These excellent suggestions and advice to William Wertz concerning a voyage from New York to Hilton Head come from SSECN Team Member, Curtis Hoff, an experienced sailor and also designer of the new SSECN mobile app. I’m sure William will be grateful for your advice as well.
NEW CRUISERS TO THE SOUTH: My wife and I are sailing from NYC to Hilton Head. We are interested in gaining some local knowledge if you are willing to share. Should we sail outside or ICW? We are thinking of going out side just below Cape Fear. Also would love to hear about good anchorages or marinas to spend the night at. We have a 36′ Catalina, fin keep 5.5′. Please share any thoughts you have.
Going outside or the ICW is both about personal preference and weather. If the weather is good, we tend to run outside more than the ICW anymore. We have traveled the ICW one way or the other 12 times now so we have experienced almost every stretch both outside and via the ICW.
I’ll focus my comments on from Beaufort south, since you don’t have any options but offshore from NYC to Norfolk and then probably the ICW until Beaufort. An option is to go up the Delaware and down Chesapeake Bay, but we only do that if the weather requires it. You can also run outside around the Outer Banks, but I don’t know many people that do and suspect you are not considering it.
In certain places we try to be outside since the ICW can be painful – particularly from Beaufort to Masonboro due to the bridge schedules. South of Hilton Head there are places where we try to be outside due to depth issues, but you don’t need be concerned about those. There are some places north of Hilton Head where we prefer not to transit at dead low tide – around McClellanville and south of Georgetown are two.
Two resources you should consider:
1. The Salty Southeast Cruisers Net App – available on the iOS App Store.
2. Bob Sherer (Bob423) publishes a good book entitled “2015 ICW Cruising Guide: A guide to navigating the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway with charts of over 140 hazard areas and their safe navigation along … trips from New York to Key West”. (See http://cruisersnet.net/150181) It is available via Amazon with both paperback and Kindle versions.
Note that sometimes the distance to get outside and back in actually results in more distance than traveling the ICW so this can be a negative of going outside. Additionally, if the weather is not carefully considered you may find yourself running an inlet in less than favorable conditions. On the plus side we find traveling outside to be more relaxing and enjoyable especially on very calm days.
Here are the stretches we like to go outside if the weather permits (distances are approximate):
• Beaufort Inlet to Masonboro Inlet, 65 NM open ocean, anchorage / dockage near just inside inlet
• Cape Fear Inlet to Little River, 30 NM open ocean
• Little River to Georgetown, 40 NM open ocean (note Georgetown is 15 NM from inlet)
• Georgetown to Charleston 44 NM open ocean (Charleston 10 NM from ocean)
• Charleston to Port Royal Sound/Hilton Head, 55 NM open ocean (Hilton Head is 10NM from open ocean)
All of these inlets are pretty easy in any seas we consider traveling outside. For reference we are a 55 ft motor yacht with stabilizers, cruise at 9 kts and we look for predicted 3-4 ft max seas. If the morning seas are within this range but picking up we will still consider outside if we are entering an ‘all weather’ such as Cape Fear, etc.
There are many nice towns along the way with good marinas. We don’t anchor much since we have a dog and dropping our tender from the upper deck daily gets tiresome. Towns we particularly enjoy are:
• Oriental, NC, stay at Oriental Marina and Inn
• Beaufort, NC, stay at Homer Smith Docks and Marina
• Georgetown, SC, stay at Harborwalk Marina
• Charleston, SC, stay at Charleston City Marina
There are many other interesting towns along the way that you may want to consider, depending on how far you want to travel any given day. Next week we are heading up to Wilmington on our way north for the first time and cruisers we talk to say it is well worth the distance up the river. This is another town you may want to visit. Stay at Port City Marina.
SSECN Team Member