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Old 04-08-2011, 15:36   #1
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Hopping Outside of the ICW

Background...... I plan to leave the Chesapeake Bay near the end of October, heading south on the ICW for Florida, then the Bahamas. It will be our first time down the cut. My wife and I will be sailing (motoring!) our Hunter 40.5 'Second Spree'.

I would like to hop outside for day sails where possible, but no over-nighters. For example, i know a neat day sail in the ocean will be to leave Beaufort NC and sail across to the Masonboro Inlet. Doable in around 8 hours in our 40 footer, I have been told.

Advice I am seeking.... From Southport NC heading south, where are the suitable inlets I can use to hop out into the ocean for daylight sails. So looking at roughly 8 hour sails, perhaps slightly longer. I have no expereince of any of the inlets I have read about, so seems sensible to :

1) leave/enter inlets in day light
2) gather as much local knowlwdge as possible for the inlets I might use
3) avoid certain inlets altogether

I would be most grateful for and suggestions as to inlets to leave by, and inlets to return by. Remembering the restriction of keeping to single day sails during daylight.

Apologies if this is an 'old' question. Perhaps anyone here with knowledge of old threads on this topic might help me find them. Thanks.
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Old 04-08-2011, 15:46   #2
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Re: Hopping Outside of the ICW

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, craigrosi.
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Old 04-08-2011, 16:06   #3
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Re: Hopping Outside of the ICW

The problem is that many inlet are not usable and if the weather turns nasty, even the usable ones become dangerous. from Wrightsville Beach you will have Cape Fear, Little River, Winyah Bay, Charleston, Port Royal Sound, Savannah River, St. Mary's River, St. Johns River, St. Augustine (maybe), then nothing until Cape Canaveral, Fort Pierce, Lake Worth, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. I don't think I have missed any. There are several others but may not be navigable for your boat. Lots of these are more than a day sail. Chuck
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Old 04-08-2011, 16:20   #4
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Re: Hopping Outside of the ICW

Until you get to Florida going in and out takes a lot of time. What I mean is the distance from anchorage to anchorage on the ICW may be less than going outside from one anchorage and sailing back in to the next anchorage. It's seldom worth it for day sails. Also the weather in the fall does not often cooperate for going south down the coast.
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Old 04-08-2011, 16:41   #5
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Re: Hopping Outside of the ICW

Vasco makes a good point. You have to factor in the time and distance to get from the ICW to the sea buoys and then back in to the ICW and find an anchorage. Winyah Bay is a good example where this adds a lot of miles to the trip. Chuck
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Old 04-08-2011, 17:10   #6
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Re: Hopping Outside of the ICW

End of October can be pretty nasty on the East Coast of Carolina's (wet and windy). Weather constraints will probably force you to stay in the ICW at least until FL. Enjoy the ICW, it is a pretty trip. When you get to FL it is a short sail between St Mary River and St Johns River (20 miles), both good inlets unless really bad outside and/or strong outgoing tides with incoming swell, anchorages close to inlets. St johns to St Augustine another short sail (30 miles) with good anchorages close to inlets, but St Augustine inlet surrounded by sandbars (especially north side) so only do it in good weather. Distances to good inlets get longer until you round Cape Canaveral and by now it is November and it's rough outside anyway. Take ICW to south FL and enjoy the trip.
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Old 04-08-2011, 17:51   #7
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Re: Hopping Outside of the ICW

It doesn't make any sense to jump offshore and not stay out overnight. All that motoring out the inlet and back, you might as well stay inside. Also, 8 hrs for the run from Beaufort->Masonboro would be best case, you would have to avg 8knts not counting anchoring and traversing the inlets, in Oct you will only have 10 hrs of daylight. What happens if you don't make it before dark, I would not do Masonboro with its unlit bouys at night. Don't forget the restricted area that may prevent you from making a straight line run.
Sailing offshore, with the clear sky, is a spiritual experience, IMHO
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Old 04-08-2011, 17:57   #8
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Re: Hopping Outside of the ICW

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Originally Posted by rwhit323 View Post
End of October can be pretty nasty on the East Coast of Carolina's (wet and windy). Weather constraints will probably force you to stay in the ICW at least until FL.
Usually in Oct, early Nov. you can get some weak cold fronts, giving you NW winds, perfect for heading south. After Nov 15, then can start getting stronger. I've done offshore runs a few times during that time of year: Cape Fear to Charleston, Charleston->St. Marys/St.Johns.
YMMV
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Old 04-08-2011, 18:40   #9
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Re: Hopping Outside of the ICW

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Sailing offshore, with a clear sky, is a spiritual experience, IMHO Tom

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Old 04-08-2011, 19:28   #10
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Re: Hopping Outside of the ICW

Agree with a lot of the comments here. I have a rule to have the stern south of Hatteras prior to Oct 1.

Left the mid-chesapeake in late October one year and found the going somewhat chilly until NC.

We will be heading on down from Newport in the third week of September to be in Jacksonville by Nov 1.

Will likely not do a lot of in and out stuff.
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Old 04-08-2011, 19:47   #11
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Re: Hopping Outside of the ICW

Offshore to Masonboro is one hop that is very practical if you have the right conditions. Like others said, you can often get a nice NW breeze or something behind you as you head SW in early Nov. "Door to door", you're looking at around 70 nm from memory, and there's not enough daylight for you in that boat.

However, if you anchor at Cape Lookout, it is *very* easy to weigh anchor at 3 or 4 in the morning and put out to sea without running Beaufort inlet. This may not be something you want to do, but I have done it many times and find it practical in good conditions. I also come into Cape Lookout Bight at all times of night instead of coming in Beaufort inlet. After Masonboro, you can catch the falling tide down Snows cut into Cape Fear and perhaps another day jump to Little River or just down the ditch at Southport. Folks are right that there's fewer practical day jumps then, all the good ones for a ways are overnighters that time of year. Sounds like you're pretty set on no overnights, but if the weather is just right, it really can be a sweet ride out there!

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Old 04-08-2011, 20:05   #12
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Re: Hopping Outside of the ICW

I disagree with Little River or St. Augustine as inlets to enter from the sea. The buoys are not charted and are moved frequently. I try never to enter such inlets from the sea (not everyone would agree with me, I suppose). If you're new to this, I think you should cross those two off the list, IMHO. There's just too much opportunity to get disoriented if you're entering a strange, uncharted inlet from the sea.

In SC and Georgia, there are several other easily navigable inlets whose buoys and channels are all charted: Edisto Beach, St. Helena Sound, Port Royal Sound, Calibogue Sound, Ossabaw Sound, and St. Simon's Sound. St. Catherine's Sound and Sapelo Sound have charted buoys, but as I went out of St. Catherine's Sound a couple of years ago, the last buoy seemed to be in a different position than charted (I followed the buoy and stayed in deep water). St. Catherine's and Sapelo seem a little iffy to me. Maybe those with local knowledge will have better advice on those two.

Also, Ponce de Leon Inlet in Florida is charted nowadays, with buoys that don't (or shouldn't) move.

The advice above about running offshore at night sounds good. You should only enter an unfamiliar inlet in broad daylight and with a mild sea state, IMHO. Running down this coast at night is easy and usually pleasant, if you pick the right weather window. Then you can time your departure to be sure to arrive at the destination inlet in daylight.

Also, IMHO, from Little River, NC all the way down to Jacksonville, FL is the most beautiful part of the ICW. Don't miss too much of it by running outside!

Having made this run many times in each direction, whether you run inside or outside from Beaufort, NC down to Miami seems to depend every day on the weather forecast. Sometimes the trip takes a few days. Sometimes it takes a few weeks. Be conservative, be safe, and enjoy!
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Old 04-08-2011, 20:14   #13
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Re: Hopping Outside of the ICW

I'll have to agree w/ Tia Bu on Little River inlet if you want to be conservative. In years past, the pontoon bridge at Sunset Beach was out of commission a time or two and this was a good detour in settled conditions with good piloting.

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Old 04-08-2011, 20:45   #14
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Re: Hopping Outside of the ICW

Great responses. Food for thought.

My thinking was to break up the day after day motoring routine of being in the ICW with offshore day sails where possible. Your responses make me realize it is not so easy, and that staying within the ICW makes more sense.

Thanks for your insights and knowledge.
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Old 05-08-2011, 06:32   #15
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Re: Hopping Outside of the ICW

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Originally Posted by craigrosi View Post
Great responses. Food for thought.

My thinking was to break up the day after day motoring routine of being in the ICW with offshore day sails where possible. Your responses make me realize it is not so easy, and that staying within the ICW makes more sense.

Thanks for your insights and knowledge.
You will be able to sail parts of ICW: MM 57-102, MM 127-180,
MM 385-410, and MM 880-925. That doesn't count shorter stretches of 10-20 miles. Of course you may have to wait for proper wind, if you have more time to wait, you'll be able to sail more and can have shorter motoring days, making the trip more enjoyable. Motoring 40-50 mile days every day gets old. Also if your draft is 5' or more, you'll need to play the tides to get through parts of Georgia/SC, thus have shorter days.

A general rule of cruising: more time = more fun

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