Cruising Stories

Mitch and Denise Nathanson Cruise the ICW South


On Nov. 10, 2011, TRIO, a 55-foot Fleming, and her crew - Mitch and Denise Nathanson and their Portuguese Water Dog Morgan - started down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) from the Chesapeake Bay headed for Key West. This was our second time making this trip, and, as always, traveling some nearly 3,000 miles round trip has its challenges. We visited more than 24 marinas along the way north and south and here are six of our favorites.


Marina:  The Tides Inn (804-438-4418,

Highlights: The Tides Inn is always a welcome stop. Our dog Morgan always enjoys a good walk amid the beautifully manicured grounds at this pet-friendly Inn. Its dockmaster Stormy is professional and welcoming. The Inn itself has a wonderful spa and excellent restaurants. Irvington is an easy walk”or ride from the concierge”into this quaint town with fabulous shops. I highly recommend The Dandelion, a shop in town that carries women's clothing, accessories and gifts.


Marina: Dowry Creek Marina (252-943-2728,

Highlights: As so often with any adventure, it is the people you meet along the way who make the trip special. Dowry Creek Marina went above and beyond on our trip north and south. TRIO limped into Dowry Creek heading south on a faulty alternator and no cell-phone service. Owner Mary Klapperich was very welcoming and helpful. She allowed us to use her phone to arrange for help and gave us sage local knowledge. They also alerted us on our way north that the Alligator River Bridge was broken in the down position. We had just left an hour earlier so they hailed us on the VHF to alert us to the problem and then kept us advised of the situation. Fortunately the bridge was fixed just before we got to it.


Marina: River Dunes (252-249-4908,

Highlights: Our next stop was to River Dunes, where J.C. Cappelmann, marina manager, had arranged a mechanic. The mechanic quickly diagnosed the problem and drove the alternator to New Bern, N.C., where it was rebuilt overnight. He installed it the next day. Once again, we had no cell-phone service, but J.C. kept the crew comfortable and everything moving in the right direction. Our journey south was not even delayed in spite of our mechanical issues. River Dunes is also a great place to be waylaid, as it is exceptionally beautiful with a friendly professional staff and a great restaurant.


Marina:  Charleston City Marina (843-723-5098,

Highlights: Charleston City Marina is always a treat to visit, and the staff is very competent. They are sensitive to the current and wind, so docking on the MegaDock is an easier task with their assistance (although the dock is a long walk for dogs to find grass). The marina provides hourly rides to and from town as well as a daily run to West Marine. Charleston is a food-lover's heaven with charm, history, art and music thrown in for good measure. Once in town it is quite easy to walk to everything. Be sure to tour the historic houses and gardens as well as the Battery.


Marina: Miami Beach Marina (305-673-6000,

Highlights: Miami Beach Marina in South Beach is always a people-watchers' paradise. The marina staff is well trained, and while wind and current can once again be a factor, the docking goes smoothly. The concrete piers do require caution. Boats of all types can be seen here and the mega-yachts are in their glory. The beach and Art Deco district is an easy and interesting walk. Once in town you are faced with the tough decision of what part of the beach to visit and which of the many restaurants to choose. People of all ages from all over the world seem to be there playing in the sun together.


Marina: A & B Marina (305-294-2535,

Highlights: The hands-down number-one favorite for all the crew of TRIO is Key West. We were fortunate to once again call A & B Marina home for two-and-a-half months last winter. The dockmaster, Mark Miller, runs a tight ship. We really appreciated local tidbits and recommendations for local authors from Jesse the dockhand. Key West itself is an amazing place with a huge variety of activities. Live music is abundant. Be sure to check out the classical concerts at St Paul's Church. The House and Garden tours are not to be missed. For art lovers there are many wonderful galleries with special exhibits. Theater lovers also have a choice of plays. Restaurants are plentiful, and the food is superb. If you feel like cooking, there are organic markets for your vegetables and the Eaton Street Seafood Market for the freshest fish. Running, biking and walking help offset all the good food. Be sure to see a movie at the Tropic Cinema. This movie theater is restored beautifully, and in Key West fashion it is possible to have wine with your popcorn. The friendly and relaxed atmosphere, makes Key West our favorite destination.

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