WPSU

Monday, March 28, 2011

King Conch

U-Turn the lockdawg sez:
That ain't nuthin.
Let me tune up my howl.
We're safely docked in Portsmouth, VA, and we feel right at home--this city has electric buses!

Over the next two weeks, we'll be working our way north up the Chesapeake, with stops in Hampton, Annapolis, St. Michael's and other ports.  Looking forward to greeting visitors.

Our final miles on the Great Dismal Swamp Canal were also our final miles on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.  The trip wrapped up with a literal blast:  At the canal's Deep Creek Lock, we met the self-described "world's best conch player," Robert Peet. (see photo at left)

Some background here:  Back in the 1800s, before airhorns or VHF radios were invented, canal boaters and locktenders used conch shells to communicate with one another.  By blowing into a hole at the tip of the shell, you can make a sound as loud--and as musical--as any trumpet.


If you've been following the blog, you know that Cap likes to carry on this canalboat tradition (and amuse small children) by honking on a conch.

Well!  Local boy (and local legend) Robert Peek, the Deep Creek Locktender, also upholds this august tradition.  Boaters coming up the Intracoastal from the Florida Keys bring him conch shells (he has a whole heap in front of his quaint little locktender's cottage), and he's cultivated his skills to high art.

In fact, he once tried to enter a conch-blowing contest but was disqualified for being a professional, not an amateur.  Give a listen and see what you think.

You can find more photos of Robert in action (and SlowBoat in action!) HERE
Fiftee miles on the Great Dismal Swamp Canal. Smile for the canal boat!
(Thanks, Karen G on M.V. Lisa Morgan, for the photo)

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