Sunday, September 21, 2014

Dismal Pics

We took a hike on the nature trails yesterday. Here are some of our pictures.
Tarwathie and the vanishing point
Tarwathie on the right, vanishing point center
A moonshine still from the swamp
Wow, what a big sycamore(?)
Our finds included black walnuts, paw paw fruit, and grapes.
Strange flowers. All of them had only two petals.
Look close. Ther is a strange black and white spotted bee (hornet?)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Contemplating Infinity

Dismal Swamp Welcome Center, North Carolina
36 30.412 N 076 21.359 W

OK, I'll try to set the scene.   It is a nice sunny day, not too warm.   We started moving south on the canal around 11 AM after buying groceries.   Libby was down below putting groceries away.

I moved my folding seat to the ice chest forward of the mast.  It makes a grand throne.  I had rigged up lines running back to the tiller so that I could steer from up front.  Think of the reins of a team of horses.   That practice is illegal in several states because I am not within reach of the throttle. But I love doing it, and I do it only when we will not come close to other boats or personal property.

So, what do I see from that throne?  I see the dead straight narrow canal extending to the vanishing point.  Better, as I look at the still water, I see the dark reflection of trees left and right and the bright reflection of the sky in the middle.  Those also extend to the vanishing point.   What else can one think of in such as scene other than infinity.  The vanishing point in this case is only 1-2 miles in front of me.  I know that with a telescope I could see farther, but there would still be a varnishing point.  But I also know that in mathematics parallel lines never do meet.   Vanishing points are an illusion. An artifact of the finite resolving power of our sight.

Alongside, is the wildlife of the DSC.  Lots of birds of course.  Most prominent today were the turtles.  Every log or branch laying in the water was populated with turtles warming themselves in the sun. I even saw one with 8 turtles very neatly arranged in order of size.  Biggest first, down to smallest last.  What do the turtles do?  They seem intent on imitating turtle statues.  They don't move.  They don't seem to breath.  Their heads do not turn to look at the boat passing by.  On rare occasions, one can catch a deer, or a bear, or a snake swimming across the canal.   Once we saw an animal swimming.  It could have been an otter, or a nutria.

In the DSC all hazards of life on water disappear.  A hurricane could rage and the winds wouldn't touch us in the canal, nor could the storm surge find its way up her.  It is peaceful, tranquil and secure.  Can't you see why we say it is food for the soul?

I should add, that we only see the DSC in the spring and fall.  Robert the lock master, told us that the 6 week annual season for biting flies just ended.  Biting flies are how the swamp got the name dismal. But Libby and I have never been here in the dismal seasons.

We have to get to Elizabeth City soon.  Our supply of clean laundry is nearly exhausted.  But we are in no hurry to leave.  We may walk the trails today.  We'll also spend an evening anchored in the place we call "The Pearly Gates" .  I've blogged about that place before and again.   After that, we still must traverse the upper part of The Pasquotank River; that we think is the prettiest stretch of the whole ICW.   It is best seen in the early morning as mist lifts off the water.   

Friday, September 19, 2014

Study In Contrasts

Dismal Swamp Welcome Center, North Carolina
36 30.412 N 076 21.359 W
The contrasts are so stark. First, two days out at sea. There, most of the time one has the feeling that we could be the only people on Earth. It is spendid and frightening at the same time.
Then amazingly, the lights of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel appear on the horizon. This 20 mile long structure is so big that from one end, you can't see the other end. Libby spotted it first. She said the experience was eerie because as we aprode up each wave and down in the trough, the lights would appear, then dissapear. Not just one light but a chain of lights miles long.
A few hours later and we were entering Hampton Roads, one of the busiest shipping locations in the world. It was 5AM when we entered. The good part of that was that the ship/tugboat traffic was very light. The bad part was navigating in this maze of crossing channels with lights of many colors in every direction offering confusion. We would not have dared try it except that we know the way by heart.
Two more hours and we were tied up at the free public docks in downtown Portsmouth. We hoped to meet friends who live there, but alas they are in Sweden this week. We don't like that downtown. It is sterile and feels hostile. So we only stayed there an hour or two before leaving for the Dismal Swamp Canal (DSC).
An hour more and we were in Deep Creek, away from the hustle and bustle. Libby took the helm as I went below to eat lunch. Suddenly, OH NO! We were aground. Libby want on the wrong side of the first red marker she came to. She would never have done that without double checking which side was which if she was not so fatigued. Another hour and Tow Boat US had pulled us off. Normally, we would have gotten ourselves off (we are expert at thst by now) but we were both too tired for that. We had started launching the dinghy, then we looked at each other and both said simultaneously, "Hell, just call Tow Boat US." Libby felt guilty about the mistake, but she was almost too tired to talk. No blame assessed.
Another 30 minutes and were were back in splendid isolation on the DSC, ready for a peaceful and very long night's sleep.

Today. I started with coffee and donuts courtesy of Robert, everyone's favorite lock master. Then we replenished the larder with groceries at the Food Lion store only a few hundred meters away.

Then for the real treat. I sat for three hours in the bow, steering the boat with my patented remote steering system, as I enjoyed the scenery and contemplated infinity. It is balm for the soul. I'll write about it tomorrow.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Good Morning Virginia!

Portsmouth, VA
36 50.302 N 076 17.777 W
So, here we are. Two very weary sailors in from the sea. We got here a few minutes ago. Naps are our first order of business.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Barnegat Inlet, Tom's River NJ
39 45.546 N 074 07.016 W
According to plans, we should have be passing Ocean City, MD right now headed for Norfolk. Instead, we are at anchor in Barnegat Bay. What happened?
To make a long story short, we were defeated by a strong swell from the East with a short period. Combine that with strong winds, and Tarwathie (and her crew) were pitched and rocked violently. Sea sickness set in, followed by fatigue. Very quickly we wanted refuge. Barnegat was the first safe inlet we encountered. We came in here Saturday afternoon, and the forecast shows that we won't resume the trip until Tuesday. .
So, we are 56 nm from our previous anchorage at Liberty Island, and 200 nm from Hampton roads; we traveled 20% of the passage. Plans go up in smoke
This is the reality of cruising for two old folks like us. The Westsail 32 can take us anywhere on the globe, but the crew has limited capabilities; and the crew is aging one year per year.