Cruising The Hamptons to Nantucket

Head east from the Hamptons to Nantucket with this guided east coast cruise. Begin your cruise at Sag Harbor Yacht Club, in the historic whaling village of Sag Harbor, NY, and continue east with stops including Montauk, Newport, Martha’s Vineyard, and more.

Florida Keys

The Florida Keys stretch 200 nautical miles from Key Biscayne to the Dry Tortugas and include favorite boating destinations such as Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, and Key West. They are aptly named, because they do offer the “keys” to a boating paradise unmatched anywhere in our lower 48 states. If you mention those two magic words — the Keys — to any boater in Florida, immediately what springs to mind are visions of sparkling clear waters, snorkeling, scuba diving, tickling for lobsters, deep-sea fishing, back-bay flats fishing, and simply relaxing and letting go. And fortunately for boaters, the Keys are easy to transit in all weather, day or night, because the naturally formed Hawk Channel is well marked for buoy hopping and offers comfortable passage when the seas are raging outside the reef in the Gulf Stream.

ICW Southbound

The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW) is a continuous and mostly protected navigable route from Norfolk, Virginia to Miami, Florida. Originally conceived in 1802 for commercial use, today it is primarily used by recreational vessels, however light-draft commercial vessels along with small tugs pulling barges will make use of the AICW to avoid exposed open ocean passages. The AICW is made up of natural rivers, bays, and sounds, connected by a series of man-made canals where necessary.

The route is maintained by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and is measured in statute miles at 1,090 miles long, beginning at mile marker zero (MM “0.0”) in Norfolk, Virginia. When combined with the Chesapeake Bay, a boater can cruise from Baltimore, Maryland to Miami, covering a total of 1,282 statute miles, or 1,114 nautical miles.

Through the Chesapeake Bay and AICW a boater will experience scenic natural beauty, interesting pieces of our Nation’s history and some of the Southeast’s most vibrant Cities.

Cruising the United States Virgin Islands

Of all the European nations busy colonizing the Caribbean during the golden age of sail; Denmark is the least likely to pop up in the mind of present day sailors. The Danes, however, started colonies on St. Thomas in 1665 and St. John in 1683. West Indian sugar was the driving force behind colonization then. Slave labor planted and harvested sugar cane. A triangular trade developed where Danish merchants traded African slaves for loaves of brown sugar that were sent across the Atlantic to sweeten the tables in Danish homes. In 1733, France sold St. Croix to Denmark, and from that time on the three Scandinavian owned islands were called the Danish West Indies. For the sum of $25 million, in 1917, the United States purchased St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix from Denmark. The new United States Virgin Islands became a territory, much like Puerto Rico. That was a good investment by the U.S. government, since today USVI directly generates a half billion dollars annually from travel and tourism. And that is great news for boaters because it has helped USVI develop into a very friendly destination for cruising.

Cruising the British Virgin Islands

When asked where the British Virgin Islands were, Sir Winston Churchill is rumored to have said, “I have no idea, but I should think that they are as far as possible from the Isle of Man.” Whether Churchill truly said it or not, it is the perfect starting point for exploring this one-time backwater of the British West Indies. By the late 1700’s while the rest of the British Empire’s sugar colonies in the Caribbean were making plantation owners very wealthy, BVI was just a blip in the total fortunes made in sugar, rum and slaves. However, through savvy planning, development and marketing by the islands’ government and entrepreneurs over the past 30 plus years, BVI has become the top charter and cruising destination for sail and power boaters alike. If you have never cruised BVI before, your first experience will be brimming with memorable anchorages, snorkeling adventures, and yes, realizing that you can still do the limbo.

Cruising the Leeward Islands

The Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean span an arc of approximately 200 nautical miles. Whether you pronounce them “lee-werd” or “loo-ard”, it doesn’t matter, as both are correct. The Leewards played a major role in European colonial expansion in the New World in the 17th and 18th centuries. It also served as a theater to play out the machinations of the Spanish, French and English monarchies in their quests for control of Europe.

St. Eustatius, under Dutch control, maintained neutrality and in 1756 announced it was a free port with no customs duties. That helped trigger tremendous growth for Statia (the island’s nickname) as the major trading port of the West Indies during that era. It was so successful that it was dubbed the “The Golden Rock”.

St. Kitts became the first British Caribbean colony in 1623, and developed the model for the English sugar plantation system and the triangular trade. Sugar cane was harvested and processed by African slaves on St. Kitts into sugar loafs. The sugar loafs were shipped to England for the tables of British households. Manufactured goods from England, such as textiles and rum were sailed to Africa in exchange for slaves. The slaves were sent on ships to St. Kitts to work on the sugar plantations. The French, Spanish, Portuguese and Danish New World colonies all followed this lucrative, but harsh, system.

Antigua was home to Great Britain’s main naval station on the Caribbean in the last half of the 1700s and England’s favorite naval hero, Lord Nelson, was stationed there in 1784.

Isles des Saintes served as the backdrop for the most famous naval engagement in the Caribbean in 1782, the Battle of the Saintes. The British fleet roundly defeated the French fleet using the pioneering tactic of “breaking the line”.

By sailing the Leeward Islands, modern day cruisers have the opportunity to visit islands that have the flavor of Dutch, English and French cultures, as well as the only settlement of Carib Indians in the West Indies.

Chicago, IL to Mobile, AL

This segment of the Great Loop is a trip through America’s heartland for more than 1,000 miles on the inland rivers.  Chicago is the last big city you’ll see until you reach the Gulf of Mexico several weeks later.  Many areas will be rather remote, and all but very fast boats will likely have to spend a few nights at anchor on this segment because of the lack of marinas.  This segment includes the western-most point on the Great Loop as well as the longest distance between fuel stops.  There are several locks along the way operated by the US Army Corp of Engineers.

Cruising Lake Huron

The backbone of the Great Lakes is a rock formation called the Niagara Escarpment, and it runs along the Canadian shore of Lake Huron and creates some of the most dramatic cruising grounds on the lakes. The Bruce Peninsula, part of this escarpment, separates Lake Huron from Georgian Bay with magnificent overhanging cliffs and grottos. Sailing further northwest reveals the spectacular North Channel and the Straits of Mackinac. This strait between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan and the surrounding region have historically been known as Michilimackinac. Pronounced “Mackinaw” for short, it has witnessed French Jesuit missionaries and voyageurs, the development of the beaver fur trade and the competition between England and France to be the dominant colonial power in North America. La Salle, the quintessential 17th century French explorer, built the first European sailing vessel to ply the Great Lakes.  In August 1679, LaSalle set sail west upon Lake Erie cruising on waters previously traversed only by birch bark canoes. On the third day, he entered a strait at the western end of the lake. La Salle simply named it “le détroit du lac Érie” meaning the strait of Lake Erie. Today, we simply call the city now located there Detroit. That is where this cruise begins, and the first half of it approximates LaSalle’s journey along the northern shore of Lake Huron to Mackinac Island. This cruise alternates between U.S. and Canadian ports of call, please follow all customs and immigration rules for both the U.S. and Canada while boating on Lake Huron.

Cruising Lake Superior

“Superior” says it all since superlatives abound. Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area and the largest by volume in North America. The Ojibwe people called it gichi-gami meaning “a great sea”. Cruising around Lake Superior is a step back in time.  At the mouth of the Michipicoten River, nine layers of encampments have been discovered. Two thousand years ago the Laurel people developed seine net fishing there. Through the years the lake passed through a variety of dominant cultures; Anishinaabe, French, British and American. Each group drew their sustenance and fortune from the lake and the surrounding natural resources. Harvesting fish, fur, copper, timber and iron ore, then transporting these products across Lake Superior brought wealth to the lucky and shipwreck to the mariner who did not heed the power of the great sea. Of the thousands of shipwrecks on the Great Lakes, the Edmund Fitzgerald is the most well known and occurred on Lake Superior. On the afternoon of November 9, 1975 the Edmund Fitzgerald cast off her lines from the docks at Superior, Wisconsin (just across the bay from Duluth). She had a full load of taconite pellets to feed the blast furnaces just south of Detroit. That afternoon, the National Weather Service predicted a storm would pass over Lake Superior, and the Fitzgerald’s route the following day. Just over 24 hours later the storm deepened with wind gusts from 70 to 75 knots and waves between 18 and 25 feet recorded. At 7:20 PM the Edmund Fitzgerald had vanished. She sailed no more, and all 29 souls on board were lost at sea. The prudent mariner should have a healthy respect for Superior, especially in the wilderness cruising areas of the Canadian coast. Lee shores in changing weather, poor holding at anchor and very cold water are all hazards, but the sheer beauty of the surroundings is well worth the risk for the sailor who is prepared and self sufficient. This cruise begins in Duluth and the estimated mileages between destinations for this itinerary are calculated running counterclockwise around Lake Superior. This cruise alternates between U.S. and Canadian ports of call, please follow all customs and immigration rules for both the U.S. and Canada while boating on Lake Superior.s

Cruising Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario has the lowest elevation above sea level of all the Great Lakes. Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron all flow downstream into Lake Erie. Erie then plummets into Lake Ontario via Niagara Falls and then the watercourse makes its way to the Atlantic Ocean through the St. Lawrence Seaway. The Wyandot people, better known as the Huron Nation, named this lake “Ontario” which means “Lake of Shining Waters”. In 1615, this nation had their first European contact with the French. The explorer Samuel de Champlain, known as the “Father of New France”, realized that the future of growth of French Canada meant establish amicable relationships with the native nations, such as the Wyandot. Lake St. Louis was the name Champlain gave this body of water and a later French mapmaker called it Lake Frontenac. Eventually the Wyandot name, Ontario, prevailed. Canada’s most populous city, Toronto, owes its growth to Lake Ontario in more ways than one. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a type of scow known as a stonehooker was in service in the Port Credit area on the northwest side of the lake. Stonehooking was the practice of raking flat fragments of shale from the shallow lake floor for use in construction, particularly in the growing city of Toronto. This cruise begins in Toronto and the estimated mileages between destinations for this itinerary are calculated running clockwise around Lake Ontario. This cruise alternates between U.S. and Canadian ports of call, please follow all customs and immigration rules for both the U.S. and Canada while boating on Lake Ontario.