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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This thread will be used to post questions and advice on the passage south on the East Coast ICW. Let's try to keep this ICW specific along with advice on outside jumps along the inlets. Hopefully this can become a good resource for the thousands that head north and south each year on this incredible natrional resource.
I'll be putting together some initial thoughts on preparation for the trip shortly but anyone with questions or experience is welcome to chime in here.
 

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Warm Weather Sailor
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The best advice is to get unlimited towing insurance. This is the best $120 you'll ever spend. I have run aground a few times and was fortunate to get off by myself all but once when a passing 27' sailboat was kind enough to pull me off. I have never used the insurance so far (been going up and down since 1990) but it's worth it just for the peace of mind. Bear in mind that getting hauled off just once will usually cost at least $500.
 

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When transiting from Long Island Sound through to NY, How is the East River and what advice can you offer for that area?

Dave
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
OK...For first timers down the ICW.
The waterway between Norfolk and Miami is about 1200 miles. Minimum depths are about 6 ft. but most often you will be travelling in 8-15 feet of water. There are a few REALLY shallow spots and we will deal with these separately.
Bridges are 65' or more or are opening bridges. There are always tales of low bridges and indeed on unusually high tides or after lots of storm rain, bridges will get "lower" so you do need to pay attention to local conditions but I've carried 64' through the entire waterway and never scaped an antenna. The one bridge hat does NOT conform to this is the Julia Tuttle bridge in Miami which is 57' and if you have a tall mast you need to jump outside at Ft. Lauderdale for the 30 mile trip into Miami to avoid the bridge.

The waterway is quite well marked with red triangular markers and green sqares and most of the waterway is narrow and not suited to sailing. You may be able to sail about 10% of the time so a GOOD engine and clean fuel tanks is essential. Beause most of the waterway is so narrow, it is also protected and even small boats can do the trip quite safely if they can wait a day or two in bad weather to transit the open sections. There are hundreds of anchorages along the way so the trip doesn't have to cost a lot of money and the marinas can provide a welcome break now and then along with fuel, water and repairs. Most cruisers try to make about 50 miles a day so it is possible to "do" the trip in 3 weeks but you will miss a lot of good stuff if you don't stop and rest and enjoy some of the neat towns and places along the way. Night travel is NOT recommended as many markers are not lit and barge traffic can be hazardous.

There are dozens of "waterway guides" & charts out there. My personal favorites are the Maptech ChartKits for navigation and Skipper Bob's Guide to anchorages on the ICW...which also provides detailed shoaling and bridge opening and clearance info. The Maptech Charts are good for offshore jumps too which a lot of the guides do not cover. If you plan to go offshore for some of the trip...Steve Dodges Guide to SE US inlets is the bible. All of this stuff is available at www.bluewaterweb.com if you can't find it locally. If you want additonal detailed info about marinas and towns along the way, the mid-Atlantic and Southern waterway guides are good to have.
Since shoaling and bridge closings and schedules can happen AFTER the above stuff is published, before leaving you should mark up your charts with the latest problem spots and advice from online sources. The two best I've found are:
Tom and Mel Neal's East Coast Alerts Here
Skipper Bob's Update Page Here

Chartplotters are GREAT BUT do not follow the magenta line. Navigate from marker to marker staying mid channel and round your turns off. Move to the green or red side of the channel based on your notes. Chartplotters WILL leave you aground in the ICW if you rely on them.

OK...that's it for now. Questions...comments...alternative opinions?
 

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Wandering Aimlessly
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Perhaps this might be better in the Special Interest section as ICW? Have a sticky for general ICW info, then there could be individual threads more specific to certain locations and situations. Just a thought
 

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I brought my boat down from Charleston to Hilton Head Island last October, and touched bottom twice when I got a little too caught up in the scenery. Good idea to have your tow insurance up to date, and a little extra fuel on hand. I also found a massive blank on my Garmin when heading down the Coosaw River just north of Beaufort, SC. Definately have physical charts on hand, as this part of the ICW is not well mark; in fact, the markers are miles apart precisely where the Bluecharts are a no-show.
Dwight
 

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Dave-
"When transiting from Long Island Sound through to NY, How is the East River and what advice can you offer for that area?"
Get the charts and get the "Eldridge" guide, it will give you gobs of specific information all the way down the NJ coast and into the Cheaspeake including tides and currents.
As to the East River itself...piece of cake as long as your boat is under control. Currents in the Hell Gate can run a full 6+ knots so you do want to make sure you are going through at slack--or, prepared for the ride. In the East River itself sailing can be tricky, there are all sorts of devils blowing from the canyons of Manhattan and sometimes square waves several feet tall in the East River itself. Plus, heavy barge traffic that can't stop or maneuver much.
That's not to say it is a hard ride, on the contrary it is a piece of cake--IF the boat can be trusted and you are keeping your eyes open, and checking the timing and wx. Any reasonably prudent sailor can do it without any problem.
There is a new 9/11 security Exclusion Zone by the UN building, get too close to it and they claim they'll blow you out of the water. And recently, a work barge anchored in the west channel just north of the Queensborough Bridge, working with two water turbines down below. Still--nothing to worry about, just know they are there.

Also check the charts carefully, there are a number of "General Anchorage" locations marked like Little Bay (just E of the Throggs Neck Bridge) where you can anchor, free, and get a nap or wait for the tides to turn as needed.
 

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My plan is to head south through Oswego, down the Hudson, then south on the ICW to Florida,etc. My question is this - Once I get to NYC, what are the options - I've heard there's an inside passage that will connect to the rest of the ICW? (I draw 3' and have a mast on a tabernackle that I can lower by myself in a few min.) If I can't make it though this passage, how long will it take to go "outside"?

Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Actually...you probably can make it inside with that draft sea strutter...but you may want to do day jumps outside instead if the weather is good. From NYC go to wait for weather at Sandy hook anchorage... you can then jump outside to Manasquan Inlet first night...Atlantic City next night and Cape May 3rd night...all good inlets in most weather. ....and you can definitely go through the "back door" at Cape May up the Delaware...but remember to wait for slack tide just before flood to start up the Bay.
 

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Seastrutter-
What Cam says. While you can go all the way inside, puttering down North Jersey is a twisty exercise in bus driving. Take a look at the charts, you may rather wait for wx and go outside even if you have to wait.<G>

Just don't underestimate the NJ inlets, in some conditions even the USCG won't run them.
 

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SeaStrutter,

It's about 110 miles from Sandy Hook to Cape May. Usually a 20-24 hour trip. Wait for weather and go for it. I used to anchor up at Upper Nyack and by the time I got to Sandy Hook it'd be 2:00 pm and then I'd get into Cape May about 10:00 am. If you prefer you can anchor behind Sandy Hook or at Atlantic Highlands. Watch out for the fast ferry when she comes into Atlantic Highlands.
 

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"Watch out for the fast ferry when"
Yeah, watch out for ANY fast ferry in the NYC harbor areas. Cat jocks seem to think the rules of the road run in reverse for them but I'm told the USCG also knows how to slap wrists hard enough to break them.<G>
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Vasco...you're right...a 24 hour run in good weather or two days of day motoring/sailing. Manasquan and Atlantic City and Cape May inlets are the best of the bunch...others can be treacherous even in moderate conditions.
 

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Fort Myers and the surrounding area

Nice thread Cam. Good idea. I urge all to put in their expereince. The East Coast has been covered, so I will do a short bit on the west coast of FLorida.

The ICW runs through Okecobee and central Florida but most boats will not be able to make the passage. It is very shallow and low bridges (55' starting at Cape Coral). If you are making the passage into Fort Myers, the first bridge is a draw bridge at Sanibel Island. However, they are in the process of tearing this down and adding a new bridge which will be fixed at 70 (I believe it is 70 at Mean). They have ended up changing their minds on this so much you better check in for the latest and greatest information. http://www.sanibelcauseway.com/

This leads you into the ICW for Cape Coral and Fort Myers. You can either head east to the first fixed bridge at Cape Coral (55) or West around to Charlotte Harbor. If heading east their are several good anchorages, including one that is just east of the enterance to Tarpon Point Marina (very well protected in all winds except an Western blow) and another just around the turn onto the ICW on the South Side before the enterance to Tarpon Point. This anchorage is good on any southern blow, but not as good on a northern blow. I have held well in both.

If you head East, there are too many anchorages to mention after the Miserable mile, before it there is really only one just to the east side of Picnic Island. This is a farily deep anchorage but is not protected in a blow. If it is blowing south or north, you are better pushing past these on to Pine Island's southern tip (in a northern blow) or Sanibel just south of Pine Island (in a southern and Western blow).

The Miserable Mile is about a 1 - 11/2 miles stretch of the ICW just west of the enterance from the gulf. It is a very narrow cut with shallow water (ankle deep) on either side of the ICW. It is VERY HEAVILY trafficed with multimillion dollar sports fishers and Sea Rays who do not know the rules of the road or common courtesy (this is not my opinion, it is FACT!)... so just be prepared for a lot of rocking and prep your boat down below appropriately. The ICW itself in this area is supposed to be about 7 feet, but that is pretty dodgy with all the Hurricanes and is now best transited straight down the middle with boats whose drafts exceed 6 - 61/2 feet. The miserable mile ends after about St. James City (Pine Island) and is an easy run from there on into Charlotte Harbor and well thereafter. If you want to avoid the miserable mile, you will have to sail north around Sanibel and Captiva and come back into Charlotte Harbor. It is very well marked and easy to transit that way... but the narrow cut in and currents can create a solid 5+ seas following you in, so again, prep accordingly. There are many other inlets to transit to the ICW between Sanibel and Cayo Costa, but are best left to local knowledge or fair weather as they are not marked well (contrary to the maps).

Hope that helps anyone interested.

- CD
 

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Thanks Cam for getting this thread up and running. Since I am planning on taking the ICW down from NY to Jacksonville on the way, where could I to jet out of inlets for a few hours to break up the monotany, or even for that matter spend a day or two in an area? I plan a to be @ Chesepeake for at least a week, anyone recommend a marina or two to stay at while sailing the bay?

I guess I should go ahead and place these links in this thread for further references.

North on ICW?
New York to Florida Via ICW
Sailing down from NY to Florida in the spring
ICW

Draft in ICW and Keys
Nighttime Anchorage
Bridge clearance on ICW
Southbound on the ICW?
Travelling down the ICW
Annapolis to New York in Late April?
South Jersey ICW?

leaving the Chesapeake around 11/15 which is certainly not too late. It also leaves several of the more open sections of the ICW behind you so you wouldn't have to worry about nasty weather much

The trip down the "ditch" is an adventure and really changed my life. I met so many interesting people in the most unlikely of places....
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Jags...you can spend months in the Chesapeake, there is so much to see and do. It will take you 3-4 days just to get to Norfolk from the C&D canal so you've not allowed yourself a lot of wiggle room there! But...If I were going to stop 5 places for 1 day each there I would go to
1. Up the Patapsco River to Baltimore Inner Harbor (inner harbor east marina)...see the aquarium, eat in little italy or walk to an orioles game.
2. Annapolis...(take a town mooring and dinghy in or anchor in Spa creek and do the same.) Sailing central on the East Coast
3. Solomon's Island (anchor or pick one of the 5 or six marinas)
4. Tangier Island (anchor and go back in time!)
5. Onancock on the Eastern shore of Maryland...a few miles up the river and a great little town to anchor off.
You can read more about all these destinations clicking on the right hand menu here:
http://www.baydreaming.com/boating.htm

As far as jumping outside for a few hours...it just doesn't work that way except for the one jump I've given you and down in Florida in a few places. See the Dodge guide from my first post to understand why in more detail.
Thanks for including those links...they will be helpful to others.
 

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I was actually talking about inlets where I could just cruise offshore for a few hours and then coming back in the same inlet. If I am only going to be sailing 10% of the time on a trip that will take 2-3 weeks below the bay, I think it might be fun to just go off shore and sail here and there before motoring down the rest of the way.

Thanks for the info on the bay, I had a feeling the bay could easily be a months trip in and of itself. The plan is to bring the girls up and taking a family vacation up there.
 
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