The Not so dismal Dismal Swamp to Yorktown, VA

Most “loopers” belong to an association called “America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association” or AGLCA.  It provides a wealth of information for those dreaming, planning, or actively cruising the loop.  Once you have completed the entire loop, you receive a “Gold Looper” designation and many Gold Loopers provide guidance to newbies.  AGLCA’s website has a forum where members can post questions and seasoned loopers (or those that think they know the answer) offer advice.  There is also a Facebook Group which is not restricted to AGLCA members only, so chatter on this page can get a bit crazy at times.

The AGLCA forum has been abuzz with chatter on the Dismal Swamp Canal as many loopers are nearing this location, which crosses the NC and VA border.   It is a very narrow canal with limited water depth (approximately 6’) and has been known to have submerged logs which, if hit when transiting, can severely damage a prop depending on your type of boat bottom; we have two engines, therefore, 2 props that are below the waterline of the hull – which could be disastrous for us if we run into a log.   There is an alternate route further east which some choose to take, avoiding the canal.    Most of the advice on the forum noted as long as you take it very, very slow (just above idle, about 4 mph) and don’t travel close to a boat in front of you, you should be fine.   Others, said, “No way, we are not going to take the chance”.  The crew of Slo Pace, along with the crew of the likewise twin engine Mainship 400, Betty Gail, chose to take our chances and be very careful.  We were so glad we did!  It was as if we were traveling through a moment of Zen – a quiet, tranquil, treelined canal.   We entered the canal through one lock and after 22 miles of Zen (complete with a quiet night alongside a dock at the visitor’s center) we departed the canal through another lock.   

And then, BAM!  We arrived at Norfolk, VA.   Our first true “city”, complete with my first chance for a Starbucks Chai tea.  Concerts in the park, a large shopping mall, tons of restaurants, the USS Wisconsin, Chrysler Museum of Art, a dog park, and more were available to visit and lot and lots of naval ships y view under repair in the area.    Dave took a ferry over to Portsmouth, VA but quickly returned with not much to see there.  We stayed one extra day due to a cold front rolling through.  But, perhaps we should have stayed one more day…

After we left Norfolk and headed toward Yorktown, VA, we entered the Chesapeake Bay.  The bay had 2 ft rollers with lots of wind chop.  Captain Dave did a superb job at the helm for our 3-hour ride in the tumultuous bay, with a break for the first and last hour of the cruise (total of 5 hours) in protected rivers.  Whew!  I was glad when that was over.  Murphy also did great.  We are so glad he doesn’t get seasick (and least he didn’t throw up – although his Mom was getting a bit queasy at times).

We arrived at Yorktown, VA and they were having a Blues, Brews, and BBQ festival right next to the town marina.  We didn’t need to buy tickets as we could hear the music from our boat.  Dave just had to grill our own BBQ – we he does superbly, and of course, there is beer on the boat.  Yorktown is the site of the battlefield where Lord Cornwallis, leading the British, surrendered to George Washington’s troops, assisted by allied French forces in October 1781.  This prompted the British to negotiate an end to the Revolutionary War.   Freedom!  Within 5 days of after the British surrendered, Congress approved a monument to be built in commemoration of our defeat of the British, however, it took them almost 100 years to fund it.  I’ve included a picture of it below.

We have now officially moved into the Chesapeake Bay cruising grounds and our plan is to spend the month of May exploring the many rivers and towns in this area of our great country.

1 thought on “The Not so dismal Dismal Swamp to Yorktown, VA”

  1. It is great following you guys and learning about all the history in the area. Thanks for sharing!

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