Man­ag­ing Mari­nas on the ICW

Passage Maker - - @Rest -

There pre­mium. are If thousands you plan ahead of boats three mov­ing days, you dur­ing can the al­most fall mi­gra­tion. al­ways se­cure Ma­rina a ma­rina slips reser­va­tion. can be at a Mari­nas un­der­stand that there are many fac­tors that af­fect your progress. So if you can­not make your reser­va­tion, call early and let them know. They can usu­ally fill the space and will let you resched­ule. Just don’t for­get to call and be a “no show.” That makes the trip harder for all cruis­ers. A ma­rina stop gen­er­ally al­lows you to re­fuel, pump out, do laun­dry, and maybe even use the loaner car to re­pro­vi­sion. As most cruis­ers pull into the ma­rina around 3 p.m., this of­ten re­sults in a wait at the fuel dock or the pump-out sta­tion. Once in a slip you find that all the wash­ing ma­chines are filled and the loaner car is out. You will have to re­pro­vi­sion to­mor­row. Thus, a ma­rina stop be­comes a two-day stay. To cut your ma­rina bills in half, plan your ar­rival at the ma­rina for early in the day. The pre­vi­ous day’s tran­sients will be un­der­way and gone. The fuel dock will be open, the laun­dry ma­chines will be free, and the loaner car will be avail­able. You can get all your er­rands ac­com­plished in one day, have a nice din­ner ashore, and be un­der­way the next day hav­ing spent only one night at the ma­rina.

Tides and Cur­rents at Mari­nas

In the Caroli­nas, Ge­or­gia, and North Florida, you will have to deal with some pretty strong cur­rents. There is no shame in let­ting the ma­rina know that you are go­ing to wait for slack wa­ter to en­ter. A few years ago, we were en­ter­ing Charleston. Af­ter the ma­rina gave us our slip as­sign­ment, we felt that the cur­rents were too strong. We ad­vised the ma­rina that we would wait un­til slack, so we went off to spend a few hours ex­plor­ing the Cooper River. their statute mile dis­tance from ICW “Mile 0” in Portsmouth, Vir­ginia. A pop­u­lar re­source is Ac­tive Cap­tain, but there are times to read a print guide. Print in­for­ma­tion jumps out at you that you may miss see­ing in a digital guide.

Tides and Cur­rents

Your chart­plot­ter con­tains the NOAA data­base of the tides and cur­rents. Many pre­fer to ac­cess this in­for­ma­tion through a phone or tablet. There is ob­vi­ous ben­e­fit to know­ing when the tidal height will help you through a shal­low area. Less ob­vi­ous is the ben­e­fit from ac­cess to cur­rent flow data. There are sev­eral places where the cur­rent runs very strong, such as Cape Fear River (STM 300), El­liot Cut (STM 472) , and Pablo Creek (STM 743). There are times you just want to wait an hour or two to let the head cur­rent sub­side.


It is not enough to get up in the morn­ing and turn on the Weather Chan­nel to get the day’s weather. At the end of the day you will be 50 to 80 miles from where you started. Your weather re­view must in­cor­po­rate the pre­dic­tions for your des­ti­na­tion, too. If you are plan­ning to bump out and spend a day run­ning along the coast, there are sev­eral surfer sites (such as sur­ that are very good at pre­dict­ing wave height and di­rec­tion. This can be very handy in­for­ma­tion if you head out ex­pect­ing two-foot­ers from the north­east, but the ac­tual wave pat­tern is four feet from the south­east. You could have a long mis­er­able day with beam seas.


Whether you are look­ing for food, wa­ter, fuel, and/or a pump-out, you’ll find that ac­cess to th­ese ser­vices is nearly con­tin­u­ous. Plan your stop for ser­vices on a day when the con­di­tions, wind, weather, or tide is not in your fa­vor.

Mov­ing along the ICW, you can re­ally only plan ahead about three days. It means plan­ning for shoals and bridges at pre­dicted times. You must be aware of im­pend­ing weather hun­dreds of miles ahead. At­tempt­ing to plan fur­ther out be­comes prob­lem­atic due to the wide range of vari­able fac­tors. It is im­por­tant to al­ways keep look­ing down the course. How­ever, the miles you make to­day in­flu­ence your op­tions for to­mor­row, and to­mor­row’s des­ti­na­tion will af­fect the plan for the fol­low­ing day. So plan­ning more than a cou­ple days out is time wasted.

The ICW is book­ended by Vir­ginia and Florida, two states that are sim­ple to man­age. The charts and tides are pre­dictable and mod­er­ate. The charts are also ac­cu­rate: In Vir­ginia, the chan­nels and rivers and bays sel­dom change. The ICW adds nav­i­ga­tional chal­lenges grad­u­ally as you move into North Carolina, how­ever. The Caroli­nas and Ge­or­gia present cer­tain chal­lenges as th­ese wa­ter­ways are more dy­namic. With shoal­ing in chan­nels and new chan­nels be­ing scoured out, nav­i­ga­tion aids get moved and re­set. Strong cur­rents and big tidal swings cause is­sues even for the pru­dent nav­i­ga­tor. By the time you cross the St. Johns River (STM 740) you will have mas­tered the four-di­men­sional nav­i­ga­tional chal­lenges of the ICW.

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