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Old 01-15-2010
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best route chicago to florida

I'm about to buy a sailboat in chicago area, the plan is to reach florida then the west indies. I believe i have 2 options, the illinois/mississippi river or the Erie canal and the waterways to florida. I 'd rather sail than motor; i also prefer lonely places (anchored) to marinas. I have heard it is possible in the waterways but the distance is greater... Any advise welcome++PS is there any fees in locks or through the river/canal?
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Old 01-15-2010
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I've never looked close, either way you'll need to get charts and pay close attention to depths and bridge clearances. That said...

I'm not sure you can get from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi in a keelboat, but if you can I'm sure someone will correct me. And even if you can get to the Illinios River and into the Mississippi I'd bet you'd have to do most of the trip to New Orleans with the mast unstepped, and you are going to do a lot of motoring.

I'm also not sure you can get out through the St Lawrence w/o unstepping the mast, but you might be able to, and if you go that way you should be able to sail except for parts of the St Lawrence Seaway portion, you'd be able to sail the Great Lakes.

Once you get to the Atlantic the choice to run outside or in the ditch is up to you. You can always run outside and duck in for weather and to anchor, assuming there is no rush.

The easiest way, and possibly the cheapest when you really get down to it, is to put it on a truck.


My question is why buy the boat there? In the shopping I've been doing boats in the great lakes cost at least 20% to 30% more than boats at the coast.

Again, I've never looked close so the inputs pretty useless but maybe some ideas to think about.

Last edited by XTR; 01-15-2010 at 11:55 AM.
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Old 01-15-2010
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It can be done either way. I believe you'll have to drop the mast for both routes, but going east to the ICW will afford you more sailing opportunities and likely be more scenic as well. Yes, it will also be the longer route.

You might consider researching the "Great Loop" on here and on Google.
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Old 01-15-2010
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I personally would prefer the northern route to the East Coast for the scenery and sailing. Either route you take - Good Luck - but be aware that the channel from Chicago to the rivers was closed last fall due to the Asian Carp problem in the Illinois river. It is open now with restrictions - but who knows- as there are several states suing Illinois over the issue. There is an article and a link in this months BoatUS' Seaworthy magazine.
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Old 01-15-2010
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Actually, you really wouldn't want to do the Mississippi river route, since it is really dangerous for small sailboats due to current and traffic conditions. A better route would be the Tenn/Tom route. However, the trip east through Lake Erie and the NY state canal system makes far more sense.

Another possibility is going east through the St. Lawrence River and then south along the east coast of Canada and the US.
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Old 01-15-2010
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Depends on several things.

Timing; you won't want to do the inland rivers in the spring. Too much flooding with debri in the water. In spring you will have time to do the longer route around Michigan to the Erie canal. Mast comes down near Buffalo and back up near Albany.
Fall, you're faster south going down to the Missisippi and up the Ohio to the Tenn Tom down to Mobile, Ala. Actually a very scenic route with many choice spots to anchor. You will motor virtually all the way. Many send their mast to Mobile by truck. You may find others to share that expense. Mast will have to come down in Chicago and stay down most of the way. Lower Miss river is not hospitable to cruising sailboats. Also, there are stretches where fuel is hard to find so do the research on how far that is and have plenty of fuel capacity on hand.

Search out "Great loop" for lots of info. Draft should be no problem either route.
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Old 01-17-2010
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I agree with buying the boat in the south

I am in agreement with the idea of buying the boat in the south. Boats are at this time quite a bit cheaper in Fla. and the gulf coast. Unless of course you just want to make the trip. In that case go for it. Either way you will have to pull the mast. Definately do the Tenn/Tom as opposed to the Mississippi. I am not familiar with the Mississippi above Baton Rouge, but believe me below there you want no part of it. Go and enjoy.
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Old 01-18-2010
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Erie Canal

As far as the specifics on the Erie Canal. Draft will be fine, you need to clear 15.5' bridges if you enter at Buffalo. If you get into Lake Ontario you can sail to Oswego and enter there where air draft is 21'. You can demast at both entry points. Regardless you will want a 10 day pass for the locks. It costs about $40 depending on the size of your boat. That includes free docking at all NYS docks (power/water/etc may be extra), so it really pays for itself.

The canal is not open until May 1st and is on a short schedule (9-5ish), so it will take about a week to get to Albany if you motor all day. Just south of Albany is time to put the mast back up, and its about 3 days to NYC and the Atlantic. You can go out the St. Lawrence River, I believe without dropping your mast, but its longer and you may want to wait until summer for those waters.
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Old 01-27-2010
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Baker,

A few years ago a couple took their boat from Chicago, down the Illinois, and on to the Mississippi. They put the mast back up in New Orleans. Their trip took 3 weeks but I know they took their sweet time. You have to take the mast down on the Erie Canal as well.

The Mississippi is not as dangerous as you would think. Talk to the tugs on VHF and you won't have a problem. They will tell you where they want you as they pass. As far as the current goes, don't leave early in the spring. The snow run off and spring showers can cause fster than normal currents.

Taking the Ditch is more scenic and better anchoring. You could also hit interesting places like Mackinac and the North Channel on your way east. The Mississippi will get you to Florida faster.

Either way you go I will be jealous.
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Old 01-28-2010
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I would ship it. Good Old Boat ran a story a year or two ago on a couples trip. Lots of issues, logs, sandbars etc that can bust up your rudder or prop. Might just be cheaper to ship, at least you will get to where you want to start for the gulf.
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