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Old 02-01-2007, 04:13 PM   #1
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Default Michigan to Florida

I have a couple of questions about a trip from Michigan to Florida.

1. Other than the obvious reason of distance and time, what is the main advantage of using the NY canal system over the St. Lawrence Seaway?

2. Most of the reading I do on traveling down the East Coast includes extensive use of the ICW. Why isn't there more sailing in the Atlantic as opposed to motoring the ICW? Is the Gulf Stream that miserable... or isn't that the reason?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 02-01-2007, 09:36 PM   #2
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If you're sailing against the stream your bucking a 3 to 4 kt current. Not a lot of headway there.

If came out the St. Lawrence and you want to go outside you could go from somewhere on the NE coast (Providence RI maybe) to Bermuda and back in and miss the stream.
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Old 02-01-2007, 09:48 PM   #3
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Close to Chicago?

IF your draft allows it, you may want to go via the rivers? American Great Loop route.
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Old 02-01-2007, 10:08 PM   #4
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Duane2312;

There is no real reason to avoid the close coastal route when heading south along the east coast of the United States. Southbound it is wise to stay fairly close to shore to avoid the Gulf Stream, which can flow as fast as five knots in its center. In fact there is a weak but significant counter current flowing south between the Gulf Stream and the coast.

The changeable weather offshore, especially during the late fall or early winter (when most Snowbirds are migrating south) is the main reason many folks stick to the Intracoastal Waterway which is all within protected waters. South of Cape Hatteras, good, all weather inlets are sometimes many miles apart. Other inlets require local knowledge and/or be unsafe due to shoaling. No one wants to be caught in the Atlantic Ocean during a sudden winter gale and then attempt to enter a strange inlet; perhaps in the dark, perhaps looking for un-charted, un-lighted buoys in a howling Northeaster.

None-the-less, Many south bound yachts proceed in a combination of off-shore/ICW hops. If the weather forecast is good and weather systems appear stable many folks jump from inlet to inlet. Ocean day trips, as it were.

On the other hand, the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway is an interesting trip in itself. Personally, I thing the most interesting part of cruising is entering and leaving harbors, and when I'm within sight of land; there's more to see. Someone once said, "All oceans look the same from the middle." Face facts: Ocean cruising can be boring.

For a video preview of voyaging down the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, visit this site: (Disclosure: This is my website.)

http://www.snowbirders.net

There you will find, among other things, links to many other East Coast cruising websites.

As for the first part of your post ... I don't have any personal knowledge of the St. Lawrence River route except that no one I know has tried it. But people that I have talked to that have used the New York Canal System have not regretted it.

Good luck with your plans!
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Old 02-01-2007, 10:18 PM   #5
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I want to thank you guys... very informative.
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Old 02-01-2007, 11:52 PM   #6
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I think that some people make fun of the ICW, the "Ditch", in order to feel superior to those who choose to make their way south in it. I loved our trips, both the sailboat trip and the powerboat trip. For our powerboat trip, up and back down, I've a blog at http://www.sailblogs.com/member/mvmelon/

I would second KaptainKen's comments. We left Boston in SV Watermelon in 1986, came down through Long Island Sound, (you would miss that with the canals into the Hudson River). Sailed offshore past the NJ coast into the Delaware River and through the Cheseapeake & Delaware Canal into Chesapeake Bay - we spent a lot of time in the Chesapeake and loved it.

Second trip down in our MV Watermelon in 2006 we could go faster and chose to stay offshore down Delaware because it cuts many miles and two days off the trip. We still had to wait for favorable weather because the power boat isn't as sea kindly as our sailboat was.

We stayed on the ICW from Norfolk to south of Cape Hatteras (one of the worst places for sudden bad weather and more wrecks than most places), then went offshore for two days to Charleston, SC because bad weather descended on us and we decided to wait it out rather than sail through it. The Gulf Stream isn't that close to the coast here.

We made a big mistake in not checking the weather carefully enough when we left Charleston for Florida. it was wild and windy sail (in October) and had we been smarter we would have waited for better weather. However, no problems, just entering Mayport, FL (Jacksonville) at night which is safe but still anxiety-ridden for us then - relative newbies. I would do it again, just be more cautious about weather.

We stayed inside the ICW this trip with the power catamaran, but it was late, the weather was unseasonably nasty so early. the power cat is much faster than a sailboat motoring, but the last part of it was still a bit boring.

In a sailboat I would encourage you to sail as much of it as you can - the ICW is full of power boats roaring past with many shoal spots that cause a lot of anxiety. However, as KaptK said, going in and out, daysailing for chunks, can be a lot of fun. The people on the ICW are boater friendly and there's lots to see.

Fair winds,

Jeanne
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Old 02-02-2007, 03:26 AM   #7
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Thank You Jeanne... I have read your blog. I finished last week. It was through my finding "Cruiser's Log" that I found your stories. I find them very intreresting.

The reason I am asking these questions is I have never sailed. I hope to take the proper classes this coming summer. I am thinking I might be a little (LOT) self consious in all the boat traffic. I'm not all that relaxed in crowds and thought maybe any mistakes would be harder for someone else to see off shore. Childish, I know. I'm tryin to outgrow that.

I am still reading of your adventures on your site.

Thanks so much.
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Old 02-04-2007, 09:03 PM   #8
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Duane, I lost a lot of my bookmarks for various resources on the internet. Here's a nice resource for ocean currents, the

Gulf Stream in particular for you. http://oceancurrents.rsmas.miami.edu...c/florida.html

Notice that the Gulf Stream runs very close to Cape Hatteras. at a speed of up to 5 knots, it's one reason why I recommend that for the novice sailor that they get past Cape Fear and Cape Hatteras via the ICW before going offshore.
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Old 02-05-2007, 01:35 AM   #9
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Thank You! I'll check it out.
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