I did this trip many years ago with a 6' draft and ran aground so many times, I swore I would never, ever use the ICW again for any reason.
Tides and currents around the various inlets are a huge problem. GA especially, has monster tide differences, and shoals which grow and move on a daily basis. Back then draw bridges were a big issue, but these days not so much, nonetheless, most bridges have a height restriction of around 65' air draft.
Plan on fighting a current
against you for at least half the day somewhere.
If you run aground (and you will) on a falling tide, you can expect to be there for the next 12 hours...
The trick is to always keep an eye looking backwards to tell if you are still in the channel. Often times, a sideways current
will push you to one side, but if you only look ahead you won't notice this until too late.
There are numerous inlets along the coast. My advice is to consider going outside. Some inlets are a day sail, others an overnighter....
If you chose to stay inside, each day's run must take into account a place where you intend to stop for the night, be it an anchorage or marina. Though you may be able to go over x miles, you may have to plan that in 2 stages to take into account your overnight stay.
Expect about 2 weeks to do the trip to N. Florida
, and that is going balls to the wall every day. A more relaxed timetable, would give you more stopping options.
can cut this trip down to a few overnighters. This time of the year, there is little risk of adverse weather
Don't forget about fuel
Forget about sailing the ICW, this is motoring trip, at about 6 knots, 12 hours a day, you are going to be sick of listening to that engine
Absolutely, without question, become a Boat/US member
so that you can call the towboats if you run into a problem, otherwise it can cost you an arm and a leg.
Somebody needs to be at the wheel
at all times. A moment's distraction can cause you to be aground in seconds.
of the ICW are wide and markers are a long way distant from each other.
Other part of the ICW is a manmade channel thru' all sorts of bottom and is narrow.
If you see a tug/barge coming your way, they are going to hog the middle of the channel, meaning you must move to the side. Beware !!. If the ICW is at a curve when this encounter happens, be doubly aware.
There are many powerboats on the ICW. They are going to rock your brains out when they pass. Any glass or cup or drink is going to fall over when they pass.
If going offshore
makes you nervous, consider hiring a delivery captain
. These are pro's and do these trips all the time and they will have you safe and sound to wherever you want to go in no time and half the cost of an ICW trip.