Sunday, September 1, 2019

2019 ICW Cruising Guide Overview

(One of the hardest things I've found out in writing a book is in getting reviews. Please consider writing a review if you can at Amazon Reviews. Just a paragraph will do nicely, thanks.)

We are all getting along in years. When I had this photo taken by my daughter in law, I asked Ann if she liked the photo and she said it was the best that could be done with the subject matter. Oh well. It will have to do.

I’m trying to ease the way south so you don’t have to repeat all the mistakes I’ve already made in my eight trips from New York to Key West. I’ve learned that most mishaps are avoidable and if so, why repeat them? It’s really not fun to run aground and wait for rescue from BoatUS or SeaTow, there’s no need. After nine years on the ICW, you learn what allows you to have more time to enjoy the sunsets. Why not? A cruise ought to be fun, so looking over what we discovered the hard way sounds like a better strategy, and that leads us to the guide.

The 2019 ICW Cruising Guide is organized into two parts:
- Chapters 1 – 7: Covers what we’ve learned while cruising the ICW that you may find helpful. It covers getting your house and boat ready for the trip south and your affairs in order for a long stay away from home along with an overview of basic ICW knowledge needed for the trip south and additional topics in the ICW University chapter.
- Chapter 8: Provides charts of shoaling areas by mile marker and how to avoid going aground. Also included are the anchorages and marinas we’ve found conveniently spaced for traveling south. Not every marina or every anchorage is covered since there are many other books for that, most notably, the Waterway Guide series. I wanted to focus on the places I found the most convenient and in the case of anchorages, those that have shore access for pet relief and are spaced at convenient stopping points.

So, what’s new for the 2019 edition? Of course, all the hazards have been updated per my passage through them in April and May of 2019. The charts now include the USACE survey of the shallow areas as displayed in Aqua Map Master where available. It has been a great year for the new guy on the block, Aqua Map. Including the USACE survey charts has given the mariner an increased level of confidence in navigating the shallows of the ICW. Your first investment should be to purchase Aqua Map Master if you haven’t already done so. It’s only $25 for forever charts and $10/year for USACE updates. It’s a bargain that can’t be beaten. Examples of what you can see with Aqua Map Master will be apparent when you flip through the hazard guidance in Chapter 8. I’ll have more to say on the app in the body of the guide.

It has also been a great year for dredging! The list of sites dredged since last year is impressive and includes Ponce de Leon, Jekyll Creek, Sawpit Creek, Ashepoo-Coosaw Cutoff, Fenwick Cut, Watts Cut, Dawho River, Johns Island, Isle of Palms, parts of McClellanville, Shallotte, Lockwoods Folly, and Browns Inlet. Other sites due to be dredged this summer include Fields Cut, Hell Gate, and parts of Butterfield Sound. All of this activity will be covered in the guide. One may ask, with all the dredging, why do you even need a guide? Well, it turns out that even though Ashepoo-Coosaw Cutoff was dredged to 11 feet, it is already shoaling in, down to 4.5 MLLW in spots! Other areas are also shoaling in but not to the same degree. It’s good to know where the shallows are.

The Call of the ICW and the Cruising Lifestyle

As you travel the ICW, you are immersed in the present. You’re looking at the charts, the boats coming towards you, the next shallow spot, that barge over there, that something in the water ahead (a log?). Time passes quickly. How far to the anchorage or marina? Can I make it in time before the storm comes? Will I make the bridge opening on top of the hour? There are lots of things to consider while underway on the ICW. The experience will anchor you in the present like almost nothing else. I find it exhilarating, perhaps you will too.

Ask yourself, why delay? You will never remember 10 years from now the reasons you didn’t start your ICW adventure this very year. A trip down the ICW is an experience of a lifetime. It's challenging, it's exciting, it'll test your mettle, and you'll see new things and meet new people. You will experience at least one heart-stopping moment a day! You will get more opportunities for such "excitement" spending nine months a year on a boat, especially cruising the shallows of the ICW. There is nothing like resting in a peaceful anchorage at the end of a long day, wine in hand, and watching a sunset like the one above in a secluded anchorage – immersed in the present.

So, relax, sit back, and plan ahead but first let’s get acquainted. Ann is an artist. She paints in watercolors and in pastels. Most recently, she paints scenes from our ICW travels and while we're in Key West. Her pastel at left is a scene from the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. Her paintings can be seen at Pastels by Ann.

As for myself, I worked 38 years for IBM as a senior engineering manager before retiring in 2002 when we bought our third boat, Fleetwing, a 42 ft Beneteau 423 sailboat. I post regularly on Waterway Guide with the handle Bob423. I like to have all the latest stuff in electronics and computers, which I'll go through later in the guide. I am also the Forum Owner of the Beneteau 423 Yahoo Group site with over a thousand members worldwide. You can join that group too but you must have a Yahoo account.

In 2018, I joined the staff of Waterway Guide as an On-The-Water Cruising Editor where I periodically write articles for publication and update the Waterway Guide Alerts for the areas where I cruise, which includes the ICW from New York to Key West and Long Island Sound.
More recently, I started a Facebook group, ICW Cruising Guide by Bob423, devoted exclusively to the Atlantic ICW which currently has 5700 members who post their real-time experiences as they proceed along. I’ll post updates as they become available from many sources. It has become the go-to place for the latest Atlantic ICW status. I also maintain all the Waterway Guide alerts for each of the shallow areas and they will have the current guidance on passing through them without incident. Be sure to join the Facebook group, just google the name underlined above.

Thank you for buying the guide. If you chose the hardcopy version then the eBook version is free on It's the one with all the links, which will be active on the Kindle, the Kindle on PC, or the iPad Kindle app. I will also post the links ordered by page number in the Cruising Tips section of my blog at so you don't have to google anything if you just have the book version. For that reason, I’ve left the links in blue and underlined so you can find them.

Please leave a review on All reviews are helpful to other boaters considering a trip down the ICW. Hoolie needs a few more friends along the way. We can’t wait to start enjoying those ICW sunsets again, why don’t you come along too?

Look for us as you cruise the ICW and stop by when you can. Hoolie will greet you and I’ll pour the wine. The time has come, as the walrus said, to talk of many things, of shoes- and ships, and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings...

“IN THE END… We only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.”
― Lewis Carroll

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Waterway Guide Cottage - our last day, end of blog for spring

Fleetwing on the hard, may she rest in peace for the summer!
We took the canvas off today and stored it all inside, carefully laid out so the glass wouldn't be wrinkled. It was hot in the full sun which served as a reminder of what it's like here during the summer months. We have the dehumidifier set up inside to cycle at 50% so we hope that's enough to keep the mildew at bay. We've never stored Fleetwing over the summer on the hard so it's a new experience for us.

Our stay in the cottage has been a godsend. The accommodations were first rate and the view can't be beat. We just like to sit on the porch and watch the goings and comings of the boats. I have one more major chore before launching Fleetwing in the fall and that's redoing the dinghy bottom. I have to get the dinghy bottom back to just fiberglass without any residue from the barnacles which is going to involve a chemical treatment to dissolve the calcium deposits left by the barnacles. That will probably be a very hot chore but we need a good bottom on the dinghy for the upcoming trip south in the fall.

Our view off the porch at our "cottage" which is more like a country house. What more to want?
We will be leaving for points north on Monday morning to reach our daughter in Pennsylvania at our halfway point. Then it's on to Lagrangeville the next day, our home for the summer. We have lots of things planned for the summer that includes having four of our grandkids over for three weeks, a week for everyone in Ocean City, NJ, a week for us on a road trip to Maine to explore old haunts, and trip back here to do the dinghy and then a final trip back here to splash Fleetwing and continue on to Key West which we missed dearly this year!

This is the last official blog for this season. There will be sporadic blogs on special events during the summer but not the daily blog like when we're cruising. This year, the blog will restart upon our return to Stingray Point Boat Works at the end of September and this time it will continue all the way to Key West! Wish up good luck!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Stingray Point - at the Watereay Guide cottage

Ed Tillett's boat, a "Trumpy" made boat. 
I decided to buy a dehumidifier for the boat for summer storage. I found one at the local hardware store and put it in Fleetwing at the "Continuous" setting, on all the time. One of the side effects is the heat from running t all the time. I checked it today and it was 91 inside the cabin when it was only 75 outside. Well, maybe I overdid it. I then set it on running only when the humidity was over 45. That's probably too low too but I've give it a try.

An inside view
We were invited to view the boat races from Ed Tillett's boat today so we went over around noon. He has a "Trumpy" 60-foot wooden boat. It is from a grand era that's no longer much on the water. However, it's elegance at its best, just a beautiful boat for enjoying what the water has to offer. Today,  it was races in small boats, very short but amply powered, great fun.

This was a "buy me" boat, it would go out and buy, "on the spot" oysters caught that day and store them in the hull below.  
We went back to Fleetwing to offload some more "vital" equipment for storage on land and all we have to do on Sunday is remove the dodger and bimini. Then it's off to New York for the next four months. I rented a SUV for the trip north and I've managed to cram it to the gills. I think that any size car you have will always be packed so there's room for nothing more.
We have a magnolia tree in the front yard at the cottage. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

Stingray Point Boat Works - Fleetwing is Airborne

Fleetwimg is airborne!
We did our last minute preparations on Fleetwing and the crew arrived right on time at 8:00 to lift Fleetwing out of the water and move her to the land home for the summer. At Poughkeepsie Yacht Club, we do all our own work including operating the travel lift for taking boats out of the water. it was really strange to stand aside and let someone else do all the work. I knew where the lifting straps had to go and how to position the boat stands but so did they. They were very professional and did a good job.

The cottage here from Waterway Guide is very nice!
If I count the docking fees and fuel costs as well as the fee for storing the boat on land at PYC, we actually came out ahead and it was much easier than trying to find a window to go north up the New Jersey coast at the end of May.

It overlooks the bay, we've enjoyed our stay!
Fleetwing will be here until the end of September when we will return for our trip south in the fall of 2019 but this time all the way to Key West. We really missed out two month stay there this year! We can't wait to to back!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Stingray Point Boat Works - ready to be hauled

We are ready for haulout Friday morning!
We had waited for a calm day to go north and today it arrived. We had a west wind, not a north wind, and it was less than on Wednesday. It was a fitting end to a cruise that mostly had good weather the entire trip from Titusville.

The travel lift dwarfs what we have at the Poughkeepsie Yacht Club
However,, it's a somewhat sad day. Our stay on Fleetwing is ending tomorrow morning when it's hauled and put up on land for the summer. When we're hauled at the Poughkeepsie Yacht Club, we are full participants but here, the yard does all the work. They provide the labor, the boat stands and any wood needed to level the boat. They also have water and electricity available. Best of all, the entire yard is surrounded by 60 ft high trees which provide an outstanding windbreak.

I like the protection provided by the tall trees
So our cruise is ending early this year. There's no trip down the Delaware, up the New Jersey coast, up the Hudson River - we're done Friday! From what we heard of northeast weather from our family still there, it's not been a warm spring. I think we made the right choice.

I'm part of Waterway Guide and they have a cottage here for use by their people and we get to use it while we're hauling Fleetwing and when we come down in the summer to work on it. We plan to launch the end of September and start down the ICW yet again but this time all the way to Key West!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Downtown Hampton Public Piers - at a dock

Things are looking up at Downtown Hampton Public Peirs, nearly full
Once you join their cruising club, you only pay $1/ft for dockage and get every fourth day free. There's a fee for joining the club that varies by length of your boat but it's still a good deal. We made use of their laundry facilities today which are not enough to satisfy demand. There was a line all day long. The dockmaster said they would be adding one washer and one dryer in the near future.

There's a free, 72-hour dock just beyond the bridge (too low for sailboats but fine for powerboats)
Fleetwing will come out of the water for the summer this coming Friday at Stingray Boat Works. We will store it on land while we're up north during the summer. It fits in well with their openings since they are full during the winter but not so much during the summer. We will launch Fleetwing in the fall, probably in late September for our trip south again on the ICW to Key West.

Another strangely colored  bird
Meanwhile, there are lots of things to do to get Fleetwing ready for the summer storage. We will be buying a dehumidifier to keep the interior dry and hopefully free of mold and mildew. We have a car rental reserved for the trip north.

Our night heron says hi again!
Thursday is predicted to be a good day for going north with winds out of the west that will die off in the afternoon. We will spend our last night on the boat then with a haulout scheduled for Friday morning.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Downtown Hampton Public Piers - at a dock

It's always impressive to pass by the naval yards at Norfolk
Somewhere north of the Alligator River, we passed into the northeast weather zone. It's windy, cold, no sun and we can no longer get by with just shorts and a polo shirt. We endured our sunless ride to Hampton and took a dock at Downtown Hampton Public Piers. We've come here for years. It's close to downtown with many restaurants and the Virginia Space Center which has an iMax. It has decent WiFi and a washer and dryer. They also feature a herb garden for cruisers to harvest.

A night heron guarding his territory
We were only going to stay one night but then the weather forecast changed which was followed by the Coast Guard issuing a small craft advisory. Now winds of 15 kts with gusts in the 20s out of the northwest are expected Wednesday morning. Guess which direction we need to go? If the forecast is the same in the morning, we'll just stay here another day and wait for better weather - and run the heater at night for warmth.

Meanwhile, we were invited out for a nice meal and get together with Gordon and Eta and friends. It's all part of the ICW experience, the friends you meet along the way, can't be beat.