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Old 03-17-2010
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First Time ICW

If you were heading south from the Chesapeake Bay this fall for the first time, given this criteria, 4' draft, 50' air draft, 20 gal fuel tank, two people, 30' boat. What would be your bare minimum navigational equipment and what bare minimum cruising guides and charts would you have with you?
Also, would you go outside from Beaufort?
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Old 03-17-2010
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Where do you plan to end up?
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Old 03-17-2010
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Florida Keys
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Sailing is the art of floating with occasional drifting.
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Old 03-17-2010
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Where are you going to?

As for books, I'd highly recommend getting the Skipper Bob's guides for the ICW. They list the various bridges, locks, and marinas mile by mile. These are a great supplement to the charts and cruising guides you will need.

The Dismal Swamp route is probably more difficult and less reliable than the Chesapeake-Albemarle route. The air and water draft shouldn't be an issue.

As for going outside... depends on the weather, the boat, the experience level of the captain and crew, how the boat is equipped, etc.
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Old 03-17-2010
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First, be prepared for a wonderful trip!

With your shallow draft, you don't need to go outside. The ICW is not dredged in GA, but with 8-9 foot tides, you can safely pass, just time yourself not to go to problem areas at dead low tide. Try cruisersnet.net Cruiser's Net » ICW Problem Areas or the Army Corps of Engineers AIWW to locate trouble spots. We used a Garmin Oregon 400C handheld chartplotter ($299 at West Marine) and it was fabulous for the trip. I'd also second Skipper Bob's, for $16 to get the bridges and anchorages.

The only place you might want to consider going outside is Ft Lauderdale/Miami; because there are about 25 bridges, many of them timed, in a short stretch. If the weather is crappy you can stay inside - practice your stationkeeping skills and be patient!

I recommend the Dismal Swamp route - it was beautiful and we loved it! It has the reputation for being more difficult because there are 2 locks to go through instead of just one on the more traveled route. It's far less congested, than the other route. Again your shoal draft will help you here. There's free dockage at the Welcome Center and Elizabeth City. Check with the Corps for depth before you decide.
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Skipper Bobs has one book for anchorages & bridges; and a separate one for marinas and fuel. The first is probably far more useful than the second, since many of the marinas will also advertise. (For example, NC provides a nice glossy magazine that contains ads from all the marinas along the route. Then all you need is a cellphone.)

In addition to the electronic charts in the Garmin, we used 2 MapTech chart kits - Norfolk, VA to Florida; and Florida E. Coast & Keys. The kits come in a large clear plastic envelope intended to keep them dry in rain or sea spray. Those envelopes fall apart very quickly, so either travel with a good supply of clear package tape, or enlist a friend with a sewing machine to make a sturdier envelope for you out of isinglass, velcro, and sunbrella.
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I would also make sure that you have a VHF at the helm. We just did this trip with our only VHF being in the cabin and it was a pain in the neck.
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Old 03-18-2010
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Could not agree more with the Sipper Bob and VHF suggestions. On my trips, NC to the Keys/west coast of Fla/ Okeechobee, I have used an old, 1980+-, set of Map Tech charts. BUT I did go on line and manually updated the changes page by page before my first trip in 2006/2007 It was a pain but I was also getting to “know” every mile of the trip. On the water I noted any new changes over the years. I now have a handheld GPS with the Bluewater charts on it. It is handy and for the few hundred $$$ it offers a lot of peace of mind. Dan S/V Marian Claire
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Old 03-18-2010
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Funsail -
I would get the appropriate issues of the Waterway Guide and the ICW chart kits. You need a depth sounder and a vhf you can operate from the cockpit, whether it's a handheld or a remote speaker/mike combo from a fixed radio. I would probably go offshore from Beaufort only because I would be tired of motoring but you miss some gorgeous parts of the ditch through the Carolinas and Georgia. If you do go outside you need a fixed base vhf and a gps.
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Stopping for fuel can put a major crimp in miles-made-good, especially if you are part of the southbound surge in November. You will make much better time if you carry four or five 5-gallon fuel jugs. If you put one jug of fuel in the boat's tank each night the process never gets too onerous and you won't have to plan so many days around fuel.
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