Destination: United States East Coast Intracoastal Waterway
Book: Gib’s Odyssey: A Tale of Faith and Hope on the Intracoastal Waterway (NEW: May, 2011) by Walter G. Bradley
Since I have never owned a boat, I don’t generally go looking for the equivalent of a road trip by boat. Therefore, I am not familiar with all the routes that obsess people who own those “Holes in the water you throw money into” as William Buckley described his passion for sail boats. Therefore, Gib’s Odyssey acquainted me with a United States trip that I knew absolutely nothing about.
A helpful map at the beginning of the book shows the route from Key West to New York City that Gib Peters followed in his 29-foot motor boat, Ka-Ching. Author Walter G. Bradley explains the history of the Intracoastal Waterway early in the book. From Colonial times, sailors looked for routes hugging the coast, protected from the Atlantic by barrier islands. Although an inland water route from Boston to Georgia was proposed in 1808, it was attacked piecemeal in the following 150 years. During World War II, the need for protected routes up the East coast became essential and the entire route got more attention.
The Ka-Ching, twenty years old, needed a lot of work, but Gib Peters always enjoyed a challenge. And as the book reveals, he was endlessly creative. He had to be, because this was not just an ordinary travel adveture. He undertook this epic voyage as a challenge to ALS, Lou Gehrigs’ disease, a relentless killer.
Among other skills, Gib was a writer, and his e-mails to friends and family, some of which became columns in the Key West Citizen newspaper, enliven what could be a depressing story of decline. The man’s sense of humor never failed–even when his voice failed him, first his arms and then his legs lost strength, and his two “deckhands”, kittens he adopted for the voyage caused him annoyance and concern–he reported every bit of the trip with self-deprecating laughs.
You learn at the beginning of the book about his diagnosis and reaction to the nearly sure fate of a person with this relentless disease. You also know that he does not survive to write the book, because it is authored by his physician, Walter G. Bradley. And despite my general avoidance of the self-discovery memoirs of people with fatal diseases (sorry, but I’m just being honest–I duck when the going gets rough), I enjoyed nearly everything about this travel book.
Because it IS a travel book. It lets us know mile by mile what it is like to travel up the Intracoastal Waterway. It had me searching for companies that do the trip as a cruise (see below)–seeing as how I would never in a thousand years be as resourceful as Gib at fixing all the little things that can go wrong aboard a boat. However, if you are the sort to travel in your own boat, you can find plenty of help like Dozier’s Waterway Guide Atlantic ICW 2013 on line. It had me looking at the map and thinking about the southern states I have missed on my quest to visit all 50 states.
And yes, it had me thinking of the larger voyage he wrote about–his long-long thoughts about life and death.
Since I have not been on an ICW cruise myself, the following are not recommendations, just a sampling of the variety of possibilities. Numerous companies offer short versions of cruises–even one or two days anywhere from the Chesapeake Bay area to bits of the Southern coastline. I was interested in what the longest possible tours were and how much they would cost.
A charter yacht for four people from Florida Keys to the Chesapeake Bay. Sixteen days, $16,000 for the whole experience, including breakfast and lunch. Aboard The Tireless. (There’s also an eight-day option.)
15 Days Jacksonville FL to Rhode Island or vice versa on a 100-passenger ship. USA River Cruises. (Shorter trips also available). Starts at $4,589 per person.
This book was sent to me by the publisher so that I would review it. The photo of Ka Ching above comes from the Miami Herald web page, and you can click on it to read their review. I have included links to Amazon for your convenience, and keep in mind that if you follow any link and buy anything at all, A Traveler’s Library gets a few cents, and you get our gratitude.