Cruising the Gulf & Atlantic ICWs - day markers and signs will mark the channel and point the way for an amazing adventure along a
well protected passage for its entire length. On occasion, you will have to share it with Tugs and Bugs and Barges, Navy ships, and at Kings' Bay,
possibly even a Submarine. You will encounter Cruise Ships and more Shrimp boats than you can count, along with all sorts of crab fishermen and
commercial fishing vessels.
At times it will be hard to remember that we are the intruders here, as the entire ICW is free to recreational boaters. It is the commercial vessels
that pay their way (and ours). So, be nice to those guys and for sure, stay out of their way.
For Loopers, this is our "Route 66" from St Lucie Inlet all the way to the Erie Canal. Along the way, you will discover some really amazing things to
do and see. By far, cruising the ICW is an adventure. In some areas, just when it really starts to bore you, along comes another gem that makes the
entire length of the ICW worth cruising all over again.
Safe boaters can rest assured that your entire voyage around America's Great Loop, it is all about safety. Being a safe boater is your primary
As long as you stay within the boundaries of the marked channel - it is surprisingly difficult to get into any trouble on the ICW. For the most
part we have much more concern over running aground than sinking. While the 'controlled depth' is 9-feet on this waterway, many areas of the ICW
can be very shallow. Chances are, if your boat were to sink, it would be resting on the bottom before it could disappear under the water.
For a safe boater, the very worst that might happen is running aground. Many of us do. If you follow our suggestions however, the only damage will
be to your ego and not your vessel.
For those with concern over crossing that 76 mile stretch between Carrabelle to Steinhatchee across 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, Delaware Bay, and
the Great Lakes. By the time you reach the Gulf, that 76-mile crossing will be a piece of cake.
|What are your chances of getting lost?
|Watch for the Yellow Stickers
|Don't just get a good pair of binoculars.
Get a GREAT pair of binoculars.
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 -
your odds of getting lost on the Loop have to be near those of winning the Lottery.
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.
It is those little yellow stickers that indicate we are on the ICW. Both the Atlantic and Gulf ICW waterways for your entire journey have them. Just follow
the Day Markers with the small yellow stickers on top and you will know you are indeed on the ICW.
|For Loopers on the "Gulf" ICW miles start with EHL or East of Harvey Lock, just south of New Orleans, on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. Here,
the miles are also defined in terms of statute miles as opposed to nautical miles and are measured east and west of Harvey Lock. Harvey Lock is
mile 0 (zero) on the Gulf ICW just as Norfolk, VA mile 0 (zero) on the Atlantic ICW. While heavy barge traffic can be very stressful near the New
Orleans and Louisiana and East Texas portion of the Gulf ICW, once out of these areas, the Gulf ICW provides a good safe rather carefree voyage
all the way to Carrabelle, FL.
Cruising the Gulf ICW (especially in a sailboat or deep draft vessel) can be very stressful. (I am not holding back any punches here.) In some
areas the commercial traffic and narrow channel with shallow banks around New Orleans simply does not give a pleasure boater much time for
carefree boating in this area. Since the commercial traffic does NOT move out of your way... You must move out of theirs. At times, this may seem
difficult if not impossible to do - but it is - as long as you plan your voyage and always plan ahead for your escape from on coming or passing traffic.
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|The Waccamaw River is one of the most beautiful sections of the Atlantic ICW
|Mile Hammock Bay - a popular anchorage for Loopers, Snowbirds & the US Marines!
Loopers on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway - will be cruising counter-clockwise direction. In doing so, your Mile Markers will
countdown from Mile 966 at Ft. Pierce to Mile 0 in Norfolk. To this, we have the connecting miles of Chesapeake Bay, the C&D Canal, Delaware Bay,
the New Jersey ICW, NY Harbor and the Hudson River to complete our voyage up the entire East Coast from Ft. Pierce, Florida to Waterford, New
York. Waterford is the location of the Welcome Center of the NY State Canal System.
On our map we begin the voyage at Ft. Pierce, FL just 22-miles north of the junction of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and the St. Lucie Inlet
and junction with the Okeechobee Waterway because sooner or later, every Looper will cross this intersection. You can, of course, begin your voyage
at the nearest navigable connecting waterway near you.
The route north from Ft. Pierce to Norfolk continues from Norfolk and zig zags across Chesapeake Bay as it takes you to the nearest and most
direct ‘Looper Favorite’ destinations in the Chesapeake. Ending at the C&D Canal, you will then cruise 17-miles on the C&D canal and 55-miles out
the Delaware river to Cape May. From Cape May, it is 117-miles on the New Jersey Intracoastal Waterway to Manasquan Inlet where you will go
outside 46-miles into NY Harbor to the Hudson River. The Hudson river is 134-miles to the entrance of the New York State Canal System and
The official “NOAA Chart” statute mile distance from Ft. Pierce, FL to Waterford, NY is 1,563-miles. However, our route’s actual cruising distance is
1,879. The difference is the result of minor detours to our favorite destinations along the Atlantic ICW and zig-zagging our way to favorite destinations
across the Chesapeake Bay. Depending on any detours or side-trips you make, your distance on this portion of the Loop will be very close to 30% of
your total distance around America’s Great Loop.
Cruising the ICW can be a very social affair because you soon find you’re seeing the same boats at the end of the day. Loopers will be flying the
AGLCA Burgee. This is one of those places on the Great Loop where speed is not necessary or important. As a result, lift bridges, swing bridges with
hourly scheduled openings result in the ‘fast’ boats waiting the longest while the ‘slow’ boats get there in time for the opening, and they all pass
through together. The fast boats take off again until the next lift bridge, wait and the scenario repeats itself to the next bridge opening. This is why at
sunset, the Tortoise and the Hare find themselves in the same Marina or in the same anchorage. Whether you’re holed up in a snug anchorage or
tied in a marina you’ll discover most boaters will travel the same distance you do, as a normal day’s run generally averages about 50 miles per day.
Not only is this a result of speed limits, it is also a result of the average distance between the most convenient Marina facilities and safe anchorages.