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Old 10-14-2020, 05:41 PM   #1
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Question ICW Massachusetts to Florida in winter months

So, I am looking at a boat currently located in Massachusetts. I will need to bring her down to Florida after purchase. Logistics and timelines dictate that I wouldn't be able to start down the ICW until end of December or mid January. Has anybody here made that run during the winter months? Is it even doable?

I'm not too concerned about the cold, because I figure I'll mostly drive from the pilothouse. (Although someone with real life experience might be able to correct any misconceptions I have about that idea.)

I'm also not too concerned about bad weather, because we will not have a set schedule. We plan to be conservative and only travel when the weather and waters are settled.

I'm somewhat concerned about availability of fuel along the way during that time of year. However, the boat should have about a 1000nm range. (800 nm to be safe). So I shouldn't need to re-fuel more than once if I start off fully fueled. Are there likely to be at least a few fuel depots open along the ICW at that time?

My main concern is with availability (or lack thereof) of transient dockage along the way. I really want to avoid anchoring out until I'm well south of the Mason-Dixon line. Is it realistic to expect there to be enough open marinas that could accommodate a 60-something footer all the way down the ICW during December, January and February?

A secondary concern is with the availability of marine services like diesel mechanics, haul-out facilities, etc. in the event we have a mishap along the way. Is it reasonable to expect that at least some marine yards will still be operating at that time of year?

Yes, in a perfect world, I would wait until late Spring to start the trek. I know that would be a much more comfortable time to travel. But comfort aside, I'm looking for input as to whether such a trip is even doable.

All input would be greatly appreciated.

Bob
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Old 10-14-2020, 05:53 PM   #2
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There are major marinas open throughout the winter as long as the they are not iced up. If it were me I would sit down with a laptop and use Active Captain or Waterway Guide to call the large ones along your route to ask if the fuel dock is open then.
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Old 10-14-2020, 06:19 PM   #3
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That is in the middle of the winter in the NE. But marinas will be open for fuel, docking and emergency service, so that will not be an issue.

I think you are minimizing creature comforts at least north of the M-D line. How are you going to keep your pilot house warm in near zero temps underway and how will you keep the boat warm at night?

Late December, early January can be rough. Are you prepared to wait out a NE even in a marina?

I would truck her, or wait until late March.

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Old 10-14-2020, 06:19 PM   #4
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Used to travel mid December from Cape May, NJ.

Getting to NJ will be the toughest. Weather is your biggest fie.

NJ to Morehead City, NC isn't too bad, plentry of transient space. Electric and fuel usually easy, pumpouts few and far between, water supply scarce in slips, some marinas have frost free spigot sp moving the boat and long hose runs are possible, not always convenient.

South of Morehead City things shape up even better, but all the way to Florida, hard freezes can make water sketchy, but all else is easy to come by. Restaurants are hit or miss till the Myrtle Beach area.



Marine services in major port areas are available, maybe not in some of the rural areas until the Carolinas....but wherever there are fishing fleets...services should be available.
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Old 10-14-2020, 06:25 PM   #5
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You have a generator on board?
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Old 10-14-2020, 06:54 PM   #6
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Fuel can likely be found wherever there is a fishing fleet. F the plan is to overnight each night you might want to contact marinas and plan your stops. Good luck
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Old 10-14-2020, 07:14 PM   #7
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There have been at least tow other threads on this subject over the past weeks, so check them out for other feedback.


You will need to plan ahead, because services will be reduced. I think fuel will be your least concern. Commercial boats operate year round, so fuel will be available. You just need to find it.


Marinas will be closed or have minimal services. Just check ahead. Dock power might be turned off too.



I think the biggest issue will be water. Around here, dock water is all turned off by about Nov 1st. If you have a water maker it won't be an issue. Otherwise you might find yourself stringing together a bunch of hoses to get water. I think this will require the most planning, assuming you are dependent on dock water.


And the point about heat is important. Do you at least have reverse cycle heat in the HVAC system? It can be quite cold that time of year.
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Old 10-14-2020, 09:09 PM   #8
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And the point about heat is important. Do you at least have reverse cycle heat in the HVAC system? It can be quite cold that time of year.
Reverse cycle heat begins to freeze up at OATs in the mid teens.

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Old 10-14-2020, 09:22 PM   #9
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Between the end of December and mid January is typically the coldest part of the winter up here. You could get lucky and have temps in the 40s every day or it could be zero every day and it’s much more likely to be closer to zero than 40 every day. Don’t know the range of the boat but you can definitely get fuel in Boston, New Bedford and Point Judith RI. Assume any non fishing fleet marina will be completely closed down.

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Old 10-15-2020, 02:28 AM   #10
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David, near zero temps in December are rare, in January they are infrequent. If, by chance, such temps were to occur, then that, to me, would be a weather event that requires staying in port. Heat is not a problem if berthed in a marina waiting for warmer temps. Just plug in a couple of ceramic or oil-filled radiators. That is what we do when wintering over near Annapolis when the reverse cycle heat stops working when the water temp dips below 40 degrees. I will say, however, that our boat seems to be a warm boat based on comments I have read from others about their heat requirements. Even in temps in the teens overnight we do not keep the heat on. And, no, we are not at all cold. Single digit temps? Yes, the heat is on but single digits here are very infrequent.
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That is in the middle of the winter in the NE. But marinas will be open for fuel, docking and emergency service, so that will not be an issue.

I think you are minimizing creature comforts at least north of the M-D line. How are you going to keep your pilot house warm in near zero temps underway and how will you keep the boat warm at night?

Late December, early January can be rough. Are you prepared to wait out a NE even in a marina?

I would truck her, or wait until late March.

David
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Old 10-15-2020, 02:44 AM   #11
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Outside air temps have nothing to do with the efficacy of reverse cycle heat. Water temps do and reverse cycle heat works with water temps down to about 40 degrees. Ours happen work down to 38 degrees. We have three units. They each do not produce the same amount of heat. Our bedroom unit will throw heat at about 35 degrees above ambient temperature while our main cabin a bit less than 20 degrees. Generally, we do not heat the boat after going to bed unless the outside temp dips down into the low teens. In the morning, room temps can be as low as fifty degrees. It takes about an hour to raise the temp to 70 degrees. No big deal. We brew a pot of coffee, turn on the news, and sip our brew while the boat heats up a bit. Last winter we were able to use the reverse cycle all winter long.

Twistedtree makes an excellent point about water availability. Our marina turns off the water supply around November15th. However, for the live aboards on our pier, the marina keeps hoses strung to a water source in a nearby building. We fill when needed which, for us, is about every three weeks. You will need to watch your consumption and refill at every opportunity until you get south of the Chesapeake.
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Reverse cycle heat begins to freeze up at OATs in the mid teens.

David
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Old 10-15-2020, 03:34 AM   #12
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Also, keep in mind that the ICW is fresh/brackish and wind-protected from the locks @MP12 Great Bridge to almost the state line 25 miles South. If the air is still & the temps drop to below freezing for a while, the waterway ices up. You might get lucky and find that some commercial traffic has passed through & broken a path or you might not. 1/4" -1/2" skim ice is rough on a hull. I've also been delayed for several hours @ the Centerville swing bridge waiting for the darn thing to defrost so it could open after a rain the previous night and the the temperature fell to below freezing. That was a perfect storm scenario, though.
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Old 10-15-2020, 06:19 AM   #13
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You did not mention what the vessel is. Considering the general consensus that moving a boat from Maine in November was not a great idea, I think you are considering an even worse idea, moving in December/January. I very much doubt you will find any marinas open for dockage, fuel or power for heating until you get way south. That means you will be forced to anchor out for probably 10-15 nights depending on your route. Also, you asked about the ICW. The ICW is basically only navigable below the Chesapeake unless you have a small vessel, in which case you would be taking even much greater risk. So, if you have a large vessel (50ft+), a strong crew with ice picks and snow shovels, and are prepared to stay on the vessel non-stop for upto two weeks or longer, depending on weather windows, then go for it!!
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Old 10-15-2020, 06:53 AM   #14
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Let me expand on my statement that reverse cycle heat pumps begin to freeze at OAT in the mid teens. First no one really measures water temps, but air temps are available on the news or on your own thermometer so that is what I used in the statement.

It isn't so much the actual water temperature although it takes temps in the 40s to freeze, because the freezing occurs inside the hull, often right at the thruhull seacock because the lower part of the bilge where that valve is located gets down to the 20s even though the cabin above is much warmer. So it takes low outside air temps combined with low water temps to allow the seacock to freeze up.

This happened on a friend's boat tied up in Oriental, NC when the OAT was 15-20. We used a hair dryer to thaw out the frozen sea cock which allowed the reverse cycle unit to come back on.

Also some reverse cycle units sense evaporator temps and shut down proactively before they freeze up.

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Old 10-15-2020, 07:08 AM   #15
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Commonly follow water temp to judge Gulf Stream. Many boats have temp as part of depth through hull sensor. Water temp may be higher outside than in the ditch. NOAA does publish chart to follow it. Personally wouldn’t do this without heat independent of reverse AC. Not fun. Put it on the hard and do it when pleasant. First long transit should be low stress and fun. Isn’t that why you bought her?
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Old 10-15-2020, 07:52 AM   #16
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Quote:
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Let me expand on my statement that reverse cycle heat pumps begin to freeze at OAT in the mid teens. First no one really measures water temps, but air temps are available on the news or on your own thermometer so that is what I used in the statement.

It isn't so much the actual water temperature although it takes temps in the 40s to freeze, because the freezing occurs inside the hull, often right at the thruhull seacock because the lower part of the bilge where that valve is located gets down to the 20s even though the cabin above is much warmer. So it takes low outside air temps combined with low water temps to allow the seacock to freeze up.

This happened on a friend's boat tied up in Oriental, NC when the OAT was 15-20. We used a hair dryer to thaw out the frozen sea cock which allowed the reverse cycle unit to come back on.

Also some reverse cycle units sense evaporator temps and shut down proactively before they freeze up.

David
David, you are making bold, absolute pronouncements that are not true for all boats, certainly not mine. The lower part of my bilge NEVER gets below freezing even when the outside temp has been in the single digits for several days. How do I know? I have lived it, three winters now going on the fourth.

As for low water temps, think about it for just a moment. Unless, one experiences water frozen to a depth of TWO feet, the water is less than the freezing point and even then the ice is 32 degrees (fresh water). My seacocks do not freeze up, the water in the bilge does not turn to ice, nor do I get any frost on any of the surfaces anywhere on the boat.

And, no one measures water temp? Really? I certainly do. It tells me when the time is approaching that the reverse cycle is going to quit. I just occasionally turn on the MFD which has a transducer in the system that quickly tells me the water temp four feet below the surface where my through hulls draw water from a sea chest.

And, my reverse cycle units DO NOT freeze with outside temps in the teens, not even in single digits. Freeze up of the units is dependent on WATER temp, not outside air temp. How do I know? Guess.

By the way, except to drain the water supply line spigot that supplies dock water and the supply line to the ice maker which is outside on the aft deck, I do not winterize the boat. If we are to be away from the boat for a week or so, I will put a ceramic heater in the engine that comes on at 40 degrees and turns off at 50 degrees. We have returned after 10 days over Christmas and New Years and never found the interior boat temp below 35 degrees never mind in the engine room that sits in a water bath of no less than 32 degrees.
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Old 10-15-2020, 07:58 AM   #17
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You did not mention what the vessel is. Considering the general consensus that moving a boat from Maine in November was not a great idea, I think you are considering an even worse idea, moving in December/January. I very much doubt you will find any marinas open for dockage, fuel or power for heating until you get way south. That means you will be forced to anchor out for probably 10-15 nights depending on your route. Also, you asked about the ICW. The ICW is basically only navigable below the Chesapeake unless you have a small vessel, in which case you would be taking even much greater risk. So, if you have a large vessel (50ft+), a strong crew with ice picks and snow shovels, and are prepared to stay on the vessel non-stop for upto two weeks or longer, depending on weather windows, then go for it!!

I never thought of my 70’ LOA boat as being a small vessel, but I’ll defer to an expert. Since we have successfully navigated the ICW from Norfolk to Miami three times in the past two years and are one day away from our fourth trip by definition we must be a small vessel, amirite?
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Old 10-15-2020, 08:29 AM   #18
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Woodland: I think you completely misread my posting!!!Chrisjs
What I was saying was that UNTIL you get to the Chesapeake (or more correctly, the Delaware Bay), the ICW is really only for small vessels.
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Old 10-15-2020, 08:46 AM   #19
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I don't agree that it's a "bad" idea to travel then. At least not categorically.


I just think you need to carefully think through and plan how you are going to:


1) get water


2) stay warm


3) Dock/anchor


4) Get fuel


I think these are all solvable problems, and depending on how the boat is equipped, not problems at all.
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Old 10-15-2020, 08:58 AM   #20
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Docking from Cape May, NJ to Fl ....I can pretty much guarantee is doable. Have done winter commercial operations in the Delray and Northern Chesapeake. Yes there are winters where ice could stop you dead for maybe weeks... but not common.

Water will be scarce till Norfolk or below, but research can find places where it can be had.

Fuel is easy if you have a 300 mile range once to Cape May too. Less could work, but sounds like no problem.

Heat for the boat is tricky. On sunny days, many power boats are liveable inside even when the Temps are in the 20s, but wind brings wind chill and freezing spray...both making the trip way too much work over pleasure. A generator, diesel heater and or bus heaters can make it not so bad. At night a dock or genset can make it bearable. But be prepared for survival if depending on the genset and it quits.

A gamble but good one...is if you can run 36 hours or so at 10 knots (easy for a 60 footer?). Get the weather window to run from NYC to Norfolk and things are easier but weather windows can be difficult to come by.

Again....doable does NOT mean advisable. Doable is in a well found, well equipped boat skippered by an experienced captain....advice would be don't do it if any of those three components aren't in the bag.
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