January 28, 2021. Recently, in an email exchange with a fellow cruiser on Instagram, I learned that Robert Peek, the lockmaster of the Deep Creek lock on the Dismal Swamp Canal had unexpectedly passed away on October 1, 2020. His obituary appeared in the October 4, 2020 Virginian – Pilot. Robert’s passing was a loss to family, friends, and the boating community that cruises the historic and beautiful Dismal Swamp Canal and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.
Robert never met a stranger. Thanks to his expansive collection of conch shells, he was affectionately known to cruisers as “the conch man.” His collection lined the walkways outside the lock office. He told me that numerous cruisers passing through the lock had brought him shells they had picked up especially for him during their travels. If you were lucky, he would play you a tune on one of his many shells. Tributes written to Robert appear on the Great Harbour Trawlers, website and in the Waterway Guide.
To his family, friends, and fellow lockmasters, we offer our prayers and deepest sympathy. Robert was a good person that made cruisers through the lock feel welcome and appreciated. May he Rest In Peace.
July 31, 2018 NOTE:Thanks to the intense wind and rain forecast for the East Coast in the coming days, we listened to Chesapeake Bay area boaters and took a break in our journey until this front moves out and it is safe to continue our cruise. When we learned it could be seven to ten days before the storms moved on north, we made the decision to rent an enclosed slip at the Atlantic Yacht Basin, rent a car, and come home in time to see Bobby, Kristin, and the kids off on their Bahamas adventure. Hence, this post is being written from the Mount Pleasant writing room during the brief break in our journey.
Sunset at Lamb’s Marina, the last marina before starting north on the Dismal Swamp Canal.
Thanks to the weather, it took us three days longer than planned to reach the historic Dismal Swamp Canal. Truth be known, we made the final decision to take the canal while docked for three days at the Alligator River Marina, waiting for Hurricane/Tropical storm/Whatever Chris to move on offshore and north! We did so not realizing there was even more foul, windy weather to follow Chris!
Throughout our journey, we have been advised not to take the canal this time of year. “The flies, other bugs, and duck weed are horrible,” was what we most often heard. Finally, while at the Belhaven Marina, we were encouraged to take the canal route to the Chesapeake.
Rather than give you, the reader, a history lesson on the canal, I’m providing you links that can tell the story far better. Suffice it to say, we are glad we made the decision to take the canal route of the ICW, and would encourage anyone cruising north or south to take the canal route at least once during your lifetime.
NOTE: A word of caution. Before embarking on a cruise of the Dismal Swamp Canal, check with the Coast Guard and Lockmasters that oversee the canal. Like any body of water, there are times the water level may not be high enough for some larger boats to transit.
As you enter the lock at either end of the Dismal Swamp Canal, and begin your journey on the long, narrow “ditch,” it is amazing to realize it was dug during the administration of America’s first president, George Washington. That was a tremendous feat for its time.
Every cruise of the canal should include a stop at the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center. We tied up at the Center’s complimentary dock for one night, before completing our canal cruise. The Welcom Center’s website should be your first stop in planning a cruise of the canal, or researching its history.
Pictures May Be Worth A Thousand Words, but no matter the quality of the picture, it is hard to convey the serenity of cruising a maximum “NO WAKE” speed of six miles per hour through the canal. It made us enjoy cruising slowly and taking in the sights and sounds of the canal.
Following the beautiful 1996 Nimble Wander 32, “Maranatha” up the Pasquotank.
When we leave the South Mills Lock, we’ll be in the Dismal Swamp Canal. In the left of the picture you see the dreaded Duck Weed floating on the surface of the water. While we saw Duck Weed thru parts of the canal, when I checked the Slow Dance’s raw water strainers at the Welcome Center, very little of the Duck Weed was ingested into the raw water system.
Leading our “flotilla” up the canal at 6 mph.
There are those times the “Admiral” enjoys sitting out on the bow and enjoying the solitude and scenery.