Land of Plenty

We’ve been back in the US for just over a week now.  Long enough to not feel terrified behind the wheel of a car in moderate traffic.  Long enough not to shout “Whee!” every time we see a Publix and its attendant riches.  But not quite long enough not to get excited about sushi or pizza, or any other menu that goes beyond grouper, conch and lobster.

In the few days we spent in Vero Beach, we’ve socialized over cocktails and dinners with some of the people who help give it the nickname “Velcro Beach.”  Eastport Yacht Club could have an annex here and it would be filled most nights. There is definitely an Annapolis diaspora here, and it’s understandable.  But as sticky as the Velcro might be, we have moved on.

We’re now motoring up the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), which runs all the way up to the mouth of Chesapeake Bay in Norfolk, Virginia.  At least the parts I’ve seen in Florida might seem none-too-exciting at 6 knots.  There’s some water.

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Sunrise over one of the many low-lying islands in the Indian River, through which the ICW runs in much of Florida.

And some low-lying islands.

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If these little sand spits were in the Bahamas, I’d be all over them, looking for sand dollars.

Seabirds and dolphins and manatees (lots of them, but elusively difficult to photograph).

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You get sunrises and sunsets over the water.  Of course I’m glossing over it, and will report later on our various stops along the ICW.

But one way to think about it, which gives it another sort of weight altogether, is as a public works project, funded by taxpayers and executed by the government.  And principally for the benefit of recreational boaters.

While the ICW largely takes advantage of the natural bodies of water paralleling the Atlantic coastline, most of those rivers, sounds, bays and estuaries are not consistently deep enough to be navigable.  So the ICW channel is dredged to ensure that depth (though some areas shoal over, nature being what it is).

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A shot of our chart plotter.  That very narrow white ribbon in a sea of blue is the navigable portion of the Indian River; the rest is too shallow.

That channel is very narrow in many places.  So it has to be marked.  There are navigational marks all along the waterway – on after another, like an honor guard.

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Thousands and thousands of channel markers.

For that channel to have any utility, yet still not impede commerce between the “mainland” and the barrier islands, bridges must accommodate vehicle (cars and trains) traffic as well as boats.  Some bridges are simply built high enough for most sail boats to get under.

007 - Bridge north of Vero Beach

Here’s a typical ICW bridge.

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As we approach it, it always looks like the mast is going to hit it.

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But we always get through with room to spare.

Others are drawbridges, some of which open on demand while others open on a schedule.

026 - Railroad Bridge

That’s just the bare minimum of what it takes to have a useful waterway.  It doesn’t touch the municipal, state and federal amenities in addition to the basics – city marinas, natural resources police, Coast Guard, boat ramps, etc. etc. etc.  It contributes to the economy, but it costs.

But then again, as we were reminded last night at anchor off Titusville, Florida, across the ICW from Cape Canaveral, we are a country that could afford to launch man into space repeatedly.

022 025 - Sunrise Titusville

NASA facilities across the waterway from Titusville.  And sunrise.

How fortunate we are to live in a land of such plenty.

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