Contractor Steve Varga is cutting hours of commuting each week by boating to work. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Ron Hayes
After the Lantana bridge closed for 22 months last March 18, residents on both sides of the Intracoastal Waterway reconciled themselves to the inconvenience.
Some drove north to Lake Worth to reach the mainland. Some drove south to Ocean Ridge to reach the island.
Steve Varga found a faster route.
A general contractor, he lives on a mainland canal in Hypoluxo, but does a lot of work in Manalapan, Ocean Ridge and Delray Beach.
“In June, I got a contract to replace the sidewalks in Manalapan,” said Varga, who also renovated the town library. “I had to start meeting with inspectors, and it was taking me 30 to 45 minutes to drive from a house I can almost see from the island to get over here to my work sites.”
After his white Ford F-150 pickup got caught by the opened Lake Worth bridge one afternoon, Varga realized he’d spent nearly 90 minutes driving to and from a 10-minute meeting, and he took action.
First, he borrowed a neighbor’s boat to test the theory, and then he bought one of his own, an old, 17-foot Mako outboard.
“Now it takes me five minutes to shoot back and forth,” he said recently, standing by the water behind a house on Land’s End Road that Varga Homes is renovating. “I’m using it twice a day. When the bridge reopens, I think I’ll keep the boat. It’s still quicker.”
The watery commute has not been entirely without incident, however.
“One morning, my wife saw me pulling away from our dock with a fishing rod, and she yelled out that I’m here to work, not play around,” he confessed.
And then there was the afternoon he left a meeting at the Manalapan site to find his transportation drifting in the Intracoastal, about 40 feet off the dock.
“I just kept thinking it was gonna get blown back,” he said, “so I checked back every few minutes.”
Finally, with another meeting looming, Varga went fishing for his fishing boat.
“I tied an old 2-by-4 with nails in it to a long piece of rope and figured I’d try and hook it,” he said.
That’s when his old friend and employee, the electrician, came running. As a practical joke, he had tied the bowline to a long electrical wire, tied the wire to the dock’s ladder, out of sight beneath the water, and let the boat safely drift out of reach.
“When he saw I was ready to throw that 2-by-4, he got scared I’d chip the boat and confessed,” Varga recalled with a laugh.
“I told him he should be working.”
Great story and we understand his frustration regarding the roundabout drive to access the mainland.