s Cut to the Pasquotank River, the rain began to fall. Charlie and I were glad from one perspective; our boat was being washed off from the salt water. But we were concerned about the lightning.  Additionally, we began to see submerged logs.  I radioed to alert the Benetaus as we passed each one.  The only visible part was the very top of them sticking out of the water, there are no markers and at some points the cut was so tight, you had to take a chance on depth. There was no relaxing on this part of the trip.  Everyone had to be alert. The good news, though, was  no one hit ground or a log and the storm ended up being a non event.

The Pasquotank River was beautiful after the rain. We went right through the swinging bridge at Lamb’s Marina. Not only was the bridge open, the tender’s hut was boarded up.  We knew we would not make the 5:30 opening of the Elizabeth City bridge, so we called the bridge tender and found out it would open on demand all night starting at 6 pm. That fit into our schedule perfectly. At 6 we radioed the tender and all of us sailed through into Elizabeth City.  The sailing vessels went to Mariner’s Wharf which is free but we decided to go to The Pelican Marina because we wanted Electricity and water. The cost was $35 no matter what size.   After docking however, we wondered if we made the right decision. Unfortunately, the Pelican Marina was on a busy road and the on the side of the bridge away from downtown.  By the time we crossed the bridge and got into downtown, most everything was closed.  In fact, many of the buildings were in disrepair or being sold.  The couple of restaurants open did not have seating outdoors for dogs.  So we went back to the boat and made dinner at home.  Tomorrow we would head to Manteo.

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