Ft. Myers, FL to Barnegat, NJ
Not knowing your mast height is but I thought I would mention that the RR bridge on the eastern side of the FL canal near Indiantown is only 49 feet. Additionally there are locks on both sides of Lake Okeechobee and they have been know to close for repair or lack of water at the most unoportune time, so check with the COE as you get closer to your departure date. Another note on that RR bridge, if you are just a foot or two taller than the 49'' there is a fellow at the Indiantown Marina who for a very reasonable fee will tie plastic barrels to your boat and fill them with water to get the boat heeled over enough to pass under the bridge. This is an exercise that he and his friends have been doing for many years without fail that I know of.
BTW, I have created an MS Excel spreadsheet that shows the reduced mast height over a great range of mast heights and heeling angles, just email me if you desire a copy and I will be glad to email it back to you.
It appears that you are in no hurry to get to NJ?
However if on the other hand, you want to gain time you should be able to make the trip in two weeks or less with a crew of three travelling both in the ICW and some offshore.
Although it is not for the faint at heart, there are several stretches of the ICW that can be travelled at night with crew at the bow and helm, but for the most part is better left to the locals. In addition, many of the bridges, although manned 24hrs do not open for recreational boaters between sunset and sunrise however you can hover at a bridge and jump behind a tug and/or tow when the bridge is opened for them. There is nothing illegal about doing that, they just wont do an on demand special opening for you. A courtesy call to the bridge tender of your tag-a-long would be in order though, it would also be a heads up to the boat captain that you are on his butt.
Weather will be the most important factor effecting your planning and schedule so you can pretty much throw the schedule away after the first day.
I would not weave in and out (ocean/ICW) on alternating days from Stuart to JAX. With a good weather window, take advantage of the eastern edge of the GS and make an offshore run between Stuart and Fernandina Beach in north Florida or on to Georgia.
Or...if weather forcasts are iffy perhaps you should stay inside from Stuart to Fernandina Beach (just above Jacksonville), then if weather allows, go offshore from FB to Wynah Bay, Cape Fear or Beaufort and then back into the ICW and on to Norfolk avoiding a Hatteras rounding.
Be careful in close near Wynah Bay and do not cut an angle into the bay from the sea if you decide to put in there, instead make sure you begin your inbound at the outer sea buoy as there is an old jetty that was distroyed by a hurricanne back in the 50''s or 60''s and it is not plainly marked on the charts, in fact it is not marked at all on some.
Unless you have a personal reason for stopping at Charleston I would avoid that stop altogether. Beautiful city, rich in history, southern charm and culture but depending on wind and seas can be many hours between the "C" sea buoy and a downtown dock. I recall a trip several years ago where I had a very sick crew member and decided to get him to shore after we had passed offshore and north of Savannah. Unfortunately after three days at sea his mal de mar would just not go away. We turned towards Charleston (a bit east of the sea buoy) at about 0300, winds were up and out of the west, because of that, combined with an outgoing tide later, we didnt arrive at a marina dock located at the SW edge of Charleston until about 1100. It took some five hours+ from that sea buoy, a total distance of less than 15 NM.
I dont know what you draft but having been in the ICW heading south from Little Creek (Norfolk) this past November, there has been contiunal shoaling and so you are best to stay center channel at all times, do not cut inside of any markers, and although they (COE) did a pretty good job cleaning up after hurricane Isabel you need still be vigilant and watch for snags and other debris.
A note about the waterway in and around Myrtle Beach, it was probably 6 years ago, and I dont remember the marker number (my mind is not what it used to be) but during a full moon and exceptionally low tide I saw a concrete block the size of a medium sized sedan leaning against or nearly so, a red (land side) day marker. They may have removed that block since then but if they didnt, any boater that decides to go outside of the mark in that area is definitely going to ruin their day. Again, this is not from near recent memory but I recall serious shoaling in the Wrightsville Beach, NC area just above the NC state line.
Once offshore from Hampton Roads at the Chessie Bay Bridge I would plan a non stop run to Cape May, there being not much in the way of friendly (safe) ports of entry along the DelMarVa peninsula. With prevailing SW winds you should make the approximate 130 NM to Cape May in 30 hours or less. In Cape May, rest a little, have a wonderful seafood dinner at the Lobster House and be on your way to Barnegat. (Where BTW once inside and headed north, the flats to the west of Island Beach State Park are a treasure trove of clams, crabs and blow fish)
The above is not gospel, just some of my own thoughts and opinions, I dont want to get into a routing war defending these thoughts with anyone, as this message board is notorious for its very extreme opiniated and aggressive style when there are differences of opinion.
Personally though, as a delivery skipper having sailed many thousands of miles in The Atlantic my choice would be to do the whole trip offshore, provided of course I had a well founded boat and proper saftety gear. I somehow always feel safer out beyond the reach of so many sailors and boaters who unfortunately, because of their (chosen) lack of training, belong at the shore''s edge chained to a piling.
Capt. Bruce Gregory