Pointers to plan a boat trip from Quebec to Florida

Pointers to plan a boat trip from Quebec to Florida

This article underlines the important points to take into consideration when planning a boat trip and hopefully making a good trip an excellent one.

From our clients and a number of captains that have shared their experiences with us, we will try to demystify the route from Quebec to Florida. Some of the points that will covered in this article are:

  • Number of people onboard
  • Route guides
  • Facts on locks and bridges
  • Reservations in Florida
  • US « cruising permit »
  • Fuel consumption, length of route, miscellaneous expenses, etc.
  • Solutions for service, towing etc.
  • Spare parts, propellers etc
  • Itinerary
  • Flag etiquette
  • Red, Right Returning, buoys etc
  • Weather and communication
  • « The Great Loop »
  • Visiting the Exumas

Ideally, there should be at least three people onboard so that handling the numerous locks will be relaxing and safe. Remember to have onboard a minimum inventory of spare parts that hopefully will not be necessary but could prove to be very handy. (impellers, diesel filters, air filters, belts, etc)

A absolute must and a great start for the trip is the famous guide: ICW, Waterway Guide, Atlantic ICW2015 which completely covers the Intracoastal Waterway. Don’t forget to have paper maps, it should be an obligation for a serious boater.

Helpful link:



This will be your bible (ICW) throughout your route. You will have all the information and pertinent details on the canals you have to follow, stopping points, marinas and much more making the trip a true pleasure. But above all, following are suggestions that should be taken into consideration.

Your boat must have a height clearance of less than 17 feet if you are going through the Champlain canal and less than 21 feet 3 inches if you are using the Oswego (by Lake Ontario). These clearances can change slightly depending on the season (spring or fall) so a quick call for confirmation may be required.

If this is the first time discovering the waterways to Florida it will be amazing but we would strongly recommend that you have another boater along that has already done the trip, better yet, hire a captain and make it worry free.


Another option is to join a convoy, follow along with another or other boats having at least one captain aboard. It will not be free, but could reduce the price by 50% and it would be money well spent. Having peace of mind… priceless. Contact us at the end of each summer and in spring so we can help you either with hiring a captain or linking you up with a convoy.

It would be our pleasure to recommend a selection of Quebec captains that have done the trip on many occasions and come with excellent qualifications and recommendations. Their rates are very reasonable and again, worth every cent to get the chance to relax, learn and make the trip incredible for both you and your guests.

It goes without saying, your boat should be in excellent mechanical condition and that includes the navigation equipment and security equipment as per US regulations.   Also, take the time to plan the stops, budget and reservations and then you are on your way!

To help you out, here is a little advice and information concerning your project.

Start early on researching the marinas in Florida. Everything is on the internet. When checking marinas, verify how many bridges and whether they are lift or fixed keeping in your mind your clearance requirements. Distance to the inlet (access to the ocean) and proximity of services such as grocery store, restaurants, bar, airports, beach etc). Don’t hesitate to ask help from your friends that are already boating in Florida. Marinas in Miami are generally more expenses that Fort Lauderdale, Boca-Raton etc.

The least expensive marina docking fee in Florida (such as Fort Lauderdale area) for a 55 foot yacht, will be approximately $1,000 to $1,300 US per month. Always verify that they permit you to live aboard while the boat is at dock as there are several marinas that disallow.

This rate is based on a reservation of at least 6 months. Renting by month will always be more expensive. If you are planning to travel to the Bahamas, several marinas are linked together therefore able to offer discounts during your travels.

In addition to marina fees you will have to add on exterior cleaning, scrapping off of barnacles and clams by a diver, and foresee to have someone visit the boat when you leave for a long period of time. All of the above should run between $200 – $500 US by month.

When advising your insurance company of your travel plans the surcharge should not be extravagant if you leave after November 15th when the hurricane and tornado season ends.   You will always be required to acquire a cruising permit from the US Customs and Border Protection.

Helpful link for all your questions:


Always keep right on hand the original registration paper for the boat, proof of insurance and of course your passports. With regards to diesel, you can expect to consume a fair amount for this length of trip. Plan for at least $10,000 US so that there will be no surprises.   The fuel expense will depend on how you choose to travel at a slow speed (less than 10 knots) or by the ocean on a beautiful day at 20 knots or more. Taking your time and enjoying the view will save in fuel costs.


A one way trip from Quebec to Florida will add approximately 125-150 hours to the engines and the days required can vary. If you navigate 8 hours a day your trip will take anywhere between 12-18 days. If the weather is beautiful and you can head out on the ocean, you will save quite a bit of time but consume more fuel as your speed will probably increase to 20 knots. With a captain, you will be able to cruise longer each day including evening or night therefore decreasing the days to less than 10, again, always depending on the weather.

With regards to the marinas on the trip down, you will be in the low season but certain marinas will still charge anywhere between $2 to $4 US /foot/night. Don’t be surprised, smile, you are on vacation! As you move south, the marinas will drop in price.

Be sure to have spare propellers onboard, we never know. If you have a diver and his equipment along for the ride, wow, huge plus. We are not suggesting to change the propeller yourself, but, for so many reasons, it is great to be able to see first hand what is happening under water. (rope or debris entangled around the prop or shaft)

We strongly suggest that should a propeller require changing, that you have the boat hauled out and replaced so that you can supervise first hand the work instead of using a local diver. Locating a propeller that you lose while underway is almost impossible.

If for any reason you require to be towed, there are specialized companies, similar to CAA for cars, at your disposal. These towboats will take charge of your boat if there are engine problems or if you have run aground.

Following are a couple of links to towboat companies:




Before leaving, we would recommend having a reference number in your phone that you can call if or when you run into problems. At Ita Yachts Canada, we have the expertise and the contacts to help you wherever you are on your route.

If possible, purchasing an extended guarantee for your engines could give you a peace of mind and prove to beneficial to the pocketbook. Oh yes, please remember to purchase an American flag. If your boat is registered in Canada, you are required to fly the Canadian flag on the lower part of stern and as visitor fly the US flag higher up, for example, along side the navigation lights.

Following are important points with regards to the itinerary:

Leaving Lake Champlain by the Champlain Canal you will follow the Hudson River all the way to New York where you go out into the ocean at least until you reach Atlantic City. From there you will have the choice to use the Intracoastal Waterway all the way to Cape May.

Click on this link for the canals up to New York:


You have the choice to enter into the Delaware Bay and eventually pass by Annapolis via the Chesapeake Bay or chose the Intracoastal Waterway which will make Norfolk your next important point. This city hosts a very important American military base.


From this point, you enter into the Albemarle Chesapeake Canal which follows very closely the ocean all the way to Florida. Depending on the weather (which is always the determining factor) you have the choice to travel on the open ocean for a faster option or stay within the canal. Plan your stops, have enough fuel in reserve and always watch the weather!

Here are a couple of links for information on marine weather:





Also here is an interesting site to predict the tides, click here.

It is extremely important to take time before leaving to refresh your memory with regards to the navigation buoys and markers. Master the rule of the 3 R’s. Red Right Returning. So, while heading south you are Returning to Texas therefore the Red buoys are always to be on your Right. Also, buoys marked with a yellow symbol indicate you are following the ICW.

Link for additional information, click here.  and for the video on YouTube, click here.

We are repeating ourselves, but do not hesitate to hire a captain (a real professional) for your first trip, nothing like learning from an expert. Your travels will be pleasant, safe and after… only happy memories to talk about.

One more piece of advice to keep in mind. When the canal is narrow, pay special attention to the wind direction when travelling at low speeds (5-8 knots) especially when the wind is blowing from behind and you are attempting to turn.

We suggest that you keep your logbook up to date daily. Take notes and pictures of difficult passages, tips and landmarks. These will serve to be invaluable on the trip back or future trips.   We like to believe we will never forget.. but…nothing like a backup plan.

The cellphone is our first choice of communication but I would like to draw your attention to an article written in our Ita Yachts Canada blog (will be translated soon) on updated information on satellite telephones that also offer constant internet connection.

Link to blog :


There are also other very interesting articles on our Ita Yachts Canada blog : Information on AIS, night vision equipment, docking manoeuvres in a marina, boat classification (A,B,C,D), important points to take into consideration when buying a new or pre-owned boat etc. (these articles will all be translated soon)

Another route that we often hear boaters talk about is the Great Loop. This is a itinerary that entails 5,000 to 6,000 nautical miles covering 2 countries (Canada and USA), 23 states, 4 of the 5 Great Lakes, 75 locks and 1,000 navigational hours!!


In brief, you will travel almost completely the eastern coast of the United States (New York to Florida), Hudson River, Oswego canal to Chicago, down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, around Florida and then back up to New York by the canals! WOW!!

We hope that you have found this article helpful in planning your trip and remember to always keep a close eye on the weather so that your travels are pleasant.   Doing this trip enables you to enjoy your boat 12 months out of the year.

Don’t forget to enter into your agenda once you have arrived in Florida a visit to the Exumas (Bahamas). Something not to be missed.



Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or suggestions for future blogs. It would be our pleasure.

Visit our website dedicated to pre-owned boats for ideal opportunities for you or your friends at www.proprio-boat.com

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