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Old 12-07-2018, 06:17 PM   #1
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Dismal Canal

Happy Holidays,
Now that the Dismal Canal had been dredged and is reopened, has any of you trawler-type draft people made that passage?
I need a little over 4 feet of depth to avoid actually bouncing along or being stuck on the bottom. I need an extra foot or more as a minimum depth to even get close to feeling comfortable navigating those waters..
I am considering making that trip, but hate to find out the hard way that was a bad decision..
Joe
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Old 12-07-2018, 06:33 PM   #2
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Went south through Dismal first week in Nov. We have 3.5' draft and had no problems. It was our fourth trip through the canal in 6 years.
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Old 12-07-2018, 06:34 PM   #3
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I am a tad over 4 feet and was a breeze back at the end of October.

Plenty of rain to keep it full this Fall.
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Old 12-07-2018, 06:42 PM   #4
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Greetings,
Mr. s. I too have done the Dismal a number of times though not recently (2 years ago was last transit). Not to dissuade you but even with sufficient "depth" there are still unseen things floating beneath the surface. It IS a swamp, after all. I don't think I've ever gone through without at least one "thump" caused by something??? but most assuredly NOT the bottom and NO damage. We draw 4'8".



I would have no hesitation to run it again if I was in transit through the area. Plan to stop at the visitor's center and do a tour of the interpretive center across the canal via the floating bridge. The boardwalk is worth the walk as well. Nice folks.
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Old 12-07-2018, 07:10 PM   #5
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If in doubt - go and get a 32 ounce steak instead!
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Old 12-07-2018, 08:31 PM   #6
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Did the Dismal Swamp in the end of October. I draw 4 1/2'. No issues whatsoever. My depth alarm is set for 6 1/2'. Don't think it ever went off.

Ted
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Old 12-08-2018, 10:55 AM   #7
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OK where is this Dismal Canal located?
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Old 12-08-2018, 11:10 AM   #8
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Greetings,
Mr. ASD. East coast...


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Old 12-08-2018, 11:21 AM   #9
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Thanks RT. Wow looks like a narrow channel....
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Old 12-08-2018, 11:38 AM   #10
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In some places the trees have grown to where sailboats gave to stay very near center channel.
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Old 12-08-2018, 12:17 PM   #11
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In some places the trees have grown to where sailboats gave to stay very near center channel.

And some places where the masts brush against the trees. Heck my flybridge grazed the tress at times.

Yes, it's narrow, but two slow and careful boats can pass each other.
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Old 12-08-2018, 01:19 PM   #12
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I have done the Dismal Swamp Canal maybe a dozen times. Here are some tips for going north:

Most boaters start at the Elizabeth City free docks. I have never seen them full. In peak spring season the town used to host a gathering of all cruisers at the docks late in the day. That gathering was started by the "rose buddies", Fred Fearing and Joe Kramer. I had the pleasure of going to one of Fred's gatherings early on in my cruising days. Fred and Joe have both passed but the tradition continues (I hope).

If you want to make the transit in one day, you have to get started early because you need to make the first lock through at South Mills to do it in one day. Check the Elizabeth City bridge opening schedule so you can make it through in the morning in time for the lock.

Another option is to continue through Elizabeth City and anchor at the ox bow a bit up the river. That anchorage is absolutely beautiful if you like peaceful solitude.

You can stop for a bit at the Visitors Center and still make the lock through at the end of the day at Deep Creek, but don't dawdle.

The locks are fairly easy, maybe a 3-5' rise up at South Mills and down at Deep Creek. You hand the canal master a bight of line and he wraps it around a bollard. You then take in line going up or let it out going down to hold you to the face.

After you get through the Deep Creek lock you are blocked by the bridge restrictions from getting to Portsmouth until late if you are a sailboater. I used to hang out at the Chesapeake Yachts long face dock until I can get through the Gilmore Bridge after the peak traffic limitation. Almost all of our trawlers won't have that problem and can continue on to Portsmouth.

There are two nice free docks in tiny side coves on the Portsmouth side, High Street and North Landing. You have to avoid the ferry landings. I have used the High Street one as it is close to a hotel with free wifi in their lobby. That was some years ago and more wifi sites may now be available.

Going south:

For the sailboater I went through the Gilmerton bridge at night and I used to tie up at Chesapeake Yachts. Active Captain cautions that it isn't really free. There is a tiny cove a bit further towards Deep Creek that could hold a boat or two and I once tied up overnight to Deep Creek's bollards.

Like going north, you have to make the first canal opening to get through in a day.

Visitor's Center:

This can be a blast. Some years ago I was single handed cruising and had lots of time. Stopped at Elizabeth City for a couple of days and got to know the cruisers there. One of the lift bridges near Portsmouth was shut down for several days so a half dozen of us headed for the Visitor's Center, rafted up three deep and had a ball for a few days. We did potluck dinners, shared libations and generally partied it up (in a nice way!).

The Visitor's Center has free wifi and will advise you on lock schedules. There is a little State Park interpretive center across the canal. How you get there is interesting. There is folding foot bridge that you use to cross. When a boat comes they fold it back to the shore to make room.

Like I said I have done the Dismal Swamp route a dozen times and the Coinjock route twice. I totally recommend the DS route.

David
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Old 12-08-2018, 02:22 PM   #13
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Pretty sure if you make the first AM locking you make the first PM locking.... the Second gets you there for the second PM locking..., I just did it in Oct.

The canal is about 22 SM long and with a soeed limit of 5 MPH....the transit time should be a little over 4.5 hrs which coincides with the lock/bridge times.

This year we went through Southbound with some inexperienced boated and the locking took a long time, Robert the lockmasted expressed his sortow and told those of us not stopping at the visitor center to speed up a tad so we could make it, he suggested 6MPH which was more than enough and many do that or a bit faster anyway.... but still no wake..as there's no point in going faster.

That cove/anchorage just in from where you turn into the swamp canal route is now posted as no trespassing...looks like a wanker developer bought ir and has posted it off limits.

The free docks inside the first lock are still there.
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Old 12-08-2018, 02:26 PM   #14
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This falls trip south. I like the dismal. Someone mention a little anchorage basin north of the Deep Creek lock. Its posted with private property signs now and a development is under construction.Click image for larger version

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Old 12-08-2018, 06:04 PM   #15
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The Elizabeth city bridge is on demand but has rush hour exclusion.
The best free dock in Elizabeth city is just above the draw bridge at the Jennette food service dock. This almost always eliminates any wave action coming up the Pasquotank river.
Rise and fall of the lock can vary quite a bit based on Swamp water level and tide level at Deep Creek. Think it can be 6'+. Lines for locking need to be longer as you cleat off one end, pass a loop to the lock master which goes over a bollard, and then comes back down to you.

I routinely catch the first lock of the morning and leave the Swamp with the first lock in the afternoon.

Ted
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Old 12-10-2018, 06:48 AM   #16
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No one travels at night on the Dismal, so tying off to the shore can give a nature experience.


Bring OFF in bug season.
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Old 12-10-2018, 11:14 AM   #17
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That looks like fun. Is this a shortcut for those heading north and south?
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Old 12-10-2018, 11:52 AM   #18
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That looks like fun. Is this a shortcut for those heading north and south?

Mileage wise, there isn't much difference between the DS and the Coinjock route, but because there are no speed limits on most of the Coinjock route, it is faster if you have that capability. Also the Coinjock route only has one lock.


But the experience, beauty and solitude of the DS route makes up for it all.



David
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Old 12-10-2018, 04:44 PM   #19
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Mileage wise, there isn't much difference between the DS and the Coinjock route, but because there are no speed limits on most of the Coinjock route, it is faster if you have that capability. Also the Coinjock route only has one lock.


But the experience, beauty and solitude of the DS route makes up for it all.



David
Wifey B: I haven't done it and do understand the pull of the experience which makes us want to do it one day. What I don't quite understand and looking for you to enlighten me is once you've done it then why not the Coinjock route, which is faster and easier, in the future. Why do the DS over and over?
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Old 12-10-2018, 04:49 PM   #20
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The experience, beauty and solitude is always good, over and over.


It is just me, you may be different.



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