How do you choose which coast to cruise? West vs. East Coast boating
After reading emails from a surprising number of boaters – old salts and newbies – we’ve found that there is no hands down winner in which coast has the better boating. It really depends on the type of boating you enjoy, the places you want to see and things you want to do. The good news is that you can’t make a bad decision, because both of the glorious coasts – Atlantic and Pacific – have something for every captain and crew. And there’s more good news. We can help you make the decision as to whether to chart your course up and down the East or West coast of our magnificent country. Boaters who’ve experienced both have shared a few pearls of wisdom with us. Truths you won’t read in travel blogs. Here’s a candid look at East vs. West!
Atlantic East Coast - From Maine to Florida
Although the East Coast is known for having calmer waters than the West Coast, it will on occasion get pounded by weather systems. And when it does, head into port and wait. Trying to navigate through these bad boys is dangerous. The fact is, you need to be patient. You can rest assured that good—or at least reasonable—conditions will roll in sooner or later. Seasoned boaters know that when it comes to the East Coast, you can toss away your calendar. The weather is unpredictable, so your schedule matters not a bit to the Atlantic. Most boaters who’ve made the journey will tell you that they’re cruising, so they’re already home!
The best time to sail the over 6,000 miles of the East Coast is December to February, and March to June. With equal warmer and colder months, you can choose the best time to sail for you. However, keep in mind that hurricane season is officially August to November.
If you're setting your sights on cruising the shores of New York, Boston, or Montreal, consider planning for March through June - just before summer. The reason? You'll not only have miles and miles of boat-free water to yourself, but the weather is a lot warmer and more pleasurable.
Stops along the way
Baltimore, Maryland is one of America’s oldest seaports located right in the heart of the Inner Harbor. Although popular with residents and visitors alike year-round, the spring and summer are when it really starts to shine. With rich history and a young and vibrant feel, there will be something for every crew member to enjoy.
Inner Harbor Marina and Pier Six, Baltimore, MD
Charleston’s historic district in South Carolina sits on one of the most spectacular stretches of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). This spot has called to boaters for hundreds of years. It was then, and is today, a bustling district filled with the best restaurants, bars, shops and cultural hot spots. You will be ever changed by Charleston’s history and contagious energy.
Tampa Bay, Florida is loaded with options for boaters. The large bay offers miles of secluded shoreline and sandbars to drop the anchor, and endless fishing and water sports. There are also a number of spectacular islands to spend the day relaxing on. And when you’re ready to come on land, this waterfront city has family fun, arts, music, world-class restaurants and a saucy Cuban culture.
Westshore Yacht Club, Tampa, FL
Pacific West Coast - From Seattle down to California
Let’s be clear that boating the Puget Sound, or even Northern California, is a whole different experience than boating Southern California. Although we can count on the weather being consistently pleasant, even in the rainy Northwest, the waters off the West Coast vary significantly and can be challenging even to experienced boater. The biggest challenge boaters shared was that the waves on the West Coast are significantly larger than on the East Coast. Actually, it’s the wind and the waves – they conspire together. The winds that cause the swells come from New Zealand in the summer and Alaska in the winter. For this reason, we can say that the West Coast will quickly make you a seasoned boater if you weren’t already one.
The best time to sail the over 7,000 miles of the West Coast is September to January. Although hurricanes are very rare on the West Coast, there's a possibility one could roll in from June to December. If it did, it would only make it up to Mexico and Southern California.
Stops along the way
Seattle, Washington is a must stop. It’s the top sailing destination along the West Coast. Not only for the waters of the Puget Sound, but for the sheer beauty that surrounds it. Of course, Seattle itself is a city that is chock full of attractions for the outdoor enthusiast as well as the foodie, shopper and patron of the arts. It’s culturally overflowing and seems to be new every time you visit.
Astoria, Oregon is not technically on the coast, but it is worth the short cruise up the Columbia River. You’ll pass massive ships on these waters, so be prepared for some rocking. But the wildlife you’ll spy with your binoculars is spectacular. This port city, with rich Scandinavian flavor, will enchant you and call you back.
San Diego, California has beckoned to boaters for centuries, and the maritime history there attests to it. It’s even the home to the oldest active sailing ship in the world, The Star of India. With endless sunshine, friendly faces and everything from beaches to casinos, San Diego will leave you wanting more.
No matter which coast you choose, all boaters agree that it’s important to be prepared, keep your eye on the National Weather Service’s NOAA NWS Marine Weather Forecasts, and always practice eco-friendly boating. After that, all that’s left is to enjoy the sun, sea breeze and the scenery as you cut through the water relishing your favorite pastime.
Written by: Jo Montgomery