Author Topic: ICW; Florida to North Carolina  (Read 6540 times)

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Offline boblamb

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ICW; Florida to North Carolina
« on: May 18, 2007, 08:38:02 AM »
   I'm considering a cruise down the ICW from Beaufort to Miami June/July.  Can anyone give me a brief synopsis of the trip (time involved/bridge problems, etc.)?  And, for a rookie ocean sailor, the wisdom of going outside along the way.

Bob
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Offline Captain Smollett

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Re: ICW NC to FL
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2007, 10:27:19 AM »
Hi Bob,  ;D

The ICW in June/July, at least in spots, will be a game of dodging powerboats and their wakes.  Well, that might be anytime.   ;)

If you don't have an autopilot, it will be longish days married to the tiller, motoring or at best motorsailing.  They don't call it "The Ditch" for nothing.

That said, it can be interesting.  Some sections in SC and Georgia are reportedly among the most beautiful of the whole waterway.  That is, if you like marsh/wilderness, birdwatching and being more or less 'alone.'  I read one ICW-er's account and he just called it 'boring' and complained of seeing nothing but birds.  My kind of place, but to each his own.

There are plenty of marinas along the waterway, so if you anticipate needing to stop (fuel, ice, repairs, just to get off the boat, whatever), you can.  On the other hand, some stretches have good anchorages and others have limited anchoring that would get you out of the channel. 

Time involved depends on how hard you want to push (how many crew to take the tiller, how many hours per day you want to run, etc.   You can probably safely estimate 4-5 kt made good while underway.  A lot of ICW-ers do about 10 hour days and I think many consider 50 nm a pretty darn good run for that ten hours.  I would liken running the ditch somewhat similar to driving a car.  How long can you drive without a break?

Morehead City is at (statute) Mile 202 and the Miami River is at Mile 1090.  So, figure about 900 miles.  If you do 50 miles per day (which I think will get old quick, unless you have some good relief crew to swap off tricks on the helm), that's 18 days underway.  That means 10 hours per day making progress, not counting stops for fuel, waiting for bridge openings, eating out, just resting, etc.

I personally found offshore far more relaxing and enjoyable - with near ideal weather, though.  Kurt and I were about 19 hours on the ICW and about 17 hours offshore.  The ICW leg wore me out, and I could not sleep even when "off-watch."  It was exhausting.  Offshore, on the other hand, I slept like a baby, due partly to the fact that we were sailing (not motoring) and just a much more natural motion to the boat.  There was less to hit offshore, too.  :)

That said, you will have to watch the weather carefully and plan your potential inlets if you go offshore.  I highly recommend downloading the relevant chapters from the Coast Pilot and studying them (Volume 4 covers the East Coast and you'll need Chapter 12 for the ICW plus whatever chapters for the offshore sections you want to do).  The Coast Pilot lists ALL bridges and their vertical clearances, as well as channels and places where you might expect difficulties (confusing marks, shoaling, etc).

You can download the Coast Pilot as pdf.

It goes without saying that if you plan offshore, the boat should be 'properly' prepared.  Be ready for rough weather or extremely light air; good handholds below; a means to prepare meals underway; the crew is mentally prepared for an offshore run, etc, etc.  If you are not used to sailing on open water, things are a bit more difficult due to the motion of the boat (moving around, etc).

As for bridges on the waterway, a lot open on a schedule, some are on-demand.  During our leg from New River to Cape Fear, we had to contend with only three bridges; had we gone on to Georgetown on the ICW, there would have been an additional five.  Total wait time on the three bridges was about an hour or so.

For Florida, I have no experience on the ICW, but I've read that once you hit a certain point (around Daytona??), you may as well go outside.  The waterway just goes by high rise hotel after high rise hotel.  There is NOTHING to see but human development.

As a final comment, I would try to plan at least one, short if need be, offshore leg just for the experience of it.  For example, Georgetown to Charleston is about 40 nm and there are quite a few lit fish havens and such along the rhumb line.  Except for Cape Romain, there is little hydrographical danger along the way.  There would also be plenty of opportunity for offshore along the barrier islands of Georgia.

Hope this helps a little bit.  That sounds like an exciting adventure, and please keep us informed!  Also remember, we like pictures, lots of pictures.   ;D
« Last Edit: May 18, 2007, 10:32:38 AM by Captain Smollett »
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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.  -Mark Twain

Offline CharlieJ

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Re: ICW NC to FL
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2007, 12:32:43 PM »
From what I remember the highrise alley begins a bit further south than Daytona. Not saying there aren't any around there, but there are some larger bodies of water to sail on south of there. Around New Symrna or Titusville I would think is where they really begin to close in, or maybe just a tad south of that. Actually I didn't find it bad until south of Ft Pierce. But that was a while ago ;D

I know one thing. If I ever do the southern part again I WILL NOT run the ICW between Lake Worth and Miamarina. That 68 miles took us through THIRTY ONE bridges!!! Most on a timed schedule. We ran from 0530 until we anchored at 1921
Charlie J
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Offline Lynx

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Re: ICW NC to FL
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2007, 09:29:06 PM »
Here is a link to a good blog on the ICW and bridges -
http://www.cruisersnet.net/index.php

I agree with CharlieJ, That last section of the ICW to Miami is bad with Bridges and do NOT do it on the weekend. Way to much traffic. But it is a boat show on the water, Lots of BIG boats to look at. If you can step your mast in less than 1 hr you will save 4x the time going through the bridges. There is some of the bridges that will not open to sail boats execpt at slack tide due to tidal currents. I think that there is one in Lake Worth.

I have also heard of another link for the ICW but do not recall where it is at.

Try to cross the rivers at slack tide as the currents can get quite bad.
MacGregor 26M

Offline Frank

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Re: ICW NC to FL
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2007, 05:55:39 AM »
I agree with all here.   1-go outside when ya can.WAY nicer way to travel.The constant course changes and attention to charts does wear on ya.   2-from just N of West Palm on down is a ZOO   3-Bridges..and there are MANY, are not only slow but dangerous.Between currents and cross winds..waiting on an openinig while in a 5-10 boat line up is very stressful as everyone does the 'bridge wait sqaure dance'    4-NEVER-NEVER go near Ft Lauderdale or Miami on a weekend. I'm sure they film videos of 'what not to do while boating' there...the traffic is unbelievable.Picture every person in the erea (1000's) that can borrow enough money to buy a big boat, out to impress their friends, BUT having no idea on how to use one!Then put youself on a slow boat in the middle of it all. I'll take fighting a lil wind and waves outside instead any day ;D
« Last Edit: May 19, 2007, 05:58:25 AM by Frank »
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Offline AdriftAtSea

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Re: ICW NC to FL
« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2007, 04:10:36 PM »
Unfortunately, much of the ICW is way too crowded for small sailboats to be comfortable moving about...especially if you are short-handed.
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Offline Captain Smollett

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Re: ICW NC to FL
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2007, 05:27:49 PM »
Unfortunately, much of the ICW is way too crowded for small sailboats to be comfortable moving about...especially if you are short-handed.

 ??? ???

I'm not sure what you mean by this.  Small sailboats ply the ICW all the time.  I've been on the ICW on my 18 footer quite a bit, for example.  Sometimes alone.
S/V Gaelic Sea
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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.  -Mark Twain

Offline Frank

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Re: ICW NC to FL
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2007, 06:05:15 PM »
Capt S... I've solo'd it most often too.In those tight 'BUSY' spots I've often been thankful for being on a smaller vessel. Much/most of the intercoastal is actually not busy and rather boring.Then comes S Florida and all heck breaks loose.  ???
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Offline Lynx

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Re: ICW NC to FL
« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2007, 10:19:15 PM »
Captain Smollett - By busy  is meant that the big boats are going 5 to 25 mph with big bow waves and about 1 ever min. I was followed by a 105'er fpr 3 hrs.  You put everything away for heavy weather sailing because for sure everything will be thrown off your table and galley by days end.

I think the worst section of the ICW is the first mile in Ft Myers F, (Fl West coast). I had all boards up and it was so bow wave bad that I got knocked 90 degrees by boats going the same way that I was. This section of the ICW is narrow and has 5 bodies of water emptying into it and has strong currents in every direction. It is very busy on weekends. No need to say avoid it if you can. 
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Offline Captain Smollett

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Re: ICW NC to FL
« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2007, 01:05:08 PM »

 By busy  is meant that the big boats are going 5 to 25 mph with big bow waves and about 1 ever min.


Been on the ICW enough to realize that, but it has NOT been my experience that I would call it too uncomfortable for small sailboats.  You have to watch boat traffic and deal with wakes, true, but it IS a means of getting around.

Quote

You put everything away for heavy weather sailing because for sure everything will be thrown off your table and galley by days end.


I prefer to put stuff away while sailing/underway anyway.  I'm not anal about it, of course, but general sailing can make a missile out of loose stuff, and it just strikes me as unseamanlike if my cabin is too cluttered.

Quote

I had all boards up and it was so bow wave bad that I got knocked 90 degrees by boats going the same way that I was.


Hmmm.

Just out of curiosity, are you taking the wakes on the shoulder or beam-on?

I've been passed by barges, huge tour boats, shrimpers and monster sport-fisherman in a 18 ft, 1350 lb sailboat that is initially quite tender and I've NEVER been rolled to anything even close to 90 degrees.  That DOES seem uncomfortable.

This picture,



was taken along the ICW where Skull Creek meets Port Royal Sound in South Carolina in 3-4 ft chop.  The boy is a very light sleeper, and the bow (yes, that's the v-berth) was pitching easily several ft.  He slept like that the whole afternoon, no matter who/what passed us on the ICW. 

He for sure would not have been sleeping like if we had been rolling through extreme roll angles.

I don't doubt the ICW in South Florida is less than fun, but elsewhere it can get you where you want to be without too much discomfort.  The question that started this thread was about a 900 mile trip, and easily 90% of that will be less crowded than South Florida.
S/V Gaelic Sea
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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.  -Mark Twain

Offline Lynx

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Re: ICW NC to FL
« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2007, 09:49:39 PM »
I have sailed (motored) a lot on the ICW in Fl. When a big trawler comes at me at 8 mph, I had better have enough room to hit the bow wave at 90 degrees and slow down.  Fl has some Big pleasure craft on the ICW in South Fl, east or west.

The miserable mile as it is called. This is mile 1 of the ICW at Fl Myers Fl. When I was knocked 90 degrees, I was up on plane and it was getting rough. Ballest tank empty and all boards up. I had to slow down, 2 big boats passed on my starboard side. After the second one passed I was 90 degrees. I think that they was almost up out of the hole and getting ready to plane. Nasty steep and big bow waves from big power boats. Just knocked the bow around (with nothing under to hold the boat straight) I could not correct fast enough to keep the boat straight.

Due to the currents in this area it is not uncommon for a keel boat to have to turn 30 degrees to keep in the channel and running aground.

The Mac 26M is known for being light and tender. Although most full keel boats would not have as much of a problem as a Mac, some do move quite a bit when hitting some of the bow waves.

Just wanted to make a point of how bad it can get and to be prepaired, The first time this happened I was not and EVERYTHING hit the floor. Yuk.

Nice pic!! :)
MacGregor 26M

Offline Joe Pyrat

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Re: ICW NC to FL
« Reply #11 on: May 21, 2007, 10:40:30 AM »
You didn't mention how far south in Florida you were going, but here's a link that may help you with south Florida to Key West.

http://renegade-cruisers.net/bb/viewtopic.php?t=7195&highlight=adam

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Offline Norm

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Re: ICW NC to FL
« Reply #12 on: May 21, 2007, 02:03:02 PM »
Hi All:

I did the ICW a bunch in the 60s and recall it as being really interesting but very slow.  My folks cruised it twice a year from the mid seventies to the mid nineties and still talk fondly of the friends made and sights seen.

As a boat-mover, I have to hustle and therefore go offshore.  From NC to the Georgia/Florida border it is best to be offshore as much as possible.  In close to shore it is treacherous!  All those inviting inlets are often dangerous.  At least that is what I have been led to believe so I stay away.  I believe the rumors.  Maybe folks with local knowledge will have more to say.

I referred to my NOAA 11480 chart.  Beaufort to Fernandina Beach is about 30 hours at 4ish knots.  (perhaps a bit optomistic in a CD 23 going to windward, but let's hope for the best.) That looks pretty attractive compared to a week of motoring/motor-sailing.  With a week's cost of fuel, food and dockage saved you can have one heck of a good meal in Fernandina.  It is a pretty town, make certain to visit the museum.  Also, allocate a few days for St Augustine.  After Fernandina there is a harbor entrance every sixty or so miles.  If the weather is no good, go inside... or wait a day.

My practice is to leave in the afternoon, sail all night and arrive off a strange harbor entrance in the morning.

In general, the wind is on the nose unless you get a NWer that lasts a few days.  If so, take it and scooooot.   There is a southerly flowing counter current to the Gulf Stream which helps a bit.  The net is that the SW wind against the current in shallow water can make outside a rough but short trip.

Off topic thought:  have several replacement fuel filters.  The fuel system is going to get shaken up and a clean filter after a bumpy trip makes the next bumpy ride less dramatic.  Have you noticed filters clog in harbor entrances, between the breakwaters just as a big shrimper is heading out?  And, you just took the mainsail down.  Funny that...

Time is the question.  How long do you have? 

Mother says the trip through Georgia is no fun since there are too many creeks to explore and no time allocated.  I guess if dad had let her have her way, they'd still be in those waters exploring.

So.  Don't forget to have fun.

That's my three cents worth.

Best to all,
Norman
Boston

&, I think the Captain wins the cute kid picture award!
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Offline Norm

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Re: ICW NC to FL
« Reply #13 on: May 21, 2007, 05:25:46 PM »
oops!
Pick the correct Beaufort, Norm.
The NC place is a bit farther from Fernandina Beach than the SC place.  By a factor of two!  And it involves a sail around Frying Pan Shoal, a notorious place.  There is a shortcut that I have never used.  It will save many hours of sailing.  Duck into Bald Head Island for a rest.  It is about 70 nm from the NC harbor entrance. 

The current in that river is fierce.  It makes the entrance to the Bald Head Island Marina dramatic.  Of course, their is just as much current in the ICW. 

Outside a plan could be:
Beaufort to Bald Head, 18 hrs
Bald Head to Charleston, 24 hrs
Charleston to Fernandina, 48 hrs

In good sailing conditions, it will be a great trip.  Maybe you'll get a NWer?

Have you sailed in the ocean with your crew yet?  Boats are tougher than crew.

Best
Norman

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Offline tafelice

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Re: ICW NC to FL
« Reply #14 on: February 24, 2008, 12:47:55 AM »
I have a post in this forum somewhere NC to the Tenn R. on the ICW or something like that.  It will be a bit more anecdotal than technical.  Never a real problem with the bridges the guide books were pretty good.  Im surprise no one asked you what you draw.  What do you draw.  I drew 5 feet and if you are anything like that my advice ..... drop anchor and dont bother running the icw near low tide in Georgia.  It is the worst.  Also, your current in those streams are the most critical.  Hard to figure out from one cut to the next.  Plan your anchorages ahead.  We got creative a few times but it is hard to do.  Some runs have no anchorages for many miles.  Here s a tip the Salty Goiter gave us.  Call Sea Tow and Boat US on your radio and ask them just anything... gas prices, anchorages, shoals, restaurants, currents.  They seem happy to help and man can you get instant local knowledge at your finger tips.  Good luck.  tom

Offline Lynx

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ICW Cruising Florida to North
« Reply #15 on: April 28, 2008, 03:00:29 PM »
Coco Beach -
picture

Melbourne Sity park and small boat dock, 3 feet of water, Do not use when busy. Close to a lot.
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Melbourne sunrise -
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Slow Speed, Titusville marina -
picture

picture

picture

picture
« Last Edit: April 29, 2008, 05:27:22 AM by Lynx »
MacGregor 26M

Offline Lynx

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Re: ICW Cruising Florida to North
« Reply #16 on: May 02, 2008, 06:03:49 AM »
Mosquito Lagoon -
picture

Doing the ditch, Caution - currents can run 3 knots and up to 5, even at marinas -
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It is like this for miles and miles. No sleeping here.

Cannal ancoring -
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Ft Matanzas - Only Guided Tours here. Take the Dingy over to the ferry for a free ride over.
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« Last Edit: May 02, 2008, 06:09:41 AM by Lynx »
MacGregor 26M

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Re: ICW Cruising Florida to North
« Reply #17 on: May 02, 2008, 06:55:23 AM »
Don't forget to redeem some sailFar Grog chits when you get this far north, James! :D
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Offline Lynx

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Re: ICW Cruising Florida to North
« Reply #18 on: May 02, 2008, 07:18:17 PM »
OK.

Good anchorages in St Augustine. Take your best shot -

picture

You can always ask Castillo de San Marcos to give you a hand -

picture

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4 times a day!

Some people you know was here -

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You could spend a week here and spend a months cruising $$$$.

« Last Edit: May 02, 2008, 07:20:40 PM by Lynx »
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Offline CharlieJ

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Re: ICW Cruising Florida to North
« Reply #19 on: May 02, 2008, 08:34:18 PM »
My old stomping grounds  ;D

We used to camp around the fort at Matanzas long before the State of Florida decided maybe it would make a good tourist attraction. Back in the 60's you could park on the beach south of the fort and walk over to it- no hassles.

There be ghosts around that place on a dark foggy night :D

Matanzas was the site of several pretty serious slaughters over it's history. My first wifes father did a historical novel about it- never published, but he showed me some interesting research.

I've anchored there off of the Castillo many times, and also over in Salt Run. Couple of bridges up ( there are new ones so I don't know HOW many) you'll pass an island on your right, with a Roberts 54 sitting up on dry land. JUST after you pass under a high rise bridge. That's where I lived and built my 35 foot trimaran.

Absolutely ITCHING to get Laura and Tehani over there.
Charlie J
Sailing on S/V Tehani
Meridian 25

On Matagorda Bay
On the Redneck Riviera