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Old 04-03-2021, 05:58 PM   #1
City: Bay
Join Date: Sep 2020
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East Coast/ICW - Chesapeake and south


My wife and I currently live and boat on the Chesapeake. We don't plan to retire here however. Our plan is to retire out west in the Denver area but my dream is to keep a trawler somewhere on the east coast and spend winters working our way down to the Bahamas and then back up. I've never boated south along the East Coast though and the only people I've know who travel the ICW use it just as a way to get south, not as a destination in and of itself. I've also read some who visit the Bahamas regularly and say, although it's beautiful, it's a bit like ground hog day and I'm not sure we'd enjoy spending the winter there year after year for longer than a few weeks.

I grew up boating along the western shore of Michigan where you can spend months exploring all the great little boating towns along the coast. Is the ICW somewhat like this? I guess I'm asking, if we tired of the Bahamas, is the ICW itself interesting enough to enjoy spending the winters working down and then back up? I supposed we could work in the Keys but I understand Florida is getting harder to cruise though and liveaboard.

Anybody on the forum spend their winters doing something similar to this?

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Old 04-05-2021, 11:20 AM   #2
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City: Here and there
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There are reams written about cruising the ICW but the short answer is yes with a couple caveats.

You’ll want reliable heat as temps can dip below freezing and highs might be around 50 and frequently less. Of course that depends where along the coast you happen to be. Most of the time the water temp is warm enough to use reverse cycle A/C. We spend most winters in Charleston and we’re fine with those temps but many will complain and likely post that that’s too cold for them.

Beginning late fall cold fronts start coming down and will last for several days followed by a few mild days. High winds during passage of the fronts might impede your progress a little. Although largely protected, there are some exposed sounds and bays to traverse. Much of the spring migration starts heading north sometime in late March/April when weather begins to turn for the better. Some winters are milder than others, sometimes they are colder than usual.

Just off the top of my head, not including The Bay or Hampton Roads, I can think of at least 50 places down to Key West to stop for a day or two to explore. You can probably quadruple that depending on your interest in small out of the way places.

If you’re not interested in racing to Florida like many to get to warm weather there’s no reason you can’t do as you’d like and poke around heading one way then the other.

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Old 04-05-2021, 12:33 PM   #3
City: Bay
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Thanks for the info Porgy. The cool weather doesn't concern me...we'd actually prefer jeans and jackets vs 90+ heat and high humidity.

Good to hear there are some great spots to stop. Sounds like everybody's experience is different. We're happy with little towns that have a coffee shop and a local restaurant or two. What I want to avoid is an annual rush pushing through the ICW to get to the Bahamas because there's little to see on the ICW. The variety of a coupe months working up and down the East Coast, visiting little towns, and a month or two in the Bahamas, sounds great.
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Old 04-05-2021, 02:53 PM   #4
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Vessel Name: Changes in L'Attitudes
Vessel Model: 1999 Maxum 4100 SCA (not a trawler)
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IMHO the two best references for traveling the AICW are the Waterway Guide (pick the volume that matches your area) and the Bob423 AICW FaceBook group.
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Old 04-05-2021, 04:10 PM   #5
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Much like the Chesapeake )only is separated sections) there are many, many little towns to explore.

There are quite a few large rivers that you can explore for weeks or months depending how long your stops are. Many town are worth visiting several time over a decade so recycling them (and some become regulars for supplies or friends made) is common.

If the expression is you could explore the Chesapeake over a liketime of cruising and maybe not see every place.... the rest of the ICW, rivers, sounds and Keys would do the same.

Then there is the Gulf ICW and river systems you can explore over that way...going all the way to mountain lakes with great fall color before heading back south.
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Old 04-05-2021, 06:44 PM   #6
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City: Litchfield, Ct
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Many full time live aboard cruisers along the east coat go south in the winter and north in the summer, well duhhh!. They go as far south as Marathon in the Keys (Key West is too expensive) in the winter and up to Maine in the summer.

You don't have to go that far. Georgia is tolerable in the winter and the Chesapeake is tolerable in the summer.

The ICW that connects these N/S destinations is most assuredly not just a highway between the two. There are loads of interesting places to stop, spend a while and continue your trip along the ICW.

I have a good friend who did this for several years. His first leg down south was to Sanford, Fl at the navigable end of the St Johns River. That year he ended up in the Hudson near Albany and I took a trip with him further west half way across the Erie Canal.

The next winter he shortened his N/S legs and stopped in LI Sound in the summer and near Savannah in the winter. The next one after that he stayed in the Chesapeake for the summer.

My point is that there are lots of places to stop along the way and even stay for the summer or winter.

Your next to last sentence used that ugly word "work". Is that what you plan to do: work/cruise up and down the ICW. Can you take the time to do that from your work schedule? If you move to follow the spring or fall as they develop it will take 20-30 days of time each way, but can mostly be done on weekends to not interfere with work.

Have you thought about the communications that you will need in your work? Cellphone service can work, but totally reliable communications probably means an expensive satellite hookup.

Lots of open questions. But I can unequivocally say that the ICW is not just a way south, it is like a highway across the country with lots of interesting places to stop along the way.

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Old 04-06-2021, 09:03 PM   #7
City: Bay
Join Date: Sep 2020
Posts: 23
Good to hear the ICW is more than just a highway to get south. If we're going to make the trip year after year it'll be good to have some options along the way.

DavidM, by "work in the Keys" I meant plan a visit to the Keys into the itinerary. This is definitely not happening until retirement.
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Old 04-06-2021, 09:27 PM   #8
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I see that you used that dirty word in a different way than I assumed . Thanks for clearing that up.


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