We spent 75 days this summer boating the East Coast. Our boat started on the South Georgia Coast in Brunswick and went north until we arrived at the Hudson River in New York.
Before we bought a boat I thought that route was 100% self explanatory. You just boat along the beach, right?
The answer is no. In fact, we were rarely near the beach.
(Trust me, this was a tough pill for me to swallow. I really thought I’d signed up for a 75 day beach trip.)
Instead, I learned all about the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) and some secrets for navigating north on the East Coast.
Two quick housekeeping notes…
*For other boaters interested, I’m going to list all of our specific marina stops at the very bottom of this post. I’ll add a note about what we liked or didn’t like and why we stopped there.*
*I’ve already written about several of our East Coast destinations in previous posts. I won’t revisit those in detail, but I’ll list links to those at the end. But I will begin this post finishing off the stops I haven’t yet written about.*
You could spend a lifetime boating on the East Coast; However, if you’re familiar with the term “hurricane season,” you’ll understand why we somewhat rushed to New York this summer. There are a million places we missed that we hope to get back to one day!
But on to the point of this post…Recently I wrote about our time in the Chesapeake Bay. If you’re good with Geography, you might wonder how we got out of the Bay without retracing all of our steps.
The answer is the work of a genius and a large sum of money: The C&D Canal.
The C&D Canal (standing for Chesapeake and Delaware) connects…wait for it…the Chesapeake Bay to the Delaware Bay via a 14-mile long canal.
So to answer the million dollar question: No, we did not have to retrace our steps through the Chesapeake Bay. We simply transitioned through the C&D Canal.
From there we crossed the Delaware Bay and spent a week in Cape May New Jersey.
Ironically, this was not our family’s first time crossing the Delaware Bay by boat. Several years ago we took a trip to the Northeast that included a few days on the Jersey shore. On that trip we opted to take a car ferry to continue on our roadtrip.
You can read more about our experience here: New Jersey Car Ferry. To say it was very surreal to pass that same ferry- years later on our own boat- would be an understatement!
Cape May was a much anticipated highlight of our trip up the East Coast.
Based on our experience years earlier, I couldn’t wait to spend a week there! We fished, hung out on the beautiful beach, and ate a lot of great food. One day we rented a car to visit Ocean City (a favorite and recommended spot of some good friends.)
Here’s the surprising part of my story…
From Cape May we went outside for the first time. For my non-boating friends, this means that we ventured into the Atlantic Ocean to continue our run up the East Coast. Finally- we were boating along the beaches like I always pictured!
I’ll pause my story here and address a few navigational points:
- Yes, technically, we could have boated on the outside the whole time. But, unless you are a very experienced sailboat owner, or a captain of a large yacht- this is not the typical or prefered route. Most pleasure crafts travel the ICW.
- The ICW is a 3,000 mile waterway that stretches from Texas up the Eastern seaboard. There is some controversy over where it actually ends. I would say Norfolk, VA. However, there are some parts of ICW in other more northern states.
- The ICW basically runs parallel to the Atlantic coast. At times you can actually see the beaches, but other times you’re miles inland. In fact, at one point in South Carolina near Myrtle Beach we were so far from the ocean that the water was fresh water (not salt!)
- Sometimes the ICW route felt like the ocean. We crossed many sounds and inlets that were very ocean-like. Other times it felt more like a river. One of the main challenges of the ICW is the depth. We had to be constantly aware of tides and water depths. Our boat goes down into the water about 4 feet. At times, we were almost touching the bottom even in the main channel!
- Which brings me back to New Jersey. NJ does actually have an ICW. However, it’s not recommended. There are some very shallow spots, making the “outside” the prefered route for boaters. We went with that option.
Back to our trip on the Atlantic…
Leaving Cape May we were in a convoy of 3 boats. Even though it was our first time on the outside, the other 2 boats had experience so we felt very safe.
We opted to spend the night on anchor right behind Atlantic City. We found a very protected cove with an awesome view of the lit up skyline.
The only problem with our perfect anchorage was the very shallow channel coming into the cove. In order to get our 3 boats out of the cove, we needed to leave as early as possible (low tide that morning was around 10AM.)
All 3 boats checked the weather before bed. We looked at the predicted wave height on the Atlantic. And we all set our alarms for 5AM.
But we didn’t anticipate waking up to dense fog. It wasn’t predicted.
Typically most boaters would just wait out the fog. However, if we waited past 6AM our boats would likely be stuck in the cove until the late afternoon when another high tide would occur. We all agreed to proceed, assuming the fog would lift quickly.
Although all 3 of our boats were following together extremely close, there were hours when we couldn’t actually see each other. We had to rely on the wake from the boat in front of us, and the radar. It was quite a crazy (and stressful) experience.
Talk about a memorable finale to our time on the East Coast! Thankfully the fog eventually lifted and we were able to enjoy the view.
In the most bittersweet of moments, we pulled into New York Harbor on the Hudson River and said goodbye to the Atlantic Ocean.
It was a great run this summer. We were very excited to arrive at the NY Canal System and ultimately head to the Great Lakes. But, we’re already looking forward to being back on the East Coast (hopefully sometime next spring!)
Thanks for following along on our crazy adventures! As promised, here are the specific marinas and our quick comments:
- Brunswick Landing Marina (Brunswick, GA): This is where we bought our boat and called “home” for a few months. Not many extras, but a great hurricane hole.
- Shelter Cove Marina (Hilton Head Island, SC): A place we visited a million times before buying a boat. Total resort marina. Loved it and can’t wait to go back.
- LeLand Oil Company (McClellanville, SC): We planned to stop in Charleston, but there was a riot. So then we were going to anchor, but there was a big storm. LeLand was the closest option north. It was strange, but a safe spot. Would not want to stay there longer than overnight!
- Georgetown Landing Marina (Georgetown, SC): Great marina and a quick walk to a super cute town. But right on the main channel and we got rocked all night. Again, one night was enough.
- Osprey Marina (Myrtle Beach, SC): Husband loved it, I hated it. It felt like we were in a swamp. Literally the middle of nowhere. Cheap fuel though.
- St. James Marina (Southport, NC): Beautiful marina, but in the middle of a neighborhood. Great overnight marina, but not a lot to do. For us this was a quick stop along our route to get from point A to point B with a relatively inexpensive place to dock for the evening before moving on.
- Harbour Village Marina (Hampstead, NC): Exact same as above.
- Jarrett Bay Boatworks (Beaufort, NC): We had some scheduled work being done on our boat and needed to arrive at this particular marina on a schedule. Excellent place to stop on East Coast to have work done on your boat.
- New Bern Grand Marina (New Bern, NC): One of our favorite stops! After a recent hurricane, there are not many marinas left in New Bern. This one is perfect though and everything in town is walkable.
- Dowry Creek Marina (Belhaven, NC): One of the best marinas on the East Coast! There are so many little extras including a gorgeous pool and a courtesy car. And the staff makes you feel like family.
- Lamb’s Marina (Elizabeth City, NC): This is the closest marina to the entrance to the Dismal Swamp. We wanted to be at the lock when it opened so we bypassed some of the other Elizabeth City docks/marinas. Lambs is bare bone and falling apart. But the location worked well.
- Waterside Marina (Norfolk, VA): Waterside is right in the heart of Norfolk. We were able to walk everywhere downtown right from our boat. Great place to stop to really experience the city.
- Wormley Creek Marina (Yorktown, VA): This is another marina in a great location! We were able to take our dinghy to downtown Yorktown for dinner and to explore. The next day we rented a car (the marina staff insisted on driving us to the rental car place) to visit Jamestown and Williamsburg.
- Olversons Lodge Creek Marina (Lottsburg, VA): The marina itself leaves a lot to be desired. But it’s in a great location at the mouth of the Potomac River and has a very affordable rate. Not to mention there is a pool and several courtesy cars. This summer several “Loopers” chose to stay a month or two and do short trips out of here.
- Parks Marina (Tangier Island, VA): This is the main marina on Tangier Island and it is what it is. Nothing fancy, but everything you need.
- Solomons Yachting Center (Solomons Island, MD): Very active spot- both the marina and the location on the water. Lots of fun for a short stay and easy to walk to everything on Solomons Island.
- Annapolis City Marina (Annapolis, MD): I’m including this marina, but we actually stayed on a mooring ball, not a dock. Very easy spot to take your dinghy anywhere along the Annapolis waterfront.
- Log Pond Marina (Harve de Grace, MD): Positives about this marina included the location at the top of the Chesapeake Bay, and it’s proximity to downtown Harve de Grace. The negative was that there was tons of seagrass and no real amenities for the marina itself.
- Delaware City Marina (Delaware City, DE): This is a very popular place to stop for the evening before crossing Delaware Bay. The marina owner does a weather briefing every evening for the next day. In hindsight we could have gone through the C&D Canal and across the Bay in one day without stopping here. But, if there’s weather concerns, this is a great stop.
- Utsch Marina (Cape May, NJ): This is another active marina- mostly for fishing boats- but it’s a great location. We could walk to the beach and a ton of restaurants/shops.
And here are some of my posts from our various stops on the East Coast:
Thanks for following along on our adventures!
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