smallest safe boat for intracoastal waterway trips?

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by thedutchtouch, Aug 24, 2011.

  1. thedutchtouch
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    thedutchtouch Junior Member

    wondering what the opinions are on the intracoastal waterway, and the smallest boat it would be safe to travel in. I'm talking stay on shore overnight and only travel in good weather if needed. any and all opinions welcome.
  2. Rick Tyler
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    Rick Tyler Defenstrator in chief

    You could probably do this in a 15-foot double-ender rowboat.
  3. GTO
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    GTO Senior Member

    I think you also need to consider refueling and speed. Seems like you might hit stretches with few refueling options so you need to carry sufficient quantities to make it to the next stop. That might take some research to figure that out. And that would also need to be balanced against the speed you wish to travel. Higher speeds, more fuel. And more fuel leads to a bigger boat.

    Otherwise, big wakes/waves, big boats, ships - how big a boat do you need to feel comfortable with all that going on around you?
  4. DCockey
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    DCockey Senior Member

    A few years ago I went to two talks by a gentleman from the New York City area who traveled the Intra-Coastal Waterway to Florida in a 18' or so "rowboat" powered by oars and a small outboard. I don't recall if he started in New York or the Chesapeake. He made the trip over two summers.

    In the mid '80's a young couple rowed from Annapolis to somewhere in the Carolinas in a stretched John Gardner light row boat. They generally camped ashore.
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    FAST FRED Senior Member

    I'm talking stay on shore overnight and only travel in good weather if needed.

    Good Luck, In the USA most property is OWNED and the owners may not be delighted at trespassers.

    I have run the ICW many times , and yes there are lots of areas where you could get away with this , but My recommendation would be for a boat that could anchor (2ft off shore will do) and sleeping , cooking aboard would be practical.

    Still a 15 - 20 ft boat would be fine , depending on weather you are rowing , sailing or have a 4 hp out board.

  6. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    I'm with Rick. Canoes use the Intracoastal all the time.
  7. masalai
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    masalai masalai

  8. tom28571
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    tom28571 Senior Member

    I live on the ICW and have made the trip from Maine to Key West, much of it many times. Each of the answers are correct for someone but, in reply to Gonzo, canoes and kayaks making a significant part of the trip are rare. You need some input on what the tripper feels is adequate for their use and whether they want to paddle, row, sail or power. Most sailboats seldom put up their sails when cruising on the ICW so they are stuck with the worse of both worlds and very little of the best. That is why I eventually went to power. The inability to either sleep, cook, relax at anchorage or enjoy the company of a mate would be a killer for me. Looking for a safe place to set up ashore, get food or take a dump would make a cruise miserable for many people.

    There are those who delight in discomfort but they are the exception.
  9. Richard Woods
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    Richard Woods Woods Designs

    The OP did ask for smallest "safe" boat, not the smallest "comfortable" one

    Some years ago in St Augustine I met a guy who was rowing the ICW and had started in Key West. Not sure how much further he got though.

    There are long stretches where, as others have said, you cannot stop. For example the Alligator/Pungo canal is 30 miles long, absolutely no stopping along its length, and no stopping for 10 miles at one end either. Its boring enough at 6 knots, would be murder in the heat/humidity in a rowboat or kayak. But you'd be "safe".

    And some tidal parts can be bouncy in wind over tide conditions, and powerboat washes are a pain even for larger boats, never mind a canoe

    So I'd agree with others. You need a boat that can anchor off occasionally and one that can motor at 5 knots and have a range of 100 miles under power. You could sleep under a boom tent if you don't mind mosquitoes but a proper cabin is more comfortable.

    I have a friend who said he sailed most of the ICW. But he admitted that some days he only sailed 10 miles and he often waited several days for favorable winds

    Richard Woods of Woods Designs

    (who has done the ICW 7 times in boats from 26 -38ft)
  10. CatBuilder

    CatBuilder Previous Member

    I'd say a 12', 1 man kayak would do the trick. Bring a tent.
  11. CatBuilder

    CatBuilder Previous Member

    On my last trip up the ICW, I flew my spinnaker used main and genoa (with a 16' beam) several times. I did this single handed. Crazy?? YES!!! :D

    It sure was fun though and a great test of skill to stay in the channel and practice proper seamanship (canalmanship). Passed a lot of other motoring sailboats. Got passed by many power boats though.
  12. u4ea32
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    u4ea32 Senior Member

    Two girls did the great loop over the summer of '09 in a 16 foot outboard boat. It was a center console with a flat deck forward of the console, so they sometimes pitched a tent on deck. Sounds like a fun trip!

    1 person likes this.
  13. tom28571
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    tom28571 Senior Member

    Good for you but you know that you were an exception. I don't think that size is a very good criteria for determining safety on the ICW as far as natural elements are concerned. Dealing with other boats is another matter and a decent size and speed does add safety in avoiding problems sometimes. I have been nearly run down in daylight by a loaded barge that refused to make any course change while overtaking me from behind. I avoided the barge only by making a tack and going off at right angle to my course. Whether he was playing chicken with me or never saw my 30' sailboat, I could not tell. I was sailing as close to the wind as possible at the time.

    Delivery captains of large power yachts in a hurry in canals can be a real safety problem to small boats. Several boats have been flushed out of the channel and left aground by wakes. Where you pitch a tent in canals narrow waterways should also be carefully considered. I know of one family whose tent was flushed out in the night by the wake of a passing boat in the Dismal Canal. They were lucky that no one was drowned. These may be exceptions also but they are not all that rare.

  14. CatBuilder

    CatBuilder Previous Member

    I know, Tom. I just thought it was a good story to share. I got a lot of looks and several cheers while doing it. :)

    On the same trip, I was also anchored off in a tributary area outside the ICW a 500 ft from the channel or so. Heard (then saw) a huge sport fisher going in semi-displacement mode right down the channel just before sunset.

    The wake sounded like surf crashing. Took my boat, tossed me in the air, then slammed me into the bottom.

    I was lucky the bottom wasn't rocky, or I'd have been holed.

    My hulls hit the bottom twice!
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