So, as you know, I’m leaving Panama. It was a “Good Adventure” six years ago, but it isn’t anymore, alas, alack. I’m waiting to have some serious dental work done before I leave, so it’s probably not going to be before early summer at the soonest, but it’s not too soon to be thinking about where this next “Good Adventure” is going to take place.
Initially I’ll be returning to Fort Lauderdale. It was home for some 35 years off and on. There were diversions, of course. A nearly 10-year stay in New Orleans that included close to three years on a shantyboat I found tied up to a tree in the Tchefunctae River on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain and bought for $1,500. The boat, not the tree, the lake or the river, just to be clear.
Then there was nearly a four-year sojourn that included running this boat out of Antibes on the French Riviera and Marbella, Spain for almost three years,
and then buying my beloved Nancy Dawson, a Kaiser 26, and taking off for nine months and traveling alone on her to Mexico, Belize and the Rio Dulce in Guatemala.
In Lauderdale I’ll be looking to buy a small sailboat and leave as soon as possible. The question, of course is, “and go where?”
Several places easily come to mind. They are, in no particular order, especially since the seeds are simply germinating now:
The Saint John’s River in northern Florida. When my mom died in 1976 my dad took his two toy poodles, boarded his 26-foot Stamas in Venice, FL and disappeared for six months. No one had any idea where he’d gone. Turns out he’d taken the Okeechobee Waterway across the state, hung a left and went up to the St. John’s where he did his mourning. I have an email friend who built a shantyboat that he charters out up there on the river…http://www.shantycraft.com
I have done what they call “The Great Loop” in ’74-’75. It’s a circumnavigation of the eastern half of the United States. A great adventure but I don’t need to do it a second time.
Both times I left Burnham Harbor in Chicago and ended up at Bahia Mar Marina in Fort Lauderdale. (The end spot was just coincidental but cool since it definitely closed the circle.) Looking at this map you see that the river route splits at the Illinois/Kentucky border. The yellow line is the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway route. It was just a pipe dream in ’75 so we went all the way to New Orleans on the Mississippi. I went UNDER every bridge in the New Orleans a year before I went over any of them!
Looking at the map above just gave me another idea…why not do a “Small Loop” and travel UP the Tenn-Tom, as it’s called, and return DOWN the Mississippi?
Then there’s the Intracoastal Waterway. There’s over 3,000 miles of it starting at Mile 0 in Norfolk, VA and then all the way down the Atlantic seaboard to Miami and then the Gulf Coast from Fort Myers to Brownsville, TX.
I’ve done the Atlantic Coast portion a half dozen times. The very first time I did it solo on a 43-foot Hatteras tri-cabin in ’74 that I delivered from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale. On the Gulf Coast ICW I’ve only done portions. I ran a Hatteras motor yacht in New Orleans for several years. The owners had condos over in Destin, FL and when they went there they liked to have the boat sitting at their dock sort of as bragging point to how wealthy they were.
So I’ve done the portion from NOLA to Destin a half-dozen times, too. Then, when I was running inland crew boats for a few years I did portions of the Gulf ICW from Houma, LA and as far west as Grand Lake, LA. Perhaps I should take my new boat over to Ft. Myers and do the whole Gulf ICW to Brownsville. That would be a clean sweep of the waterway.
As you look at that map of the Gulf Coast ICW you see a break in the yellow line. That’s called “The Big Bend” and it’s an offshore jump of about 140 miles. In between is called Florida’s “Hidden Coast.” It’s very shallow all through there but there are a lot of places that would be worth poking into, like the Steinhatchee River and the Suwannee River. That’s right, the one Steven Foster wrote about!
Finally, and this would entail some real expense, it would be kind of neat to truck the boat up to Minneapolis and come down the Mississippi. It would be a kick stopping for a couple of days at Lock and Dam #20 which is in Canton, MO where I went to college for three years. As I got close I’d send press releases saying that a former alum was coming down the river on a boat. I wouldn’t have to go all the way down to New Orleans, though. I could hop on over to the Tenn-Tom and go down to Mobile on it.
There are a ton of possibilities. Which of these do you like best?