Cruising Stories

Cruising with the Burns

Cruising the Florida ICW to Toronto


Transitioning from a sailboat to a powerboat can be an adjustment to some boaters, but for Stephen and Erica Burns, the transition brought them to a new lifestyle that wouldn't have been possible without ER, their new 48-foot Pilothouse Motoryacht.

Of course, the change can be a bit rocky at first, but for the pair it's all about the attitude you have. They knew during their first cruise north they could have a few hiccups and things to learn, but they remained optimistic and eager to get ER home. It's very simple. If it's a choice between something going wrong with the boat or something going wrong with me, I'll take the boat every time, said Stephen.

For the past 30-odd years, the couple from Toronto would cruise Lake Ontario every summer with their sailboat. But purchasing their new vessel required Stephen and Erica to fly to Florida and venture the 1,630 miles back to Toronto, bringing ER north. They initially thought that she would be kept in Florida, but when they really became adept at cruising, they decided to make it a new home.

The crew took to the seas heading north along the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) toward the Chesapeake. They ventured into the C&D Canal and then into the Delaware Bay heading toward Cape May. Entering the Atlantic Ocean at Cape May, they brought ER full throttle heading north along the New Jersey Coast to New York. Entering the Hudson River, they began cruising toward the Erie Canal, where they would have to navigate through 34 locks an experience in itself. With only eight locks remaining they headed north on the Oswego Canal and made their way into the glass-like waters of Lake Ontario.

Throughout their 37-day trip to Toronto, Stephen and Erica kept a log detailing what each day brought aboard ER and highlighting their adventures and favorite moments along their voyage north.


We left Ft. Pierce early, around 7 a.m. The first few hundred yards were uneventful, but then I didn't pay attention to the depth and went aground just outside the main channel. Bent one or more props ahhhh, the joys of boating. With wounded props we could only do about 8.5 knots but managed the rest of the day with only the occasional bump on the bottom in shallow water.

We arrived at the Cocoa Village Marina (just south of Port Canaveral) around 2 p.m. a distance of about 60 miles. Really nice marina staff helped us dock in high winds. They helped me find a diver who will change the props in the morning (yes, ER carries spare props).

DAY 10 & 11

What a great day on Saturday. We covered 170 miles to Charleston, S.C. in about 11 hours. All the weather forecasters underestimated the wind speed and wave height and it was a rocky ride with seas 3 to 4 feet most of the way. The sea spray was drenching us even on the fly bridge so we spent most of the day in the pilothouse.

DAY 21 & 22

ER has now gone about 800 miles on her journey home, with about 1,000 miles to go. Despite the hiccups, Erica and I are enjoying the voyage immensely  every day filled with new experiences, new surroundings, new people and the occasional bite of reality. Using the online reservation system of, I made reservations today at various marinas ahead of us, all the way to New York City, which we hope to reach on May 30th.

DAY 26

A superb ride up the last leg of the Chesapeake today, cruising about 11 knots. We made the turn into the C&D Canal, pulled into the cove hosting The Chesapeake Inn & Restaurant, tied up on the outside of the central dock and enjoyed our buffalo wing lunch complete with a pair of Stella's. What a happening place. Live entertainment, lots of people enjoying the holiday, a raucous oasis in the midst of serenity.

DAY 32

We spent a pleasant morning cruising up the Hudson River at a modest speed, weaving our way between the red and green marker buoys and enjoying the rugged scenery. As Albany slipped behind us, we prepared ourselves as best we could for the first lock at Troy, N.Y. Just as I nudged ER into her assigned station in the lock and Erica wrapped a line around the vertical pole provided to hold us to the side, the skies opened up with a deluge. Rising as the lock filled with water, we quickly grasped the essentials of a skill we will need often over the next few days. Then the massive front doors opened and we motored to the entrance of the Erie Canal at Waterford.

DAY 37

We did it! Arrived safely today at Island Yacht Club to a small throng of wellwishers. Hard to believe, 1,630 miles from Ft. Pierce, Fla., to Toronto. We started as unskilled novices who were way out of their league in even contemplating such an epic journey. We ended as seasoned and confident seafarers, looking forward to our next adventure. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our good friend/mentor/ weatherman Lee, who saw us through the difficulties as well as the (mostly) good times. Thank you, Lee. ER pranced through the bow waves on the long crossing from Rochester. That first glimpse of the Toronto skyline puffed out our chests and filled us with bittersweet feelings. As we cruised slowly down the channel to the Club, we passed our faithful (unsold) sailboat that whispered as we went by, I gave you the best 30 years of my life and now you discard me for someone new? What kind of people are you to do such a thing?We aspire to become one of those old couples that bring their boats south in the fall and north in the spring. In the meantime, we anticipate heading back to Florida in late September.


  • Leg 1: Cocoa Village Marina, Cocoa, Fla.
  • Leg 2: New Smyrna Beach City Marina, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.
  • Leg 3: Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor, St. Augustine, Fla.
  • Leg 4: Fernandina Harbor Marina, Fernandina Beach, Fla.
  • Leg 5: Charleston City Marina, Charleston, S.C.
  • Leg 6: Southport Marina, Southport, N.C.
  • Leg 7: Seapath Yacht Club, Wrightsville Beach, N.C.
  • Leg 8: Casper's Marina, Swansboro, N.C.
  • Leg 9: Oriental Inn and Marina, Oriental, N.C.
  • Leg 10: Dowry Creek Marina, Belhaven, N.C.
  • Leg 11: Coinjock Marina, Coinjock, N.C.
  • Leg 12: Ocean Marine Yacht Center, Portsmouth, Va.
  • Leg 13: Calvert Marina, Solomons, Md.
  • Leg 14: Chesapeake Harbour Marina, Annapolis, Md.
  • Leg 15: Chesapeake Inn & Marina, Chesapeake City, Md.
  • Leg 16: South Jersey Marina, Cape May, N.J.
  • Leg 17: Liberty Landing Marina, Jersey City, N.J.
  • Leg 18: Kingston Municipal Marina, Kingston, N.Y.
  • Leg 19: Entrance of Erie Canal, Waterford N.Y.
  • Leg 20: Above Lock 11, Amsterdam, N.Y.
  • Leg 21: Winter Harbor Marina, Central Square, N.Y.
  • Leg 22: Rochester Yacht Club, Rochester N.Y.
  • Leg 23: Island Yacht Club, Toronto, Ontario

For more information or to view this cruise online, click here.

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