Every year hundreds if not thousands of private motor yachts make the trip north to various ports of call, and it’s a great adventure just getting ready. One of the first things on the list is knowing that your engines and generator have fresh filters and your fuel tanks are topped off. Equally Important is a few spare parts because we all know “stuff” breaks down. Next on the list is going through a cruising guide; there are dozens of publications and a couple of interactive cruising sites on the internet with actual satellite overlays that are very informative. These guides help you plan which option of cruising you would like to do. Some folks like to leisurely cruise the entire length of the Intra-Coastal Highway so they can take in all the amazing sites and various breeds of animals along its banks. Others like to make time and cruise fast on the outside.
Most boat owners know basically how many miles they can comfortably make in fair weather going up the inside while contending with bridge schedules and no-wake zones. For instance, leaving Ft. Lauderdale after breakfast one might expect to make it to Palm Beach by happy hour and that is part of the allure of cruising the inside.
There are other boaters that like to make good time and generally leave the dock very early and press for 150-200 mile days on the ocean (weather permitting). On a good day one might leave the Ft. Lauderdale area and make it to Coco Beach or even a bit farther to Daytona, depending on how much fuel you want to burn up. Of course, you have already made reservations and head straight to the fuel dock and top-off once again, then off to your slip and wash off all the salt and prep the boat for the next day’s push. If you’re lucky and no one wants to cook, you can usually find a good burger on site and off to bed for the next day’s run.
The trip up the inside can get really old really fast unless you are not pressed for time and don’t expect to make it much more than 80 miles a day. I am not saying there is anything wrong with taking your time but the thought of making St. Augustine on your second night is thrilling. The city marina is centrally located smack dab in the center of town and there are so many amazing old buildings that have been renovated into great restaurants. As the oldest city in the U.S., and known for its Spanish Colonial architecture and amazing beaches and The Castillo de San Marcos fortress overlooking the inlet, this is the perfect 2rd day stop-over and maybe even an extra day to go exploring.
Let’s say we did stay an extra day in St. Augustine and now are on day four and the weather is holding. The wonderful city of Savannah is not far away and still gives us a respectable day at sea. After arriving and seeing to our regular chores, you can walk the lower cobblestone streets and marvel in the antebellum architecture of much of the city, and perhaps even tour the Gothic Revival Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. Savannah is a great stop and also a safe layover if the weather gets bad.
Day five is upon us and still the weather is holding. Do we push for a 200-mile day or let the inviting city of Charlestown, South Carolina draw us in? I opt for Charlestown. The city’s history dates back to 1670 and you will find the French Quarter and the Battery District, and again the antebellum houses and cobblestone streets along the Battery promenade overlooking Fort Sumter. A walk through the shops and restaurants in the inner Battery are worth an early day stop-over. There are several great marinas to choose from. My favorite is across the harbor at Patriots Point, which neighbors the Patriots Point Navel Museum. This is the home of the USS Yorktown. She is a mighty 872 ft. aircraft carrier that was built in 1943 and decommissioned in 1970. The Yorktown is open for amazing tours.
Well the weather is starting to pick up and we resolve to run inside as far as we can on day 6. Cape Hatteras is not fun in foul seas, so staying on the inside was a good choice. Our goal today is to make it to Wrightsville Beach, which is a quiet stop-over with a great marina. At this point we are stuck on the inside and passages between points are much slower and dangerous in many areas as the depths are not often the same as what are indicated on the charts, so a short distance to Beaufort, N.C. will still take a good part of the day. We will continue on for the next few days, ducking into small hamlets, and work our way to Norfolk, VA. There is one amazing place just prior to reaching Norfolk. It’s a place where hundreds of boats fuel up daily and one little restaurant that serves up all-you-can-eat roast beef, the Coinjock Restaurant & Marina. They are world famous for it along with a large seafood selection; just another reason to make this northbound trip.
At this point you have the option to head up the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake is basically the largest estuary in North America with adjoining rivers such as the Potomac leading farther north to Washington, D.C. Further up the bay is Annapolis, and onward to Baltimore. You could easily spend an entire season exploring the Chesapeake Bay, and many boaters do exactly that as others head even farther north.
It’s now day 9, and we are jumping back into the Atlantic and headed for Atlantic City. It will be a long day but fun times are ahead once we tie up. The approach to Atlantic City through the Absecon Inlet is usually pretty rough, but once inside you head to Farley State Marina to fuel up and find dockage for the night. The nearby Golden Nugget offers boaters a respite from several days of making their way up the coast.
One overnight was enough in Atlantic City, and we head north to New York City. Entering New York harbor is always fun seeing the Statue of Liberty at the base of the Hudson River where many boaters turn off and head to parts inland, some working their way into the Great Lakes. We press on through New York past the tricky Hell’s Gate, which is a tidal pass through the East River, and make the push into Long Island Sound. Harbor Point Marina is just past Greenwich and makes a great stop-over for the night, as it was a long day. Fuel the boat up and give her a quick wash down and settle in for dinner on the boat.
Day 11 looks like great weather and the run to Newport gets us in early. Newport has long been a favorite with yachtsmen. As you enter the harbor it’s impossible not to marvel in the Gilded Age mansions that line the shore. Well-placed reservations at Banisters Warf gives you time to recover from a long 11 days and to get the boat ship-shape for other great ports of call. I know Boston beckons me as does a visit to the Cape Cod and towns rich with history like Hyannis Port, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The trip will not be complete unless you can also visit some great anchorages and marinas along the Maine coastline. Until the trip back south…..have a great season.