Great Loop Cruisers

Traveling the New Jersey Intracoastal Waterway

Buy the Book via Amazon
George and Pat Hospodar

Here are some guidelines for a trouble-free and enjoyable trip through the New Jersey ICW:


  • Don’t follow the magenta line or the buoys on your chartplotter – they are merely general guides. If you do follow the magenta line or the buoys on your chartplotter, you will definitely go aground.
  • Do follow the buoys and day markers you see in front of you – they mark the best water. In areas where buoys are used, they are often moved, and additional ones are added as necessary. Follow the numbers and colors. For example: if your chart shows three green buoys in a line, but you observe that one is way off to one side, it is most likely there for a reason. It is also a wise idea before even starting out on the NJICW to call the Coast Guard or TOWBOATUS ahead of time and ask if there are any markers that are off- station, or if they know of any recent shoaling.
  • Don’t cut corners.
  • Don’t pass buoys or day markers on the wrong side.
  • Do stay in the middle of the channel except when passing other boats. If your depths are looking shallow, look behind your boat at the last mark you have passed, and make sure that you are in the middle of the channel.
  • Avoid traveling the Waterway on weekends or holidays. New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the U. S., so it is not surprising that it also has the greatest boating density in the country. The boat traffic on weekends can be considerable, and it is highly likely that you will find yourself being passed very closely by vessels traveling at high speeds with little regard for fellow boaters. As “locals” who live just off the NJICW, take our advice, weekdays are much better for travel!
  • Don’t let the charted depths north of the Route 37 Bridge in Barnegat Bay scare you. There is more water in the channel than the chart shows.
  • The last bridge on the New Jersey ICW heading north is a railroad bridge which crosses the Manasquan River. Use caution when transiting this area, as it can be congested with boats. The opening at the bridge is narrow, and the current can run strong. Before entering the bridge, be sure that you have a clear view through the bridge.
  • If you draw 4 feet of water or less, you should be fine traveling the NJICW. However, we suggest that you travel between mid and high tide to ensure plenty of water below your keel. If your draft is over 4 feet, you may want to take the ocean route!
  • The majority of the bottom on the NJICW is soft mud, so if you are going slowly and find yourself touching the bottom, you can usually get yourself off with little problem.

great-loop-hospodar-boatThe above is an excerpt from our new book, “The Great Loop Experience from Concept to Completion (A Practical Guide for Planning, Preparing, and Executing Your Great Loop Adventure)”, which will be available this fall.

We traveled the NJICW from Atlantic City to our home off Barnegat Bay aboard our boat, Reflection, which has a draft of 4 feet on May 27. We left Atlantic City at mid tide rising and had no problems traveling this waterway, which we have done for over forty years!

Stay safe out there.

George and Pat Hospodar, authors of “Reflection on America’s Great Loop” published by Atlantic Publishing.

Back to the Great Loop Page