After enjoying a peaceful night with the dock to ourselves, we were able to sleep in a bit before untying the lines and continuing our journey down the Dismal Swamp Canal. All of the people we had entered the first lock with on the previous day had traveled farther than we did, allowing them to make the 8:30 a.m. exiting lock. With 14 statute miles to go there was no way we could be there in time, so we puttered down the waterway enjoying the feeling of having it all to ourselves.
We arrived at South Mills Lock around 10:30 a.m. so we tied up to the wall just before the bridge and relaxed for a bit. This also gave us a chance to leave our mark, which is apparently a cruiser tradition.
Since we were the only ones locking through, the process was much quicker than the day before. It was just like the Deep Creek Lock, only in reverse. The lockmaster opened the bridge, hopped into his truck, and drove 3/10 of a mile to the lock while we puttered along and waited for the signal to enter. Shortly after 11:00 a.m. we had been lowered eight feet and were continuing south. No longer in the Dismal Swamp, we had entered Turner Cut with 18 statute miles to go until our arrival in Elizabeth City.
Our Waterway Guide describes Turner Cut and the Pasquotank River as some of the most undisturbed and natural cruising grounds on the entire ICW. It was a feast for the eyes, with scenery of a type I had never seen before. It reminded me of the beginning of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Disneyland where you’re going through the swamp, and I absolutely loved it. Jeff, being more familiar with this type of topography from his Marine Corps days at Cherry Point was less enthralled, but that didn’t diminish my enthusiasm!
Part way down the Pasquotank we rounded the corner and encountered several Boston Whaler-type boats in the river. This was the first time we had seen any other boats since between the South Mills bridge and the lock. Each boat had several guys in it, all wearing orange hats and camoflage, and I think they were as surprised to see us as we were to see them! It was all good though as they puttered over so we could get by. I asked them what they were doing and they said they were bear hunting. “Have you got any?” “Yep, three so far!”. Guess we’re not in Connecticut any more!
Eventually we arrived in Elizabeth City, NC where there were plenty of free slips at the Town docks. Elizabeth City welcomes boaters with 48 hours of free dockage which we were happy to use. A cross-current as we were docking left us sideways in the slip, but with the assistance of a few other cruisers we were soon straightened out and snugged in for the next two nights.
Elizabeth City has a population of approximately 18,000 people and is very welcoming to boaters. Arriving so much later than the majority of cruisers heading south, I don’t think we were able to get a real feel for it as compared to when more cruisers are there, but we still enjoyed ourselves.
We wandered around the city and also spent several hours in the Museum of the Albemarle. A branch of the Museum of North Carolina history, its exhibits present the history and culture of the Albemarle region of northeastern North Carolina. The current location opened in 2008 in a very nice building, and I was surprised to find that there was no admission charge. It would have been worth a visit even if there had been a fee to enter.
After we left the museum we went in search of some 1 pound propane canisters. We have a Little Buddy which is a small portable heater to take the edge off of the chill in the boat when necessary. With the forecast calling for our coldest night yet at 35 degrees, we wanted to make sure we were stocked up! With no hardware store in the downtown area we had resigned ourselves to walking a couple of miles to Lowe’s, but within a few minutes we stumbled on Don’s Place which was almost like being in an Ace Hardware store. They had plenty of propane canisters and we were much happier to spend our money in a local shop versus a chain. Plus we had the added bonus of not having to walk four miles round trip!
Probably the best part of the day, however, was coming across a local fundraiser. We had seen it in a parking lot across the street as we were walking to find propane. There was a barbecue truck, plenty of tables set up, and cars streaming in and out of the lot. The wonderful smell was almost irresistible, and I told Jeff that we were stopping on our way back.
Warmly greeted when we arrived, they were offering containers of barbecue, three different types of sauce, coleslaw, baked beans and hushpuppies for $9.00. This had clearly been planned for quite some time because the cars driving up were handing the volunteers tickets and driving away with multiple containers – four and five at a time in some cases. We didn’t have any tickets, but they were happy to take our money anyway and we were glad to give it to them!
One of the tables was filled with home made desserts and as I approached, the elderly woman manning the table smiled and said, “Hi baby!” in her North Carolina twang. I asked her if one particular item was chocolate pound cake and she said, “I think it is baby, but even if it’s not pound cake it’s definitely chocolate.” We bought two desserts for $1.50, waving good bye with her saying, “Thanks for coming, baby.” I just wanted to give her a big hug. I said to Jeff that now we are officially in the south.
For food like this we assume that the sodium content is going to be pretty high, but we have figured out that if we share something then Jeff can still enjoy it without running too much of a health risk. Well, it was so good that I pretty much had to beat him with a stick to keep him from eating more than his half! Heck, it was all I could do to share! These unexpected pleasures are one of the things that we enjoy most about traveling wherever we happen to be. The barbecue fundraiser was definitely a highlight of our stay in Elizabeth City.