I don’t think anyone actually identifies themselves as “People of the ICW”, I don’t, but nonetheless, like the land, water, shoals, wind, docks, mud, dolphins and pelicans, people shape the experience of “drivin’ da ditch.”
Bridge Tenders. Every couple of days you have to go by a draw bridge, swing bridge or other non-65 foot vertical clearance bridge. Our air height is 58.5 feet, not something we planned, but for which we once again gratefully thank the Sabre designers as we blithely cruise under tall bridges the big boats sweat out, ding with masts, or hang out waiting for low tide. The low bridges are individually manned, and open under a variety of circumstances – some on demand, some on the half and hour, some do not open during rush hours of nearby towns, and the Main Street Bridge in Jacksonville opened only at noon and 4 pm which was contrary to all information on line, posted on the bridge, and what the locals tell you. So you are nice to the bridge tenders because turning around is pretty much not an option. One held past the noon opening to give us time to “speed” up to the bridge at 4 knots against a current, earning a grateful “you are a gentleman, scholar and obvious drinker of fine scotch” comment from the last of our group getting through. Another apparently dislikes sailors, and literally slammed the bridge down partway through a mass exodous forcing an hour wait circling in a swamp for the next opening. He got muttered epithtets (remember we have to go north in the Spring.). One bridge worker showed great class by giving us a big “Go Terps!” In response to our huge Maryland flag flying from the shrouds. Most are very professional men and women, wishing us a safe journey on our way (and perhaps grateful given the dings in our hull that we didn’t actually hit their bridge.)
Radio Voices. Apart from our group, we havn’t actually met any of these people. They shape our day however. Some vessels helpfully call out depths places like “Hell Gate Cut” or warn of shoaling or snags. Others, like the annoying person in every law school class, like to hear themselves talk, even with just about nothing to say. They get eye rolls. The Coast Guard gives “Pon Pons” which must be short for something, alerting mariners to overtuned motor boats, empty life rafts found washed up on the beach, or keeping away from whales. The most entertaining are those individuals who engage in witty remarks, snarky observations, and full blown pissing matches with motor boats not passing properly or leaving big wakes, with the likes “you wanna take this to shore asshole?” We tune in to those avidly as it is live theatre too good to miss.
Locals. We are a curiousity most places – at public docks where we tie up next to public parks, we are sort of like critters in a zoo, just watched, and sometimes spoken to by tourists or homeless people. Many kind people go out of their way to offer help including on occasion their cars for trips to the grocery store, and always helpful suggestions about what is where in town. I definelty have developed a southern twang in speaking, it just seems polite.
Lots more but I have to go switch the laundry though, because the “people of the icw” include other boaters waiting for my washer at the marina laundomat!