Getting a boat and sailing off into the sunset to a life of blissful peace. The romantic notion that comes to mind to when you hear someone is planning to set sail. Well, yes and no for us. We want to enjoy peaceful relaxed travels of the American East Coast, Canada, Bahamas and possibly beyond.
We joined the American Great Loop Cruisers Association (AGLCA) and bought all the Waterway Guides for cruising information. We plotted our routes on the chart plotter, bought all the paper maps, brushed up on our navigation skills. We have made our vessel seaworthy, safe and well equipped for almost any possibility. We are ready to untie the lines and head out, and yes, we are stressed, second guessing ourselves and terrified. This should be normal. How could anyone not feel these things before starting the biggest journey of your life.
Our travels will keep us mostly in the protected waterways of the Intercoastal Waterway. There are a few parts of these waterways, the Gulf (GIWW), the Atlantic (ICW) and the New Jersey (NJICW). These are inland channels maintained by the Army Corp of Engineers and various state agencies, that offer protected travel from Brownsville, Texas to New York, New York. We will, for the most part, be in this canal system for the majority of our travels.
The first leg of journey will take us to New Orleans, Louisianna and take us between five to six days to complete. How many days we stay will depend on our stress level and how we are feeling after spending the night in a protected marina. From there we will head to the West Coast of Florida to Fort Meyers and the start of the Okeechobee Waterway over the next 10 days or so. The Okeechobee Waterway is a canal system that connects the East and West Coast of Florida and once on the East Coast, we will start our journey North.
Once heading North, it should take another five days to reach the Georgia Coast and the long trip to South Carolina. The Georgia Coast is one of the parts of our journey with more concern as the ICW in this area is poorly maintained, no real resources and limited areas to shelter in bad weather. Once past Georgia we will be back in the ICW and jumping from port to port, this gives us options to anchor out and save some money while being close to resources if needed. Once in New York, our journey takes up the Hudson River to the Eerie Canal system. This canal system opens June first every year and connects the East Coast with the Great Lakes.
Given the height of our vessel we will have to make a turn up the Oswego Canal into Lake Ontario. To avoid the large amounts of commercial ships we will head across Lake Ontario to Trenton-Ontario and start the Trent-Severn Waterway. This a five-to-seven-day trip with minimal stops or fourteen days if you do a little sight-seeing. Once completed we will be heading into Lake Michigan to visit friends, Chicago, Green Bay and Milwaukee, maybe. We will be limited in the Great Lakes to hazardous conditions that start at the end of August and the beginning of September. We will either come down the Mississippi River to complete the Great Loop and get a special Burgee to fly on our vessel, or we will retrace our path back to New York and wait out the end of hurricane season in the upper Hudson River area or New York before starting back South to warmer weather.
Travel to the Bahamas will be dependent on our insurance but I am sure we will have decided on many of the cities and towns along in journey where we would like to spend just a little more time if we have to wait for clearance to the islands.