If you speak with anyone who has made the trip down (or up) the ICW, they’ll tell you that it’s the trip of a lifetime. It is. I really do recommend it to everyone who boats. You’ll see sights and experience places that you never saw before, from the majestic quiet and beauty of the Waccamaw to the beach towns of Beaufort, Georgetown and Hilton Head.
You’ll meet people from every walk of life that share a common bond with you. Nowhere will you meet so many people who are so willing to share information and discuss events as you will on the ICW trip. You’ll also realize that almost every day is consumed with the weather and the tides. I doubt you’ll have a conversation during the whole trip that doesn’t broach those subjects. The Windy app, Marine Weather, and Tides Near Me, as well as others, will become your constant companions. Along with finding the best price for fuel. You’ll become the ‘master’ of the ‘slow pass’, both initiating and receiving. You’ll begin to cuss sport fisherman who want to rush by you and wake the crap out of your boat along with small boat fisherman who think they can anchor in the middle of the channel.
Oh, and ‘No Wake’ signs. (You have to become an expert on telling which ones are official and which ones were just put up by property owners). And bridges, OMG the bridges. What’s the clearance, when does it open, how long does that one stay open?
These become the topics of conversation. You get so engrained in these topics, that when you finally dock for a period of time, you go through withdrawals trying to have a normal conversation with someone.
I will warn you that the trip is not for the faint of heart. If you run inside, the trip is a constant battle of staying in a very narrow channel searching for the proper water depth. You can be in water two miles wide with a channel 60 feet wide, with 8 foot of water in the channel and 1 foot of water on the outside. “Water, water everywhere but only a narrow channel to stay inside of.” And things will go wrong, you have to come to grips with that. Bad fuel, lack of marina space to stay in, equipment breaking down, etc. You just have to stay calm and work the problem. If you run the ocean, it’s miles and miles of the same view.
So here’s to looking back a few weeks; we traveled over 1000 statute miles, 938 nautical miles to be exact. The trip took about 28 days and we were underway 19 of those. We traveled through 6 states, ran outside in the ocean two days, stayed in a marina 27 nights (four of those were free, thanks to Safe Harbor and some accommodating Dock Masters) and spent one night on a mooring ball.
- Traveled to Solomon’s Island MD. Uneventful and peaceful trip
- Hugh storm blew in overnight, trapped at the dock. 35 mph gusts and rain
- Left for Deltaville, 3 – 4 footers in the bay with a following sea
- Heading to Norfolk, 3-4 again, gray skies, lost auto pilot (first mechanical issue)
- Left for Coinjock, held up by Navy while they moved a submarine and then held up by a train over the railroad bridge. Fueled up at Top Rack Marina where we found a tear in the fill hose on the port side that allowed diesel fuel to leak into the bilge. Was able to get a long neck funnel to bypass the tear. Another repair job coming. Stuck in Coinjock, found out the Alligator Bride was broken and out of commission. Traffic backing up at Coinjock. They wanted us to double up. We said no and headed for Alligator Marina across the Albemarle.
- Alligator Marina, uneventful and small marina. Got a jump on the first bridge opening of the morning.
- Went to Belhaven (Dowry Creek). Next issue, bow thruster stuck in the “on” position. Did a couple circles in the harbor. Not my proudest moment.
- Beaufort SC, beautiful little town
- Stayed a second day to catch up on cleaning the boat and catch a breather.
- All marinas full had to stay at Swan Point. Pretty rustic boatyard. We both got stuck trying to get out.
- Southport Marina. No water and no electric, but it had a bar and restaurant. Ran hard aground outside Topsail Island, was close but I was able to get out.
- Georgetown another beautiful little town
- Stayed a second day to take the girls out for dinner. Ran outside in the ocean for the first time down to Charleston. Lost Hydraulic fluid in the Stabilizers. Found a leak on the starboard stabilizer.
- Charleston, wind gusting again, Robert blew a hole in his exhaust pipe. Rain and wind kept us pinned down for three days
- Charleston, looks like an opening in the weather tomorrow to move out.
- Port Royal, hydraulic leak on my main steering column shaft.
- Hilton Head, beautiful marina and Island. Visited the ocean, rode bikes and wanted to stay another day, but bad weather was coming in again. Left the next morning in a 25 kt crosswind.
- Thunderbolt in Georgia. Nice Marina. Left the next morning to run the ocean again.
- Ran down to Fernandina. Ocean run was a little choppy. Following sea developed late in the afternoon. Got stuck outside the channel by the Coast Guard while they escorted a submarine out of the harbor. (USNS Blackpowder)
- Finally made St Augustine. No room at the marina, had to hook a mooring ball. We were going to head into town the next day, but weather took a turn for the worse. Four more days of a hard blow expected. We got up early and made a run for Daytona to beat the wind. Lost the main generator, water pump went bad.
- Daytona, nice marina, bar and restaurant on site. Staff was super helpful. They let us stay on the face dock for five days while the wind blew. Storm hit us with 45 kt gusts on the last day.
- Daytona – rode bikes to explore town
- Daytona – rode bikes to dinner
- Daytona – stopped at Halifax Yacht club
- Daytona – stayed on boat all day – Winds & Rain
- Titusville, small break in the weather. Cyclone warning coming into Daytona so we left early with a weather break and headed for Titusville. They allowed us to tie up at the gas dock if we came in late and left early.
- Got up early and headed out for Vero. Wind picked up late in the day, another 25 kt crosswind to get into the marina. Tied up late in the afternoon.
So there you have it. It wasn’t the most relaxing smooth trip that some may have thought, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, especially the sunrises and sunsets.
Now that we are in Vero Beach, I’ve spent the past week trying to repair the boat and wash off all the salt from the trip. Oils and filters have been changed; most of the work has been caught back up. Still have to do repairs to the generator, on board water system and troubleshoot the auto pilot.
Get a boat they said, you’ll love it they said, it’s so relaxing they said…….Well God help me, I do love it. I wouldn’t trade it. Robin and I moved onto the boat in July, we’ve been together every day. Some of those days were a little more stressful than others, but she hasn’t thrown me overboard or left for home, so, it must be ok.
April Fools still has more adventures to come……..