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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm somewhat new to the forum but not sailing. I imagine this question has come up many times but the more i look into it the more different answers i get.

I have a 45 foot 6 ft draft sailboat and want to travel from NY to Fl mostly on the ICW in the fall. We are willing to pop in and out for fun or to bypass obstacles the make the trip doable, but only for day trips we want to be safely anchored at night out inside. I have read, or heard so many conflicting accounts that it is hard to get a handle on this.....Magazines like Sail sound like you need to be careful about traversing some shoals but you'll make it......some sailors say many parts are as little as 3ft deep and you will have to be towed frequently or it just can't be done with a 6ft draft.

Any knowledgeable hep, or advice would be greatly appreciated

Also we have a 63' ft air draft so i think we are ok there...willing to go slow wait for tides or weather as needed....we just want to do it and get there safely with as little stress as possible.


Thanks Much
 

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Over Hill Sailing Club
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Definitely check ahead for abnormally high water as to clearance on your air draft. Current runs very fast under some of the bridges and could create a situation where it's too late to change your mind. It's probably best to time some of the bridge passages at slack low water or near it. If you pay close attention to your position in the channel, you should have no problem at all with 6' draft. Check for any problem spots ahead of time AC, Skipper Bob, and such. Many of the scary reported shallow reports, I believe are mistaken and are the result of people being out of the channel and not knowing it. There are spots where you need to keep to one side or the other but these are well reported and available. Trust the buoys because they often get moved by the USCG in iffy spots and may not coincide exactly with charts.
 
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Mermaid Hunter
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There are a few spots that have less than 6 feet of depth at low tide, but most of these spots have a large tidal range, so time your transits for mid-tide rising. Have a great trip...happy cruising!
As you would expect, Mike is spot on. 63' air draft and 6' draft is fine all the way down. Use the Waterway Guide, the Mark and Diana Doyle's Guides, or Kettlewell for guidance. As noted, trust the marks you see over the paper or chartplotter.

I recommend you sit down each night after dinner and plan the next day. Look for shallow areas that may require timing the tide. Check for bridges and the timing those may require (63' is fine - it's the openings you have to time).

If you are just dawdling along it is all really easy. If you want to get South, or make particular events, get everything together for breakfast and lunch before you go to bed. Anchor up and move at first light and eat underway. An extra two or three hours each day adds up. Plan fuel consumption - if you have a small fuel capacity carry extra fuel in jugs. Stopping for fuel really hurts progress. Try for fuel stops every three days - it's going to cost you between one and three hours for each stop. That is a big deal.

Have a great time.
 

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I would add checking Cruisersnet.net as one of your guides. Good info and updates on conditions there. Sounds like a fun trip you're planning - hope you post pics and stories along the way.
 

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As you would expect, Mike is spot on. 63' air draft and 6' draft is fine all the way down. Use the Waterway Guide, the Mark and Diana Doyle's Guides, or Kettlewell for guidance. As noted, trust the marks you see over the paper or chartplotter.

I recommend you sit down each night after dinner and plan the next day. Look for shallow areas that may require timing the tide. Check for bridges and the timing those may require (63' is fine - it's the openings you have to time).

If you are just dawdling along it is all really easy. If you want to get South, or make particular events, get everything together for breakfast and lunch before you go to bed. Anchor up and move at first light and eat underway. An extra two or three hours each day adds up. Plan fuel consumption - if you have a small fuel capacity carry extra fuel in jugs. Stopping for fuel really hurts progress. Try for fuel stops every three days - it's going to cost you between one and three hours for each stop. That is a big deal.

Have a great time.
Good post.
However, there are indeed places where the daymarks remain clearly in error as the natural channels have moved away from the daymarks. You can find these areas listed in 'Active Captain' even that many of the 'reports' are from those who clearly were 'out of the channel'.
Air gap and deep draft issues can be solved by careful daily planning coincident with the tides (and currents), be aware of 'wind tides' anywhere near the (non-tidal) Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds in NC.
Current 'problem areas' on the ICW are and have been for some time: near Isle of Palms SC, Amelia River FL, Cumberland River (R60 etc.) GA, Jekyll Creek GA, McClellanville SC., Fields Cut SC, Elliot Cut SC (timing of current), HellGate, SC.. .... and of course the ICW channels near and across many of the secondary 'inlets' from the ocean although recent dredging has improved these constant problem areas, especially in NC.

For a first time transit of the ICW, Id strongly recommend that you obtain "unlimited towing insurance", just in case.

One of the best 'guides' Ive found for the ICW is a spiral bound book of paper strip-charts (published by the 'Waterway Guide' ???).

Suggestion - take your time, dont rush, carefully plan to 'ride the high tide' across the problem areas especially, watch for the fantastic wildlife along the banks, ..... do take the time to enjoy and meet with the wonderful and genuinely friendly 'down home' folks who live along the waterway in VA/NC/SC/GA.
 

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Wandering Aimlessly
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Beaufort Inlet to Masonboro Inlet - a long day, but it keeps you out of Bogue Sound where it's easy to go aground. Might want to anchor at Cape Lookout.

St Simons Sound to St Andrews Sound - avoid Jekyll Island. Depending on the time you go out, could make St Marys Inlet.

Mostly from Charleston south to St Augustine, there's a number of places to go outside for the day and come back in. Then from Fort Pierce south.

Do get unlimited tow insurance. Use it once and it's paid for itself, usually for the next few years.
 

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Mermaid Hunter
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Good post.
Thanks.

You are correct about daymarks. Both ActiveCaptain and SSECN (cruisersnet.net) provide good current local information. Strongly agree. I use both as part of my after dinner planning for the next day.

Air gap and deep draft issues can be solved by careful daily planning coincident with the tides (and currents), be aware of 'wind tides' anywhere near the (non-tidal) Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds in NC.
Agreed. Currents are an issue also and reverse often near inlets - watch for current at marks and flotsam.

Mark and Diana Doyle show measured depth information on their website from their travels, correct for MLW (MLLW? don't remember). Very helpful around trouble spots.

For a first time transit of the ICW, Id strongly recommend that you obtain "unlimited towing insurance", just in case.
The best deal on the water. Get unlimited tow insurance.

One of the best 'guides' Ive found for the ICW is a spiral bound book of paper strip-charts (published by the 'Waterway Guide' ???).
I think the strip charts are Kettlewell's guide. Kettlewell, Doyle, and Waterway are all good. A lot depends on which looks best to you and is easiest for you to use. Horses for courses.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks, everyone....i have most of those guides already, tow insurance, active captain, and believed that being smart, careful, and slow and willing to wait for tides, weather and generally not be in a rush was supposed to work....i have recently had motor boaters telling me they ran aground in 3ft and it was not doable in my boat
 

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As you would expect, Mike is spot on. 63' air draft and 6' draft is fine all the way down. Use the Waterway Guide, the Mark and Diana Doyle's Guides, or Kettlewell for guidance. As noted, trust the marks you see over the paper or chartplotter.

I recommend you sit down each night after dinner and plan the next day. Look for shallow areas that may require timing the tide. Check for bridges and the timing those may require (63' is fine - it's the openings you have to time).

If you are just dawdling along it is all really easy. If you want to get South, or make particular events, get everything together for breakfast and lunch before you go to bed. Anchor up and move at first light and eat underway. An extra two or three hours each day adds up. Plan fuel consumption - if you have a small fuel capacity carry extra fuel in jugs. Stopping for fuel really hurts progress. Try for fuel stops every three days - it's going to cost you between one and three hours for each stop. That is a big deal.

Have a great time.
No problem with 63' until you hit the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami. :D
 

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Over Hill Sailing Club
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Thanks, everyone....i have most of those guides already, tow insurance, active captain, and believed that being smart, careful, and slow and willing to wait for tides, weather and generally not be in a rush was supposed to work....i have recently had motor boaters telling me they ran aground in 3ft and it was not doable in my boat
If they were in 3' of water, they weren't in the channel. I've been in the ditch the last two years and the shallowest water I found was around 7.5 ft. The depth seems to average around 11'. You'll hit some 8-9 ft spots but really not many. I find that the trick is to watch the depth sounder carefully and move back and forth to judge where the centerline is. It's hard to judge if you're centered by just eyeballing the markers. Sometimes the line with the deepest water is quite narrow. In some sections the pilings seem to be offset from the deepest water much more than in others. Binoculars are a big help in keeping track of the markers. I record time and current conditions on a printed chart periodically for future reference as well. There does not seem to be any printed current info. so knowing what the current was doing at a specific point in time can be of help on the next time through. Stretches that wind around inlets like Matanzas are really difficult to predict current.
 

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i have recently had motor boaters telling me they ran aground in 3ft and it was not doable in my boat
Well, as always, consider the source... :)

Your draft won't pose much of a problem. Sure, there might be some spots you might have to wait (just N of the Ben Sawyer Bridge above Charleston will be impassable at anything less than half tide right now, for example) But in general, the real trouble spots all lie in areas I'd suggest doing outside anyway, if the weather cooperates...

I find a close air draft far more nerve-wracking. Are you absolutely sure of your mast height to above your instruments? Most Windexes are slightly higher than your tricolor and masthead wind instruments, if yours is not, I'd recommend fitting it with a bird spike, to serve as a 'feeler gauge'... Then, if you feel you're gonna be close, approach the bridge backwards, ready to bug out of there if the Windex makes contact. They're far cheaper to replace than the other stuff up there, of course :)



The lowest 65' bridge is generally acknowledged to be the one at Wilkerson Creek at the W end of the Alligator-Pungo canal. No real tide in there, so the level is difficult to predict, you just have to show up and take your chances, or be in communication with boats ahead of you. If the water is high, you can get around it by going the Pamlico Sound route, though you'll be dealing with some skinny water N of Manteo, but you'll make it thru... Otherwise, the greatest likelihood of clearance issues will be anywhere thru Florida, during the course of a strong onshore blow, the water levels can really rise and stay there for days in the event of a good northeaster, maybe coupled with a spring tide...

If you're not willing to do any overnights, your options for jumping outside will be somewhat limited. As PBzeer mentioned, the hop from Beaufort Inlet down to Masonboro can be a beautiful sail, but difficult to complete in daylight hours in the fall without leaving Beaufort before sunrise. Leaving from Morehead City in the dark is an easier proposition, if you're leaving from Beaufort instead, I'd suggest scouting out the channel in daylight beforehand...

If you're gonna enjoy running the Ditch in a slow boat, one of the most important things to learn is how to be passed by faster boats... Not everyone will do so politely, but you really make it far easier and quicker for both parties if you slow to idle speed while being passed... You'll sort it out quickly enough, but folks who insist on plowing along at hull speed when being overtaken are only gonna make life miserable for themselves in the long run...

If you're thinking about making some outside runs, I highly recommend Steve Dodge's guide to the major East coast inlets:



Here's a piece that ran in CW years ago, with the focus being on attempting to maximize the amount of sailing to be done on the trip... Some of it is now outdated - forget about the suggestion of doing Oregon Inlet, for example...

Sailing the Intracoastal Waterway | Cruising World

There have also been scores of threads here on the ICW, might be worth some time seeing if you can find them...

Enjoy, it's a wonderful trip, but don't feel like you have to do every bit of it inside... :)

 

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Wandering Aimlessly
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Something else to add, once south of Fort Pierce, most of the opening bridges run on a schedule. (One of the reasons I generally overnight from Fort Pierce to Miami)

Also, once you get to Charleston, you don't have to go far out to go offshore.

Dismal Swamp Route is more scenic, and less powerboats than the Virginia Cut, but it does have 2 locks rather than the one lock on the Cut. And an opening bridge at Elizabeth City that is closed during rush hour.

The cut over to the Cape Fear River can be tricky, so be sure to check Active Captain or cruisers.net (or both) the night before. Also, the popular anchorage north of Myrtle Beach might not suit you, especially if more than half full.

Osprey Marina, south of Myrtle Beach is a tight fit for a large sailboat.
 

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Sea Sprite 23 #110 (20)
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I know a 63 foot airdraft will get you in trouble from Atlantic City to Cape May. I do not know about the other bridges.. but the Atlantic City expressway bridge only has 35 feet of clearance and the 34th street Bridge behind Ocean City is about the same... but generally you want to avoid that section of the ICW anyway.. it's pretty treacherous. best to pop out at Absecon Inlet and come back in at Cold Spring (cape may)
 

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I know a 63 foot airdraft will get you in trouble from Atlantic City to Cape May. I do not know about the other bridges.. but the Atlantic City expressway bridge only has 35 feet of clearance and the 34th street Bridge behind Ocean City is about the same... but generally you want to avoid that section of the ICW anyway.. it's pretty treacherous. best to pop out at Absecon Inlet and come back in at Cold Spring (cape may)
63' air draft will get you into trouble between Manasquan and Atlantic City, as well... I'm pretty sure the OP is not thinking about the NJ ICW... :)
 

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Bypass NJ and GA and you shouldn't have any trouble at all. That photo of John Eisberg's boat is one that I remember well. I got through that area, but I only draw 4 feet. There were three boats aground in the middle of the channel, one of which was a motor yacht, and I churned a a lot of mud in that area. John was just 30 minutes behind me on that trip.

Gary :cool:
 

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Sea Sprite 23 #110 (20)
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Dismal Swamp Route is more scenic, and less powerboats than the Virginia Cut, but it does have 2 locks rather than the one lock on the Cut..
as pretty as Dismal Swamp is.. I think the canal is only 6 feet deep.. and their are logs on the bottom at that depth?
 

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Georgia was the worst by far when we did the trip two years ago. Tides there are extreme, 5'+ and there are places where you'll need to go through on rising tide. Going outside in Florida to avoid the draw bridges is not a bad idea and most of it can be done as day trips. The first skinny water that I recall was just north of Charleston SC the last mile or so to Ben Sawyer bridge.

If / when we do the trip again I'll be outside as much as possible around Georgia and Florida.
 
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