Cruising Stories

ICW Southbound: Virginia to Florida

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October 2017
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By
Bob
Arrington

The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway  (Atlantic ICW) is a continuous and mostly protected navigable route from Norfolk, Virginia, to Miami, Florida. Originally conceived in 1802 for commercial use, today it is primarily used by recreational vessels. However, light-draft commercial vessels, along with small tugs pulling barges, will make use of the ICW to avoid exposed open-ocean passages. The ICW is made up of natural rivers, bays, and sounds, connected by a series of man-made canals where necessary. The route is maintained by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and is measured in statute miles at 1,090 miles long, beginning at mile marker zero (MM 0.0) in Norfolk, Virginia. When combined with the Chesapeake Bay, a boater can cruise from Baltimore, Maryland, to Miami, covering a total of 1,282 statute miles, or 1,114 nautical miles.Through the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic ICW, a boater will experience scenic natural beauty, interesting pieces of our nation's history and some of the Southeast's most vibrant cities.

The following legs will enable a boater to make leisurely stops along the way, taking in the best each area has to offer.

Starting Point - Tidewater Yacht Marina, Portsmouth, VA

Tidewater Yacht Marina is located in the heart of Portsmouth's Olde Town District, within walking distance of 18th-century and 19th-century buildings, a riverfront park, the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the Lightship Portsmouth Museum, the Children's Museum of Virginia and the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame. Home to mile marker 0 on the Intracoastal Waterway, Tidewater Yacht Marina is ideal for transients beginning theirICW journey.

Leg 1 - Estimated Mileage: 42 nm - Coinjock Marina, Coinjock, N.C.

Located conveniently on the Intracoastal Waterway at mile marker 50, the Coinjock Marina has been a longtime favorite for transient yachtsmen traveling north and south along the waterway. With all the amenities you would expect from a world-class facility, the staff of Coinjock Marina accommodates guests' every need.With an easy approach, alongside dockage, an active fuel dock, and a highly acclaimed waterfront restaurant, you'll soon see why so many boaters return to Coinjock Marina again and again.

Leg 2 - Estimated Mileage: 111 nm - River Dunes Marina, Oriental, N.C.

River Dunes Marina has one of the most protected basins along the Southeast coast. The award-winning, well-protected facility is tailor-made for boaters, with floating docks, wide gangways, and full-length finger piers. Outstanding onshore amenities include a Harbor Club with fine and casual dining, plus a pool and fitness center. Thanks to the marina's courtesy car, it's just a 15-minute drive to the village of Oriental, the Sailing Capital of North Carolina and home to all the provisioning and marine services a boater could need.

Leg 3 - Estimated Mileage: 123 nm - Southport Marina, Southport, N.C.

Southport Marina is set directly on the Waterway and is a short stroll to the Southport town center. Recently named America's Happiest Seaside Town by Coastal Living magazine, picturesque Southport is steeped in history and charm, and has attracted not only visitors but film crews for such movies as Safe Haven, A Walk to Remember and The Secret Lives of Bees. Fronting the Cape Fear River and the notorious Frying Pan Shoals, Southport has been a port of haven for sea captains since the 1700s. Wander the docks and sample such local specialties as crab cake sandwiches and steamed shrimp at the restaurants along the water.

Leg 4 - Estimated Mileage: 39 nm - Barefoot Landing Marina, North Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Barefoot Landing Marina is located on the ICW in the heart of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina's preeminent summer vacation destination. The marina is an easy walk to the sprawling Barefoot Landing entertainment complex, which is packed with family attractions, exciting theater shows, endless restaurants and premier shopping. There is something for everyone to enjoy at Barefoot Landing.

Leg 5 - Estimated Mileage: 103 nm - Charleston City Marina, Charleston S.C.

It's no surprise that Charleston has been voted a top destination city by numerous leading travel magazines. The city defines classic Southern charm, overlaid with an interesting international feel, and boasts some of the best restaurants in the world. The MegaDock at the Charleston City Marina is a great place to tie up and see some of the finest cruising yachts around.

Leg 6 - Estimated Mileage: 82 nm - Harbour Town Yacht Basin, Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Harbour Town Yacht Basin places you right in the heart of boot-shaped Hilton Head Island. Marked by a distinctive red-and-white lighthouse, Harbour Town Yacht Basin offers a full suite of services along with luxury accomodations. While docked, explore the paradise that is Hilton Head, nestled along the South Carolina coast. From beautiful beaches and world-class golf courses to exceptional restaurants and high-energy water sports, Hilton Head has endless options for whiling away your time.

Leg 7 - Estimated Mileage: 105 nm - Morningstar Marinas at Golden Isles, St. Simons Island, Ga.

St. Simons Island is the hub of the Golden Isles, which is one of Georgia's scenic barrier-islands, known for beautiful beaches and summer resorts. Located just off the ICW on the Frederica River, Morningstar Marina at Golden Isles will make you feel right at home with its immaculate facilities, top-notch onsite restaurant and full-service maintenance facilities. Spend a day at East Beach, the perfect place to unwind, collect shells and go for a relaxing bike ride. The social hub of St. Simons Island is the Pier Village along Mallery Street, which is dotted with tempting boutiques, cafes and restaurants. The island is also a prime fishing location, for offshore excursions as well as inland water outings.

Leg 8 - Estimated Mileage: 133 nm - Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor, St. Augustine, Fla.

Cobblestone streets, centuries-old buildings, hidden courtyards and alluring cafes help define this historic district of Saint Augustine the oldest continuously occupied town in the U.S. Jump on the Old Town Trolley Tours to explore the major attractions, including a highly rated wildlife reserve and the Castillo de San Marcos, a 17th-century Spanish stone fortress. Foodies can choose from more than 400 eateries. Also enjoy 43 miles of fine, golden sand beaches for shelling, sunning, surfing and swimming. Dockage is available at Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor on the ICW accommodating vessels up to 130 feet and a fuel dock, on-site restaurant, and a full-service yard with supplies.

Leg 9 - Estimated Mileage: 164 nm - Fort Pierce City Marina, Fort Pierce, Fla.

Fort Pierce is one of the most promising cities on Florida's Treasure Coast, with a newly rebuilt first-class municipal marina and one of the best marked, most predictable inlets on Florida's east coast. The pet-friendly Fort Pierce City Marina has recently completed an extensive renovation and offers fuel, showers and laundry and two on-site restaurants, and is just steps away from downtown. Stop in at the 2nd Street Bistro for the lively daily happy hour, an extensive craft beer list and gourmet burgers. Cobb's Landing, next to the marina, offers fresh seafood dishes and a signature Pineapple Mojito.

Leg 10 - Estimated Mileage: 93 nm - Bahia Mar Resort & Yachting Center, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

With more than 300 miles of waterways and one of the world's permiere boat shows, beautiful Fort Lauderdale has matured from a destination for spring-breakers to a major manufacturing, maintenance and recreation center for yachts. Bahia Mar is the ultimate marina destination, with restaurants, shops, a swimming pool, tennis and a pristine beach just across the street. The marina offers 250 slips capable of handling vessels up to 300 feet, plus high-speed fueling, free WiFi, cable television, in-slip sanitary pump-out, a marine store and a dive shop. Also, the Pier Sixty-Six Marina offers dockage for vessels up to 350 feet. Explore the city's rich dining scene by enjoying a meal at Boatyard on 17th Street, or one of the many spots along Las Olas Boulevard.

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Our Adventures between the Great Lakes from Detroit to Port Huron
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My husband Tim and I spent 2021 traveling 8,000 miles around the Great Loop. Like many, we wanted to cruise in Canada, but we didn’t get the green light for entry in time. We were initially bummed, but our mood quickly shifted as we discovered some of our favorite stops on the stretch that kept us in U.S. waters, including our journey between Lake Erie and Lake Huron.

Stop 1: Belle Isle

Estimated Mileage: 2 NM

Belle Isle is the largest city-owned island park in America, located on the Detroit River between the United States and Canada. The island’s only marina is the Detroit Yacht Club, which has a limited number of transient slips for reciprocal members, so it’s best to explore while keeping your boat at Milliken Marina. 

Roughly 1,000 acres, Belle Isle is home to an aquarium, maritime museum, botanical garden, beach, picnic areas and playgrounds that provide a plethora of options to explore. You won’t find great spots to grab a bite to eat, so we recommend stopping at Atwater Brewery on the way back to the marina.

Stop 2: Harrison Township, Lake St. Clair

Estimated Mileage: 24 NM

Often referred to as the Great Lake’s smaller cousin, Lake St. Clair is large enough to easily keep your distance from freighters yet small enough to explore in a day.

By boat, you can visit several of the lake’s swimming spots in Anchor and Bouvier Bays (or “Munchies” Bay as the locals say), popular for their clear water and hard bottoms. After an afternoon of swimming, cruise through the Clinton River and tie up at one of several restaurants catering to a lively boater scene for a drink and meal. Crews Inn is one of our favorites for their fun atmosphere and great food.

Lake St. Clair Metropark Marina is a popular spot for transients. The marina is located in the park, so after docking, enjoy the expansive park’s beaches, trails, picnic areas and swimming pool.

Stop 3: Port Huron, MI

Estimated Mileage: 44 NM

Port Huron is home to the start of one of the longest fresh-water races in the world called the Port Huron to Mackinac Sailing Race, and the port is a charming and boater-friendly destination.

Ideal for its central location and friendly members, Port Huron Yacht Club is a great place for tying up, sipping a drink at the clubhouse and avoiding the drawbridges on the Black River. Another popular spot is about a mile farther down the river at the 95-slip River Street Marina.

Port Huron is home to the Island Loop Route National Water Trail, a 10-mile loop through the Black River, Lake Huron and St. Clair River. Your dinghy is a must through the Black River and for exploring the town and clear waters by boat.

Walk a mile along the Blue Water River Walk that runs along the St. Clair River. Be sure to leave enough time to watch the freighters go by and delve into the area’s history that is shared along the route. Continue a couple of miles farther to Lighthouse Park, where you can enjoy an afternoon at the beach and swim in Lake Huron’s crystal clear water.

During a stroll downtown, check out the Knowlton’s Ice Museum of North America to discover the history of local ice harvesting that took place along the Great Lakes.

When you’ve done enough activities to work up an appetite, Casey’s is the place for delicious breadsticks and pizza. For a more upscale option, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu at The Vintage Tavern. Maria’s Downtown Café offers a hearty breakfast, and Raven Café or Exquisite Corpse Coffee House are great options for a cup of coffee.

Kate Carney is a writer and Great Gold Looper who traveled 8,000 miles on Sweet Day, a 31-foot Camano trawler. Learn more about her and her husband’s adventures on lifeonsweetday.com

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Women Take to the Water In Boating Groups & Clubs
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It’s 5:30 p.m. on a Friday. Do you know where your wife, mother, daughter or sister is? She might be at the Chicago Yacht Club, launching off in a learn-to-sail lesson in the summer series that’s part of the Women on the Water Program.  Or, if she’s in the Florida Keys, you could find her relaxing ashore after a day casting about in a Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing! tournament. Or maybe she’s cruising the Intracoastal Waterway in North Myrtle Beach on a pontoon boat with friends, all members of Freedom Boat Club’s Sisters group. 

Nationwide nowadays, many groups and clubs are oriented specifically toward female boaters. Some are exclusively for women, others are clubs within co-ed clubs, and still others are part of century-old all-inclusive organizations that now offer opportunities for the ladies.

“A boater is a boater; it’s anyone who loves being on the water. Still, for many years and often today, boating is viewed as a man’s sport. That’s changing as more opportunities become available for women to get out on the water,” says Mary Paige Abbott, the past Chief Commander of the U.S. Power Squadrons, rebranded as America’s Boating Club with 30,000 members — 30% of them women. The century-plus-old organization opened its membership to females in 1982.

Women making waves in boating isn’t new. New York-born Hélène de Pourtalès was the first female to win a medal sailing in the 1900 Olympics. Helen Lerner, who with her husband Michael and friend Ernest Hemingway founded the Bahamas Marlin & Tuna Club in 1936, recorded a women’s first record catch of a swordfish off Nova Scotia. In 1977, Betty Cook landed a first-place finish in the powerboat world championships held in Key West. These examples are extraordinary but only exceptions to the rule that boating is a male-dominated sport. 

Today, the tide is turning. Take sports fishing for example. About 36% of Americans who went fishing last year were women, an all-time participation high, according to the 2021 Special Report on Fishing by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing involvement in recreational angling and boating.

WHY WOMEN?

Why not? That’s what led Betty Bauman to start Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing! in 1997. Since then, this organization of which Bauman is founder and chief executive officer, hosts weekend seminar series dubbed the No-Yelling School of Fishing, as well as tournaments throughout Florida and abroad. To date, Bauman has empowered more than 9,000 women to sportfish.  

“I attended ICAST (International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, the world’s largest sportfishing trade show) when I had a public relations agency. The American Sportfishing Association’s director asked in a speech why weren’t more women in fishing? After all, as he pointed out, the sport wasn’t reaching some 50% of the potential market. I thought to myself, women don’t want to feel uncomfortable or get yelled out. So, I came up with a way to teach women the basics. How to tie knots, how rods and reels work, and how to make value assessments when fishing, not just following what their husbands yell at them to do or going down in the galley to make sandwiches,” says Bauman.

Women learn differently from men, and that’s the benefit of learning boating skills with and from other women. Just ask Debbie Huntsman, the past president of the National Women’s Sailing Association (NWSA).

“My husband and I were taking a learn to sail class years ago. I saw another boat in the distance and asked the instructor, who was a man, what I needed to do to be sure we didn’t have a collision. He answered that it was just like going down the aisle at the supermarket with a shopping cart; you just know not to hit another cart. That didn’t do it for me,” Huntsman tells. 

The 1990-founded NWSA is a group of national and international women sailors. It supports its members via everything from a library of instructional videos taught by women, for women, to its annual conference, which features hands-on workshops and on-the-water coaching.

“I think women tend to be more meticulous in their learning. They want to know all the moving parts and why they move. They want to do it right and do it perfectly whether men are onboard or not. That’s what I see,” says Karen Berry, VP of operations at Freedom Boat Club (FBC) of the Grand Strand, in Myrtle Beach, SC.

FBC offers free boating training and safety education to all members, including those in the 2017-founded Freedom Boating Diva program, which Berry helped to launch. The group is now called the Freedom Boat Club Sisters group, and 40% of the clubs nationwide now have a Sister component. Members enjoy time on the water together, training activities, social events and boatloads of camaraderie.

CAMARADERIE & NETWORKING

More so than a one-and-done class, many women-centric boating groups and clubs feature ongoing and year-round events. A good example is Women on the Water, a club within a club run by the Chicago Yacht Club’s (CYC) Women’s Committee. The group’s Friday night learn-to-sail series in Sonar 23s only takes place during the summer. The rest of the year, the women (an eclectic group of boating-oriented 20-somethings to 70-plus-year-olds, singles and marrieds, professionals and retirees) meet monthly for educational programs, networking events and happy hours.

“We’ve done everything from a sunset powerboat tour to admire the architecture of the Chicago skyline to a cooking class taught by the club’s pastry chef. During the pandemic, we continued to meet virtually. We had the female president of the U.S. Naval War College speak. We met some of the crew of the Maiden Factor, which is sailing the world to promote women’s sailing, and we had one of our own speak — Maggie Shea, who raced in the 2020 Olympics. The fact that our events fill up and sell out almost immediately tells you there’s a need for this,” says Nancy Berberian, head of the CYC’s Women’s Committee.

Similarly, the nearly four-decade-old Women’s Sailing Association (WSA) at the Houston Yacht Club hosts a residential women’s sailing camp. The Windward Bound Camp, one of the first of its kind in the nation, organizes racing, educational and social events throughout the year.  

“Our sailing socials allow time on the water with other women in a non-competitive environment.  Yearly, we organize a ‘Sail to High.’ Yes, we wear lovely hats and gloves on the sailboat and dock at someone’s home for tea and trimmings,” says Jane Heron, WSA president.

More recently, Women on the Water of Long Island Sound (WOWLIS) was born, made up currently of more than 250 women from 14 yacht clubs in Connecticut and New York who love to sail, race, learn and socialize. 

“It started as a Supper Series, as a way to connect women across our venues,” says Cathleen Blood at WOWLIS. “Now, there is regularly held one-design racing on Ideal 18s, team and fleet racing events, chalk talks and clinics, summer regattas, frostbiting in the spring, and an annual winter meeting to plan for the year ahead. 

To participate in most of these events, you must be a member of one of the yacht clubs. In this way, it’s all about getting clubs to commit to training and get more women on the water. There’s a real advantage. Say there’s a race I want to sail. I’m never stuck for crew. I have a pool of over 200 women, whether I know them or not, I can ask. We’re all united by a shared love of sailing.”

A SAMPLING OF WAYS FOR WOMEN TO GET ON THE WATER

Chicago Yacht Club’s Women on the Water


Freedom Boat Club Sisters Program


Houston Yacht Club Women’s Sailing Association


Ladies Let's go Fishing


National Women’s Sailing Association


Women on the Water Long Island Sound

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Exploring Antigua by Land and Sea
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The beautiful island of Antigua was our destination for a short Caribbean getaway. Having visited many of the Caribbean islands, we were looking forward to exploring a new tropical locale and experiencing the wonderful local charm, culture, vistas and beaches. In fact, this Eastern Caribbean island boasts 365 beaches: one for every day of the year!

My travel companions for the week included my husband Jim, brother Anthony and sister-in-law, Amanda. Always a great group to travel with (our last adventure together led us to Greece, Italy and Croatia), so I knew a fun week filled with laughter was in store.

JenJimCatamaran - cruising with members - marinalife
Jim and Jen on the catamaran

As we peered out the airplane window on the approach to Antigua, we were instantly mesmerized by the pure turquoise blue waters and rolling green hills, and eager to get out on the water.

For my brother, this trip was not just an ordinary vacation. While it was my first time visiting the island, my brother has incredibly fond memories of trips to Antigua during the 1970s as a child, traveling with his grandparents, affectionately known to us as Meemah and Deedah. This week was an opportunity to share with us one of his favorite places in the world.

Anthony decided the best way to explore the island was by land and by sea. The first part of our trip was spent touring the island with a local driver and tour guide named Elvis, who is a native Antiguan living in one of the six parishes on the island with his wife and children. When Anthony spotted him on the beach wearing a Yankee cap, he knew this was the tour guide for us. Anthony and Elvis instantly bonded (even discovering they shared a birthday) and together planned our extraordinary excursion.

Our tour of the island started with a visit to St. Johns, the capital city of Antigua. While part of the town is geared toward the large cruise ships that help support the local economy, St. Johns retains its charm, filled with farmers markets, stalls and local restaurants. Amanda was immediately enchanted by one of the young local shopkeepers selling souvenirs with his mom.

The next stop was Betty's Hope, one of the earliest sugar plantations dating back to 1651. The sugar mills are beautifully preserved, and we learned about the large role these sugar plantations played in Antigua's history. While enjoying the scenery at Betty's Hope, Elvis surprised us with homemade sandwiches and rum punch. A delightful snack to recharge us for the next stop -- Devil's Bridge in the Indian Town National Park.

antigua - cruising with members - marinalife
Jim, Jen, Amanda, and Anthony

Devil's Bridge is a natural stone arch that was carved from the rocky coast by the constant pounding of waves. Locals say its name comes from surges of water that snatch away people who stray too close to the edge. The area around the arch features several natural blowholes that shoot up water and spray powered by waves from the Atlantic Ocean.

While Jim and I stayed far from the edge, Anthony ventured out close to the bridge for a unique photo opportunity. Later in the week, we would have a chance to see this incredible rock formation from the ocean.

We continued to travel up the rolling hills to Shirley Heights Lookout, first used during the Revolutionary War as a signal station and lookout for approaches to English Harbor. It is truly one of the most spectacular vistas I have ever seen.

Having reached the highest point in Antigua, it was time to get back to sea level. Our next stop centered around Nelson's Dockyard, a working Georgian-era naval dockyard, designated as a world heritage site in 2016. We delighted in exploring the dockyard and gazing over the beautiful yachts and sailboats moored at the Antigua Yacht Club Marina.

Driving through the lush dense greenery of the rainforest led us to an Antigua delicacy the black pineapple. On the side of the road just outside the rain forest, we stopped at a local fruit stand and chatted with the proprietor while she carved us a fresh black pineapple, known as the sweetest in the world. It definitely lived up to its reputation.

The final stop on our island tour was my favorite -- a chance to taste the island cuisine! Elvis called ahead of our arrival and requested a platter of local foods for us to sample. We arrived at Darkwood Beach Bar & Restaurant and were immediately welcomed by the staff.

antigua - cruising with members - marinalife
Darkwood Beach Bar

After selecting a table near the beach and ordering the national beer of Antigua, Wadidli (another name for the island itself), we had the privilege of hearing Elvis' story, learning more about his life and family, and even calling his wife to thank her for the yummy sandwiches. Then we feasted on fungee and pepperpot, a hearty meat stew with eggplant, pumpkin and squash, as well as local Caribbean lobster, curries and roti. All in all, an amazing way to end a spectacular day. We said goodbye to Elvis, exchanging addresses and knowing we had made a friend for life.

After exploring Antigua north to south and east to west, we opted for a catamaran tour to circumnavigate the island as our next adventure. The morning was spent pleasantly motoring in the calm blue waters of the Caribbean Sea around the north side of the island. Before we knew it, we were sailing along in the open Atlantic Ocean passing by Long Island, also known as Jumby Bay and a popular destination for celebrities.

After a wonderful morning on the water, we anchored in a protected cove for a stop to swim, snorkel and eat lunch near Green Island. It was a perfect destination for Amanda's first snorkeling excursion. After spotting a large sea turtle, magnificent coral reefs and exotic fish, we enjoyed a lazy swim near the beautiful powdery white sand of Green Island Beach.

Following a traditional lunch of jerk chicken, rice and plantains, we continued our journey around the island down to the southern tip to experience English Harbor and Devil's Bridge from the water. It was even more extraordinary from this vantage point.

As the sun started to dip low in the sky, we returned to the Caribbean Sea on the western side of the island watching a storm brewing in the distance. During the quiet sail back, each of us felt grateful for another magnificent day in paradise.

While traveling with your closest friends is always fun, my favorite memories of our time on this magical island were Anthony's reflections of his previous trips to Antigua with his grandparents, the excitement at sharing his favorite place with his new wife, and the joy that much of the island remained as he remembered it. We are already planning our next trip to Antigua!

STORY BY JEN LEROUX, CEO OF MARINALIFE; PHOTOS BY ANTHONY DESANTIS

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