If you've ever been romanced by the idea of floating along a river bank, then the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) may well be for you. While it doesn't offer Mark Twain's riverboats, the magnitude of the vessels traveling it and the characters you encounter will make up for that.
In all the U.S. geography/history I've read and heard, I've never seen or heard anything about the ICW or the GIWW (Gulf Intracoastal Waterway). It is an inland canal system that runs, according to the maps, from Boston, Massachusetts to Brownsville, Texas, with a break into the Gulf between Carrabelle and Tarpon Springs, Florida. The portion that is actually known as the ICW is from Norfolk, VA (mile O) to New Orleans, LA. The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway runs from New Orleans (mile 0) to Brownsville. It is maintained by the Corp of Engineers and millions of tons of cargo pass to and fro in this canal.
|If you are on a pleasure boat with a single engine and have to pass one of these big guys, it can be very intimidating.|
There are numerous draw bridges, lift bridges, railroad bridges, and pontoon bridges. You will have to wait until they are raised/moved out of your way.
We need 60+ feet to clear the mast and had to wait on some bridges that other pleasure boat could clear.
It was a treat to hear some of the Cajun accents from the bridges but it meant you had to ask them to repeat the instructions at least two times.
The many locks were definitely points of stress. Fortunately, several of them were open when we came through.
The Bayou Boeuf Lock was the first and most intimidating. They took us in with the big tows and would not tell us which side to place our fenders on. The instructions were: "Follow the tow Lake Eagle in and tie up to the side he doesn't tie to". We were forced to quickly adjust fenders and lines to tie-up on our port side, which is the hardest side. I'm sure the guys on Lake Eagle had a good laugh at our antics and maneuvers in securing Escapades. As did the huge tow behind us.
How refreshing it was when it came our turn, after waiting four hours, to enter the Harvey Lock. The lock master gave very specific instructions prior to clearing us for entering. He was above us on the wall when we entered, handing down lines for us to attach our lines to. We still managed to ram the concrete wall with our pulpit. As we were clearing the lock, the lockmaster threw down a handful of Mardi-Gras beads. When you exit the Harvey Lock you are in the Mississippi River.
After crossing the Mississippi River you go through the Industrial Lock to get into Lake Pontchartrain. This was not as bad as Bayou Boeuf but not a great experience either. The lockmaster could have made it easier on everyone by telling us we would be using their lines. He became quite impatient with me when I had to remove our line from the cleats in order to secure his. We were lowered 10 feet before entering the Industrial Canal. After several more bridges, we finally made it into Lake Pontchartrain. The power boat in this picture, Waterfront Property, was with us most of the day. Even though he made some of the bridges we couldn't make, he would be waiting at the next one for an opening. We parted company in New Orleans.
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