East Coast Alerts

By Mel Neale

Nassau Grouper “No Take” in Bahamas
The Bahamian government has announced that there will be a two- month period this winter during which no Nassau grouper may be taken from the waters of the Bahamas. The ban starts on Dec. 16, 2004 and ends Feb. 16, 2005. The purpose for this ban is to protect the species during its spawning period. The previous “no take” periods had been for only one month during spawning. This popular food fish has been overfished in recent years. Penalties are reported to be severe.

Railroad Bridges Going Remote
When we passed through the Norfolk, VA area about a month ago, we again had a 45-minute wait while the Norfolk Southern #7 Railroad Bridge at mile 5.8 adjacent to the Gilmerton Bridge remained closed for the passage of two trains. We have had the same experience on at least three other occasions at this bridge in the mid afternoon, when we have needed to get through Norfolk and down to the Great Bridge Lock before the bridges go into their afternoon closure period. During this wait, our repeated calls to the bridge tender on VHF went unanswered. Our concern was that during the 45-minute period, less than 10 minutes was taken up with trains passing. The rest of the time involved an extended period before the first train and an even longer period between trains. It just did not seem efficient. This also increases the likelihood that boats will be caught out in that difficult part of the ICW in the dark. We complained then, and have before.

I just read in the USCG December monthly District 5 Local Notices to Mariners that this bridge, as well as several others off the ICW, but owned and operated by the same railroad company, will have a change in operations as of Jan 3, 2005. The change will “increase vessel openings and eliminate the need for a bridge tender by allowing the bridge to be operated from a remote location.” Let’s hope it improves the situation.

Those of us who have cruised in New England and parts of the Chesapeake such as Annapolis and the Maryland Eastern Shore are quite familiar with moorings and mooring fields. Even with the high cost to rent a mooring for the night, especially in New England, many boaters prefer the ease and convenience of picking up the pennant and not having to worry about getting muddy or dragging anchor. Most mooring fields are located in the more convenient area of the harbors, while the free anchorages may be far from towns and services.

While the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway has many wonderful marinas and countless anchorages, there are very few areas where moorings are available for rent by transient boaters. Notable exceptions are the popular moorings at Vero Beach, Stuart and Ft. Lauderdale.

A few years back we saw the advent of moorings put in by the Charleston City Marina. Recently we were informed by the marina that, after several years of use, they have been removed and will likely not be put back in service. The reason is that they were not cost effective. We understand that the blocks are still on the bottom in the anchorage area just across from the marina (watch your anchors!). Anchored boats may use the marina dinghy dock for $5.00 per day (it floats). There is still a free dinghy dock, but it is high and dry at low tide. While we most always prefer to use our own ground tackle and choose our own spot to anchor, Charleston is one of the places we like to tie up securely. The anchorage at Charleston has very strong reversing current, is usually crowded, and has varied construction and hurricane debris on the bottom as well as the mooring blocks. The mooring balls still in the anchorage are private.

People in Georgetown, SC announced that moorings were to be available this fall. At last check however, after almost two years of advertising and waiting, permitting has still not been completed, and the moorings are reported to be months from being placed. The anchorage here has a soupy bottom with poor holding and is narrow and usually crowded. It is unclear whether there will be space to anchor when the moorings are placed, or what the policy will be as to rafting and transient or permanent usage. Call Hazzard Marine for information before you visit (843-527-3625).

Copyright 2004-2005 Tom Neale