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lorenzo b 23-10-2010 15:08

The Great Dismal Swamp
Is it a must do? We're heading south and can't make up our mind. We came up the other way and it was pretty, but can we really pass up somewhere called The Great Dismal Swamp?

MarkJ 23-10-2010 15:20

Why the hell would you want to go there?

Here's a few other places I will never head this boat to: Storm Bay, Shark Bay, Disaster bay, Trial Bay, Wreck Bay.......

Where'ya going for vacation? The Great Dismal Swamp.


ActiveCaptain 23-10-2010 15:21

If your draft is over 5', you'd be wise to skip it. Even at 5', you're tempting a bent prop.

SV Liberty 23-10-2010 15:24

We've been thru 4 times (2 north, 2 south) and have never regretted it. We only draw 4'6", so that helps, but we have never seen less than 6', I think. We enjoyed stopping at the Drummond Feeder ditch (tied up to the very little dock across from the ditch entrance) and took an excursion by dinghy up into Lake Drummond. You put your dinghy on a little electric trolley car to get it up the 8' or so to Lake Drummond. Very serene, very beautiful. Going south you can stop at NC visitors center, there should be lots of other cruisers tied up - you raft up once the three spaces on the dock are taken - our last stop we had 10 or 11 boats tied up (3 and 4 deep). We got everyone to get together for a happy hour at the picnic tables - preparation for ARG* and AHOY** meetings later at Monument beach in Georgetown!
Plus, although we like the Dismal canal itself, the part of the trip we really like is the Pasquatank River - beautiful foliage, but winding around instead of straight. Elizabeth City NC is also a really fun stop - last year our kids were part of a group of 8 or 10 cruising kids doing Halloween there. Have stayed several days in both directions. Mayor Steve (although I believe he's since passed the mantle to someone else) is great. Anyway, as you can tell, we think the Dismal is a must do. That said, we've never gone the other way, so maybe its better or at least good too. Don't forget to have a conch horn handy to play for Robert at the lock - the north one, I think.

*Alcohol Research Group
**I forget what it stands for, but its something for hors'd'oevers/non-drinkers

Have fun!

Dave, SV Liberty

AnchorageGuy 23-10-2010 15:32

lorenzo, a sailboat with a 6 1/2 foot draft just came through with no problem. Your answer depends on what you like. It is a very narrow canal with a couple of locks and a friendly welcome station to tie up half way through and meet other boaters. You do have to go slow, and there are the occasional logs sunken in the canal that you might bump bottom on. If moving on and staying in civilization is your goal than skip it. If the things I mention peak your curiosity, give it a try. Most love it and a few hate it. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes. Chuck

ActiveCaptain 23-10-2010 15:51

Chuck must have quit his job at Waterway Guide to start a TowBoatUS franchise in Elizabeth City! :flowers:

The problem isn't just the lack of depth (and there isn't more than 6' unless you like bumping along the bottom). The problem is that your huge prop is going to churn up all the logs that line much of the bottom of the channel and then float them onto your running gear.

Sea Wolf 23-10-2010 16:11

Lorenzo, We did the Dismal Swamp trip twice and loved it! It's startlingly beautiful. One of the highlights of our trip was our 'sojourn' in Elizabeth City. The townspeople were beyond friendly and cordial. They went out of their way to make us welcome and help us in any way they could. We were picked up on Sunday morning, brought to Church and then home for dinner by one of the families. It was delightful.

AnchorageGuy 23-10-2010 20:48

lorenzo, keep in mind any time you ask advise on a discussion forum that much of that advise is worth just what you pay for. There are those that may have done the Waterway a couple of time and consider themselves an expert in all things, and there are those with lots of first hand experience rather than hearsay. Some times it is difficult to to weed through the self professed experts. I would again suggest you make your decision based on facts and the type of cruising you prefer. With your boat it will be a tight fit and if you want the actual conditions and depths, rather than some off handed remarks, you can call the Corps Of Engineers at 757-547-3311 or the Welcome Center on the canal at 252-771-8333 for accurate infomation. You didn't mention your draft so it is difficult to say for sure. With all of the rains lately there should be plenty of water but you should verify that. Our friends just went through about five days ago with a 5 1/2 foot draft and twin engines, props and rudders and nothing hit at all. They made the same trip north two months ago with no mishaps. That is actual first hand knowledge. Ultimately you will decide how comfortable you are. There is a dredge working the Canal at the Feeder Canal right now, but that should not affect yours or anyone else's passage. The tie up at the Welcome Center is free and you will need to time the transit for the locks. Chuck

MarkJ 24-10-2010 04:47

Can someone give the lat and Lon of the dismal place please. Just so the forign readers may know where the hell it is :)

(i am coming to the uSA soon so I will know if you lie to me!)

ActiveCaptain 24-10-2010 05:14

Chuck, first it was a 6 1/2' draft boat, now it's a 5 1/2' draft one. Sort of makes a difference for the trawler in question.

What Chuck doesn't know, it seems, is that the Dismal Swamp is maintained at a level of 6'. The reason there are 2 locks is to allow the water level to be controlled at 6'. If it gets higher, the surrounding land floods (generally considered a bad thing). So all the rain-in-Spain ain't gonna effect the water levels there.

But Chuck is right - call them yourself and find out. Or go to the ACE page about it here:

You'll find that "maintained at 6'" quote in there.

So Chuck, was it really a 6 1/2' draft sailboat that just came through without any problems like you wrote a few posts back?

motion30 24-10-2010 05:20

I am sure those other cruisers would be thrilled to see you comming to raft up to there shinny new boat Ha :)

doug86 24-10-2010 05:41

Lorenzo, with all the depths debate aside, you may have another reason to skip the Dismal. If your profile picture is actually of your boat, those outriggers and tall supports above your roof may get fouled up in the overhanging tree branches. With the Dismal, you must consider both of your vessels drafts; water and air.

Also, most boats do stop overnight at the visitor's center. Rafting up a 63' boat at the visitor's center might be problematic, unless boats already against the dock agree to swap with you. It is possible to lock in early and make the last lock out, transiting the entire canal in one day.

I'm not against the Dismal; I have been through 3 times and I love it, but my single mast is only 22' above the water. Here is what the Dismal looks like:

Christian Van H 24-10-2010 05:44

I'm with Jeff on this, Lorenzo. I have done the canal, and loved it, but I think you might be a little large. I'd do it right now with my 5 1/2' draft SAILBOAT with a full keel and protected prop... With unlimited tow insurance! :)

SailFastTri 24-10-2010 05:48


Originally Posted by MarkJ (Post 546668)
Can someone give the lat and Lon of the dismal place please. Just so the forign readers may know where the hell it is :)

(i am coming to the uSA soon so I will know if you lie to me!)

36,45.481N 76,18.656w puts you in the canal just a short distance from the northern entrance in Virginia USA.

fgd3 24-10-2010 05:58


Originally Posted by MarkJ (Post 546668)
Can someone give the lat and Lon of the dismal place please. Just so the forign readers may know where the hell it is :)

(i am coming to the uSA soon so I will know if you lie to me!)

The Great Dismal Swamp route (Route 2) separates from Route 1 at 36 45 N, 76 17 W and rejoins Route 1 at 35 58 N, 75 58 W. The feeder ditch from Lake Drummond joins the canal at 36 35 N, 76 23 W.


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