A Year in Paradise


A Year in Paradise:
How We Lived Our Dream

by Stephen Wright Watterson

Review by Bryan Lowe

A year long boat trip on the Intracoastal Waterway. What a dream. Cutting lose from lawn mowing and roof repair and sailing away for a year. Each day a new stop, a new adventure. Seeing the US from the comfort of your own boat, stopping as you please.. or not!

The Intracoastal Waterway is a 3,000 mile long sheltered passage for commercial and pleasure boats along the U.S. Atlantic coast. It then bends through Florida into the Golf of Mexico. The waterway was based around a series of natural rivers, but was augmented by canals and dikes. The waterway was authorized by Congress in 1919 and is still maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers. Even with budget cutbacks the route is still maintained at a minimum depth of 12 ft for most of its length with some parts maintained to 7 and 9 foot minimum depths. Some of Americas great waterways connect with the system, including the Hudson River, New York State Barge Canal, the Chesapeake Bay, the Savannah and Apalachicola Rivers, and the entire Mississippi River system. It is a boaters paradise.

Stephen and Margaret Watterson took their 30 foot sailboat through the Waterway from Cleveland to the Florida Keys and back. It had been a dream of his for years. She was very willing to go as well, with her only condition that they take their cat with them!

They seem a nice couple, comfortable with each other, though perhaps their relationship is a bit old fashioned, usually in a good way. They are clearly not professional authors. Their book reads a lot like one of those Christmas letters from a former neighbor, the details of a days adventure running toward the mundane at times. But like those yearly Christmas letters these sections can still be strangely interesting in a slow paced and predictable sort of way! And keep in mind their boat is a 30 foot fiberglass boat. While they aren't rich, their mindset leans toward upper middle class when it comes to financial choices they make.

But the book is a useful one, with the 'story' told through narrative instead of page after page of charts or marina summaries. They did the dream and while their words are not destined for a Pulitzer Prize, there is much to learn. What do you do about mail and bills? What were they thinking in the choice of boat? Which Marinas can you trust? What are the more exposed portions of the Waterway like? What sort of people will you meet?

They survived their trip and they survived the extended time with each other! No small task, even in a 30 foot boat! They survived with a good natured respect for the people they met, and for each other. That comes through in this introduction to living the dream on the Intracoastal Waterway.

Editors note:  Bryan Lowe bulit an Escargot.  He cruises it in the Pacific Northwest, and makes occasional contributions to Duckworks Magazine. You can visit his website at: https://classics.nu/boat/