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Over Hill Sailing Club
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Trying to hit the currents just right in the ICW is always a hit or miss situation. When the current is coming in the inlets, it is difficult to know where the "break" is situated between inlets. Current data is very limited via NOAA current tables and has little to do with the current a couple of miles from any inlet. Having traveled the Florida section a number of times in the last few years, I have a bit of an idea now how to avoid running against currents in specific areas. An hour one way or the other can make a big difference. It would be nice to see current charts such as those for the East River, Race in Eldridge. Has anyone seen charts like this for the ICW? If not, this might be a good venue to put together some local knowledge. Here's an example: Traveling south, plan to hit the ICW intersection with the St. Johns River just before slack low so as to ride the incoming tide south. Avoid trying to run against very strong current at Pablo Creek Bridge. This is just from memory but I have a lot of specific current notes on the boat which I'd be glad to compile somewhere.
 
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If you're making a long haul up or down the ICW, trying to play the tides is something of a losing game -- in my opinion... That said, if you're making a short jaunt, it can obviously pay off. I'm sure you're aware of this, but the "break" tends to migrate based on the topography of the seabed and the specific point in time of the tidal cycle.

Now let me say that I think your proposal is an excellent one. I'd love to see charts that give captains an idea where the breaks occur.
 

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Over Hill Sailing Club
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Most of the time, I've found that delaying to wait for the right current is counterproductive. There are only so many hours in the day and the choice is to travel at 4 knots against current or travel at 0 waiting. But there are situations where waiting pays off big time. I actually plan my travel windows to take advantage of current to avoid droning along at 3-4 knots. There are usually two optimum 3-4 day windows in any month try to hit.

Some stretches of the ICW flow for a LONG time in the right direction if you catch it correctly. Traveling north from Daytona toward St. Augustine, for example, is a stretch where it's imperative to hit it right.
 

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If you're making a long haul up or down the ICW, trying to play the tides is something of a losing game -- in my opinion... That said, if you're making a short jaunt, it can obviously pay off. I'm sure you're aware of this, but the "break" tends to migrate based on the topography of the seabed and the specific point in time of the tidal cycle.
In addition, such "breaks" can vary considerably during prolonged periods of strong onshore winds, or during a converse blowout tide... And sometimes, such changes hardly exist at all. During a strong NE blow, for instance, the current between the Waccamaw River and Charleston can often be running towards Charleston at a good clip for the most part, no matter what the tide is doing...

There are a few longer stretches where nailing the tide can pay off handsomely over the course of an entire day, or beyond. But the problem is, many folks running the Ditch may not always be willing to run a long enough day to make it work, or perhaps have to begin or end the day running in the dark...

One of the best legs is between Wrightsville and N Myrtle Beach, and onto Georgetown... Timing the run down the Cape Fear River on the ebb can provide an awesome push - generally the strongest sustained current you're likely to encounter on the entire trip. The downside is that hitting by Southport at low water, you wind up running behind Lockwoods Folly and Shallotte Inlets near the bottom of the tide... But I hate running that stretch inside, if the weather favors it (which it often does even in a strong blow from the NNW to NE) I'll jump outside around Oak Island via the Western Bar Channel, and by the time you're over to Little River Inlet, the flood should be underway going in there... Catch it right, and you can ride a nice fair current for much of the way behind Myrtle Beach... Next day, hitting Bucksport somewhat after HW, you'll eventually pick up a nice fair current down the Waccamaw to Georgetown...

As you suggest, between Charleston and the Florida Line, it's mostly hit or miss, 50/50 between fair/foul current is generally the most you can hope for, beyond the very start or finish of the day. Certainly, it can be worth it to try to time a departure from Charleston Harbor on the flood to get the nice push thru Elliot Cut and beyond, but then you'll likely wind up paying the price once reaching the long run up the Coosaw River on the ebb... So, it's pretty tough to 'win' along that part of the coast, beyond anything more than relatively short, localized runs...

The one other stretch where timing really pays, is between the St John's River and Mosquito Lagoon... Hitting Mayport or the St John's/ICW junction near the top of the flood will give you a strong push on down into Palm Valley, then you can ride the ebb out of St Augustine Inlet down the lower reaches of the Tolomato River. Again, leaving St Augustine on the flood will give you a nice boost all the way towards Flagler Beach, and passing the often troublesome Matanzas Inlet at HW, and as you approach Daytona you should start picking up the ebb running out of Ponce Inlet... Then the next day or whenever, heading S from Ponce near high water can give you a surprisingly good boost down on into Mosquito Lagoon...

In my opinion, those are the 2 key longer stretches of the ICW where it can really pay to hit it right, and worth it to time your itinerary around...
 

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Over Hill Sailing Club
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Sections above and below Ponce are a challenge to time right, especially if going a long distance. The current around Ponce is terrible if you catch it wrong. Through New Smyrna, going south it can be substantial and continue all the way to where it opens to Mosquito L. When traveling north from Titusville to Daytona, it is hard to time the current right. Anyway, when I get to the boat and look at the actual times I've hit this just right, I'll try to post some "best timing" info. based on known current data like The Narrows which seems to have a pretty close coincidence.
 

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Beneteau 393
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This might sound ridiculous.... But when I came southwards between Beaufort and heading south i jumped on a waning moon for the full and got a double high tide every day for two weeks.
If one had gone in an opposite direction it would have taken an extra week.

I cant see how coming north bound one could ride the tides so well.


Matk
 
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