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The Dismal Swamp
by sarah hair
Hurricane Earl was bearing down on us and we needed to get out of the way. We left Oriental in a hurry and hustled up toward an area called 'The Dismal Swamp.' The 'swamp' around here is amazingly and surprisingly beautiful, with trees, grasses, and animals. We have seen so many beautiful swamp paces with the accompanying animals that besides the hurricane protection offered by the grasses and trees which absorb the waves and the tight bends which absorb the surge, we were really looking forward to seeing the nature as we waited out the threat.
Barely up the narrow ICW we started with engine trouble. John managed to take the entire engine apart and put it back together, changed the fuel filter, found the issue, and true to every crisis came up with a gimmick since we did not have the correct part. It took several hours off our estimated time of arrival, but at least we were not dead in the water with a hurricane on the way.
Those missing hours turned out to be critical however, when we arrived at a swing bridge which was undergoing upgrades while we along with another boat waited until morning to be able to pass. This alone set us back an entire day's travel and we were more than a little frantic when we finally decided to go no further and to simply find a spot.
One curious thing about that stay in the river waiting for a swing bridge is that we managed to pass through a swarm of some kind of creature. They had wings, looked a lot like mosquitoes, did not bite, and had antennae that were feathered like that of a moth. Odd as they looked, their behavior was the kicker, since they REALLY liked our boat, to the tune of tens of thousands of them making their permanent residence on board. Everywhere we looked was a black spot. The entire hull, deck, sails, masts, even just lines were covered with these little flying critters. Motoring became absurd, as steering the boat by even the tiniest movement stirred them something fierce and the swarm would buzz up all around for a minute or so rendering seeing and breathing impossible. This was the first honest insect infestation we encountered in the swamps, unless we count the dozen or so dragonflies who hung out with us for a few days. Speaking of the dragonflies... where were they? Just a few of those guys could have helped us out of this mess!
There were other beautiful things along the way, including this otherworldly stretch of river that widened out and misted over to look like we were floating in the air with the still water reflecting the sky and neither betraying where the other was hiding.
I have to admit, I had very low expectations coming in to the ICW and preparing to go for hundreds of miles through swamps. I am thrilled to report that I never could have imagined how beautiful it is and how much life and nature we have seen and experienced, even if some of it has been of the swarming or biting variety. Later in our day we had an unexpected visitor who helped a bit with the critter population, but even this big girl could not do much about the tens of thousands of carcasses blanketing the entire boat like a crunchy carpet.
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