“How big is yours?” – an often-asked greeting heard on the docks of the Blue Water Marina in Hampton, VA. This afternoon the small gaggle of sailors gathered on the dock are eyeing the top of our mast. You see, we’re all taking our boats south, but only those of us with a mast less than 65-feet get under the bridges of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). Everyone else will be making an ocean run south.
The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, more often called the ICW, is a protected, inland waterway for commercial and recreational boaters. Made of a series of rivers, bays and canals, this 1095-mile canal starts at nearby mile marker #1 in Norfolk, VA. and winds its way all the way to Miami, mile marker #1095.
We Have Two Choices
- The “highway” ocean pathway south could get us to Florida in as little as 5 days. We would have to wait in Hampton, VA for the perfect weather window, then head out the Chesapeake, around Cape Hatteras, and then (staying out of the Gulf Stream which would push us north) sail south to Florida. This route can be done in one trip or a several smaller jumps down the coast.
- The “blue highway” option will take several weeks to motor down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). I call it the blue highway option because the ICW is like traveling the scenic backroads back home. Others refer to this route as “the ditch.” Sure, it takes longer to get where you’re going…but in the process you experience the flavor of the people who live along the Atlantic coast and their homeland.
This fall we've decided to do the ditch! Some think that we’re a bit odd, but we enjoy the slow pace of the ICW - about 50 miles per day. Dean had the mast of our first sailboat trimmed so that we could transit the ICW and our current Snowcat II has a mast height iof 63.5 feet - ICW ready.
Great Memories Along the ICW
Over the years we have traveled the ICW a half dozen times. It’s fun to recall some of our experiences and the people that we’ve met along the way.
One fall, while homeschooling the boy’s through 5th-grade, they decided to make an educational video about the Great Bridge Lock. I’ve dug into the family archives to show the finished video…they’re both such hams!
On another ICW trip, the boys playing on the bow of the boat caught the attention of two F-18 pilots out for training. This video is not the best, but the reaction of the family afterwards is priceless.
I’d love to hear about your favorite blue highway trips, whether they are by land or water. Leave a comment and share your favorite.5