The Atlantic IntraCoastal Waterway

 In the fall of 2004 I moved Sarah from her berth in Town Creek off the Patuxent River in Maryland to Harbortown Marina in Fort Pierce, FL via the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW or more commonly just ICW) and off-shore sailings.  Sarah has spent her last winter trapped in ice.  At the time of my departure the main question was, "Will there be a marina left in Fort Pierce to provide a berth?"

With two hurricanes in less than a month (Frances and Jeanne) striking just south of Fort Pierce, all facilities have taken major damage.  In phone calls to Harbortown after Frances then Jeanne had passed, I was assured they would be able to fully accommodate me by my arrival in late October.  Therefore we departed the Patuxent River for the ICW on Oct 8.  The plan was to follow the ICW as far as Morehead City, NC.  Then, depending on the weather situation, we would either head off-shore or continue down the ICW until a favorable weather pattern emerged and then head off-shore at the closest viable inlet.  The expectation is that we would be able to sail a major portion of the distance to Fort Pierce off-shore and arrive by late October.

This page covers the planned approach for the trip.  Use the IntraCoastal Waterway menu in the navigation pane on the left for links to the pages on our actual progress.

Click on chart to view at full resolutionThe chart on the left shows the main area of the East Coast covered by the AICW, from Cape Hateras to the Florida Straits.  There is a faint blue line, which can best be seen by clicking on the chart to view an enlarged image.  That line was one of our potential off-shore choices for the trip to Fort Pierce.

Although the AICW is a beautiful and interesting waterway, I had delayed my departure from the Chesapeake Bay by 3 weeks.  Consequently I was under self-imposed pressure to arrive in Fort Pierce in time to attend the SSCA sponsored HAM radio class and test at the end of October.  Going the whole way in the AICW and arrive in time for that class would be difficult if not impossible.  Therefore we planned to complete as much of the journey as the weather permitted off-shore.  The blue line shows the route from Morehead City directly to Fort Pierce.  The route follows the coastline, rarely getting more than  30 miles off the coast.  This would keep us out of the adverse affects of the Gulf Stream and possibly get a little boost from the counter current that runs down the coast.  We needed a 5-day window of decent weather to make this trip.  When we got to Morehead City that window was not available so we continued down the AICW stopping at each viable inlet and checking the weather to see if we could jump outside there.  Finally we had the weather window we were looking for at Charleston, SC and sailed from there to Fort Pierce.

The table below shows the potential outside routes between Morehead City and Fort Pierce.
Departure Inlet Destination Inlet Distance (nm)
Morehead City Fort Pierce 525
Cape Fear Fort Pierce 450
Charleston Fort Pierce 340
Below is the actual schedule of the trip.  You can view reports for each leg of the trip from the ICW navigation pane on the left or click on the destination location name in the table..
Departure Date Arrival Date Destination Leg Distance (nm)
Oct 8, 2004 Oct 8, 2004 Great Wicomico River, VA 45
Oct 9, 2004 Oct 9, 2004 Great Bridge, VA 70
Oct 10, 2004 Oct 10, 2004 Coinjock, NC 32
Oct 11, 2004 Oct 11, 2004 Pungo River, NC 65
Oct 12, 2004 Oct 12, 2004 Beaufort, NC 67
Oct 16, 2004 Oct 16, 2004 Top Sail Sound, NC 60
Oct 17, 2004 Oct 17, 2004 Calabash River, SC 63
Oct 18, 2004 Oct 18, 2004 Georgetown, SC 52
Oct 19, 2004 Oct 19, 2004 Isle of Palms, SC 46
Oct 20, 2004 Oct 20, 2004 Charleston, SC 11
Oct 21, 2004 Oct 23, 2004 Fort Pierce, FL 375

Total Distance:

If you don't want to step through all of the pages I've published on this trip, watch the YouTube video below, which includes most of the pictures and descriptions on the pages.
The Intracoastal Waterway menu on the left also includes a link to my trip down the AICW in 2008 enroute to the Bahamas.  The menu also provides links to my subsequent trips on the AICW in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.