Elizabeth City, NC to Norfolk, VA to Yorktown, VA


 Another new state already! 

Random Facts: Virginia

1. Eight United States Presidents were born in Virginia: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, and Woodrow Wilson.

2. Seven Presidents are buried in Virginia: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Tyler, Taft and Kennedy.

3. In Virginia more people work for the United States government than any other industry. About 1/4 of Virginia’s workers.

We had an uneventful crossing of the Albemarle Sound in order to get back to the AICW and our next stop in Elizabeth City. There are several free dock options in Elizabeth City. Yes – free docks! There is a 48 hour maximum stay which was fine for us and Alysana as we were looking to stay put for an extra day while the predicted wind and rain passed by. 

Elizabeth City was founded in 1794, prospered with the Dismal Swamp Canal construction and is currently home to the largest Coast Guard base in the US. We spent our first afternoon seeing the Museum of the Albemarle which included over 400 artifacts which showcase the people and historical events of the area. It was done very well and was free. Free dock, free museum … we were starting to like this town. Our second day was a bit more low key as rain kept threatening but never quite ruined our day. The guys each got in their daily walks, Gina and I logged a run, we all had brunch on Alysana, we followed brunch with an afternoon beer at the local brewery, Kent watched the Blazers playoff game, we all had dinner on Heartbeat and then Kent and I watched one of the last few episodes of Game of Thrones. It was a Sunday and we treated it like a Sunday should be treated. 

The next day we started our last stretch of the AICW – the Dismal Swamp Canal. The Dismal Swamp Canal opened in 1805 and is the oldest continually operating man-made canal in the United States. It connects the Albemarle Sound and the Chesapeake Bay. 

Dismal Swamp Canal – very pretty but also very narrow and straight for 22 miles.

Video of locking up in the Dismal Swamp. The last time we had been in a lock was in December (while in Alabama). This lock is a lot shorter than those on the river system but we finally remembered to set up the GoPro to show the process.

Spending the night at a free dock mid way through the Dismal Swamp, rafted up with 6 other boats (you can see some of the boats rafted in the background). The State Park provided miles of trails for an afternoon walk. Despite having the largest black bear population on the east coast here we did not spot any. 

Docktails with fellow boaters. 

The Dismal Swamp Canal dropped us into Norfolk, VA which is mile 0 of the AICW. We started at mile 996 in Fort Pierce, FL. In our minds we have completed another “section” of The Great Loop!

We tied up to a marina in downtown Norfolk for the night as we were needing to fill our water tank and do some laundry. We crammed in some close by tourist activities with John & Gina and set off the next day. There is no sitting around relaxing, there is simply too much to see and do so we pick the places carefully that we spend more than one night in. 

Passing through the Norfolk area from the Dismal Swap. Gone was the lush green and in it’s place battleship grey. A lot of battleships and aircraft carriers being worked on around Norfolk. 

Norfolk Waterfront. 

One of the unique 130 mermaids scattered through downtown Norfolk. 

USS Wisconsin. Served in WW2, Korea and Desert Storm wars. Larger and more updated than the USS Alabama which we toured in Mobile last fall. We felt you could explore more on the USS Alabama but this was still fun to walk around it. 

Memorial and burial site of 5 star General MacArthur.

While the AICW offered very good protection from the ocean we are now about to travel the Chesapeake Bay which should be treated with the upmost respect. The Chesapeake is approximately 30 miles wide, 200 miles long and has an average depth of just 21 ft. We will need to watch the weather for good sea conditions and plan our travel around tides & currents as things can get nasty. Fortunately our first day on the Chesapeake was kind, we logged 40 miles on our way to Yorktown. 

We spent 2 nights in Yorktown at the waterfront marina in order to explore the historic triangle – Yorktown, Jamestown and Williamsburg. We were able to cram in a lot of sightseeing in each of these places, aided by the fact that with living history museums you can learn not only through galleries and films but also through re-creations and costumed historical interpreters. It is all done very well and is engaging for all ages, so engaging we failed to take very many pictures. Scratched only the surface at these three places and left with our minds blown. 

Quick history refresher: 

Yorktown –  Established by Virginia’s colonial government in 1691 to regulate trade and to collect taxes on both imports and exports for Great Britain. Yorktown Battlefield is where George Washington secured America’s independence in 1781. 

Jamestown – America’s first permanent English colony in North America (founded 1607).

Williamsburg –  Capital of the Virginia Colony from 1699 to 1780.

Yorktown Battlefield – Last major Revolutionary War battle where Cornwallis surrendered to Washington (1781). Not every day you ride your bike to the grocery store through a battlefield like this. 

Yorktown Victory Monument stands just shy of 100 ft tall. We could see this from the water a long way out. 

Kent and John (Alysana) at the Yorktown Pub waiting for our Lyft ride. We had amazing crab cakes here for dinner one night.

The American Revolution Museum has traditional indoor galleries with artifacts mixed with interactive exhibits and films. The outdoor area recreates enlisting in the Continental Army and what it would be like to live on a Revolution-era farm. This area was large and frankly we forgot to take very many pictures here. 

Jamestown Settlement – A similar set up to the American Revolution Museum with fabulous indoor gallery storytelling through artifacts and exhibits and a large outdoor area recreating the first English settlement. You can also climb aboard a recreation of one of the 3 boats that sailed from England to Jamestown in 1607. 

While walking Jamestown Settlement we were entertained by many costumed interpreters, it was here we learned about how a musket was fired. The use of these interpreters was done well and added to the entire experience. 

The historic area of Colonial Williamsburg stretches over 301 acres, and includes 88 original 18th-century structures. Hundreds of houses, shops and public outbuildings are reconstructed on their original foundations. You are transported back in time and we really only saw a small portion of all Williamsburg has to offer.

Virginia’s Capital building (reconstruction).  Once a year, a naturalization ceremony is held here, during which a new group of immigrants becomes Americans, continuing a process begun in the building nearly 300 years earlier.
For us, great museums tell stories through a variety of different methods – Yorktown, Jamestown and Williamsburg held our attention hour after hour. 

We feel we have kept true to one of our goals for The Great Loop – seeing and learning more about our country’s history. The east coast has certainly delivered more than we had expected and while we often feel we could spend more time in an area there is always excitement for what the next stop will bring. That being said, over the next few days we will take time to head away from the Chesapeake and transit the 100 miles up the Potomac River for a visit to our nation’s capital – Washington DC.