|:: The Atlantic IntraCoastal Waterway ::
|© 1993 - 2015 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.
|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
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.