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