Trippin' up the Gulf Stream
The title is a little misleading, since the route laid out in the picture to the left is entirely within the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), well clear of the Gulf Stream. My planning to date has all been on protected waters, either on rivers or along the ICW – with the exception of a short run across the Gulf of Mexico from Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs, Florida. From a scheduling perspective, staying within the ICW is kind of a worst-case scenario. You can only travel during the day, your route will at times be tortuous as the river or ICW snakes around (definitely not the shortest distance between two points), and you'll be tied to the tiller for much of the time you're traveling. You can't use any autopilot if you need to dodge barges, motorboats, or newly shifted shoals while you're on those protected waters. In addition, it would be a real challenge sailing where surrounding terrain obstructs the wind and the meandering waterway prevents you from staying on the same bearing for any distance. Translation: lots and lots of motoring – not what I have in mind for a pleasurable trip. The bottom line is that I'll be looking to head offshore in a few places, and I'll also be taking note of places where I can duck into inlets to take shelter if the weather begins to look threatening. If you missed the earlier posts, you can backtrack and look at the routing shown in part 1 and part 2.
One place I'm likely to travel outside the ICW is shown in white in the picture above, from Jacksonville, Florida to Charleston, South Carolina. I understand maintenance dredging of the ICW hasn't been a priority in Georgia, and that grounding is fairly common. Having said that, Magic Moments' draft is under 2 feet, so if the weather doesn't cooperate through that stretch, I'll join the parade of boats motoring their way up the ICW. Here are my best guesses at distances and scheduling:
- The blue segment shown on the map above runs from Miami, Florida to Jacksonville, Fl – about 352 miles or 566 km. Assuming all has gone well to this point, I should be arriving in Jacksonville at the end of March or beginning of April.
- Then I'll have to decide whether to follow the ICW through Georgia or not. If I stay inside the ICW as shown in white, the trip will be about 251 miles (404 km). If I can catch some good weather, I could head offshore and complete the same trip in under 200 miles (321 km) – including traveling 20 miles offshore and 20 miles back again. It would be nice to see the night sky without no ambient urban lighting to spoil the view, and to see the phosphorescent trails of dolphins at night – as well as watching them play during the day! Regardless, the trip as plotted above should put me in Charleston, South Carolina by the middle of April.
- The last leg shown above (in red) is about 356 miles (573 km), which means I should be docking in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina early in May. I doubt I'll tempt fate too much on this leg by going outside the ICW as I near the cape, an area known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Confused seas and sudden, severe weather changes can result when the warm waters of the Gulf Stream flow north and hit the cold waters of the Labrador Current as it flows south.
I don't generally do intensive planning like this for trips, but it's not as if I'm jumping in a car and driving to Florida and back. I can't just twiddle my thumbs for the next two years, so I may as well try to get my act together before shoving off. Next up – I'll finish my trip up the east coast and head up the Hudson River in New York, where I'll have to drop the mast again to travel the length of the Erie Canal on my way back west to Lake Erie in part 4.