Managing Marinas on the ICW
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 surfline.com) 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.