Those of you who go up and down the east coast: ICW or offshore? Why?

I hope we get some interesting opinions here.

My preference is offshore for a number of reasons – a big one being that we have a 7’ draft. In ’06 we traveled the ICW from Norfolk to Lake Worth. It was interesting and I’m glad we did it but I don’t ever want to do it again. These days we use the ditch only between Norfolk and Morehead City because we want to avoid Cape Hatteras. But I think that with a good weather window I’d rather be outside for that area too.

I don’t like the bridges; I don’t like the few jerks who love to wake sailboats; I don’t like the short travel days in the fall; and I don’t like hitting bottom.

I like being able to go from Morehead City to Charleston in one overnight passage. I like being on the ocean.

So what’s your preference????


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I would have to agree with you Mary. I prefer the ocean for all the reasons you mention. I just got back from Cruising the upper Florida keys and my depth alarm never had a break. I saw anywhere from 1/2 to 2 feet under the keel most of the way. I only draw 4'11". I was single handling the boat. Beside the water depth problem there is also the massive amounts of lobster/crab pot problem. The trappers have no ethics in laying their traps in the middle of the ICW channel.
We also go outside at Beaufort, NC and head in at Charleston. From there we head back out and come back inside at Cumberland Island, Ga. We're in Oriental now getting ready to leave.

s/v Veranda
In July 08 I crewed on a m/v from Sarasota, fl. down the Gulf and cut into the keys in Fl. bay crossing in Islamaroda a breeze once around that cut... to Ft Laud. From Ft. Laud. all the way up to Norfolk, Va. we were poodling the ditch (ICW). Reason, 2 words... Planing Hull. Need I say more ;) don't tell my sailing buds, lol.

Since the Carver 466 was not an outside bote we had no choise but slooow going inside and no wake zones that cont. for hours. We had a nice cruise and lots of sight seeing that otherwise would have never been caught. You know, the brighter side to it. Waterway guide had the bridges # and not too bad dealling with them. PLANNING...

In Ga. I would be at the helm steering myself for 5 hours at a time as it snakes along will constant 2-10 degree port/stard. Sandy shifting!!! Charts on Navionics are nice but not with sand shifts!!! 3 places we would have crunched rocks in Va. or bottomed the sand in Ga. if ya stuck to electronics and not a good eye and sea sence... Depth alarm should had blown up from all the noise it made ;) Then there's the submerged logs before Great Bridge and this summer's brush fire in Dismal Swamp, eek (We did the out pass not the Va. cut in order to hang over at the AYB, love that boat yard!

As you may know, it's shorter inside for a portion of the SC waterway so that is maybe a reason some go in there besides it's Cape Fear challenge...

We brought her all the way to Ann. MD. and over to Stevensville,Md. where the owner will now buy a S/V!
We go in and out. At least we used to. Got a bit tired of the trip so now we keep a boat in Florida. In the fall the weather is quite iffy so rather than wait a week or so we used to go down the ditch to the next good inlet. Coming home it's a bit better. We try to skip Georgia usually going from Charleston to Fernandina (St. Mary's River) on the way south and vice versa on the way north. We never went outside before Beaufort, NC. to get past Hatteras. I really don't mind the ditch that much, there's lots of good anchorages. Our favourite is Cumberland Island. But I must say it's a lot easier outside, put her on autopilot and sail.
Havent done it myself but I read a travel essay once..."An Embarassment of Mangoes" where the authors went down the ICW from Canada into the Bahamas with a 40ft+ boat and had some snags on the way, narrow passages, sand bars, trappers, etc. If your comfortable on the Atlantic and would prefer it then go for it. Although I myself hope to travel down the ICW someday, supposed to be one of the most...beautiful...sails in the US. Maybe give the book a read before you go.
I second your recommendation of "An Embarrassment of Mangoes". They had a wonderful trip. And everyone tells me that the Dismal Swamp route is great, but our draft means that we use the Virginia cut. I think I might like the ICW better on a trawler or at least a shoal-draft sailboat.
I brought a Farr 40 sailboat up the ICW from Florida all the way to Norfolk VA via the Dismal Swamp in August this year. Out to sea were headwinds and thunderstorms all the way. The yacht draws 6ft 6" and we were scraping bottom a LOT. Even got stuck in the mud a few times - once had to be pulled off a sandbank. But it was a great experience which I wouldn't repeat unless on a shallow draft powerboat.
There's a lot more water in the Virginia Cut than the Dismal Swamp although a strong norther will blow some of that out.
Anytime we have adequate crew for 24/7 sailing, we go offshore. We've been "outside" from Cape Cod to the Keys, the Keys to Galveston, Galveston to Brownsville, Galveston to New Orleans and more. We've only been in the ICW from Galveston to Brownsville - takes way to long, as do most ICW trips.
I just find the ICW too stressful. Always looking for beacons and daymarks, always looking at the depth sounder, always looking for traffic. Meeting a barge in a narrow cut is no fun. Rude power boaters create wakes and laugh about it. Sailing is rarely possible. I will avoid the ICW whenever possible. Head for open water and set the windvane or autopilot, turn off the engine and enjoy life.
I will admit that going outside means you will miss a lot of what there is to see along the ICW--Georgetown, SC, Beaufort SC and NC, McClellanville, SC, New Teakettle Creek anchorage, Southport, NC, Bucksport, SC, Cumberland Island and many more.
As we have been going up and down the coast for the last 7yrs, I do have have to admit that if you haven't done it then go ahead and make a nice easy trip. (Where In The Hell Is Coinjock - Captains Cut Prime Rib!!!!)

Durning the last 3 years it was taking 2 boats up (and back) in under 2 weeks (alot of work) One was a 100' Power Boat and the other was our floating home Tranquility. The Motor Boat we would try and stay offshore (weather permiting), but would go from Beaufort, NC to Norfolk through the ICW. Our boat due to the fact that we are right at 65' and the ICW is getting to have more shallow spots (corp of engineers have lost funding to maintain - but that is a whole different story) we go outside. The whole way from South FL to Long Island Sound non stop. We have done it in as little as 6.5 days and 8 days max (to date). We have also seen no wind and having the current take us backwards to Strong Gale Force Winds in Excess of 50kn (this current trip )
The hardest thing that we have found is the First Day out and the First Day back as your body gets adjusted to the watches then upon arriving waking up in the middle of the night as your body tells you to get up from watch. As we do the trip with just the 4 of us, My wife, myself, and our kids 5 & 6 (the don't stand a watch by themselfs yet, but give it another year and maybe Mummy and Daddy can have longer than 4 on 4 off)

All that being said I vote OFFSHORE!!!!
- No bridges
- No idiots with big wake
- No running aground (tell your insurance company "I MAY HAVE TOUCHED BOTTOM"
- Quicker
- Bigger Fish
- Better Sunsets
- Brighter Stars
- Less Bugs
- Run around Naked

This is just my thoughts, but if you havent done the ICW then Do it you will never regret it. Also if you do go offshore if you can make the time to make some stops as there are many wonderful places to see and lots of history to be learned.

This long reply is due to the fact that I am currently on watch (Comming from the Start of the Caribbean 1500 and making way to the St. Pete Boat Show) and about 1.5 hrs out of Key West on the OUTSIDE!!!!!!

Happy Sailing!!!!


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