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Old 05-03-2009, 09:47   #1
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ICW Journey

Hi all,

We spoke a few months ago about going from Annapolis to Charleston via the ICW. Well now it's going to happen! I got me a mooring buoy here thanks to a couple of folks on the forum, so now it's time to get Icefire down here.

I've purchased Skipper Bob's books and an ICW chart book, recruited a couple of experiences sailing buddies to help crew her down, and now I'm pondering preparations for the trip. So here's the plan. Please review and let me know what I'm missing.

I'm looking to depart at the end of May. Why May? Well, we just had kid #2, so leaving too soon just wouldn't be appropriate. The Admiral and Midshipmen won't be coming along but still...it just wouldn't be cool to leave them while he's still a newborn. Also, I get a fairly substantial bonus check in the middle of May, and that'll be helpful in many ways . Finally, it's just more fun to boat while it's warm, but then you guys know that.

I'm going to ask for 2 weeks of leave to make the trip. Based on a day and a half to norfolk and 9 days from Norfolk to Charleston, two full weeks should give me some slack time to explore or deal with contingencies.

I'm pondering equipment that I'll need. I've got all the normal stuff: life jackets, flare guns, chem-lights, radar reflector, radar, two radios, GPS charplotter and paper charts, lifesling and horseshoe buoy, throw-ropes, spare gas cans, you name it. If we're going to sail overnight to Norfolk, I figure I should get some jacklines, a couple of hydrostatic inflatable vests/harnesses, and strobes. So that's $600 of gear right there.

I'm concerned about my ground tackle though. Icefire has a 20 lb CQR with about 5 ft of chain and the rest rope. I've only anchored her once, in Annapolis harbor last July 4th (I'll refer you to my July 4th postmortem post for more details if you care). The anchor held well through a squall with 30-40 kt winds that evening, but I'm wondering if I shouldn't get something more substantial for overnight anchoring: maybe a 25 or 35 lb? Or just more chain on the rode? Icefire doesn't have a windlass, so I don't want to go too far overboard (it would suck to have ground tackle that's too heavy to lift back up again. Of course, I could just get a windlass, but I've no idea how big a job it is to install one (seems like it would be pretty involved), and I doubt I'll have the time to do it right before I leave since I'm in Charleston and the boat's in Annapolis. Besides, windlasses I've seen on Defender all seem to be fairly pricey....I know it'd be worth it in the long run for cruising around and anchoring off the barrier islands around Charleston or elsewhere, but I've got other things to spend that bonus check on besides boat equipment (baby, paying down debts, wife, baby, wife, toddler, wife....).

I've got a dinghy (Walker Bay 9.4), but up to this point I've just rowed it. The mooring is a good quarter mile or so from the Ashley Marina. Rowing across the Ashley River and its current wouldn't be much fun at all, to say nothing about getting to and from anchorages and shore for supplies and what-not on the ICW. So I've begun looking on Craig's List and Ebay for outboards - I'm thinking 2.5 to 3 hp or so (my dinghy will take up to 5 hp, but do I really need a lot of juice on it? I don't think so).

Well, what do you guys think? Am I missing anything major? Any thoughts or words of wisdom?

Thanks,
Alexei
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Old 05-03-2009, 10:05   #2
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Alexei,

Sounds like a fun trip!

Just a couple of things:

1. a GOOD pair of 7x50 binoculars; and
2. a full set of paper charts covering the trip (Maptech Chartbooks are fine).

Binocs with a built-in compass are very useful for obtaining magnetic bearings to objects marked on the charts.

You don't really need radar or all the fancy stuff. And, in the ICW a chartplotter can get you in trouble as often as not. Better to rely on the Mark #1 Eyeballs, read the charts, watch the markers, and don't try to go too far in one day.

You don't need a windlass on a 28-footer. Period.

More chain and a heavier CQR would help...35lbs would be more than enough. However, you should carry a second anchor. I'd favor a Fortress because of it's light weight, or a Danforth HT. The newer anchors (Manson, Rocna, etc.) might be fine, too, but they're pricey. Suggest you use at least 20' of chain, then nylon rode.

And, don't forget a camera! There are lots of picture opportunities, and you'll want to show the Midshipmen what they missed while they were small :-)

Bill
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Old 05-03-2009, 14:35   #3
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Alexei
I have found The ICW chart book to be most helpful.the GPS was very useful as well and yes binoculars are a must. A 2.5 hp motor will be enough for your dinghy. Your time line sounds reasonable and allows time for weather. 30 lb or so would be about right for an anchor. This is a pretty much straight forward trip that should be no real problem. Have fun The chart book also has anchorage areas marked at mile marks with decriptions in the back.
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Old 05-03-2009, 15:07   #4
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Thanks!

Thanks for the input so far. One follow-up question:

How much time in the ICW should I figure to be sail-able?


Looking at the charts, some places, like Abermarle (sp??) sound, look like shoe-in's for putting up the sails. But a lot of it looks like narrow channels that are more favorable to motoring. So I guess I'm wondering how much of it I should plan to motor and how much sail?
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Old 05-03-2009, 15:18   #5
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When the wind is favorable, you can sail and motor sail quite a bit, even in narrow channels. With a 28-footer it should be easy to run up the sails, or at least run out the genoa if it's on a roller furler. That will help a lot.

And, to be fair, don't plan on sailing just because you see open water. The Albemarle sound can be treacherous (shallow, long fetch, square waves).

You just gotta take the conditions as they come.

But, on balance, even with a 42' sloop I've been able to sail and motor sail a lot of the time.

Bill
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Old 05-03-2009, 15:21   #6
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Alexei,
Plan on motoring all the way. Yes, putting up the sails and sailing is very enjoyable. This also increases the time of your trip unless the wind is blowing you the direction you want to go. I spent a day sailing across the Delaware Bay enjoying myself. This increased my trip by a day and my wife became very concerned. I did not know thunderstorms were hitting NJ and Delaware causes floods and damage. On the Bay it was beautify until night fall. You can figure on making about 40 miles a day. I am being very generous with the mileage. Currents and winds have an effect on the mileage. That is based on 5 miles and hour based on 8 hours of motoring. I found many marinas were not open past 5 o'clock. How many days of fuel do you carry? This figures into how many marinas you have to visit. I wish you fair winds and currents.

John
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Old 05-03-2009, 15:26   #7
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Originally Posted by scallywag View Post
.... Yes, putting up the sails and sailing is very enjoyable. This also increases the time of your trip unless the wind is blowing you the direction you want to go. ....
John,

Not sure what you mean by this. If you are on course and have your sails up, almost by definition they will be assisting you in the direction you want to go. No other reason to have them up unless it's to reduce rolling or, maybe, to block the sun. If you're under power, the addition of sail power with apparent wind anywhere except within 30-40 degrees of your bow will increase your boat speed, sometimes significantly.

Maybe you meant that it's so pleasurable to sail that you are tempted to stray far from the rhumb line???? :-) I'll have to admit that at times I've done that, schedules be damned!

But, I much prefer to make fast passages and save the pleasure sailing for when I get there :-)

BTW, Born Free makes a dependable 160nm per day on offshore passages, but the estimate of 40-50 miles per day in the ICW is reasonable for a 28-footer taking advantage of those nice long May days :-)

Bill
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Old 05-03-2009, 15:31   #8
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Hello, Alexei.

Sounds like to me that you've done a great job of preparing. It's been a long while since I've done that trip, but it was a really good experience.

You might want to invest in a handheld VHF. It'll come in handy in the cockpit, especially in passing situations in the narrow parts. It's important that passing boats know each others' intentions. It'll be a real safety feature in your dinghy, too. If your engine fails in one of those spots with strong currents, you'll be glad you have it handy. And don't forget a small anchor and rode for the dinghy, for the same reason.

May is a great time for that trip.
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Old 05-03-2009, 15:40   #9
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btrayfors,
Yes, you interpreted what I wanted to say correctly. I enjoyed sailing so much, I did not care where I was going. This caused concern for the person awaiting my arrival.
John
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Old 05-03-2009, 17:33   #10
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I'll second the hand held radio. Air horn. Try to time your arrival in Norfolk in daylight. Portsmith is a good stopover. Plan on a lot of motoring in the ICW..sailing if you can is a bonus....imho

If you buy an outboard, it should be light enough to one hand down to the dinghy.
In other words, bigger is not always better. Nav Lights for the dingy, the clamp on flashlight type? Have a great time!
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Old 05-03-2009, 18:15   #11
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You have received some pretty good advice here except for the Fortress anchor. If you try and set this thing in any substantial rver or tidal current it will take off like a kite. They have decent holding power but getting them on the bottom where you want them is damn near impossile in a current. You will be anchoring in mud, heavy silt and sand......go with a 13lb. Danforth it will hold much better than a 20b. CQR.
there I've started another war.
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Old 05-03-2009, 18:48   #12
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If you are just trying to get to Charleston, anchoring will save time over marinas. You can buy fuel at the closes marinas on the ICW I think at that time of year you will make more mileage as the days will be getting longer. What I do is, about 2pm look at the anchor guide and figure where you can safely land. I believe you will not want to run after dusk
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Old 05-03-2009, 20:23   #13
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We just finished a similar leg going south from Georgia. Not the same terrain, but similar principle. We motored about 10 days total. We have a (now) 17 mo old and we wanted the time to work out some kinks and see how she adapted to the boat, so we motored the whole way south!

The 40kn per day is a good estimate. We used Skipper Bob's anchorage book to anchor every day for free. Save the marina fees and buy heavier ground tackle instead. Try to figure your fuel burn for a 10 hour day and see if you can carry enough fuel for 3-4 days at least. Otherwise you're spending a lot of time in and out of marinas.

Definitely carry TWO anchors. One properly sized for your boat and for the second anchor get the next weight up! You'll sleep better at night. We have a 33' and we carry 56' of chain and 150' of rode on our primary. Works out pretty good because most times we anchor in 8' or less and I know I can safely drop out the chain and have great scope. Keep in mind the tide change when calculating scope. By the time you complete your trip you will be an expert anchor-er

Plan on sunrise to sunset motoring- you really want to get to your anchorage before dark. The ICW is just notorious for shallows. If you get there before dark- it's a bonus.

You will run aground! Accept it and understand how to set your anchor to kedge off with the dinghy. We've run aground in between markers where there was supposed to be 8' MLW. Accept it will happen, dinghy out your anchor(s), and then have a beer and let the tide do most of the work.

Don't be in a hurry. Mother Nature is now in control. Accept it.

Carry plenty of tools for the engine and some basic tools to work on the boat. Carry enough oil, filters, spare lengths of fuel line hose, etc...You'll be amazed out how much stuff you will find simply isn't practical after living on a boat for more than a weekend.

A color GPS of some sort, backed up by a paper chart really makes running the ICW pretty easy. Sometimes the markers can be confusing visually and the GPS chart with a ICW route line lets you know somethings amiss. But otherwise navigation on the ICW is basically connect the dots between markers.

VHF is a must for bridges and marinas. Having a VHF in the cockpit by the helmsman is awfully handy if you are shorthanded.

A dinghy motor is not a requirement if your dinghy can row well. Consider having to add an outboard, the fuel, the oil, the mount, secure the motor, maintain the engine. If you can avoid the outboard- it will save you a lot of money and maintenance, but you pay for it with time.

We never could safely sail by itself. There were places we could have motor sailed because the ICW is pretty narrow and either changed direction often or the wind was never in a favorable direction for long. In the end, we just motored and then when we found a bay big enough and deep enough we went sailing for fun.

**BE SURE TO GET YOUR BOAT US UNLIMITED TOWING MEMBERSHIP. Just in case. In the worst case, the towing fee could be worth more than your boat without the membership. In the best case, you won't need it and it's cheap insurance. There's a lot of wackadoodle boaters out there.

Carry your boat registration, USCG documentation (if it's registered), and Insurance info (if you have it) with you. One marina with moorings required evidence of insurance (liability only required).

We're glad we ran the ICW south, but I hope it is the last time we spend any significant time inside. In the morning, we depart St. Lucie Inlet in Florida and head south for Key Biscayne. It should take about 24 hours by sail offshore. If we went the ICW south- maybe 4 days.

By the time your done you should know all your boats systems VERY well. I'm glad we ran the ICW because it allowed me to work out any problems easily before heading offshore.

ONE LAST THING- Have Fun!
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Old 06-03-2009, 15:49   #14
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Thanks again everybody.

Looks like I'll plan on upgrading my anchor and rode for sure. Guess I'll start looking on craigslist and ebay for those, too.

I'll keep you guys informed on how it goes when we set out.


-Alexei
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Old 06-03-2009, 17:09   #15
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The anchor rode upgrade just can't cost that much and when it's dark and nasty it makes sleeping easier. May can be a tricky time of the year. End of May usually starts the good weather. Should you get strong NW winds the Potomac is not your best place to be. That crossing can be pretty nasty with the wind blowing a 50 nm fetch with a rising tide. With a long way to go in every direction it's the one section coming south you need to time properly. After that there are plenty of places to hide out. You can get a few good days followed by a bad week so I would chart out possible layover locations. You need an optimistic weather pattern to make Norfolk in a day and a half in May. Norfolk in the dark is not a good idea if you have not been there. I would layover a day in Norfolk / Portsmouth just to get ready for the ditch and plan a very early morning start to get kicked off properly.

Planning the legs sort of means having a loose agenda but understanding where you have to be to make certain points. many sections can have numerous stopping points. Just don't feel the need to be in a hurry. It's really the only bad decision you can make.

Should you find yourself in the York River give a yell.
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