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Old 02-09-2011, 15:37   #1
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Would You Travel the Intracoastal Waterway in January ?

Hi folks

I have just joind the forum so please be kind...
We have just bought our dream boat... we are UK residents and are due to retire early to liveaboard our Hunter 420... we are intending starting our journey from Bear in Delaware and aim to start in January. We have had conflicting advise regarding weather etc. We want to take it slow and see some of the East Coast before we head for the Bahamas and Caribbean. What is your experience of the ICW especially in January...

Sandra B
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Old 02-09-2011, 15:58   #2
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Re: Travelling the Intracostal waterway in january, woudl you do it?

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Sandra B.

The Northern sections of the AICW can be cold in winter; but, otherwise why not?
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Old 02-09-2011, 16:24   #3
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Re: Travelling the Intracostal waterway in january, woudl you do it?

Exactly. The ICW is mostly very protected waters, just a few open stretches. Watch you weather and pick your days. But, Delaware in January can be very cold. Expect a high chance of subfreezing temps, perhaps snow.

The southern end in Georgia and Florida might be a bit more comfortable.
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Old 02-09-2011, 16:38   #4
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Re: Would You Travel the Intracoastal Waterway in January ?

the western florida to the rigolets in louisiana is gorgeous. do watch weather. closely. some icw there is in mississippi sound and mobile bay. can get adventurous in weather-- do what the tug 'n' tow drivers do--if they are not in motion and are stopped inside the icw between pensacola and lulus, anchor in ingrams, wolf or some other protected area until the storm is done.
bridge height in destin, fla and most of the west fla icw is only 50 ft. depth can handle the commercial traffic.
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Old 02-09-2011, 16:59   #5
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Re: Would You Travel the Intracoastal Waterway in January ?

As long as you don't mind some snow and ice covering the decks, January should not be a problem. Keeping warm in the boat will be a problem especially when anchored for the night. If the boat has a genset and reverse cycle a/c you might get some heat but otherwise it might be nice to get one or two Honda EU2000i gas generators to put on deck and then some 1500 water electric heaters for the cabin. At least to take the chill off.
- - A more permanent solution would be to install a diesel cabin heater like a Newport, but that is an involved and not inexpensive undertaking. I have one in my boat and it can really keep the main cabin toasty warm.
- - But then you have the condensation problem and ice formation up on deck. However, once you get south of Georgia temperatures should be mostly above freezing. All in all, it just means a lot more "being careful."
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Old 02-09-2011, 17:10   #6
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Re: Would You Travel the Intracoastal Waterway in January ?

Dress warm or have heat and you will be fine. Check out America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association
I did it in late December last year and other than being cold the first half it went fine. Best of luck and welcome.
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Old 02-09-2011, 17:14   #7
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Old 02-09-2011, 17:14   #8
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Re: Would You Travel the Intracoastal Waterway in January ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by zeehag View Post
the western florida to the rigolets in louisiana is gorgeous. do watch weather. closely. some icw there is in mississippi sound and mobile bay. can get adventurous in weather-- do what the tug 'n' tow drivers do--if they are not in motion and are stopped inside the icw between pensacola and lulus, anchor in ingrams, wolf or some other protected area until the storm is done.
bridge height in destin, fla and most of the west fla icw is only 50 ft. depth can handle the commercial traffic.

"the East Coast before we head for the Bahamas"
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Old 02-09-2011, 17:20   #9
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Re: Would You Travel the Intracoastal Waterway in January ?

but , after the boring bahamas, is western fla--

oh , yeah--welcome. i do know folks who have sailed the icw in winter, but they were cold. i sailed the western fla part-- that is the part to sail in winter, if you can do it.
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Old 02-09-2011, 17:36   #10
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Re: Would You Travel the Intracoastal Waterway in January ?

We did that stretch in late November and December last year. Our boat was in Hilton Head in January and the marina docks sometimes had a bit of ice in the morning. Everyone agreed it was a colder winter than usual.

The hard part will be north of Beaufort, NC or so. We enjoyed it with an inside steering station and diesel heater. We would see folks steering from the cockpit who were wearing ski face masks and goggles and still looked cold.

There are several good ways to add heat to a boat. You could install a diesel heater (Espar), run electric heaters with a genset, install a heater that is warmed by engine coolant, or a small fireplace. Do one of those and it won't be too bad. Reverse cycle air conditioner heat will work south of the Chesapeake.

If the winter is cold, there is a risk of real ice in Bear that would keep you from going south. If you could get to Norfolk (or farther) by December 1 it would make for a more enjoyable trip.

Carl
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Old 02-09-2011, 17:56   #11
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Re: Would You Travel the Intracoastal Waterway in January ?

Welcome Sandra B...My wife and I did the ICW from North Carolina to Fort Pierce, FL December 2010. Yes, it was cold and we racked up almost $2k in Marina fees to stay warm. But even worse than the cold was the constant and fierce attention to navigation. I called it a "school" because the pilot must maintain his discipline absolutely 100% of the the time the boat is moving. You will religiously track tides every day and plan your route based on projected water depths and daylight. You will pay extremely close attention to charts, Navigational aids, and your chart plotter. Your eyes are constantly scanning for that marker, those rocks, your depth gauge, and the magenta line on your chart plotter. The ICW is a school of discipline and you will learn or run aground. Charbonneau only draws 4' 8", but with just a momentary lapse, we were aground in a little Georgia connecting canal. At low, low tide, the deeper water was far to the West of center (forget the magenta line in these cases...it's called "hunt" for water). And then there are bridges...lots and lots of bridges. You will learn to hold your Hunter 420 in adverse winds, currents, tides, and four foot high power boat wakes. As a humorous note, we were about to be swamped by two BIG power boats running together and going far too fast and making far too much wake when I screamed "WAVE" down the companionway to my wife. She appeared at the ladder, smiled and waved her hand to me.

In any case, we ventured outside at Fort pierce Florida and discovered sailing really can be fun! ...and now we go back inside ONLY when weather forces us in.

Bill and Judy
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Old 02-09-2011, 18:27   #12
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Re: Would You Travel the Intracoastal Waterway in January ?

In 2007 we left Newport News on December 31st with our reverse cycle A/C equipped Islander Freeport 41 and a brand new 7KW genset. The genset failed the second day out and we were unable to get it back in order until Jacksonville, FL, therefore no heat. We anchored out at every opportunity and slept under a quilt, heating up the cabin in the morning with a charcoal fired bulkhead fireplace. We spent our days under the dodger wearing our winter woolies and it was actually pretty comfy. It was one of our better trips down the ditch and perfectly do-able.

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Old 02-09-2011, 19:15   #13
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Re: Would You Travel the Intracoastal Waterway in January ?

If you intend to depart in January go to your friendly neighborhood marine canvas shop and have them make you a full cockpit enclosure.
It will change your life on that trip.
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Old 02-09-2011, 19:39   #14
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Re: Would You Travel the Intracoastal Waterway in January ?

Sandra,

Yes, I expect that you would be able to make the trip but, noting all of the above as well as our own experience, I would ask do you really NEED to leave then? If you have the time you might want to consider just making the run down to the lower Chesapeake and wintering over. Then, starting in the spring, you could explore the Chesapeake Bay, see some great sights, and get to know your boat at the same time. Then you could start the trip down the ICW in the, much warmer, early fall.

You said you wanted to take your time and see some of the east coast on your way down south. I can pretty much guarantee that you will not do either of those, or enjoy yourself too much, with icicles hanging off your backside during the day and frost forming on your nose and the entire inside of the boat at night. I think you will find your main goal in life is to get south, get warm, and do it as fast as you can. At least that is the truth that we found on our first trip down.

Wishing you great fun and good luck on what ever option you choose.

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Old 02-09-2011, 19:53   #15
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Re: Would You Travel the Intracoastal Waterway in January ?

All good advice. I would only add that someone who has sailed the Drake Passage or to Antarctica might find it funny how so many people warned about being "cold".
Everything is relative and this problem too can be managed with a little effort.
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