Basic chart plotter or chart book will be fine for overall route planning and navigation
. Also Active Captain
, which has a tremendous amount of user entered/local knowledge content for the ICW.
For 90% of the trip you're going to be following markers, and here are a few tips, some of which you can probably cheat on given your shallower draft.
Stay about 40' off the markers, and make your turns wide and long. The ICW is dredged to accommodate commercial
traffic, and barges and tugs make wider sweeping turns. Hug a marker and make a hairpin turn around it at a dogleg and you'll be churning mud.
Be extra careful where the ICW meets other bodies of water
with respect to identifying and interpreting markers. That is where you'll find shoaling and the markers may have been moved. For example, where the ICW meets Albermarle Sound and then again entering the Alligator River (if you go that way) follow the markers, not the chart. Also keep an eye out for added shoal markers that will not be charted, and give them a wide berth.
Route planning is essentially making sure that you can get to a marina/anchorage before dark, and planning your fuel stops. If you have a significant air draft, another factor is timing your transit to synch with bridge openings so you're not waiting around. I adjust my speed so I arrive at the bridge shortly before it opens. Countless times I've had boats tear past me and disappear, only to catch up to them at the next bridge where they've been idling and waiting.
I personally think the eastern route is more scenic, and it avoids the tedium of of the long straight shot down the along the swamp.