Len and Blanche Scharf have provided this story.
Anagyri is a 36' PDQ catamaran owned by Len Scharf and his wife Blanche. Since 1995 they have cruised her extensively from the Great Lakes to Florida and the Bahamas. She is presently on her way to a planned four month circumnavigation of the island of Cuba. The following article is Len's reflections on his recent trip down the Intercoastal Waterway on the way to Cuba.
Along The Intercoastal
Well, it sure ain’t the way it used to be. Not grammatically correct I know, but it most clearly expresses my feelings.
When Blanche and I did our first cruise down the “ditch” in 1989 it was a real adventure. We had a new boat, new to us anyway, and every mile, every bend in the magenta line was a new challenge. This was a part of the country we didn’t even know existed. We sailed, motored mostly, with chart by our side, Waterway Guide as our bible and one or two other reference books at the ready. We studied them all in preparation for the next days challenge. We took every word of warning or caution as gospel and moved on with fear and trepidation. At times we thought we were a thousand miles from the nearest civilization.
Well, needless to say we made it to Florida without getting shipwrecked and only running aground twice. Following a layover in Marathon in the Keys we discovered a serious engine problem that was solved by a $5,000 repair that expedited our return home.
But that was 13 years ago, and this is our fifth trip. Boy have I learned a lot. Unfortunately, I still haven’t learned how not to run aground. You still have to pay attention. So maybe I haven’t learned as much as I like to think. Aside from me personally, however are the changes that are obvious along the Waterway.
In 1989 vast stretches of the waterway were undeveloped, barren, beautiful scrub pine, marsh grass, majestic live oak dripping with moss. Today, much of that, thankfully not all, is gone. In their place have sprouted barren, beautiful, majestic and sometimes ugly houses and condominiums. Where once stood small, sometimes dilapidated, fishing cottages now stand huge million dollar mansions. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish a single-family home from a small resort. The only sign of life at many of these places are the gardeners and grounds keepers.
I recall in 1989 meeting up with or passing the cruising couple with child or dog in their very modest sail or motorboat on their “adventure”, leisurely moving along with seemingly not a care in the world. We waved to each other and went our separate ways or shared some conservation at an evening anchorage. I marveled at the ingenuity of some of these people in how the outfitted their vessels. On this trip we were forced to slow down and get out of the way of the fast and the furious ever larger yachts with air conditioning and tinted windows, few with child or dog.
In 1989 we had to plan each days travel with the bridges in mind. What were their schedules, were they restricted, when did they open? If we planned wrong we might have to wait up to an hour. In rare cases the bridge might not open at all because of mechanical breakdown. I didn’t realize it then, but those bridges were a bit of the spice, a bit of the challenge of “doing the Waterway”. Today many of those bridges have been replaced by cold impersonal concrete “hi-rises”. Gone too is the bridge tender who might wish you a good journey or provide information on a tie up for the night or the location of the closest fuel stop.
But changed or not, it is still “The Waterway” known to thousands of boaters the world over. It is still majestic, beautiful, boring, challenging and sometimes a little scary. It still provides a view of America and an experience that only a relative few of us are privileged to have.
But even with all the changes, the Waterway is still here, and thankfully so am I. A little older and if not smarter, perhaps a little wiser. I like to think that perhaps the best change in me is that I’ve come to appreciate what it still is, and not what I remember it was. It is still arts of the In spite of While there have been many changes in the Waterway in thirteen years, it is still one of the truly remarkable boating experiences a person can enjoy.