By Steve Morrell
My first exposure to the ICW was in 1979 when I first came to Florida to buy a sailboat. I knew just about nothing about it, as I had spent most of my life in California (although I am a native Southerner, born in North Carolina). I sailed the waters of Lake Worth, FL, and the Bahamas for nine months before I went through my first bridge cruising on the ICW, as there were no bridges from the marina I was at in Palm Beach out to the waters of the Atlantic via Lake Worth Inlet.
When Hurricane David threatened the southeast coast of Florida in September, 1979, I had to move my 26-foot Folk Boat, Trifid, from West Palm Beach to Manatee Pocket, a hurricane hole in Stuart, about 35 miles north. Trifid was a bare bones boat, not even having a VHF onboard. I, therefore, had to use the horn when I came up to the bridges to get them to open. I thought that was normal. This was also the days before cell phones (hey…it was a simpler time), so, in order to stay in contact with my girlfriend, she would drive ahead in our car and walk over the next bridge till I got there. We would shout at each other or give hand signals to communicate, in case problems arose. If I didn’t show up, she knew I was somewhere between that bridge and the last one. We had no problems, but it was my first real experience with the ICW, and the scenery was always beautiful. Ever since then, I’d always wanted to take a long trip on the ICW someday. (By the way, the boat survived the storm with almost no injuries.)
That chance came up over 20 years later. I had bought an Ericson 38 in Oriental, NC, and wanted to move it south to Florida. (This boat had a VHF, among other amenities, and we had cell phones.) Two friends accompanied me on the first leg of that journey from Oriental, NC, to Charleston, SC, in December 2001. We made it a leisurely trip, taking eight days, stopping early each day (although we departed regularly at dawn) to visit a marina, see the local communities, visit bars, restaurants and other attractions. We all brought books with us, expecting to have a lot of leisure time when we could read as we motored down the ICW.
After eight days, not one of us opened one page to read anything. We spent the entire time on deck in awe of the adventure we were experiencing going down this beautiful waterway, constantly seeing new terrain and new sights. No one even wanted to go below for fear of missing something to be seen while on deck. I did the final three legs, accompanied by other friends, in Spring 2002. Books were never opened on those trips either.