Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: somewhere in the Windward or Leeward Islands
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Re: ICW in a Nutshell
I've done the ICW many, many times. From when it was over 100 draw bridges to about 12 years ago.
Controlling mast height is 64 feet, period. That means antennas, windex, everything; 64 feet from highest high tide of the year (before global warming, of course).
We used to be able to carry 10 feet from Miami to Norfolk, but I hear that three is too deep in some ares of NC or SC, but that is in areas where you might be able to go out an inlet & back in farther down, but you will need local knowledge. We had a great time at Elizabeth city (they had specials for us delivery captains to entice us in to stay) but I have heard you can't get in any more & several towns have gone bust from shoaling.
Navigation in the ICW must be done as if you were captaining a tug drawing 10 feet pushing a 250 foot barge. The Corps of Engineers puts banks around the marks so the barges can't hit them. Stay away from the marks!
I don't know your boat's speed, but you can encounter up to about 6 knots of current in places. If you're slow, find a place to anchor until the tide changes.
Watching & understanding the buoys is very important. As you head toward a town, you have "red right return", but if you pass an inlet it can change to green on the right, BEWARE. Channels cross the ICW and that further confuses things.
I always use a highlighter to mark buoys as I pass as there are many places that look similar (some of my deliveries were SF boats & we did 35 knots!).
Anchorages are available, but you must see if you can make them in daylight. I'd plan a few marinas into your budget. How long? How fast are you? Remember, unless you've got x-ray vision, it's daylight only. I wouldn't count on the tide/ current tables being accurate, especially around inlets.
I've been all over the world, but consider the ICW from Ft. Lauderdale to Norfolk to be one of the greatest trips anywhere.
Good luck and I envy you; we're 73' high.