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Just after Norfolk, a decision needs to be made on which route to take south: the Virginia Cut or the Dismal Swamp. We had read that many of the faster power boats prefer to take the Virginia Cut route but when the procession of vessels reached the turn off to the Swamp (and there definitely was a whole line of us), many sailboats continued on to that route also. Not us though… the name Dismal Swamp was just too enticing to pass up.

We made the trip from Norfolk, VA to Elizabeth City, NC in two days, stopping our first night at the Dismal Swamp Visitors Center. Prior to departing Canada, we frequently heard stories about how many people we would end up meeting who would be heading south like us. Although we have met a few prior to this time, this is really the first time that I have felt those stories to be true. In the canal we are traveling on, the speed is pretty much fixed, both by multiple no-wake zones and bridge schedules which must be dealt with. It doesn’t make much sense to speed off ahead of the other boats, using a lot more fuel, only to be held up at a bridge and have the rest of the boats end up right by you again anyway. So, because of that, it seems we’re traveling like a bit of a pack. At the visitors center, where we stayed our first night, 12 of these boats ended up rafted together in a dock that could normally only accommodate 3. The word cosy comes to mind.

Now tied to a free dock in Elizabeth City, we plan to stay the day to relax a bit and do a bit of provisioning. Elizabeth City bills itself as the “Harbor of Hospitality” and they take that moniker seriously. They offer 48 hours free dockage and host a free wine and cheese party for boaters every evening. The local grocery store will even come to pick you up here at Mariner’s Wharf to take you to and from their store! For free!!!

To get an idea of the number of boats here, check out their webcam. Our boat is a bit difficult to see in that image but we’re pretty much in the center, at the top of all the other boats.

I’d also like to offer a special shout-out to Terry and Jenn who live in the area and after following our blog, made a drive over here to meet up with us. I’d also like to thank Bill and Ana on the m/v Knot Tide Down for passing along a Florida chart book to us. That will be very helpful guys and we really appreciate it!


  1. Lots of other boaters and free wine and cheese every night – sounds like a great place. I guess they had to limit the free dockage to 48 hours, or who would be in a hurry to leave?

  2. Wow, a modern day wagon train!

  3. It’s good to see that all that work and expense for the deck-stored jerry cans hasn’t gone to waste…


  4. You guys are making such progress! It’s all so familiar, love the trip down ICW-Memory Lane. The best is yet to come, my favorite spot is Charleston, SC. Enjoy!

  5. Dont’ know how far you are from this section of the ICW but it’s something to look out for:

  6. Looks like quite the convoy. Must be fun to all travel that way. Free wine and cheese-wow -now that’s something. Great to keep up with blog daily

  7. Juding by your pictures, it’s sure not dismal! Floating frat party comes to mind, however! Enjoy.

  8. Hi Mike – this is waaay off topic. Some time back you did an excellent comment )I think, rather than a post) on how you set up your bog, including having your own domain name on wordpress. we’re looking at 2 new blogs – one for Pip’s jewellery and one for my writing – and I see wordpress ask $17 a year to use your own name. Phew! I can’t find your old comment though – could you rerun it or point me to it when you get a chance.

    Sounds like you’re having a cool time – and the pix make me realise how far north we are in the UK, which is why it’s so damn cold.


    • I’m not sure which comment but we do it like this: We pay for webspace with There are likely cheaper places, and often some internet service providers give you some free space. We registered the url and it points to our directory on webmasters. WordPress is installed there. We then use wordpress in our browser to update the blog. We do not pay wordpress anything but it’s certainly not free to run this site. Is that helpful?

  9. I missed the Dismal Swamp on my ICW journey. The timing of the bridges didn’t work out, and I was on a schedule (naughty, naughty I know). But I heard Elizabeth City rocks. I plan to take the Dismal route next time I’m cruising through….whenever that is. With baby #3 due in a few weeks, and probably going back to sea ala the Navy in another year or so, I think I’m not doing that for a little while. So I guess I’ll just live vicariously through you guys. 🙂

    Have fun crossing the Albemarle. It can get pretty choppy out there. You planning to take the Alligator River, or go out into the Sound and check out the barrier islands?

    • The Albemarle was choppy but the winds were light so we didn’t have too rough a ride. The Alligator river was interesting but I didn’t enjoy having to keep a constant vigil, searching for stumps in the water.

      You guys must be getting very excited with the baby almost here.

  10. I like the cart you use to ferry the jerry cans to the boat. Can you come up with a manufacturer on that thing. We clearly need one of those!

    • The cart came from Home Depot. I just looked at it for you and there isn’t any other name so I assume it must be their brand (it is their colors).

  11. I just stumbled onto your site. Had to laugh at your site name. We went from decision to leave evertything in March 2008, to selling house in July 2008, to buying boat in Sept 2008, to outfitting it in 2 weeks, to leaving for Mexico in Oct 2008. Oh and yes, it was the first sailboat we owned and we didn’t know how to sail. And no, we didn’t win the lotto either. Been sailing up and down Mexico Pacific coast ever since and have never looked back. Tired? – sometimes. (Man, homeschooling has it’s moments.) But this was the best thing we ever did. Cheers to you and many years of happy sailing for both of us. I envy you the experience of sailing down the east coast. Sounds interesting. We have been loving the Pac Mex, especially since the Sea of Cortez is such a wilderness up north. Our blog is – Have a look, the Sea of Cortez may be something you’d like and I can tell you that as long as you stay out of the marinas (there are lots of great anchorages) you can spend very little money.

  12. Hello Mike and Rebecca. I see you ended up cruising with a Wharram Pahi catamaran (the funky wooden one!) through the DS. I wonder if you have seen my friends (Ann and Neville’s) boat of the same designer. They were in NC just a week or so ago in their Wharram Tiki 46 named Peace 4? You can’t miss it as it looks like a floating island with it’s laid back dual masts, and gaff rigged. These folks are all heading down to the Wharram rendezvous the first weekend in December in Jupiter Florida. If you can make it, you’d see some pretty interesting cats. We’ll be their with our Woods cat, not the same make, but home made wooden just the same.

    As you head south, you may want to stop by the Titusville municipal marina for supplies. It’s a great marina (were there now!) with provisions close by. Stop by and say hello. I’m hitting West Marine, and Home Depot every few days. Time it right, and you guys can ride along if you need stuff from either of those places.

    I don’t know where your going ultimately, but we’ll leave here around December 1st, do the Rendezvous, and head for the Bahamas at the first good window.

    Have a great week!

    Chris Curtis
    S/V Romany

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