Done it 3 times now and another one starting in November, we draw 7'6" and a 66' mast
so have an extra problem over your cat as far as the ICW is concerned. Pretty easy trip though and you get more time in the sun than by following the slower the ICW route!
We do it in 4 legs, each one can be done with only 1 night at sea with a sunrise start and sunset arrival on a boat your size and speed.
1. Norfolk - Cape Lookout the anchorage in the bight is superb, and no messing around getting in and out of Beaufort, which saves you time. I personally think that Lookout Bight is one of the nicest anchorages
on the east coast
2. Cape Lookout - Charleston we anchor
off the marina and spend some days enjoying the town
3. Charleston - St Mary's River anchoring
at Cumberland Island and enjoying exploring.
4. St Mary's to Lake Worth
- this latter leg is the longest and we did arrive in the dark but a failry easy entry so no hassles. It can be reduced into shorter legs although finding anchorages
that don't involve going under bridges is hard. St Augustine can be done and a night in the marina at Canaveral is another idea.
the cold fronts in 2007 on our way south getting good sailing but being very cold, I am very tempted to just cough up for the diesel
south in the warmer spells this year! The other issue with the norther tactic is that the wind
dies off before you arrive at your destination
so you still motor
more than you would like but as by then it is warm and sunny you don't mind too much.
We took a while to realise that with modern GPS
you can get close enough to Hatteras to miss the Gulf Stream
and also that even if you end up in it a NW wind
is blowing at right angles to the NE flowing current
there rather than against it. This was great relief as it is a long way down to Hatteras from Norfolk and by the time we arrived we had an unforecast 30+ knots and were braced for a fairly unpleasant rounding, but by passing close to the lighthouse we had calm seas and no counter current
We had spent a whole summer with everyone we met going oooohhh, outside round Hatteras, how scary and generally getting us nervous about the whole thing and it weighed very heavily on our minds. It's a great trip in the modern age of nav aids, relax and enjoy it, don't be gung ho, don't cut the corner, do take some hot pies and soup with you!