SpinSheet Magazine February 2021

Page 43

Bluewater Dreaming presented by

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Really Dismal Swamp Canal By John Herlig

My f irst trip motoring along the Dismal Swamp Canal brought an eerie peace to my world that was in stark contrast to the battles of the Chesapeake Bay that had preceded it. Gone were the wide open waters, wind-driven waves, and pioneer pride that I had felt as I pushed south like a settler crossing a watery prairie. I motored Ave del Mar, my 1967 Rawson 30, past Norfolk’s naval destroyers and cargo ships, and when I turned to starboard and into the canal, I found myself on a coffee-colored waterway with the raw charm of a back-country road. The first of my two days on the canal was like a scene from a Hollywood special effects department, as Ave and I ghosted along at a nearly silent crawl through a thick and endless fog. Treetops stretched skyward, the tops of their branches just visible above the mist. It had been eight days since I had left my slip in Back Creek. I had yet to see another sailboat underway and was clearly the only boat of any sort on the canal. “You’re the first I’ve seen in four days,” said Robert Peek, the Deep Creek Lock tender, smiling as he poured me a welcomed cup of hot, rather-rancid coffee. Robert has left us, but his spirit lives on in the canal that was his life’s work. “You gotta realize two things if you’re doing the Dismal. You will hit the bottom, and you will hit logs. These are facts of life on the canal.” With that coffee warming my blood I trudged on, eventually wrapping up an uneventful first day tied off all alone on the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center dock. I was planning to shove off by 7:30 a.m. or so the next morning to make the south lock’s 8:30 opening, but sometimes the SpinSheet.com February 2021 43