It’s a marvel of Mother Nature, the way we are surrounded by water.

Countless companies and recreational boaters either depend on it or use it daily.

We’re also home to some of the most historical waters in the country, connections of rivers, bays and canals dug to hook them up.

The Intracoastal Waterway runs the course of the East Coast and west to Texas.

It was finished and first put to use in 1949, although other completed sections saw use much earlier.

The waterway – largely to protect vessels from having to use a sometimes rough ocean – started being considered prior to the Civil War.

While the 3,000-mile waterway “officially” runs north to Massachusetts, Mile Marker Zero is located in Portsmouth – where the waters head south through the Elizabeth River to the sounds of North Carolina, thanks largely by one of nine major canals. Ours is the Albemarle-Chesapeake Canal that includes the Great Bridge locks. Two others are located in our region.

Snowbirds – as cold-weather travelers heading south for the warmth often are called – can simply use the route that features fuel and other goods available along the way.

They missing a ton.

Along the way, boaters can find numerous, secluded bays and rivers where they can anchor up and spend the night.

There are lots of marinas (many boaters coming from the north layover at Lynnhaven Marine) along the way for overnighters. Clubs and restaurants offer entertainment and food. Fuel and supplies are available throughout the route. So are mechanics and repair facilities.

Fishing for several species gets better as you head south.

No, you’re not going to make it all the way south in a big hurry. It’ll take longer, giving the crew the chance to see, take part in and appreciate all of the waterway’s uniqueness and wildlife. You’ll meet lots of people doing the same thing, sometimes turning into friends for years to come.

Some groups make the voyage in groups of old and new friends. You know, strength in numbers. More fun, too.

Whatever your calling – winterizing the boat and sticking around the homestead fireplace, or traveling south via a wonderful waterway – a diehard boater owes it to themselves to experience the trip at least once.

It might turn into more.

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