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Old 28-02-2015, 09:03   #1
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ICW vs Sea

Hello, I'm relativity new to the forum, I've been searching for the best route south to the Bahamas from the Chesapeake Bay. Most people recommend the Intercoastal Waterway, but when I researched the ICW most people claim it's a headache. I read an article from a sailing magazine who said he often used his motor, waited for bridges, and consistently navigated shallow bottoms; what's the point? I have a 1968 CAL 28, it has a 5 foot draft, would I be better off sailing off the coast? Why do people use the ICW if it's such a hassle? Does it offer any advantages over sailing off shore?

Thanks
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Old 28-02-2015, 09:09   #2
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Re: ICW vs Sea

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Originally Posted by SteveinDE View Post
Hello, I'm relativity new to the forum, I've been searching for the best route south to the Bahamas from the Chesapeake Bay. Most people recommend the Intercoastal Waterway, but when I researched the ICW most people claim it's a headache. I read an article from a sailing magazine who said he often used his motor, waited for bridges, and consistently navigated shallow bottoms; what's the point? I have a 1968 CAL 28, it has a 5 foot draft, would I be better off sailing off the coast? Why do people use the ICW if it's such a hassle? Does it offer any advantages over sailing off shore?

Thanks
Personally, I enjoy cruising the AICW. There is a lot to see along the way and a lot of fun towns to visit. If you are just interested in getting to the Bahamas and not the trip, then you might want to sail "off the coast".

As for advantages of the ICW, you're mostly in protected water and never far from fuel, supplies and help or medical attention.
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Old 28-02-2015, 09:16   #3
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Re: ICW vs Sea

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Originally Posted by SteveinDE View Post
Hello, I'm relativity new to the forum, I've been searching for the best route south to the Bahamas from the Chesapeake Bay. Most people recommend the Intercoastal Waterway, but when I researched the ICW most people claim it's a headache. I read an article from a sailing magazine who said he often used his motor, waited for bridges, and consistently navigated shallow bottoms; what's the point? I have a 1968 CAL 28, it has a 5 foot draft, would I be better off sailing off the coast? Why do people use the ICW if it's such a hassle? Does it offer any advantages over sailing off shore?
I've done the passage from the Ches Bay offshore and across the Gulf Stream 5 times round trip to either Bahamas and E Carib. Going to the Bahamas the decision is easy for many of us - we don't fit under the ICW bridges.

Just going to the Bahamas you have the option of going coastwise inside the GS or direct offshore crossing the GS early and continue non-stop to the Abacos or Eleuthera (Spanish Wells). Of course, on the coastwise route you can do some of both (inside or outside) which makes a lot of sense for shorter (slower) boats whose crews may wisely choose not to dedicate too much time outside.

Off shore is faster with better fishing.

Dave
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Old 28-02-2015, 09:34   #4
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Re: ICW vs Sea

Howdy Steve.

You don't mention in your opening post what time of year you plan on making the trip. That could make a big difference.

While I enjoy offshore sailing, I think the ICW offers a different view of the country (like taking a back road) and it could be safer and more comfortable too..

For example, I would want to avoid sailing off Cape Hatteras and Cape Fear in the winter. So I would plan a route that goes ICW as much as possible to avoid known hazardous areas offshore during the winter.

Secondly, I would enjoy seeing some of the many small or larger ports along the way. I really like seeing places like Beaufort (SC), which is a small quaint town, and Charleston and Savannah (very nice small art museum) and other smaller places too. There are many interesting historic things along the Southeast Coast (St. Augustine is another favorite of mine).

If you like to golf, I would pull into Hilton Head, go to Harbor Town and play a round. It has a marina (and others nearby) and there are many other golf courses there too.
_______________

Here is some more information I like to share regarding distances:

http://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/n.../distances.pdf

Page 16 has the "Inside Route" tables from Norfolk to Key West (and other places). In the upper left corner of the table it shows:

"Inside Route: Norfolk to Key West 1061 Nautical Miles"

Either way, it is a long trip. I hope to make it some day, taking my time and enjoying the sights along the way.

By the way, the same document (a free PDF anyone can save to their computer) has many other tables with distances to many USA ports (East Coast, Gulf Coast, Great Lakes, West Coast).
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The Best Video of a Small Sailboat Trip on the ICW I have found so far.

Here is a video I recommend watching too, if you want to see what it was like for a single sailor to sail or motor a small old sail boat (he bought for a few thousand on Ebay) from New England to Miami using the ICW. It is a very interesting video. It starts a little slow with some background on the sailor/narrator's experience, but then shows what it was like on his boat, including some waiting for bridges, scenes along the way, etc. It is not just a travel video, it also shows what he as a sailor saw as important during the voyage. It is the best "virtual" "sailing" video ICW trip I have seen so far. The trip is covered in TWO videos on youtube. Here are the links.



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Old 28-02-2015, 09:40   #5
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Re: ICW vs Sea

Thanks for all the replies. I never considered the safety aspect or the small towns and such. Is it as much as a headache as some make it out to be?
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Old 28-02-2015, 09:50   #6
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Re: ICW vs Sea

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Thanks for all the replies. I never considered the safety aspect or the small towns and such. Is it as much as a headache as some make it out to be?
Everything is relative.

For a real "headache" look to the recent losses of the Rainmaker (Gunboat cat) and the Trimaran that were abandoned offshore off that coast.
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Old 28-02-2015, 10:01   #7
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Re: ICW vs Sea

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Originally Posted by SteveinDE View Post
I never considered the safety aspect or the small towns and such.
Then there's the safety aspect of being offshore. Passage making offshore is fully in accordance with the Number 1 Safety Rule or Sailboats and Airplanes: Stay away from land.

But seriously, Steve - you have a small boat. Many may argue that, at most, you should plan on day hops outside, between reliable inlets to the ICW. Do an overnight when the weather is really nice to get away from the bugs.....

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Old 28-02-2015, 10:02   #8
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Re: ICW vs Sea

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Originally Posted by SteveinDE View Post
Thanks for all the replies. I never considered the safety aspect or the small towns and such. Is it as much as a headache as some make it out to be?
Depends on

- your definitiion of a headache
- what part of the ICW.

Yes there are bridges, more around the towns and sometimes you have to wait for the bridge to open on the hour or wait until after 4-6 rush hour when they don't open at all. But long stretches have no bridges at all. The most will be when you reach south FL.

5' draft you might have to wait out low tide to pass some sections, mainly in GA.

Also, you did not say where in the Bahamas. They cover a few thousand square miles. If you are going to Bimini then it makes ne sense to head directly offshore from NC. If you are heading to Rum Cay then the offshore route might be a consideration.

And as was mentioned, there is the weather. Also don't forget that there is the Gulf Stram that moves 2 kts or so north along the east coast. Depending on where and how far offshore this coukd slow you down a lot, not to mention big, ugly waves in the stream when you get strong north winds.
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Old 28-02-2015, 10:35   #9
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Re: ICW vs Sea

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Originally Posted by SteveinDE View Post
Thanks for all the replies. I never considered the safety aspect or the small towns and such. Is it as much as a headache as some make it out to be?
We have done several thousand miles on the ICW, from Texas to Georgia. Generally speaking, I don't consider it a headache at all. One exception would be between Miami and Lake Worth. So many bridges, with different scheduled openings requiring quite a bit of planning ahead for anchorages.

Most of us heading to the Bahamas will be at the end of hurricane season, so pretty much winter. Getting weather windows for extended offshore hops is the deal breaker for many of us. Plus, it is often actually faster staying in the ditch, rather than doing the miles necessary to get far enough outside, and back in (if you are not planning an overnighter). Then, the complication of hitting inlets at the right time. Depending of the winds and tides, some inlets are dangerous at times.

Also, it depends which way you are going. Heading south, the Gulf Stream is quite close to shore as you get closer to Miami. That is why we do the ditch going south, despite all the bridges. You just have to look at the weather, and each leg of the trip day by day, and make a decision as to what works best.

Again, I caution you to study up on the inlets if you go outside. Plenty of boats get wrecked going into St. Augustine (as one example). Ponce inlet is another I've been afraid to try so far.

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Old 28-02-2015, 11:02   #10
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Re: ICW vs Sea

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Originally Posted by Steady Hand View Post
......... ___________________

The Best Video of a Small Sailboat Trip on the ICW I have found so far.

Here is a video I recommend watching too, if you want to see what it was like for a single sailor to sail or motor a small old sail boat (he bought for a few thousand on Ebay) from New England to Miami using the ICW. It is a very interesting video. It starts a little slow with some background on the sailor/narrator's experience, but then shows what it was like on his boat, including some waiting for bridges, scenes along the way, etc. It is not just a travel video, it also shows what he as a sailor saw as important during the voyage. It is the best "virtual" "sailing" video ICW trip I have seen so far. The trip is covered in TWO videos on youtube. Here are the links.



I just watched both parts and yes, it's a really good video.
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Old 28-02-2015, 12:52   #11
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Re: ICW vs Sea

Also tides every stretch you will be going with our fighting a tide. Lots of planning. I stay out of the ditch as much as possible which is always .

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Old 28-02-2015, 13:03   #12
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Re: ICW vs Sea

I can tell you this, going outside, once you get around Hatteras, you are fighting the Gulfstream a lot. Also, there are shoals, so even if you are trying to stay close to the shore to avoid the stream, eventually you have to go far out.
I spent one of the worst nights of my sailing career south of Hatteras against the stream... in a 47 footer. Waves were consuming the boat with green water. It was blowing hard but not a storm or anything like that.
All that day we were fighting the stream.. and felt like we were sailing fast with 20-25 of wind... but we were not moving well over ground.
We had to get around the shoals to get into Moorhead, but we were too late and it got dark.. wind picked up also.
In a small Cal I would definitely take the ICW.
Like those above I enjoyed the ICW a lot. Actually sailed quite a bit too in places. 5 ft draft isn't bad for the ICW, we were 6'5" draft.
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Old 28-02-2015, 13:14   #13
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Re: ICW vs Sea

Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveinDE View Post
Hello, I'm relativity new to the forum, I've been searching for the best route south to the Bahamas from the Chesapeake Bay. Most people recommend the Intercoastal Waterway, but when I researched the ICW most people claim it's a headache. I read an article from a sailing magazine who said he often used his motor, waited for bridges, and consistently navigated shallow bottoms; what's the point? I have a 1968 CAL 28, it has a 5 foot draft, would I be better off sailing off the coast? Why do people use the ICW if it's such a hassle? Does it offer any advantages over sailing off shore?

Thanks
Welcome, I am in DE too.

I don't think you will have any problems with your 5 ft draft in ICW which is preferred to go south from Norfolk to Morehead City. If you want to go outside off Hatteras, make sure you want to pick the right weather window. It is called the graveyard of the Atlantic. Just keep that in mind, you will be fine. I love to sail outside Hatteras though.

ICW is boring to most of us, but not for those who have never been there. It is a great experience. Many Europeans sail to US to see ICW. Likewise, many visitors come to NYC to see Empire State Building while most New Yorkers have not been up there.

There are lot more info on the net (too much). Good luck on your trip to Bahamas, it is a great place.

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Old 28-02-2015, 13:15   #14
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Re: ICW vs Sea

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Also tides every stretch you will be going with our fighting a tide. Lots of planning. I stay out of the ditch as much as possible which is always .
It's quite a bit easier on the west coast of Florida, assuming you are sailing out of Naples.

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Old 28-02-2015, 13:29   #15
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Re: ICW vs Sea

We were going to go from Norfolk to Florida outside but the weather got bad. So instead of sitting at the dock for 4 days we took the ditch to Moorhead city and popped out to our orriginal route. Didn't pick up any time but didn't have to just sit.
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