Cruising
America's Great Loop
::   The Atlantic IntraCoastal Waterway   ::
© 1993 - 2017 CaptainJohn.org
How to cruise the Atlantic ICW - click next.
The Atlantic ICW - This leg of your voyage is 987 miles from the St Lucie Inlet to Norfolk, VA. From Norfolk, it is
another 279 miles to the mouth of the Hudson River for a total of 1,266 miles.
Yes, you have to share it with Tugs and bugs and barges, the Navy ships, (and at Kings' Bay) even a submarine or two. In
addition, you will encounter Cruise Ships and all sorts of commercial fishing and shipping traffic. At times it will be hard to
remember that you are the   intruder here, as the entire ICW is free to recreational boaters, while it is all those commercial
vessels pay their way (and ours).
Often referred to as "The Ditch", from St Lucie Inlet to the Hudson river, you will discover some real cruising jewels along
the way. By far, cruising the ICW is an adventure. In some areas, just when it really starts to bore you, along comes another
jewel that makes the entire length of the ICW worth cruising all over again.
Safe boaters can rest assured however, that on your entire voyage around America's Great Loop, it is all about safety.
Experience doesn't matter, (none of us had it, until we did it). Simply being a safe boater is your primary concern.

If you are a safe boater, it is surprisingly difficult to get into any real trouble on the ICW. For the most part even if your
boat sinks, chances are it will be resting hard on the bottom before it disappears under the water, as most of the ICW is very
shallow. For a safe boater, probably the very worst that can happen is suffering a little grief, and a lot of temporary
embarrassment. To which, we've all been there and experienced that.
If you are worried about crossing that 73 mile (8 hour) stretch between Carribelle and Steinhatchie on the Gulf of Mexico -
don't be. By the time you get to the Gulf of Mexico, you will have cruised across Pamlico Sound, Albemarle Sound, and
Chesapeake Bay. You also (most likely, depending on where you start your Loop) will have made that 'outside' 20 mile
passage from the end of the New Jersey ICW to Sandy Hook and New York Harbor.  

We all have our own experiences, we all have our best and worst parts of the ICW as well as the Great Loop. So don't let
what you've heard or read prevent you from going. Instead, go and discover your own bests and worst. Believe us. . . Even
the worst part of the Great Loop is worth doing again. It is our 'imagined' fear that always makes the wolf bigger than he
really is.

FYI - You are about to discover for yourself, the ICW is a great place to cruise. Thousands of boaters cruise this waterway
annually. You (for sure) won't be alone cruising the ICW.
The Atlantic ICW is a gauntlet of big colorful homes and bigger colorful homes. There are plenty of waterfront restaurants and Marinas along the
way. However, you have to make it all the way to St. Augustine, FL., before you reach
Hurricane Patties (next to the River's Edge Marina on the San
Sebastian river) which is our very favorite stop for eats on the entire Florida section of the ICW.

Other favorite stops include the Isle of Palms Marina, Wacca Wache Marina, Washington City Docks, Okracoke, Lady's Island Bridge Marina, and
Elizabeth City.  These are all some of our favorite stops on the Atlantic ICW. From Wacca Wache Marina, you can take your dinghy or rent a car and
visit Pawley's Island. There, you will find the Hammock Shop Village, an eclectic mix of specialty stores and restaurants, such as the High Hammock
Maverick Seaside Kitchen, which alone is worth the side-trip.

At Beaufort, if you pass under Lady's Island Bridge, and go to Lady's Island Marina, about 100 feet or so, from the Marina you will come to a real
hole in the wall (dive looking) bar called the "Filling Station". This is one place where looks are deceiving. At happy hour every day, they serve up the
best eats for the dollar of any place on the entire Great Loop. Here, you will find cheap drinks and a cheap meal that will absolutely blow your mind.
The meal changes every day. The last time we were there, it was "hamburger & hot-dog" day. For $3.00, (yes, only 3.00) cooked over a wood fired
grill, we had one of the best burgers in the world together with one mighty fine (big-thick) hotdog. Both (yes, you get both) come with your choice of all
the fixings plus potato salad and beans - and it's all for only $3.00. We stayed an extra day just to go back for "steak night".  The "Steak Night" meal is
$6.00 but it's a steak with all the sides you expect to pay $30.00 for.   

Point is. . . There are many little "jewels" like these that are hidden along your route around the Great Loop. While we like to call your attention to the
ones we find,
the very best ones indeed will be the ones you find on your own, and tell us about.
In addition to commercial traffic, The ICW is used extensively by recreational boaters, so you will not be alone on the ICW.

On the east coast, some of the traffic in fall and spring is by snowbirds who regularly move south in winter and north in summer. The waterway is
also used when the ocean is too rough to travel on. Numerous inlets connect the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico with the Intracoastal Waterway. The
Intracoastal Waterway from Fort Myers to Longboat Key is a favorite destination for visiting sailors and fishermen alike.

The waters from Fort Myers through Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor have to be one of the most diverse boating and fishing locations
anywhere in the world. Pine Island Sound is bounded on the west by Sanibel, Captiva and North Captiva Islands. Hundreds of islands dot the Sound;
redfish, snook, pompano and speckled trout delight the patient angler. To the east, Pine Island's mangrove shorelines, tidal creeks and oyster bars still
resist the crush of development. Explore Matlacha, Pineland and Bokeelia for a taste of the real Florida, where Calusa Indians farmed and fished 1,000
years ago.

Further north in Charlotte Harbor sits Cayo Costa State Park, a spectacular wild and scenic gulf coast island accessible only by boat. Nature
trails, safe harbors, cabins, tent sites, hiking and biking trails and miles of deserted beaches make this a must-see location. The Intracoastal runs along
the eastern shore of Cayo Costa before heading inland at Boca Grande Pass, "Tarpon Capital of the World."

At the southern end of this section of the Intracoastal sailors pass through Card Sound before reaching Key Largo, the first island in the famous
Florida Keys chain. The largest of the Keys, Key Largo is famous for its diving and fishing. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the nation's first
underwater park, is the crown jewel of the area.
It is "ALMOST" impossible to get lost.

"Once Around Is Not Enough"
It answers the top 120 most
essential FAQ about cruising
America's Great Loop.

It gives you over 100 valuable
tips & suggestions to make
first voyage around the Loop
as safe, comfortable, exciting
fun and affordable
as it can be.
It is Capt. John's best!
It is the
2016 BOOK OF THE YEAR
- Once Around Is Not Enough -
- Once Around Is Not Enough -
www.captainjohn.org                                                                    - Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -