Places to sail on
the USA East Coast /
IntraCoastal Waterway (ICW)

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This page updated: December 2004
(but I last cruised north of
Miami in 2002, so most of the
info dates from then)

General ICW
New England (and NJ and NY)
Delaware Bay
Chesapeake Bay
Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina

Note: I don't repeat information you can find on charts or in guidebooks. And I do focus on things that fit my cruising style: I anchor out, use libraries for internet, don't go to restaurants and bars.

General ICW

Sail Miami
Article by Tom Neale in May/June 2006 issue of PassageMaker magazine

From McRory's Logbook, about southern half of ICW:
Draft and mast height are the two primary constraints. A reasonable draft is five feet or less. Few boats drawing seven feet get by. All of the fixed bridges are 64 feet at high tide. We have talked to the owners of two boats that have 64-foot masts. They wait for the tides. ...

From Norfolk to Oriental the anchorages are dismal. Typically very small and shallow. [I disagree; near and in Elizabeth City and Belhaven are fine anchorages. Maybe he means on the Virginia Cut route ?] From the Oriental area down there are a lot more options. The anchoring bottoms are typically mud and soft mud. Georgia and Florida is soft mud and silt. South of Titusville, Florida, many communities do not like boats anchoring in "their backyard." ...

South from Long Island to Ft Lauderdale, from BobG on Cruising World message board:
... Sail down East River and stay outside until you reach Chesapeake Bay. There are places to stop for the night on this leg, if you don't want to sail around the clock. Staten Island, Sandy Hook, Shark River, Atlantic City ... there are more ... use a current guide.

Enter the Intracoastal WW at mile 0, Norfolk, VA. Make sure you have a recent guide to the Intracoastal that shows bridge opening schedule and fixed bridge locations and clearance. Your 65 ft mast height is marginal for fixed bridges, as 65 ft is the posted maximum clearance. I would try to go outside just before a fixed bridge and come back in after you pass the bridge.

Once you are past Beaufort NC or Morehead City, spend more time outside, ocean sailing ... it is generally faster. You can still come in for a good night's sleep. Don't attempt to move thru the ditch after dark. Once you reach the northern border of FL, stay outside during the day, as the number of bridges increases greatly as you go south in FL. If you try to stay inside all the way to Ft. Lauderdale you will lose much time.

If you prefer to stay at a marina for the night, call ahead for a reservation, but plan on getting there early.

There are places to anchor out, all the way down the ditch. The guides generally don't discuss them, but they are obvious on the chart. Stop each day before dark, if you are in the ditch. Obviously, if you are out in the ocean you can sail around the clock, if you have adequate crew.

Expect to go aground in the ditch. Everybody does. The bottom tends to shoal up near the inlets from the ocean. Mostly, the bottom is soft mud and not too difficult to get off, if you use your head. If you power off and stir up the bottom, which is unavoidable, check your salt water intake filter/trap, once you are free. They can get clogged with the muck you stir up.

If possible, leave plenty of time to enjoy the trip. There is lots to see and enjoy along the way. If you just rush thru on a tight schedule, it can get stressful and tiring.

Study the guides and charts in advance. Follow a daily plan and you will have a memorable trip.

South from Long Island to Ft Lauderdale, from Swamp on Cruising World message board:
Outside from Sandy Hook to Cape May. Don't stop overnight in Cape May; it sucks. Stay inside to Beaufort NC. Once you pass Locks at Great Bridge no tidal variation all wind-driven watch bridges they are close for 65' mast. My mast is 64'3". VHF whip always touches. Try route from Norfolk-Manteo-Ocracoke-Beaufort. 65' will clear under bridge between Manteo and Nags Head if 3rd horizontal stringer on bridge fenders clears water surface. No bridge problems from there to Beaufort, tide helps. Many of the bridges do not have gauges. Water skinny going into Manteo. Avoid Shallowbag Bay; it is aptly named.

The bridge on the Alligator River near Belhaven is iffy. I made it under but would never try it again.

Go out at Beaufort to Charlestown, Savannah, Jacksonville, St Augustine etc. Pick your poison.

[5 1/2 foot] Draft no problem. If you go aground and you probably will but so what.

From BobG on Cruising World message board,
Where the ICW makes sharp bends the silt that is carried along in the current gets hung up on the inside corners of bends, creating shallow spots.

When rounding a bend, stay to the outside to avoid the shoaling.

From B King on Cruising World message board,
Don't hug the buoys, stay a couple boat lengths away and don't cut them short. You must use charts as well as cruising guides, chartkit or NOAA, trust your headings and check the markers for the little yellow squares and triangles, I also used the Waterway Guide by Primedia. In 9 days I ran aground about as many times. Don't panic, just work your way off. It's best to have someone along. I did several days alone, have everything you would need for the day in the cockpit with you or you'll have to anchor for lunch or breaks.


... don't crowd the markers, the water is deepest about 2 boat lengths from the markers. Don't cut corners keep 2 boat lengths away. Do your headings the night before and trust them. Don't panic if you run aground, take your time and work your way off, I hit bottom at least 6 times and made two wrong turns. Should have followed my headings. Anchor out as much as possible, it's better than trying to get into marinas that have limited depth.

From Gary Elder:
While you consider this sort of coastal cruise, remember my friend who just came down the Intracoastal from NY [to Florida] ... He told me that he can remember at least 20 locations where the water was less than 4.7' deep.

From Mitch on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
Re: Heading south from New York in mid-November

Don't do it. It's too cold, you will have to wait for bad weather too much which will keep you too far north - always.

You can't really run at night in the ditch, so your daily travel will be limited to hull speed plus stops. Figure on 50 miles or so per day. The math won't work well.

You gotta get south of NC by late November, otherwise it is pretty cold and wet. It really doesn't get "nice" until you reach FLA. You may have an occasional nice day or two even up in MD, but when you're actually cruising, you can't make enough time on just those few nice days. Plus, you are probably so tired of pushing ahead in rain, that when a nice day comes, you want to kick back and soak it up or explore onland. It doesn't work that late in the year.

I know. I've done it. Bumped into a late hurricane which stirs up the great Atlantic low and shoots back cold air from the Arctic. We had snow on the decks sailing into Cape May, NJ in October! It can be done, but it ruins the trip.

From Tom O'Meara on The Live-Aboard List:
Atlantic ICW.

The Ditch. First off, we are rather glad we did it. Everyone should do this. Once. I have to say up front that we determined to "Do The Ditch, The Whole Ditch", from the very start, just because we had never done the whole thing before. If we had not been so single-minded, I would never have stayed at it. Meandering about in that gully is not my idea of cruising.

This is not to say we did not enjoy our stops. We did. When, and if, we go north again, we will plan some stops along the way to revisit some of the great places we found on the way down. It is just the interminable motoring through the maze of markers that seems so depressing. The scenery changed, the methodology of travel did not. I feel as if we had walked the whole way. I would rather have my teeth drilled than to repeat that route.

High points: Dismal Swamp Canal, Elizabeth City (be sure to have breakfast at Stalks), tiny little Oriental NC, Bucksport SC (You MUST STOP HERE and get some of the local country sausage and some Blenheim Ginger Ale. Do not miss this. Beautifully constructed new docks and Mr Weaver is a fine, welcoming host.), Charleston SC (Another great aquarium. Not on the scale of the National Aquarium in Baltimore but well worth a visit. Studying the Charleston architecture alone would take weeks.)

Low points: Beaufort NC. What a lousy tourist trap. This place is only good for inbound/outbound access to the Atlantic for running offshore. Stay away and save your money otherwise. [Someone else says: do not eat at The Charthouse or Clawsons.] St Simons Island GA. Ditto. Rip-off cab drivers want 20 bucks each way for a 5 minute ride into "town". We declined.

From Ed Schwerin on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
Go outside as soon as possible in southern Fla. Too many bridges and traffic and manatees. Remember that you are very near the Gulf Stream and winds from the North will cause short chop that is not comfortable. Fort Pierce is a good place to come in and rest, as is St. Augustine and Fernandina. There are many others, but I like those.

Georgia is a slow meander thru the marsh inside. Savannah and Charleston are good places to visit or come in to if you are outside. If it is hot in the summer, the bugs in the ditch are bad. If you are inside stop at Isle of Hope. SC is pretty in the ditch and I recommend coming inside at Southport, NC if you are outside. A good place to rest and saves time going around Cape Fear/Frying Pan shoals. You can stay in the ditch or go back out at Maisonboro Inlet (Wrightsville Beach). If you are outside come back in at Beaufort NC to avoid the Cape Lookout bar and Cape Hatteras (Grave Yard of the Atlantic). The Sounds are quicker and more comfy to Norfolk and then you are into the Chessey and that's a good place to stay, if it isn't winter.

From Chris on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
... downtown Hampton has great people at the public pier and good eating, drinking, entertainment just a block away. After April 22nd they'll start the Saturday night Block Party (free) with live music on the waterfront and downtown. ...

From John Reynolds on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
... There is also a good little anchorage just S of the Fort Pierce N Bridge. Don't anchor near the S bridge unless you want to be treated to the perfume of the sewage treatment plant with the prevailing E wind.

If you are looking for a little more seclusion head N of the N Bridge. About 1 1/2 nm N of the bridge you will see a small sign on the E side with markers for the channel into Queens Cove development. Just S of this marker is an island you can tuck in fairly close to it's W shore. On weekends you may see campers on shore of the islands as these are all State Park. Other than campers and fisherman you will be alone. If you have gone as far N as Harbor Branch Marin Institute you've gone too far N.

Another nice anchorage a few miles south is on the S side of the Jensen Beach bridge. As long as you don't get too far W near the shore there is plenty of water. Just tuck yourself in amongst the assortment of derelict vessels. There is a city park right there at shore to tie up your dinghy. Jensen beach has a bit more character within walking distance. There is a big Publix grocery easy walking distance and many shops and restaurants along shore. The main part of town is about 4 blocks S of the bridge. If you can find a place to tie up there it would be more convenient to dinghy there rather than beach your dinghy in the park. There is a big Boat Yard there along with bait and tackle shops so you should be able to find a spot. Sorry I left before I checked everything out. I will be back though. It looked like a fun place. A few good looking pubs right there.

At the risk of overcrowding a favorite spot, don't miss an overnight anchorage at Peck Lake. Basically it's a wide spot on the ICW just S of the St. Lucie Inlet. Beautiful little anchorage with a narrow strand of State Park beach between you and the Ocean. Wonderful long strand of beach that goes all the way to the inlet. Across the inlet from the point is some of the most expensive real estate in FL. If you want to walk an empty beach this is a pretty good spot. There are always a few sunbathers near the access point but walk a little ways and you'll be by yourself. Just on the W side of Peck Lake is a very fancy development that has a little store with limited supplies but ice. You'll see their little shuttle pontoon boat taking people back and forth to the beach.

From writeups by Mel Neale:
  • Best to run inlets at slack water or with a favorable tidal current, and with wind matching current. Long and/or narrow inlets are bad.
  • Gulf Stream is close to shore in east Florida, until north of Lake Worth inlet. But shoals there may force you well offshore.

From "US East Coast - Fort Lauderdale to New York" by Liza Copeland in 1/2001 issue of Blue Water Sailing magazine:
  • Coastal: In summer, prevailing winds are southwesterly. Often strong by day, calm at night.
  • Currents in ICW are tide-driven and can be quite strong, especially in Georgia and Carolinas.
  • Lower section of Miami-to-Norfolk stretch contains most bridges; 55 of 92 opening bridges are in southern 285 miles.
  • Deep water is found on outside of a bend.
  • Red markers are on west side, green on east side (most places).
  • Lots of convenience stores but few supermarkets; hard to get basic foods.

From article by Tom Neale in May/June 2006 issue of PassageMaker magazine:
  • ... in earlier days, we usually knew what to expect ahead of time. Today, every trip we take is like a roll of the dice. Channels are choked by shoaling. Many navigation aids either aren't there or are almost useless because of recent changes. (Bridge openings are restricted.) Some anchorages are no longer available. Tall condos tower over more and more marinas - marinas whose slips are no longer open to transients.

  • Some shoaling areas: near R32 in St Andrew Sound in Georgia, Jekyll Creek behind Jekyll Island in Georgia, many cuts between rivers south of Charleston and in Georgia (especially mile 518 north of Beaufort SC), at Sunset Beach Pontoon Bridge in NC, Lockwoods Folly Inlet Crossing in NC, New River Crossing in NC, and more.

  • Florida waters seem to be well maintained, but Georgia and SC's ICW (miles 552-713) aren't.

  • We're finding we have to wait for the tide more often each year.

  • Drawbridges continue to have more restricted opening schedules.

  • More and more localities are trying to regulate anchoring.

  • Every hurricane and major storm leaves sunken boats and underwater debris. When you enter any anchorage area recently ravaged by a storm - for example, Maule Lake in North Miami Beach, outside channel in Indian River FL, and in the Keys - do so very cautiously. (Also St Augustine, and Inlet Creek anchorage north of Charleston.)

From Grandma Rosalie on The Live-Aboard List:
Reasons for taking the ICW instead of going offshore:

1) Because the weather out at sea is nasty at that particular moment and you don't feel like waiting for the weather nor do you particularly want to get beat up.
1a) Or because there's no wind or the wind is in the wrong direction for the direction you want to go.

2) Because of not having enough crew to stand watches and not wanting to go without sleep or not be able to talk to/sleep with your companion.
2a) Because you like to anchor or go into a marina at night.

3) Because of hazards offshore like Cape Hatteras, Frying Pan Shoals, etc.

4) Because you don't have a sailboat and you have to motor [and refuel].
4a) Because you have a small motorboat and you can go under the bridges without asking them to open.
4b) Because you have a shallow draft vessel and so the shoally bits don't bother you.

5) Because there's nothing to see out there - boring. Some people like to go to marinas and go ashore and see the local sights and eat at the local restaurants. Some people can afford to do that - not everyone on a boat is cheap or poor. It is still cheaper than traveling by land.
5a) Because some people don't like to cook and want to eat out every night.

6) Because there's no place to hide in event bad weather comes up unexpectedly.

7) Because your boat is not equipped to generate its own power and you have to plug in to the grid fairly frequently - no genset, no solar panels, not much battery bank, and stuff that runs off 110 such as a microwave.

Reasons NOT to do the ICW:

1) Because you have a very deep draft or a very tall mast (over 64 feet).

2) Because you are in a hurry.

3) Because it stresses you out to deal with bridges, shoals and marinas.

4) Because you like solitude.

5) Because you don't like a particular section of the ICW, or there are things that you don't want to deal with there (like shoals, bridges, tides).

[6) Because you want to sail instead of motoring.]

From Robert Doty on The Live-Aboard List:
I live in Jacksonville, and often head down south ... I've gone both outside and inside ... all the way from Jax to Miami. The ICW through Palm Coast is really, really neat! Lots of things to see (golf courses, mansions, shacks, falling-apart marinas, water-front restaurants ... it seems to have just about everything!).

I will offer a word of caution about Mantanzas Inlet. This inlet is maybe 6-7 miles south of St. Augustine, and it is pure evil! ;-) The problem is that sand builds up and shifts constantly. You'll see that they have permanent dredging equipment there, and also temporary channel markers. You need to pay VERY close attention to those markers. The last time I went through, I was told to stay very close to the huge mountain of sand that the dredging equipment has piled up over the years. I could nearly touch the wall of sand from my cockpit, and yet we still bounced along the bottom (Candide draws 6 feet). Your best bet is to see if you can find another boat that's been through on the same day (maybe heading south). Radio them, and ask what the conditions are at the sand hill. They'll know what you're talking about.

From John Dunsmoor:
The plan usually is to head north by early April. The trip is quicker north than it is coming back since you can run outside most of the distance. The norm is to go from South Florida to Southport, run the ICW cutting off going around Cape Fear. Then outside again at Wrightsville Beach to Beaufort, once again cutting off Cape Hatteras. Then you run the ICW to Norfolk, up the Chesapeake to the C & D Canal, then the Delaware River ... This will be a cool trip.

Coming back the rule of thumb is to make Norfolk no later than Thanksgiving. It is a good rule, the last delivery I did from Annapolis we picked the boat up Christmas day and fought ice the entire way. We were actually frozen to the dock with five feet of snow on the deck at Wrightsville Beach. If it were not for the Red Dot store we would have abandoned the boat, but that's another story.

From Rick Kennerly on The Live-Aboard List:
> best (short) coastal legs from St Augustine FL to Norfolk ?

I'd go in at Charleston and again Morehead City, NC. From there, I'd rather run the ICW up to Norfolk than chance Cape Hatteras any day, unless, that is, you're committed to going way, way offshore.

If you didn't do the Dismal Swamp Canal on the way down, going in at Morehead City would be a good opportunity see it (assuming, of course, that the Dismal Swamp Canal is full and that it's open -- big assumptions this year with the drought and all, I'm afraid).

From Stefan Mochnacki on The Live-Aboard List:
Two years ago, Louise Shekter and I sailed her 29-footer offshore from Ft. Pierce to Beaufort/Morehead City NC. It was a delightful 4-day trip (we timed the weather right), as much as 120 miles offshore. We did it in mid-late May. For a single-hander, this is probably too much unless you've got that cat-nap cycle mastered. Incidentally, we received the VHF weather reports all the way out and didn't have to rely on the SSB receiver I brought along.

One lesson we learned: don't head out from an entrance into an on-shore wind with an ebbing tide. Nasty, nasty waves. And even with two or more aboard, you really do need a reliable autopilot.


After entering the ICW at Beaufort and resting, we did the Dismal Swamp route to Norfolk, VA. Another delightful experience (we've already discussed Elizabeth City). You can even sail quite a bit in the sounds, but beware the CRAB POTS! (Actually, even offshore the crab pots are a menace). Also, be prepared to slither through some mud if your keel is deep: parts of the Dismal Swamp Canal are silted up even with high water. The lockmasters are an interesting bunch, especially at the north end. I recall coffee and donuts; perhaps Louise will remind me who provided those. Don't try to rush too much; when we did it the bridge at Elizabeth City was under repair and was opened only once or twice a day. ... We took about four days to do Beaufort to Norfolk.

From Grandma Rosalie on The Live-Aboard List:
The Gulf Stream is various distances. It may be only a mile off Ft Lauderdale or Cape Hatteras, but it is 70 miles off GA.

Inlets - Do not recommend St Augustine without local knowledge. St Johns to St Marys is a good short hop, and St Mary's is a good inlet. St Mary's to St Simons is also good but is 39 miles outside and 34 inside and there are good anchorages north and south of the St Marys inlet and no particular reason to avoid this stretch IMHO.

St Simons to Hilton Head is shorter outside (85 miles), but there are no bridges, nor many marinas there inside. I have used neither inlet. I have used Brunswick and do not recommend it.

Hilton Head to Charleston is 93 miles outside, 82 miles inside. You could come in Port Royal Sound to Beaufort SC, but this is a long way in, and then it would be crazy to go back out to Charleston because the inlet points south.

These distances BTW are all out to the sea buoy, to the next sea buoy and then in. If the configuration makes it unnecessary to go all the way out to the sea buoy, the distance would be shorter.

Charleston to Georgetown is much farther outside (81 vs 56) due to the distance out from Charleston (14 miles).

Other possibles are Georgetown to Southport. We have done the stretch Lee mentioned, but in the other direction - out Little River and in Cape Fear. We did it faster than the ICW because the pontoon bridge was closed at low tide. We also didn't go to Southport, but stopped at Bald Head, which I would not recommend doing.

Cape Fear to Wrightsville is not feasible because you have to go such a long way around Frying Pan Shoals, but Masonboro to Morehead City should be a good bet.

There are 12 Class A inlets (the best all-weather inlets) between Norfolk and Miami. This is a list, with the number of miles one has to go out to reach water 10' deep.

Class A sm 204 Beaufort (3.45 sm)
Masonboro not a Class A inlet

Class A sm 308.6 Cape Fear (5.2 sm)
Little River not a Class A inlet. Have used both these.

Class A 409.5 Winyah Bay (11.5 sm) (Georgetown SC)

Class A 464.1 Charleston (5.75 sm)

Class A 549.0 Port Royal (11.5 sm)

Class A 576.0 Savannah River (12.65 sm)
St. Simons is not a Class A inlet.
Brunswick is not a class A inlet.

Class A 712.0 St Mary's River (4.8 sm) Have used this inlet and recommend it.

Class A 739.1 St John's River (5.8 sm)

St Augustine is not a class A inlet.

The others are Cape Canaveral, Ft Pierce, Lake Worth, Ft. Lauderdale, and Miami. I've used all these except Cape Canaveral.

From Jack Beale on The Live-Aboard List:
The Intracoastal from (say) Jupiter FL to south Miami is a hassle. If you're smart, you'll make that whole trip on the outside. All of the bridges (I believe) are not fixed, but the timing and the number will drive you nutz (I won't even mention the traffic).

From Norm on The Live-Aboard List:
Fernandina FL has the most rational dinghy dock fees. Free to enjoy the town for a few hours, a couple of bucks for overnight, a couple more to include the "facilities". The town is old with an interesting history and several fun pubs.
[From Grandma Rosalie: The Fernandina dinghy fees: Dinghy dockage is $2/day. Showers are $1.50/person. Garbage is 50 cents a bag ...]

We LOVE the quiet beauty of the upper Waccamaw in northern SC. Be sure to stop at Bucksport and say hello to Mr. Weaver. Stock up on some of his great breakfast sausage and Blenheim Ginger Ale (a proven seasickness cure).

We had a wonderful side trip last spring to Ocracoke Island, on the Outer Banks south of Hatteras. Stayed a week.

The cheapest fuel was in Norfolk, at the Portsmouth Boating Center. Discount for cash.

We bypass Beaufort NC. Hard for us to find a safe anchorage with our size and draft. Instead we stop at Swansboro and, contrary to some folk's experience, enjoy the Swansboro Yacht Club, a working class neighborhood bar that we dinghy up to just east of the commercial docks at the East end of the bridge (stay very close to the shore approaching the back porch). The current in the anchorage is strong but the bottom is excellent holding.

Beaufort SC was fun.

Charleston is a must stop. Check out the world's first submarine to sink an enemy vessel (it sunk itself too!). When they found it it's two little portholes were broken. I think they had no idea of underwater shock and were too close to the "torpedo" when they set if off with a 150 foot trip line. Although there was a ballast pump for surfacing, there was no dewatering pump (bilge pump).

Be careful transiting Georgia. It is illegal to live on a boat in the state of Georgia. We usually go offshore between Charleston and North Florida in good weather (either Fernandina, St Johns River or St Augustine), an overnight trip.

Recommended books:
ICW Chartbook Norfolk to Miami, by John and Leslie Kettlewell. (Just a chartbook, not a guide. I didn't buy it.)
Intracoastal Waterway Norfolk to Miami, by Jan and Bill Moeller. (I skimmed it and wasn't impressed.)
Waterway Guides. (I bought the mid-Atlantic one; too marina-oriented for me; covers from C&D canal to Georgia/Florida border; reprints chart fragments instead of what really would be useful: land maps.)
Several by Skipper Bob. I used his "Anchorages of ICW" guide every day; it's great !

Can get 17-cents/gallon tax rebate after buying fuel in VA: save receipt and file DMV form FT 216.

My experience singlehanding the ICW northward 6/2002:
I intended to go outside as much as possible, but ended up doing only Miami to Ft Lauderdale outside. The wind blew from the north the rest of the time I was in Florida. And after that, I realized that most inlets are so long that it would be a very tight squeeze to get out an inlet with slack or favorable tidal current, sail north to next inlet, and get in with slack or favorable tidal current. If anything went wrong, I'd end up singlehanding outside for longer than would be safe. And doing an overnight singlehanded would wipe me out for the next few days, for no net gain. So I did the rest of the trip completely inside.

I found that singlehanding generally was no problem, but I used my auto-pilot a lot. It allowed me to leave the helm for 30 seconds at a time (in appropriate places, with no traffic nearby) to make lunch or do the bathroom.

I intended to anchor out (no marinas), and I did that successfully. There were some spots in South and North Carolina where it was very hard to find any anchorage, and I anchored right at the edge of the ICW.

I motored or motor-sailed almost the entire way. In many cases, the wind was wrong or the channel too narrow to allow sailing. In other cases, since my boat is not a great sailer, I had a choice between sailing at 3-4 knots somewhat in the right direction, or motoring at 6 knots in exactly the right direction. I sailed a few times for the principle of it.

I tried to time the tidal currents in only a few places, mainly long segments in the Chesapeake Bay, and the segment through the C&D Canal and up the Delaware to Trenton NJ. In most other places, I was passing inlets and creeks (which changed the direction of the tidal current) so often that trying to time it was futile. Once or twice I stopped and anchored to wait out a particularly nasty adverse current. Often I extended my day's travel to take advantage of a favorable tidal current, or stopped early if I was fighting an adverse current. But sometimes to get to a decent anchorage, I had to fight a current for an hour or more.

Subscribe to Claiborne Young's "The Salty Southeast" quarterly free newsletter: send email containing just the word "subscribe". Heavily oriented towards marinas and restaurants, but has other information too.

From Norm on The Live-Aboard List:
Barefoot Landing just south of the infamous Rockpile. Dockage is free, there is a party atmosphere (or is it just me?) and a pretty good shopping center with restaurants, bars and live music where you can celebrate your safe passage through the Rockpile.

Bucksport SC is a delightful little stop in the middle of the most beautiful part of the ICW in the middle of a pristine game preserve. Stop there for the restaurant and be sure to buy a goodly supply of the great breakfast sausage at the little grocery store.

Georgetown is another pleasant stop with several restaurants and bars along the waterside boardwalk. Visit the "Yacht Club" bar, you have to ask, there is no sign. Check out the remains of the oldest commercial vessel in America. It is on the top floor of an art gallery near the clock tower. Also a nice touch is the community herb garden also near the clock tower.

Charleston is a popular historical city. Anchor in the Ashley River across from the City Marina. Dinghy in to the marina from the seaward side of the complex. Look for the other dinghies at the main dock to the shore. Walk south along the water to the Variety Store, really a reasturant/bar. Under the restaurant is a salty bar too. Ride the tram to the busy side of town where there is lots to see and do. There is a wonderful aquarium and the first successful Naval submarine, the Hunley. Well, sorta successful - it managed to kill more friendlies than enemies and managed to sink itself too! If you visit the sub, notice the broken portlights in the conning hatch. Notice that it had only 150 feet of line to trigger the mine it attached to the enemy ship. Notice the secondary explosion of the enemy ship's magazine. Notice that the sub had no bilge pump.

Beaufort SC is a sleepy town we love to visit. Anchor just south of the municipal marina and dinghy in. The bar to visit is Hemmingways in the basement of a bank building about 100 yards east of the dinghy dock. They serve a great lunch. Rhett's art gallery is always interesting.

Skip Georgia, there is nothing worth going there for. Go outside to Fernandina, FL. If you must, you can go up the Savannah River to visit Savannah. Tie up to the seawall for free, but put out plenty of fendering because big ships and tugs go by. There are many restaurants and shops right along the waterfront. BTW, there is a state law that makes it illegal to live on a boat in Georgia. Georgia Sucks, that's why the St. John's River flows north.

Fernandina FL is a nice town to visit. We always enjoy a day of two there. Anchor across the channel from the municipal marina. Anchor well away from the channel. A couple of years ago two men were run down by a barge and one killed because they dragged into the channel and had no anchor light.

It is one long day trip on the ICW to St. Augustine.

If you want to break it up you can stop in the St. John's River. We anchor just west of the north bank's ferry landing. It is out of the way of traffic. We then dinghy in to Singletons, an old seafood restaurant. Head toward the south bank's ferry landing. There is a modern restaurant just west of the ferry landing. We like the bar, and it has many interesting marine artifacts displayed, so we go there for drinks. But we like the atmosphere of the porch overhanging the water at Singletons, the next restaurant west. Tie the dink up to Singletons dock, eat there, then retire to the bar of the modern restaurant for after dinner drinks.

St Augustine is a favorite of ours and we have wintered there several years. Anchor north of the bridge. South of the bridge is more protected from the north winds but is crowded and with a foul bottom. Dinghy in to the City Marina, $5/day, cheaper by week or month, with laundry and showers. There is really no sailors bar, it is a touristy city, but the A1A Alehouse is a good start. The Giggling Gator is full of local boat characters because it is the closest to the boat yards along the San Sebastian River. You MUST visit Sailors Exchange, a treasure house of new and used boat stuff, about two blocks west of Route 1 on King St. Yellow vans, The Sunshine Bus, will carry you around the city for cheap, and as far north as The Avenues mall, a big two-decker mall with other big stores nearby. Favorite restaurants are: O'Steens - world class fried seafood - about a half mile east over the Bridge of Lions, and the Beachcomber - a bus or taxi ride out to A Street on the beach. And I mean ON the beach. The specialty here is a heaping tray of steamed oysters for $13. Visit the old Spanish fort and the lighthouse too.

Daytona has never shown us much. There is a West Marine on the water there but you have to be adventurous to get to it by dink.

A few miles south of Daytona, just north of Ponce Inlet, a there is a treasure. Bear left at the beginning of the man-made cut into the natural waterway and enjoy Inlet Harbor (live music), several other restaurants/bars, and the Ponce lighthouse by dinghy. Near the lighthouse is a wonderful character restaurant with a funky style we love for lunch.

New Smyrna is a pleasant stop. You can tie up to their park seawall just north of the high rise bridge and walk into town. Have lunch at the Sea Harvest, right on the waterfront just north of the seawall. Stroll into town. There was a little Irish bar that cooked chowders right in front of you while you sat at the bar. Fun.

We have always had a great time in Titisville. The folks at the marina there were wonderfully pleasant and helpful, even though we were just dinghying in. It may be our favorite marina. We always tried to buy something there just to thank them. There was a big restaurant/bar on the water just north of the marina to dinghy to where we danced and schmoozed and had a great time.

Do not stop in the Melbourne area. It is one of the most repulsive places we have ever been. Years ago we stopped there to visit the Kennedy Space Center and drive back to Jacksonville to pick up our mail. We rented a car and made arrangements with the Intracoastal Marina to take care of our dinghy. While we were putting our gear in the rental car we were informed by a cop, in no uncertain terms, that they had a "72 hour anchoring ordinance" and we had better be gone when the time was up. In addition, the marina did not have our dinghy in the water (they had stored it in a shed) on Sunday night like they promised they would. They did pay for our motel that night but we would have much preferred to have been home on our boat. Melbourne is a bad place. Do not stop at Melbourne.

We stopped once or twice at Ft Pierce, anchoring near the Coast Guard Station, the only place we felt we could anchor out of the traffic with enough depth and swinging room to accommodate us. And yes, we were harassed by the Coast Guard there. Apparently they thought they were so inept at driving their boats that they might run into us so they demanded we move to shallower place where it would be harder for them to hit us.

From Jim and Patti Clausen on Great-loop mailing list:
Diesel Fuel. The most we paid for fuel was in Palm Beach, even Grand Bahama was cheaper! We found the big-name marinas, like Hilton Head, and the "jump-off" marinas, such as Amelia Island, Fernandina Beach had high prices. Deals were in:
Palm Bay Fl on the ICW,
Just before Hilton Head on the ICW,
Ashleys @ Charleston, SC,
Myrtle Beach YC,
Conjock, NC always low
Norfolk VA
Tolcheaster, (MD) Marina,
Harbor View Marina, (Cape May, NJ)
Brielle, (NJ) Marina Basin

Our big finds for great food and wonderful people were:
Amelia Island, Fernandina Beach, Fl: Great walking town one block away, and great restaurant on the pier, and in town.
Ashleys in Charleston, SC: They will drive you all over town for free, the food store, to dinner, to west marine, wherever. Perhaps not the most exciting marina, but after the salt marshes, a real treat.
Barefoot Landing in SC: Over one hundred shops and food, free dockage.
Caspers, in Swansboro NC: Nice family-run Marina and cheap .90 a foot, great food one block away.
Ocean Marine in Norfolk, VA: a super service marina, they can do ANY job quick and reasonable, they do it all, courtesy car, cheep fuel, right in the middle of all the Navy Ships.
Schooner Island Marina in Wildwood NJ: on the NJICW, but VERY deep water, 12' all the way to this new marina, floating docks, and a short 8 block taxi to one of New Jersey's biggest boardwalks.


Gathered from "Chesapeake Bay Cruising Guide" by Tom Neale, "The Intracoastal Waterway" by Jan and Bill Moeller, "Go South Inside" by Carl D. Lane, my experience, and private sources:
  • 1077.0: Hollywood: Lake Maule.
  • 1071.0: to left if SB, right if NB.
  • 1070.4: to left if SB, right if NB, behind green "39".
  • 1064.5: Ft Lauderdale: Lake Sylvia, near marker "13": room for a dozen boats; 24-hour limit but not strictly enforced; empty spaces 5/2002; dinghy ashore to Lauderdale Marina (marker 27) or Bimini Cafe (marker 12 ?).
  • 1064.0: Ft Lauderdale: city mooring/anchorage SW of Las Olas blvd bridge; up to 30 days for $20/night; all moorings full 5/2002; anchor for ??? fee; not much space for anchoring; includes use of dinghy dock on north shore; dockmaster building is NE of bridge (no sign, doesn't respond to VHF, rates not on city web site); boat on mooring reported theft of money.
  • 1042.2: in circular manmade lake, to right if SB, left if NB, limited to 24 hours per week.
  • 1031.1: just S of Lantana Highway bridge, to right if SB, left if NB, $10 for 96 hours from local police.
  • 1006.2: in loop behind island, to left if SB, right if NB; limited to 96 hours in every 30 days.
  • 1001.5: to right if SB, left if NB, below Conch Bar.
  • 1001: marker 49, under bank west shore.
  • 998.0: anchorages on both sides for 2 miles, exposed to wakes.
  • 998: marker 40, under high bank west shore.
  • 992: marker 19, in pocket dredged out of Peck Lake.
  • 988: in Manatee Pocket, clear of midstream traffic.
  • 966.2: to left if SB, right if NB, 1.3 miles off ICW in Farber Cove; shoaling at bend; limited to 72 hours.
  • 958: marker 137, in creek under E side of island.
  • 945.7: dock at out-of-business fruit-packing plant.
  • 914.1: 1.4 miles in, anchorage off Eau Gallie Yacht Club, limited to 48 hours; supermarket.
  • 878.0: to right if SB, left if NB, space for 3 or 4 boats in north end of basin.
  • 845.5: in Sheephead Cut, enter from north, to left if SB, right if NB.
  • 843.5: 0.4 miles off ICW at USCG station; to left if SB, right if NB.
  • 840: marker 1, in 1-ft creek near Inlet Harbor.
  • 831.4: 2 miles of anchorages; best spot behind red "40", but enter behind red "44".
  • 809.2: to right if SB, left if NB, in unused channel to cement plant.
  • 807: marker 3, in old cut, 75 yards in.
  • 778.0: above bridge, to right if SB, left if NB.
  • 765.0: below Pine Island, to left if SB, right if NB.
  • 765: marker 25, in creek at Pine Island.
  • 736: in Horseshoe Creek, enter from S.
  • 735.0: betw "3" and "5" in Ft George River.
  • 726.1: to right if SB, left if NB, at entrance to Alligator Creek, 0.5 miles off ICW.
  • 725: junct of Alligator Cr and Amelia River.
  • 716.8: behind red "32".
  • ...
  • 710: off Dungeness shore.
  • 704: up Crooked River.
  • 660: maker 211, behind largest island.
  • 656: marker 202 behind marshy island, 28 feet deep.
  • 28.8: below red "42", to left if NB, right if SB. Avoid water-skier ramp.
  • 24.6: opposite marker "23", to right if SB, left if NB.
  • 0.3: off hospital (lots of wakes), to right if SB, left if NB.
  • Hampton/Norfolk: to left in NE corner of Willoughby Bay. junction with west branch of Elizabeth River: anchorage to left if SB, right if NB.
  • ...
  • Chesapeake City anchorage basin: shoals up; max draft 4 feet; 24 hour max stay. Enter on left side near Corps of Engineers dock.
  • ...
  • ...

From "Go South Inside" by Carl D. Lane (1977):
  • Albemarle Sound:
    Shallow and with big fetch to east, gets rough in even moderate wind.
    Try crossing at dawn or sundown.
    Anchor in North Landing River or Alligator River.

  • Up Cape Fear river to Wilmington NC: tour of battleship USS North Carolina (1977) ?

  • Beautiful: Waccamaw river south to Georgetown on Winyah Bay.
    Many anchorages on the river.

  • Georgetown on Winyah Bay: nasty paper mill and steel mill right in town, dirty harbor (1977).

From John Mason on The Live-Aboard List:
I think Lake Worth itself is the easiest Palm Beach anchorage. ...

The phone access was at the North end, up the creek. You beach your dinghy, lock it and the oars up, and walk to the supermarket across the street. ...

Lake Worth is badly polluted - don't swim in it even if you see others swimming there.

SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Cruiser-Friendly Towns On The East Coast"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Transiting the ICW, Part One"
"US East Coast - Fort Lauderdale to New York" by Liza Copeland in 1/2001 issue of Blue Water Sailing magazine.
Book: "Anchorages Along the Intracoastal Waterway" by Skipper Bob.
AngelFire's ICW anchorages

New England (and NJ and NY)

From letter from Lawrence and Maxine Bailey in 3/2002 issue of Seven Seas Cruising Association bulletin:
Many towns in MA, NH, ME, RI, CT have poor or no anchorage, and moorings cost anywhere from $20/night to $55/night (Nantucket).

From Robert Reib (Skipper Bob) on Great-loop mailing list:
Cape May is a great little waterfront town to visit with many restored Victorian Homes. Unfortunately the harbor is not the best place to anchor due to all the traffic and wakes. I recommend staying in a marina if you want to visit Cape May and use the public transportation to get around. Utsches Marina is close to town, provides protected slips and the staff there will work really hard to make your stay a pleasant one.

From Cape May north, you have to decide whether to go inside or outside up the New Jersey Coast. Inside is much more protected and you can travel in just about any weather. However, the NJ ICW is very shallow and twists and turns in route to Manasquan. 114 miles long some boaters love it and others hate the constant attention you have to pay to your navigation. Vessels are limited to no more than 25' in height and 4 1/2' of depth via the ICW. If you go inside you can visit Atlantic City and the casinos (or just throw your money in the water as you go by). The marina at the casino is very expensive ($4/ft), but there is a good anchorage across the waterway from the Atlantic City harbor.

Once you reach Barnegat Bay via the NJ ICW you will find many great places to anchor and small towns to visit. One final caution on the NJ ICW. I don't recommend traveling it on weekends or holidays if you can help it. When it comes to rating boaters for courtesy and understanding of passing on waterways, the NJ boaters rank among the worst in the United States. If you avoid the weekend traffic it is not too bad. Be advised that going outside will not help you avoid the rude NJ boaters. These same folks enjoy going out on the Atlantic and buzzing slow boats making their way up the coast. In general, avoid NJ on weekends and holidays if you can.

If you decide to make the run up the New Jersey coast outside, you will find it a rather easy trip on the ocean if you have good weather. The shoreline is relatively straight with few if any shoals along the entire coast until you reach Sandy Hook at the northern end. We routinely follow the 15' depth line all the way up the coast giving us a great view of the scenery on the beaches. For slow boats the 135 mile trip can be broken up into stops at Atlantic City and Manasquan with ease. There are several other inlets where boats with local knowledge can get in off the ocean, but I would not recommend any of them except Barnegat inlet. The Shark River inlet is crossed by a low bridge and can be a problem if you try to enter this inlet where there is a strong tidal current. For most of you going outside, stick to the Cape May, Atlantic City and Manasquan Inlets on the New Jersey coast.

Once you round Sandy Hook you have arrived at New York Harbor. If you have any money left be prepared to spend it all in your attempt to get up the Hudson River. Marina and fuel prices from New Jersey to the New York Canal System are the highest that you will encounter on the Great Circle Route. New York City is a wonderful place to visit, but it is strongly recommended that you do so from a marina. I do not recommend anchoring and leaving your vessel or dinghy unattended anywhere in the New York City area. You can stay across from NYC in New Jersey for $2.50 to $3/ft or right on Manhattan near the Battery for $4/ft. A short way up the river at 79th street, the 79th street marina provides mooring balls for $15/night with dinghy landing rights.

The Hudson River is tidal all the way to the Troy Federal Lock, 155 miles upriver. It flows at nearly 3 knots in the NYC area and is reduced to about 1-2 knots upstream. You definitely should take the tide into account and plan your departure from New York City about 2 hours after low tide (when the current switches). The first 50 miles of the Hudson River does not offer much in the way of stops or anchorages and it is best to plan on a full day the first day northbound. I won't give a lot of details on the Hudson River stops as they were covered in detail by a previous poster to this list. Suffice it to say that there are a lot of great places to visit along the beautiful and historic waterway.

From Robert Reib (Skipper Bob) on Great-loop mailing list:
The NJ Intracoastal Waterway is often misrepresented by those that have not cruised on it. The fact is that vessels drawing 5' regularly use this waterway. I have gone through many times with 3' 6" and always saw at least 5'. Last fall a vessel drawing 7' went through. With your vessel draft of 3' 6" you should have no problems at all. Just pay attention to the markers and honor them.

From Dennis Bruckel on Great-loop mailing list:
Harve de Grace has the cheapest fuel on the northern Chesapeake Bay to my knowledge. Better yet will be several places in Cape May if you can make it there, or slightly more north in Beach Haven NJ.

In any event leave Manasquan with all tanks full as you will be astounded to pay about 100% more as you proceed north, and it will not drop appreciably until south of Chicago. Cheapest fuel on the Erie is just west of Oneida Lake, Winter Harbor Marina, unless you arrange with a fuel distributor to deliver to a dock. Several will on request, particularly with several boats asking for fuel.

From Norm on The Live-Aboard List:
> A good stop and an easy place to trade crew
> is the 79th St Boat Basin on the
> upper west side of NYC. They have lots of
> moorings at only $15 per night.
> One of the few boating bargains to be
> found in NYC. Good security and easy
> access to the subway or cab to NY airports.

It is a wonderful stop, NYC is at your doorstep, but be aware that we had problems there with the moorings being too close together and our boat being struck by other boats.

At the direction of the dockmaster we moved to the "big boat" moorings south of the marina, but still at slack tide a large tri struck us damaging the woodwork on our transom. We tried anchoring a few yards further away from the shore, but the cops attacked us declaring that it was illegal to anchor. We gave up and moved to the NJ side of the Hudson, anchoring near the George Washington Bridge for the night. We left the New York area the next day and have not been back.

From Steve Weinstein on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
79th Street Marina here in NYC:

As far as I know, although this is Summer 2003 data, moorings at the marina are $35/night and they've got a great dinghy dock at the marina itself. The marina is located on the west side of Manhattan just a zot short of midtown and gives you instant access (you might have to walk a block or two) via public transportation (subways and buses) to the entire city.

From Peter Brown on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
At south side of Coney Island we found a truly delightful, well-protected refuge at "Sheepshead Bay" - come around Norton Point at west end of Coney Island, just South of Verazzano Bridge, proceed East along the beach, pick up red/green markers for the tight turn into Sheepshead, proceed well inside - one can anchor deep inside the Bay, all the way in to a pedestrian walkway-bridge, good holding in heavy mud, plenty of swinging room and depth about 15 to 20 ft or so - lots of room, maybe prevail on head-boat operators to use a wharf briefly to go shopping - everything needed is right there.

Delaware Bay

Lower Delaware Bay: from article by Angus Phillips in 10/2001 issue of Cruising World magazine:
"100-mile-long, murderously inhospitable waterway full of shoals, narrow shipping lanes, and nasty tides, with almost no place to shelter when the weather sours."

In lower section, lots of sandbars and shallow waters.

In lower section, tide floods for 5 hours and ebbs for 7 hours.

No anchorages on river in the 30 miles between C&D canal and Philadelphia.

Winds generally S in summer, but NW after cold fronts.

Philadelphia: Independence Seaport Museum at Penn's Landing. Ferry dock for ferry to Camden.

Camden: NJ State Aquarium, Camden Children's Garden. Tour of battleship New Jersey is very badly done; skip it.

Boatyards in Philadelphia/Trenton area,
from Roland Falkenstein:
About 12 miles north [of Philly] on the New Jersey side is Riverton [maybe should be Riverside] NJ. There are about 4-6 boatyards and marinas there. No problem with hauling, painting etc. I would recommend Riverside Marine ... not only for repairs but also parts ... they have a great machine shop too. They're the biggest and most reputable ... and knowledgeable. This is also the area where Cherubini is located though they don't build sailboats any more ... just powerboats but do refits.

If you decided you want to go there ... make sure you attempt to enter the cove at high tide ... sand bar covers the entrance at low. Also depending on mast height ... there is a train bridge you may have to call.
From Capt Fran:
There are a few in Essington that can do your boat but I don't know their names. That is south of Philadelphia. Farther up there is Riverside marina in Dredge harbor on the NJ side of north Philadelphia; they can handle you with ease. Then farther up is Three Seasons marina on the Neshaminy creek; this is where our 41 ft sailboat was just done. ... in Franklin cove just north of Bristol there is a marina if you are looking for a place to stop. They cannot haul you out there, but it is a good anchorage also if you are interested.

I didn't have a chart from north Philadelphia to Trenton, so here are my notes from 7/2002:
North from Philadelphia:
  • Channel depth is 35+ feet from Philadelphia to Trenton except as noted.
  • At N39.59.0, Conrail lift bridge (about 49 ft down; VHF 13).
  • Fixed bridge [Betsy Ross Bridge ?] (60+ ft) 100 yards north of Conrail bridge.
  • Public ramp on PA side. Looks like warehouse district.
  • At N40.00.7, fixed bridge [Tacony Palmyra ?] (61 ft).
  • Just north of bridge, lots of anchoring space, lots of boats moored. QCYC.
  • 5-10 miles, then:
  • Near N40.02.3, ramp and town on PA side, Dredge Harbor on NJ side.
  • 5-10 miles, then:
  • At N40.04.8, Burlington-Bristol bridge (62 ft at high tide), with power plant at SE corner.
  • Towns of Burlington NJ (looks like nice harbor) and Bristol PA.
  • At N40.07.0, Turnpike bridge (100+ ft).
  • On PA side, Edgely Boat Club ramp and docks.
  • On NJ side, at N40.07.4, ramp (Florence ?).
  • 5-10 miles, then:
  • At N40.10.5, Duck Island power plant on NJ side. Channel depth here is about 20 feet.
  • On NJ side, there is a low (maybe 30 feet ?) fixed bridge over Crosswicks Creek, to Bordentown NJ.
  • On NJ side, Capital Yacht Club (just a parking lot, trailer, two docks, some moored boats).
  • At N40.11.1, on NJ side, Mercer County boat ramp (parking, garbage, water hand pump, not much else). No stores etc within walking distance.
  • On NJ side, Trenton Marine Center (powerboat brokerage, marine store, service shop).
  • River shoals to about 12 feet at red and green markers just north of Trenton Marine Center, and probably to 6 feet at docks for baseball stadium 1/4 mile north of there. River becomes unnavigable (rapids) at low train bridge 1/4 mile further north.

Chesapeake Bay

Good book: "Cruising the Chesapeake: A Gunkholer's Guide" by William Shellenberger.

Gunkholing article by Tom Neale in 10/2001 issue of Cruising World magazine

Recommended book (I haven't read it):
"Guide to Cruising Chesapeake Bay", by Richard and Dixie Goertemille.

Some crab pots and fish traps, but not nearly as many as in the Florida Keys.
Very humid in July and August. Can be 95+ and humid in August.
Sea nettles (jellyfish) start in June at south end of Bay, get further north as summer progresses. Salt-water only.
Bird migrations in the fall (October).

Always carry PFD, bailer, whistle, anchor, registration in dinghy; MD marine police will stop you, and not having a PFD is an $85 fine.

From "Chesapeake Bay Cruising Guide" by Tom Neale:
  • Mid-July to Mid-Sept: many flat calms, very humid hot days and nights, violent thunderstorms with dangerous winds and lightning.
  • Thunderstorms usually come from SW, W or NW.
  • Cruising is great from early May to mid-June, and mid-Sept to early Nov.
  • N or S winds can build up nasty short steep choppy waves because of long fetch and shallow water.
  • Fishing: MD and VA require licenses. There are different licenses for freshwater and tidal water fishing.
  • Early destination: Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum at St. Michaels. Makes rest of cruise more meaningful. Lots of events: often Sat evening concerts, spring fest in mid-May, Bluegrass fest end of May, antique boat show end of June, small craft fest early Oct.

From north to south: From "US East Coast - Fort Lauderdale to New York" by Liza Copeland in 1/2001 issue of Blue Water Sailing magazine:
  • Charted depths are not reliable.
  • Have to keep sharp lookout for commercial traffic, fishing, crab traps, recreational boats.

Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina

From north to south:


From north to south: