East Coast Alerts

By Mel Neale

Cape May Reported Shoaling—Has it been fixed??
We don’t know--but we have been trying to find an answer. Since December 21, 2004, each of the USCG 5th District Local Notices to Mariners issued weekly and monthly has announced that shoaling to 6 ft had been reported in the Cape May Inlet between the entrance jetties in the middle of the channel (See East Coast Alerts dated December 30, 2004). When I called the Cape May Coast Guard Station on December 29, 2004 I was told that dredging was currently taking place and that depths would be restored shortly. There has been no mention in the USCG Local Notices to Mariners 5th District of any dredging at Cape May Inlet. It has been almost three months since the first notice was given. I have followed up with calls on March 10 and March 11, and spoken to Petty Officer Brennan twice and to BM1 Smith. They have been unable to confirm the dredging or the depth of the channel in the inlet. I will let you know what I find out.

NOAA Survey of the Southern Approach to the Chesapeake Bay
Between March and July, 2005, if you see a large vessel meeting the following description making frequent course changes and crisscrossing the main ship channel at the Southern Approach Traffic Lanes at the Chesapeake Bay entrance, don’t be alarmed. It’s just the NOAA Ship Rude (pronounced “Rudy”) towing side scan sonar survey equipment astern. Description of the Rude: White, Steel Hull #S590 with blue/black stack, 90' LOA, 22' Beam, 7.5' Draft, 220 Ton Displacement. Rude will be on VHF Channel 13 and 16, and will broadcast security calls on Channel 16.

Our family participated in a side scan sonar survey aboard a NOAA vessel a few years ago. We were totally impressed, to say the least. Not only did we see all the bottom contours, we could actually see the details of several skeletons of old ship wrecks in the upper Chesapeake Bay. But the boat had to do a lot of crisscrossing, and was very limited in maneuverability. So let’s all stay out of Rude’s way.

The side scan sonar is enclosed in a shell called a “fish” which can scan the bottom up to 150 meters on each side of the ship, depending on water depth and other variables. During typical survey operations in depths between 10 and 60 meters, a 200-meter wide bottom swath can be examined as the "fish" is towed slowly astern. All potential hazards to navigation identified using SSS are further investigated using the multibeam bathymetric sonar system, and possibly divers.

You may remember the Rude for its work locating the TWA Flight 800 wreckage off Moriches NY in 1996, and John F. Kennedy Jr.'s plane off Martha’s Vineyard. It has also found the BOW-MARINER wreckage off the coast of Chincoteague, VA as well as discovering an uncharted wreck on the edge of a major ship traffic lane approaching New York, the IONNIS P. GOULANDRIS.

Military AIWW Dredging
The USACE Wilmington Public Notice dated February 9, 2005 reports that a part of the AIWW located on land owned by the US Marine Corps, in the area we ICW travelers call “the Bombing Range” will be dredged between March 15 and April 30, 2005. This area is between Bear Inlet and Brown Inlet in Onslow County, NC. We recently have found areas there where the AIWW and the inlets cross to be around 6 ft. at MLW.

Ft. Lauderdale/Broward County Bridge Schedule
If you as a boater or as a motorist have any hope of having things “your way” on this bridge opening schedule, you have only until Tuesday, March 15, to make your comments known. The best way to comment at this point in time is by email to
mlieberum@d7.uscg.mil. Comments received without a valid name and postal address may not be counted.

Comments we have heard locally indicate that the bridgetenders are very happy with only having to open twice an hour, motorists are happy to know when there will likely be openings, but some boaters are having a difficult time holding in place in the narrow channels with swift current at some of the bridges. This can be a real problem in Ft. Lauderdale when there are usually many boats waiting, especially when some of these boats are the 30 ft tall, 100 ft long and 30 ft wide party boats, or the even longer megayachts. It is our observation that the only two bridges where there is enough room for a multitude of boats to maneuver, especially the large ones, are the Las Olas Bridge and the SE 17th Street Causeway Bridge (there is significant current at these two bridges). The channels at the other ten bridges in Broward County are much narrower and with strong currents that can make things very dicey maneuvering, especially when some of the boats are the huge ones that take up the entire width of the channel and cannot turn around if they wanted to. Displacement hull boats with single engines really have a difficult time when it comes to holding in place while waiting and maneuvering in strong current pushing toward bridges. The problem is worse when it’s windy. The issue thus becomes not just one of convenience, but also of safety.

Copyright 2004-2005 Tom Neale