The ICW officially begins at mile marker zero in
One sure sign of the changes in our society is the constant and vigilant presence of our military and law enforcement. From the
area to Annapolis , we were within sight of a naval vessel at all times. After we entered the Norfolk, Virginia area near the Naval yards the patrols and security were everywhere. Any vessel that strayed to the shipyard side of the channel was immediately intercepted by a security boat. Their approach was no nonsense. Their command was for you to move to the other side of the channel immediately or be arrested. We were buzzed at mast head level by fighter jets on the Norfolk Pamlico Sound. The Marines at were practicing exercises day and night. We did anchor in Camp LaJeune in Mile Hammock Bay with no problem. As a matter of fact we and the twenty five other boats anchored there felt very safe and secure. The main ship channel in Camp Lajeune was closed to boat traffic whenever a cruise ship was in port and the Coast Guard escorted most large vessels in and out of ports. Coast Guard and local law enforcement are constantly posted in all major ports we passed through. Miami
One of the sadder changes we noticed was the loss of camaraderie we had known over the years. With the forming of the “groups” it seemed that other boats and crews were considered outsiders and socializing outside the “group” was not a good idea. Fortunately there are still a few of the old time snow birds still making the trip that you still can meet up with old friends along the way. It may just be that with so many, many new cruisers, the mind set and attitudes of living ashore have not been shaken and the cruising mentality has just not yet taken hold. We can only hope.
Another more serious change we have seen is a real lack of good common sense and seamanship. Perhaps this too is due to the increase in the number of first timers to this annual migration. Each day the VHF brought vessels chastising each other, and there is much use of unkind words and phrases that we could not publish in this article. The waterway was designed and built for all vessels small and large to use but there seems to be two opposing groups. There are those that can travel fairly fast (you know who you are) and those that can not travel very fast (you know who you are). These groups seem to have become diametrically opposed and unable to transit the same body of water without some colorful conversations. It appears more and more that one group has taken a delight in making the other group as uncomfortable as possible. The unfortunate consequences are that at some point someone will get seriously harmed. There are certain rules for preventing that situation but in many instances neither side seems interested in those rules. In the interest of informing those unfamiliar, the rules of overtaking state that if you can not safely pass another vessel, you do not pass. Common courtesy from the boats that can’t travel very fast (you know who you are) dictates that you slow as much as possible to allow boats that can go faster (you know who you are) to pass safely. Those boats that can travel faster (you know who you are) must slow to a safe speed and reduce their wake so as not to cause damage or injury on the other vessel. Here is the procedure we have used successfully over the years without any complaints. We always approach the slower vessel dead astern of them and slow down to match their speed. We then call the vessel ahead to let them know we are there, which side we will pass on and ask them to slow down so that we can pass. We then pass as close in to the slower vessel as can be done safely and then move directly in front as soon as it is safe to do so. Once we are in front of the vessel we have passed, we can increase speed and go on our way with little inconvenience or discomfort to the other crew. It is a very simple procedure, but one that many have not yet mastered. Why can’t we all just get along?
I can’t mention the VHF without noting how many of our trucker friends seem to have made the conversion to boating. The chatter on the radio daily is full of folks wanting to know what their friends “20” is and if so and so “has their ears on”. To our brethren from the highway we say welcome. We are sure you will bring your professionalism with you to the water. That’s a big 10/4 good buddy.
Not all the news is negative. There is still enough area out there that peace and solitude can still be found. You just need to study the charts and look for places other than those written up in the guides. Many cruisers rush North or South and miss the great places off the beaten path. Small towns on the Pamlico Sound and Neuse River that many bypass still remind us of what cruising these areas was like that decade ago. Towns like
Slow down and smell the fish fry’s. Make the entire ICW as much a part of your destination as where you plan to spend the winter months. Give your fellow travelers a wave along the way and dinghy over at the anchorage and say hi. We have made many friends for life just practicing these simple courtesies.