25 Things you need to know before sailing the East Coast

Whether you are doing the great loop or just travelling up and down the East Coast, you should be aware of the following dangers. This short list covers the route from Lake Ontario to the Bahamas, passing through NYC, down the East Coast and Florida. This list only mentions the navigational threats, however, please research each one carefully while planning your voyage. Tides, currents and inlets are things that should always be on your mind when travelling. Tread cautiously on these waters my friends, they are quite shifty! Off we go!

1. Oswego (New York)

  • If Sailboat – Mast stepping happens here
  • Border Crossing, go to the videophone
  • Get Tow Boat US Insurance  (You will run aground, and it is worth it)
  • Enter Erie Canal Here!

2. Three Rivers (New York)

  • Don’t get lost – Follow the signs

3. Oneida Lake (New York)

  • Avoid crossing on a West or East wind, it gets quite uncomfortable

4. Hudson River (New York)

  • Current goes back and forth in both directions
  • Learn about tides and currents
  • Learn about anchoring in tides and currents
  • Wind against current creates rough conditions here

5. New York Harbour (New York)

  • Stay away from commercial, or military vessels (security guard vessels with machine guns may chase you)
  • Monitor the NYC Harbour ship-to-ship communications Channel 13
  • West End Anchorage Basin is rough with wind against current (Research other anchorages)

6. Jersey Coast (New Jersey)

  • Preferred Inlets:
    • New York
    • Manasquan Inlet
    • Barnagat Bay (in fair weather)
    • Atlantic City
    • Cape May
  • (ATTENTION: All other inlets should not be traversed without thorough local knowledge)

7. Delaware Bay (Delaware/New Jersey)

  • Learn about the Delaware Bay passage for your vessel type
  • Strong current up to 3 knots, travel with the tide if possible.
  • Wind against current is rough (avoid travel on NW or SE winds)
  • Prepare and Time passage wisely (slower vessels may have a more difficult time if they don’t time the tides.
  • No good anchorages exist in the Bay until you reach the Northern portion/Canal or Southern point Cape May/Lewes Delaware.

8. Chesapeake and Delaware Canal (Delaware, Maryland)

  • Strong current in the canal both ways.
  • Current does not follow the tide schedule!

9. Chesapeake Bay (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia)

  • North/South winds can brings rough conditions.
  • Safe anchorages can be found up the finger-like rivers on both sides of the Chesapeake
  • Be ready for complete fog coverage

10. Norfolk inlet (Virginia)

  • Large container ship traffic
  • Avoid anchoring close to Naval Bases
  • Strong currents at entrance of harbour

11. Dismal Swamp vs. Albermarle & Chesapeake Canal (North Carolina/ Virginia)

  • Read up on which path you would prefer.
  • Dismal Swamp is lush, weedy and narrow, and Elizabeth City welcomes boaters (free dock)
  • Albermarle & Chesapeake Canal open to the weather, more anchorage choices, faster

12. Pamlico Sound (North Carolina)

  • Enjoy the Pamlico Sound
  • Definitely avoid the ocean passages around the North Carolina sounds

13. North and South Carolina’s ICW (North/South Carolina)

  • Very narrow channel in a wide expands of water
  • Follow the buoys or you will run aground
  • Lots of shoaling where the ICW crosses an inlet
  • The current reverses at each inlet

14. Cape Fear River (North Carolina)

  • Strong currents (Time your passage wisely)

15. Rock Pile (South Carolina)

  • Research “rock pile” to have better understanding of hazards
  • Sharp rocks on both sides of the channel, submerged at high tide
  • Go through at low tide to see the sharp rocks

16. Shoaling North of Charleston (South Carolina)

  • Shallow area north of Charleston, pass through at high tide

17. Elliot Cut (South Carolina)

  • STRONG CURRENT in narrow cut
  • Call on the radio before going hrough
  • Research Elliot Cut and passing protocol

18. Georgia Rivers (Georgia)

  • Tides start being up to 8 feet difference
  • Very curvy, currents and tides become impossible to plan schedule around.
  • Go on the ocean for this portion if possible (Choose inlet wisely)
  • Suggested overnight passage: Charleston SC, to St Mary’s FL (150 NM, will skip all the snaking rivers of Georgia)

19. St. Augustine (Florida)

  • Strong currents near inlet, choppy waves (Inlet use not recommended)

20. Florida & Georgia Warning

  • Alligators are present in fresh water, and sometimes in the ICW (Do not swim)

21. Florida bridges (Florida)

  • The farther south of Florida you go, the more bridges and traffic.
  • Learn to navigate bridge openings
  • Slow down to arrive on time rather than waiting in strong currents for bridges to open

22. Good Florida Inlets (Florida)

  • Port St Lucie (Fair weather)
  • Fort Pierce
  • Lake Worth
  • Ft. Lauderdale
  • Miami Government Cut

23. Bahama’s Crossing:

  • Gulf Stream has strong current moving North up to 3 knots
  • North winds MUST be avoided unless you want a living nightmare
  • Gulf stream current will move your boat diagonally northward, choose point of departure and arrival based on currents
  • (Link to speed – chart)

24. Bahamas Entrance 1: Indian Cut (The Abacos, Grand Bahama)

  • Traverse on a mid-rising tide (research about tides, charts, water colour/depth in the Bahamas)

25. Bahamas Entrance 2: Memory Rock:

Alternative entrance with less shallows (preferred for faster boats and overnight passages)

This list will be correlated with our map log data, we will chart where to reference these navigational issues. Please become familiar with Waterway Guide, it has been extremely helpful with navigating the East Coast. We use Navionics as our chart plotter and it is fantastic with showcasing currents and tides as you travel along your journey. Have fun, be safe, and as always, follow the buoys!!



2 thoughts on “25 Things you need to know before sailing the East Coast

  1. Scott Wilton says:

    Hello! I stumbled onto your sailing videos while looking for videos on Barnegat Bay sailing, where we have our sailboat. I was interested enough to go back and start at the beginning and I found you all to be a nice trio to follow. Finally, I was touched by your experiences and I could tell that you were all very shaken during the last episode. I thought that video was fascinating and knowing that you had recovered and regrouped so that you could continue, I wanted to see more. What happened? It also appeared that you captured our friend Laura’s Seaward 26 on camera near the end of the feature on Barnegat Bay! My wife and I enjoyed your videos very much!

  2. Jules says:

    I’m so glad you enjoyed them!! That’s wonderful to hear! Yes, we were very shaken by the experience. We are hoping to get more videos up soon, but life has been quite a wild ride lately. We have thousands of hours of footage and now all we need is time. Thanks so much for following our journey!! Smooth sailing!

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