- ICW Notes Fall 2011 -
These are just my personal notes updated during
my latest trip on the Intracoastal Waterway. These notes are not
meant to replace any official information like the USCG Local Notices
to Mariners and are provided without any guarantee. Use at your
own risk and remember that conditions changes quickly so what may
be accurate one month may no longer be the next.
(all depths are converted to MLW)
MM45 stay on center or just green
of center across G115 as there is 7' or less spot on the red side.
This stretch is narrow so don't stray far off to the green side
MM65, North River inlet. Some shoaling
on the red side at R170. G169 is missing and a new R168 has been
added. Favor the green side passing about 150' from the greens and
about 250' from R168.This puts you just outside the channel line
(dashed line) on your plotter and in at least 10' of water
MM80, Alligator River entrance. Not an
issue yet many run aground there. Southbound dont' miss the G3 (missing
on OLD charts) then after splitting R8/G7 aim straight for R10 to
avoid the shoal on the red side, south of R8. Northbound after splitting
G9, aim directly for R8/G7, do not follow the dogleg shown on the
charts. Note that a new floatie,R8A, had been added to prevent folks
from blindly follow the magentic line...
MM224, Bogue Sound, favor center or green
of centerline between R40 and R40A
MM233, Bear Inlet, 8' MLW shoal 100 to
250' North of G55 worst on red side. Favor green side passing 100'
MM239, Browns Inlet. dredge Snell was working
near the floaties. Pipeline on the green side, I passed on the red
side between dredge and R60 finding 8' mlw
MM245, New river Inlet. No issues except
for brief 9'MLW hump on south side of inlet crossing as well as
on the red side just north on the intersection
MM288, Masonboro Inlet South, 7' MLW shoal
100' north of G135, favor red of centerline
MM297, Snow Cut. Depth in the cut are more
than adequate and the channel is well marked by two floaties. It
is the stretch between the cut and the river where sometimes depths
are reported as shallow. Between G163 and G167 staying on the range
will ensure 10'+MLW. South of G167 the best water (10' MLW) can
be found on a line about 100 to 150' of the reds (R170 to 176) Straying
further to the green side results in lower depths
MM330, Shallotte Inlet, passed a little
closer to G81 than usual due to numerous pots IN THE CHANNEL and
found 7.5 to 8' MLW
The pots are in the channel, between the buoys
and one if them had an 8' line floating near the surface at high
tide. Also FL G83 is damaged and floating on it s side, likely extinguished
MM430, McClelanville, 9' to 10' MLW thru
the section just south of the village
MM460, North of Ben Sawyer Bridge, numerous
7' MLW spots south a G117A all the way to G121. channel is very
narrow and shoals rapidly off centerline. As often the humps are
where small creeks meet the waterway
MM497, Dawhoo River. 7' MLW along the green
floaties past R110. 7' MLW between R116 and G117. 9' MLW off R132
just west of the bridge
MM 503 Watts cut. 8' MLW mostly between
G139 and G143
MM510 Fenwick Cut, 9' MLW between 162 and
R162A passign about 100' off R162A, 12' between R162A and R164
MM516 Ashepoo Coosaw Southern section,
6' to 7' MLW most of the way but some 5' MLW spots just north of
R184. This is down almost 2' from this spring on the same line.
Make sure you come in or exit the southern end of the cut at an
angle as shown on the charts (by R184/G195). A new can G177 has
been added by the FL G 177 to mark the shoal. Note that the northern
section of the cut off bet R166 and R172 is no problem, over 12'
MM570, Ramshorn Creek, deep except brief
9' MLW sounding at the south end, between R40/G39
MM573 Walls cut. 9' MLW or more in the
cut but R42 is missing tempting people to cut the corner
MM575, Fields cut, at the norther end fabor
the green side for 11' MLW or more. Found some 8' mlw readings in
the bend hslfway thru. At the southern end, near the Savannah River,
favor the red side around the bend stay away from the dock on the
green side. Found 12'MLW passing about 100' off R50 and the range
tower, then about 200' off the dock
MM602, Hell Gate, 8' to 9' MLW thru most
of the cut but some readings as low as 5' to 6' MLW around R90.
I usually pass about 40' from R90, and about 30' from G89; this
time around it s definitely shallower by about 2 to 2.5' compared
to earlier this year
MM625, Johnson Creek, 8' MLW between G127
and R128 on the red side
MM655, Little mud River, I found similar
depths as on previous runs.
9'MLW north of G193
8'MLW 100' off G193
5'MLW by the charted wreck
7'MLW 100' off R194
5' to 6' MLW half way between G195 and the range marker
Once on the range depths increase rapidly to 10+MLW
Near G195 I always split G195 with the range marker
and get on the range right away when southbound. Depths shoal up
quickly close to G195
MM683, Jekyll Creek, 7' MLW is as shallow
as I saw mostly near G19 and along the range. I passed about 150'
off G19 then turned on range (was northbound). Stayed on the range
till past R16 ( passed about 75' away) then split R16 with the southernmost
range marker. No change from previous trips
MM704, Cumberland Dividings, all Markers
(R60 to R62) have finally been moved and are marking the shoal on
the red side. 12 to 15MLW throughout.
MM718, Amelia River, favor the green side
north of the bend and G1. I always stay about 20/30' from G1 thru
the turn and then come back mid channel south of G1. Note that I
have seen reports of deep water way over on the red side / outside
of the turn. I have never tried that route but in any case, avoid
the center of the channel!
MM720 Kingsley creek I always favor the
green side there, never had a problem passing about 100' from G3
and 200' from G5
MM721 Amelia river
Favor the green side around G21-23 as it shoals on centerline. I
15MLW 150' off G21,
10MLW 100' off G23
10MLW 100' off G25
MM725 south Amelia River, favor the green
side south of R34 for 10 to 12MLW (7' MLW on center and red of center).
South of the bend, between G37 and G39, favor the red side before
returning to center by G41
MM726 south Amelia River, favor the green
side around the 11' sounding just south of R42 and after the shoal
charted on red side. Favor the Red near R44 to G45
MM781: G17 missing, don't cut the corner!
MM785: stay 125' off R38 for 15'MLW. reports
of grounding close to marker
MM792 Matanzas Inlet, dredged 2011, no
issues, two green cans mark the channel, split with shoreline for
12 to 15 MLW
MM843 Ponce Inlet South, stay close to
reds, about 20' to 30' away from R18 and R18A for 8' to 9' MLW versus
5' or less on the green side. Just south of the cut, favor center
as R20 is clearly set in shallow waters.
MM1080 Bakers Haulover. I try to avoid
that section as shoaling can be severe and unpredictable. Despite
being dredged in the winter of 2011, there are reports of buoys
being off station and shoaling once again encroaching in the channel.
ICW NO WAKE ZONES
Note:whether or not you need to slow down really
depends on the size of your boat. There are other narrow sections
or stretches with empty floating docks where you dont' want to send
a 4' wake along the shoreline anyway. There are also places with
an occasional boat tied to a dock for which you may have to slow
down. Use common sense... These are only the mandatory no wake zones.
MM0, Portsmouth, 4
MM15, Canal, 1
MM50 Coinjock, 1
MM195 Adams Creek, 2
MM205 Moorehead, 1
MM225, Swanboro, 2
MM246, New River, 1/2
MM305 Carolina Beach, 1/2
MM310, Southport, 1
MM325, Holden Beach, 1/2
MM342, Little River, 1/2
MM345, North Myrtle, 1
MM350, Barefoot Landing, 1
MM380, Waccamaw marinas, 1
MM412, Ferry, 1/2
MM435, Awendaw, 1/2
MM465, Isle of Palm, 2
MM470, Wapoo, 1
MM540, Beaufort, 2
MM580, Thunderbolt, 1
MM590, Isle of Hope, 1
MM685, Jekyl, 1/2
MM715, Fernandina, 1
MM735, Sisters Creek, 1/2
MM740, Jax Beach, 1/2
MM810, Flagler Beach 1/2
MM830, Daytona 1
MM840, New Smyrna, 1
MM855, Trailer Parks 2
MM860, Haulover Canal 1
MM935, Sebastian 1
MM952, Vero Beach 1
MM965, Ft Pierce, 1
Total 36NM out of 1000NM
With a 70 footer drawing a little over 6' I am
a little picky about where I drop the hook! Here is what I used
on the past 2 or 3 trips depending on weather and tide schedule
in nearby PTT (play the tide) spots!
MM 57 North river behind G157
MM 82 East lake entrance
MM 102 Alligator river south north of G43
MM 129 Scranton Creek entrance
MM 161 Bay river, west of FLR4
MM 244 Mile hammock
MM 295 Carolina Beach
MM 395 Butler island
MM 420 south Santee river
MM 455 Dewees creek
MM 487 Church creek
MM 521 Bull River
MM 544 Cat island beaufort river
MM 614 Kilkenny creek
MM 647 Doboy Sound off Folly river
MM 694 Cumberland next to G37 or next to R40
MM 710 Cumberland Isl Dungeness
MM 765 Pine Isl, Tolomato river
MM 832 Daytona
MM 878 Titusville
MM 923 Indian river along east shore
MM 966 ft pierce inlet Faber pt
MM 986 Hooker Cove St lucie river (shoaling at river entrance a
problem over 5.5')
MM 1000 Hobbe sound deeper water pockets west shore
FUEL & DOCKAGE
Tidewater in Portsmouth and Osprey
Marina in South myrtle are my preferred stops. Best fuel
price and service! They are typically the only place I dock on the
entire trip. Prices in Florida are usually higher although two commercial
docks are usually pretty competitive: Florida Petroleum in
Fernandina Beach (closed on week ends) and Ft Pierce Port Petroleum.
If sightseeing is a factor then consider stops
Morehead city and/or Cape look out bight
Beaufort town marina SC
Savannah riverside docks
St Augustine (mooring, i find the $3 a ft city marina overpriced)
West palm Beach Palm Harbor marina
How we navigate and plan trips have changed drastically
over the past few years. Not only have GPS plotters helped improve
navigation accuracy but there are now a number of online resources
which have really helped boaters. Gone are the days of guessing
where shoaling may have developped, whether or not a marina had
fuel or if that aging cruising guide was still accurate. We now
have so many tools, from laptop with cellular data or wifi to smart
phones and IPads that running the ditch has become a lot easier
For comprehensive cruising data, visit www.activecaptain.com
which I consider to be the best resource for marina, fuel prices,
anchorages and local knowledge. Integration of Active Captain data
in navigation software (computer and smart phone) means that you
no longer need to have a live internet connection to access the
data. Another excellent resource for the ICW is Salty's
Cruisers Net especially their fuel price page updated weekly
during the spring and fall seasons. Finally in addition to a plotter
and/or computer with nav software, i find the Kettlewell ICW Chartbook
to be a must have near the helm, not only because keeping paper
charts is still good seasmanship but because you can jot down notes
in the margin as you go along.
For details on navigation software for your laptop
and smart phones, see Nav Software
THE ICW -
Myth Nr. 1: it's too shallow and to dangerous.
Overall, i found the ICW to be in pretty good
shape and most boats drawing up to around 5' should have no problem
transiting the entire waterway although in some areas it is obviously
very nice to have a safety margin. Over the past couple of years,
a number of areas have been dredged and depths are holding so far.
Names like Shallotte Inlet, Lockswood Folly, or New River are no
longer dirty words to ICW cruisers and in most other places you
can play the tides and get a lot more water under your keel or props.
In Georgia for example, with up to 8' tides, if you get underway
2 hours past low tide, you can run for 6 to 8 hrs and have at least
3 extra feet of water under your boat at all time.
Myth Nr. 2: Travel on the ICW is too slow because
of all the no wake zones.
For the most part this is untrue until you reach
Jupiter in South Florida. Last year, i noted all the no or minimum
wake zones encountered and they total a whopping 36NM out of almost
1000NM!! In addition to these, there are many sections where boats
along the waterway are kept on lift and not subject to wakes although
among those, they are sometimes a handful of boats kept in water
for which you should slow down. This amounts to 5 to 10 minutes
a day at the most...
Myth Nr. 4: Too many bridges you have to wait
You hear a lot of skippers complaining about how
many bridges there are and how they always have to wait. Again,
excluding South Florida (south of Jupiter), there are few bridges
to contend with. Norfolk is one of the exceptions, with 5 bridges
and a lock but their schedule is such that if you time it right
you barely have to wait. Unfortunately, many skippers either dont'
bother looking up the schedule or can't do basic Time/Speed/Distance
calculations! Once out of Virginia you will typically encounter
one or two bridges a day, most unrestricted except the 3 bridges
just north of Carolina Beach which again can easily be timed right.
Over the past few years, a handful of bridges
have been replaced by high rise fixed spans, incl the antique Sunset
Beach Pontoon bridge in NC and the Titusville Swing Bridge in Florida
making things even easier. Now again once you reach Jupiter in South
Florida, you have to deal with no less than 33 bridges over the
final 50NM to Miami although if your air draft is 25' or less, you
can pass under a few of these. But again, unless you are mathematically
challenged, by adjusting your speed (usually between 5 and 9kts)
you dont' have to wait.
Myth Nr.5: Too many sailboats to slow down
for and they never pay attention to the VHF
Overall i'd say that a majority of sailboats do
reply when you call them on the radio to pass them, really no difference
with power boats. On average I come upon 15 to 20 slower boats on
a typical day and done right, a courteous slow pass can be done
in under one minute. I keep my speed up until i am close to the
slower boat (my bow within half a boat length of their sterns) then
I chop the power. Ideally, the other guy slows down a little and
will turn behind me, in my wake as soon as my stern clears their
bow, and can power up. Painless... Unfortunately, it's trye that
some guys just dont' get it and as you pass them, they either don't
slow down which makes the pass take twice as long, or worst they
start pulling off to the side instead of staying close and cut into
your wake... So here you are, waiting for your wake to reach them
before you can power up again, frustrating for everyone.
But if both vessels do it right, it takes a minute
or less, times 20 passes a day and it's not even a half hour! Well
worth not being a jerk sending slower boats rolling in your wake.
I have been on the receiving end of the 3' wake send by sportfish
jockeys, even with a 70 footer it can be rough.
- EIGHT TIPS TO RUN THE DITCH
Nr.1: Your depth sounder is your most important
instrument! If your boat draws more than 4 to 5' you have to
start worrying about depths when running the ditch and while your
chart plotter or PC is an extremely important tools, the most critical
instrument on your boat is your depth sounder. It will not only
alert you when things get a little skinny but it will also let you
find the deeper water. On long straight stretches, the deeper water
can be only a fraction of the actual waterway and markers can be
far apart. If you see that depths are starting to come up, you can
alter course by 10 to 15 degrees and see what happens as often it's
all it take to quickly see a change.
Knowing how accurate your sounder is critical
and often overlooked. Sure the instrument is pretty accurate but
many aren't sure of where their transducer making the soundings
nearly useless when the going get skinny. So, find the sounder and
measure how far below the water line it is so that you can get precise
readings. All sounders allow you to adjust the offset which is the
height below water line or above the keel or props. Setting the
offset make it a lot easier than having to add or deduct the measurement
of the transducer location. Whether you set it to show actual depth
or clearance under the keel/prop is a matter of personal choice,
just pick one! Once in while, when i'm anchored over a flat bottom
in clear water, I will actually go under and measure the actual
waterdepth and compare with the sounder reading... I know, that's
hard to do up north in muddy or cold waters!
Nr.2: Being between the sticks isn't enough!
This is an often hard learned lesson for many cruisers who assume
that the waterway will be nice deep from Green to Red, it is not.
Traffic permitting, with a 6+ draft always favor the center of the
ICW and avoid running on the sides unless i have to (traffic) or
have good reasons to believe the channel is still deep enough.
Nr3: Study the charts! This one is somewhat
related to Nr.2 above... There are hundreds of places where for
some reasons the markers or buoys are set further from the centerline
and over shallow waters. Looking at the charts and the exact placement
of the markers and the depths close to them will usually give you
a first warning about shallower waters on the sides of the channel.
Cutting too close to these markers may result in a bad, and expensive,
surprise. Also, seeing shallow water just beyond a marker in an
area that's deep on the other side is often a warning that shoaling
may be building up into the channel and it could be a good idea
to favor the center or the other side. This is even more true around
a sharp turn in some of the rivers and creeks of Georgia or Florida
where the chart will show shoaling extending beyond a marker.
Speaking of charts, dont' blindly trust the soundings!
While this is the case just about everywhere it's even more true
along the ICW due to the nature of the bottom and the water flow.
Obviously this applies to anchorages and places which may look good
Nr.4: In doubt, take it slow! When approaching
certain spots, there may be clue that shoaling is occuring and you
probably want to slow down. Remember the old docking rule "don't
approach a dock faster than you want to hit it!"? Well,
yes it's very good advice about shallow water too: dont' approach
shoaling faster than you want to hit it! Everybody may have different
level of comfort, based on experience, local knowledge and boat
size/type. Personally when running a larger boat with a draft of
6' or so, I will normally slow down from a 9 to 10kts cruise speed
to a 6kts fast idle when the sounder shows 10'. If it gets under
9' I go to slow idle (4.5 to 5kts) and at 8' i'm bumping in and
out of gear ready to throw it in reverse should the bottom keep
coming up. Thankfully it rarely gets to that point, but it's happened
and going slow saved me from a possibly costly grounding.
What are the signs that shoaling may be lurking
ahead? Temporary markers for one, as the USCG or COE will often
mark shoaling with floating buoys but sometimes shoaling keeps building
beyond those buoys.. Also, most of the shoaling (even minor) occurs
where the ICW meet inlets or creeks leading to even minor inlets.
Nr. 5: Do your homework! The first thing
I check while planning a trip is the USCG Local Notice to Mariners
and if needed make some note on my ICW chartbook. It's good practice
but frankly it's not enough as you will not find much useful shoaling
info in the LNMs and sometimes even things like bridge closures
are not listed. Nowadays we have the internet and many online resources
where up to date information can be found. My favorites are Active
Captain and Salty's
Cruisers Net but there are others such as Skipper
Bob or Waterway
Guide. Again, when planning the next day run, I often look
up the latest information and jot it down on my chart book.
Recently though, the integration of Active Captain
data in a number of navigation software has made things much easier.
I've been using PolarNavy
software (under $50) which shows Active Captain markers
right on the NOAA charts so while underway the data can easily be
accessed as it is stored locally on your computer, no internet connection
needed underway! See the Navigation
Software 101 page for more info.
Nr. 6: Courtesy first! Well, first after
safety obviously. Somehow on every ICW trip, you will run in a few
jerks or selfish idiots who may not ruin the day but will remind
you why it's so nice to be away from land for a while. Those specimen
come in various boat type and size and frankly I just don't agree
with the most common stereotypes we've all heard about. Lack of
courtesy and common sense is a disease which doesn't discriminate
it affect sail and power, small and large alike. The most obvious
effect of this disease can be seen when a faster boat passes a slower
one. If both parties cooperate the process can be quick and totally
painless. When I approach a slower vessel, I always call them on
Ch16 to warn them and tell them i will slow down and pass on their
X side. This way they dont' have to worry seeing that big boat and
4' wake closing in on them. As I get close, I slow down to idle
by the time my bow almost overlaps their transom and remain at or
near idle until my wake has passed them. If the other guy knows
what he's doing and cooperates, he will slow down, stay close and
turn behind me to get in my wake as fast as possible. Done right,
the pass will take under one minute. Done wrong, it will take 3
times as long and the slower guy may end up rolling around.
Most common mistakes in passing:
- Slower boat doesn't slow down and / or start moving away to the
side, never crossing the wake of the faster guy.
- Faster boat doesn't call ahead to warn the slower vessel so here
you are, a sitting duck wondering how bad the wake is going to be.
- Slower boat doesn't have its VHF on. Many insist that it's a sailboat
thing but i've encoutered just as many deaf stinkpotters...
Nr. 7: Shop for fuel prices. Most of us
care about cruising costs and fuel is probably the most visible
expense. I am always amazed to see folks pulling into a marina,
getting hundred of gallons of diesel while 1/2 mile away another
fuel dock can be $0.50 cheaper; that's $50 for each hundred gallons!
On average the difference will pay for dockage and dinner... Salty's
Cruisers Net has fuel price pages updated weekly during
the fall and spring seasons which covers a number of popular stops,
also has fuel price data.
Nr. 8: Anchor out for a change. This is
mostly a matter of personal preference but while stopping at marinas
is a great way to discover nice little towns and meet other cruisers,
anchoring in scenic and possibly remote locations can be very enjoyable.
Active Captain data includes hundreds of anchorages with information
and useful reviews. There is something almost magic about being
the only boat around and watching that sunset somewhere in a remote
spot in complete silence. Try it...