America's Great Loop
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|How to cruise the Atlantic ICW - click next.
The Atlantic ICW - This leg of your voyage is 987 miles from the St Lucie Inlet to Norfolk, VA. From
Norfolk, it is another 279 miles to the mouth of the Hudson River for a total of 1,266 statute miles.
ICW waterway day markers and signs will mark the channel and point the way for an amazing, well
protected passage for all but very few and small sections of its entire length. Yes, you have to share it with
Tugs and Bugs and Barges, the Navy ships, (and at Kings' Bay) even a Submarine or two. In addition, you will
encounter Cruise Ships and all sorts of commercial fishing and shipping traffic. At times it will be hard to
remember that you are the intruder here, as the entire ICW is free to recreational boaters, while it is all those
commercial vessels pay their way (and ours).
Often referred to as "The Ditch", for Great Loopers and Snowbirds, this is our "Route 66". From St Lucie
Inlet to the Hudson river, you will discover some real cruising jewels along the way. By far, cruising the ICW is an
adventure. In some areas, just when it really starts to bore you, along comes another jewel that makes the entire
length of the ICW worth cruising all over again.
Safe boaters can rest assured however, that on your entire voyage around America's Great Loop, it is all
about safety. Experience doesn't matter, (none of us had it, until we did it). Simply being a safe boater is your
As long as you stay within the boundaries of the marked channel - it is surprisingly difficult to get into any
real trouble on the ICW. For the most part even if your boat sinks, it will be resting hard on the bottom before it
disappears under the water, as most of the ICW is very shallow. For a safe boater, probably the very worst that
can happen is running aground and suffering a lot of temporary embarrassment until the tide rises again - a
situation of which, most of us have experienced.
If you are worried about crossing that 73 mile stretch between Carribelle and Steinhatchie on the Gulf of
Mexico - don't be. Chances are by the time you get to the Gulf of Mexico, you will have cruised across Pamlico
Sound, Albemarle Sound, Chesapeake Bay, or the Great Lakes. So by the time you reach the Gulf, crossing it,
will be a piece of cake.
We all have our own experiences, we all have our best and worst parts of the ICW as well as the Great
Loop. So don't let what you've heard or read prevent you from going. Instead, go and discover your own best and
worst. Believe us. . . Even the worst part of the Great Loop is worth doing again just to see and experience the
best. It is our 'imagined' fear that always makes the wolf bigger than he really is. You are about to discover for
yourself, the ICW is a great place to cruise.
|The Atlanic ICW is a great place to learn all about safe boating. In addition to the sights and sounds,
there are plenty of waterfront restaurants and Marinas along the way. However, you have to make it all the way to
St. Augustine, FL., before you reach Hurricane Patties (next to the River's Edge Marina on the San Sebastian
river) which is our very favorite stop for eats on the entire Florida section of the ICW.
Some favorite stops include Hurricane Patties the Isle of Palms Marina, Wacca Wache Marina, Washington
City Docks, Okracoke, Lady's Island Bridge Marina, and Elizabeth City. These are all some of our favorite stops
on the Atlantic ICW. From Wacca Wache Marina, you can take your dinghy or rent a car and visit Pawley's Island.
There, you will find the Hammock Shop Village, an eclectic mix of specialty stores and restaurants, such as the
High Hammock Maverick Seaside Kitchen, which alone is worth the side-trip.
Point is. . . There are many little "jewels" like these that are hidden along your route around the Great Loop.
While we like to call your attention to the ones we find, the very best ones indeed will be the ones you find
on your own, and tell us about.
|In addition to commercial traffic, The ICW is used extensively by recreational boaters, so you will not be
alone on the ICW. On the east coast, some of the traffic in fall and spring is by snowbirds who regularly move
south in winter and north in summer. The waterway is also used when the ocean is too rough to travel on.
Numerous inlets connect the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico with the Intracoastal Waterway. The Intracoastal
Waterway from Fort Myers to Longboat Key is a favorite destination for visiting sailors and fishermen alike.
The waters from Fort Myers through Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor have to be one of the most
diverse boating and fishing locations anywhere in the world. Pine Island Sound is bounded on the west by
Sanibel, Captiva and North Captiva Islands. Hundreds of islands dot the Sound; redfish, snook, pompano and
speckled trout delight the patient angler. To the east, Pine Island's mangrove shorelines, tidal creeks and
oyster bars still resist the crush of development. Explore Matlacha, Pineland and Bokeelia for a taste of the real
Florida, where Calusa Indians farmed and fished 1,000 years ago.
Further north in Charlotte Harbor sits Cayo Costa State Park, a spectacular wild and scenic gulf coast
island accessible only by boat. Nature trails, safe harbors, cabins, tent sites, hiking and biking trails and miles of
deserted beaches make this a must-see location. The Intracoastal runs along the eastern shore of Cayo Costa
before heading inland at Boca Grande Pass, "Tarpon Capital of the World." At the southern end of this
section of the Intracoastal sailors pass through Card Sound before reaching Key Largo, the first island in the
famous Florida Keys chain. The largest of the Keys, Key Largo is famous for its diving and fishing. John
Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the nation's first underwater park, is the crown jewel of the area.
|What are your chances of getting lost?
Very Slim to Null . . .
With very few exceptions, it is almost impossible to get lost
anywhere on America's Great Loop. That's even without your
GPS. With your GPS - it has to be as impossible to do as winning
Day Markers (those red and green signs on the waterways
indicate channels. "ICW" day markers are the ones with the little
yellow stickers on top. These yellow stickers indicate the ICW
channel on both the Atlantic and Gulf ICW waterways for your
entire journey. Just follow the Day Markers with the small yellow
stickers on top. It is the yellow stickers that indicate that you are
indeed on the ICW.
Heading north when cruising the Loop in a counter
clockwise direction, just remember - keep the red markers on
your left or Port. Keep the green ones on your right or starboard.
An easy way to remember this is to remember both the Atlantic
and Gulf ICWs will take you south all the way to Texas. When
cruising the ICW - "Red right = return to Texas".
|The Atlantic ICW
is the Great Looper's "Route 66"
For "Loopers & Snowbirds" the Atlantic ICW
is simply an amazing voyage of interesting sights & sounds.
|- Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -
|Cruising the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway - "the ICW"
|Watch for the Yellow Stickers
Does your "reluctant spouse" have visions of the Titanic sinking when she thinks of cruising the Great Loop? If so, here's the deal. . .
You are more likely to "run aground" because waters are too shallow as a result of shoaling, silting and low tides than you are of sinking. On both the
Gulf and Atlantic Intracoastal Waterways, and especially along the New Jersey ICW - chances are if your vessel were to sink - it would rest on the
bottom long before it disappeared underneath it. Picture below is a rather common occurrence. It should be proof enough: 1. It's always a good idea to
go slow and almost never a good idea to go fast! 2. Why you might want a dinghy! 3. Why you should never cruise with "full fuel tanks" in areas known
for shallow waters and shoaling. 4. Why you always cruise on a 'rising tide'. 5. Why you never round Day Markers like they were down hill racing Ski
Poles. 6. Why you should get BoatUS or Sea//Tow Membership and towing/rescue insurance for the year(s) you cruise the Loop!
|Don't just get a good pair of binoculars.
Get a GREAT pair of binoculars.