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Reflecting on a Voyage While Headed Northbound on the ICW by Lisa Borre
itnessing the steady stream of cruising boats headed south on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) this fall stirred memories of our first trip south on our previous boat, 16 years ago. It was our first multi-week voyage together and included my first
overnight coastal passage—chilly, windy and exhilarating—off South Carolina from Georgetown to Beaufort. It was also the beginning of an ambivalent relationship with the waterway that provides a critical link to points south. Having cruised on portions of the ICW five times, I love the convenience and beauty of this narrow stretch of bays and sounds connected by rivers and dredged canals and sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the densely populated eastern seaboard. Expansive marshes, pine forests, and swamplands are a birder’s dream during the spring and fall migration. Eagles, ospreys, herons, loons, terns, pelicans, ducks, geese, and even gannets are not uncommon sights. The ICW provides an alternative to sailing offshore late (or early) in the season, but operating a sailboat as a powerboat for weeks on end requires a great deal of patience. I’ve learned to just get in the groove of making progress, mileage-wise, and to enjoy the friendly people, nice scenery, and interesting ports along the way. Instead of joining the southbound migration this time, my husband David and I were headed in the opposite direction. The unusual timing was a result of winding down an extended voyage to the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Black Seas aboard our current boat, Gyatso. The monotony of motoring offered time for reflecting on our cruise.
As described in my previous article, we shipped Gyatso from Spain to Florida in the fall, and while I was busy with workrelated projects, David hired a deckhand to help him move the boat from West Palm Beach, FL, to Oriental, NC. He estimates passing more than 400 southbound vessels from mid-October to mid-November. He was struck by the large size of the average cruising vessels headed south, many newer boats in excess of 45-feet and very well equipped. Most passing skippers waved, but some yelled out, “You’re headed the wrong way!” I joined David aboard in mid-December, and we resumed the northbound passage on the ICW. Unlike most of our time while cruising, we were treating this final leg of our trip more like a delivery. “Chesapeake or bust!” was our motto—perhaps because of the intense and mixed emotions we both felt as we bring our current voyage to an end: a tinge of sadness mixed with a sense of accomplishment and appreciation for every day we’ve been able to spend aboard Gyatso. On that first trip down the ICW, we were on a steep learning curve. Everything was new to us, and we hadn’t yet figured out how to work as a team in operating the boat. Now we know each other’s strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. We’ve developed a system for divvying up the duties onboard, one that maximizes the things we are good at or that we just like to do.
##The author enjoying a sunny but chilly December day headed north on the ICW in North Carolina.
46 February 2014 SpinSheet
Chesapeake Bay Sailing