East Coast Alerts

By Mel Neale

Remote Control Unmanned Semi-Submersible at Lake Worth Inlet, FL:
We saw this thing on our trip north in the spring, with its escort. It was weird--surreal almost, and it moves very fast. Since it’s close to the busy “Snowbird” season again, this is a caution to all who venture offshore in the Lake Worth Inlet area:

The USCG 7th District LNM 31, August 2005 Monthly edition, states that Lockheed Martin - Perry Technologies under contract with the United States Navy is testing the Remote Mine hunting Vehicle (RMV)--an unmanned, remotely piloted, semi-submersible vehicle. Operations will be conducted from 1 to 10 miles offshore from Lake Worth Inlet to Boynton Beach Inlet till about December 31, 2005. The Lockheed Martin – Perry Technologies RHIB vessel and/or various Sea Tow Vessels will escort the semi-submersible and will be in constant radio contact with the RMV operators onboard the M/V Wes Bordelon over Marine VHF Channel 71. The escort vessel is able to remotely disable the unmanned vehicle in the event of potential interference from boating or diver traffic. The M/V Wes Bordelon, a 150 ft. supply vessel, and various Sea Tow vessels will also be operating in the area with the RMV. All vessels will be monitoring Marine VHF Channel 16. In accordance with Naval Protection Zones established by the U.S. Coast Guard, boaters shall remain outside of a protection zone of 100 yards from the Remote Mine hunting Vehicle and the support vessels while operating offshore. For further information contact Mr. Dan McLeod, Sr. Program Manager at (561) 494-2305 cell (561) 662-5742.

USCG Announces “Sector North Carolina”:
The USCG 5th District LNM 31 August Monthly edition announced that Group Cape Hatteras and Group Ft. Macon together are now “Sector North Carolina.” A Sector Field Office (SFO) has been established in the Cape Hatteras area. Sector Field Office (SFO) Cape Hatteras will primarily consist of engineering support to provide remote support to the northern Outer Banks subunits. A Marine Safety Unit (MSU) has been established in Wilmington, North Carolina. MSU Wilmington will report to the Sector Commander and will retain Captain of the Port authority for the subordinate Cape Fear River COTP zone.

The following information is a list of updated command titles, addresses and points of contact to facilitate requests from the public and assist with entry into security or safety zones: Name: Sector North Carolina. Address: Commander, U.S. Coast Guard Sector North Carolina, 2301 East Fort Macon Road, Atlantic Beach, NC, 28512. Contact: General Number (252) 247-4598, Sector Commander CAPT W. Lee; Deputy Sector Commander CDR D. Jones, Chief, Prevention Department (252) 247-4520, Chief, Response Department (252) 247-4535, Chief, Logistics Department: (252) 240-8450.

ICW Port Royal Sound, SC to Fernandina, FL Shoaling Worsens:
We’re all familiar with this USCG Notice which has been published weekly for almost two years: Due to the limited commercial use of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway between Port Royal Sound, South Carolina (Mile 552) and Cumberland Sound, Georgia (Mile 713), the Savannah District will not receive funds to maintain the waterway to the authorized depths. The District will monitor the conditions of the waterway and publish quarterly condition reports. Mariners are to use extreme caution when transiting the waterway until further notice.

There has been no maintenance dredging of the ICW in these parts for more than three years.

The most recent 7th District USCG LMN (31, August 2005 Monthly edition) carries an additional warning: Severe shoaling has been reported at various locations in the Intracoastal Waterway from Port Royal Sound, South Carolina to Fernandina, Florida. All mariners transiting through these areas are requested to review the Report of Channel Conditions surveyed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

If you are planning travel through the affected area, you should review the report from the Savannah District USACE. I will summarize the most severe shoaling below. Many areas are shallower than in previous reports. Please refer to the actual report for precise information. The report gives conditions in feet at MLW for the west quarter (red marker side), center, and the east quarter (green marker side) of the ICW channel. The quarters begin 45 ft to either side of the centerline of the channel. Most of the channel widths are 150 ft in this area. Surveys were conducted between June 23 and July 11, 2005. Numbers given are the minimum depth.

Fields Cut, Markers “46” to “48”: West (red): 4.5 ft; Center: 6.0 ft; East (green): 11.0 ft.
Elba Cut, Markers “2” to “4”: West (red): 6 ft; Center: 8.5 ft; East (green): 11.0 ft.
Hells Gate, Markers “87” to “91”: West (red): 7 ft; Center: 6.0 ft; East (green): 2.5 ft.
Florida Passage, Markers “98” to “102”: West (red): 8.0; Center: 5.6 ft; East (green): 6.6 ft.
Creighton Narrows, Markers “153” to “157”: West (red): 8.0 ft; Center: 8.5 ft; East (green): 4.0.
Little Mud River, Markers “190” to “198”: West (red): 3.5 ft; Center: 6.0 ft; East (green): 3.0 ft.
Altamaha Sound, Markers “198” to “213”: West (red): 4.0 ft; Center 5.0; East (green): 7.0 ft.
Buttermilk Sound, Markers “216A” to “223”: West (red): 2.5 ft; Center: 3.5 ft; East (green): 6.0 ft.
Jekyll Creek, Markers “2” to “25”: West (red): 2.0 ft; Center: 5.0 ft; East (green): 4.0 ft.
Alternate Route Around St Andrews Sound, NOT the ICW:
Umbrella Cut: Markers “A5” to “A6”: Center: 5.0 ft.
Umbrella Creek: Markers “A6” to “A14”: Center: 3.0 ft.

In most cases, staying to the channel center will keep you in deeper water, but this is sometimes difficult given the strong currents. A saving grace in lower South Carolina and Georgia is the 7-8 ft tidal range. Traveling at “mid-tide and rising” in the trouble spots will help.

South Carolina, Charleston to Beaufort--Shoaling:
While there is a lot of fuss about shoals in the ICW in southern South Carolina and Georgia, this area has its share also. Included in the same LNM as above was a July 2005 Charleston District USACE Report of AIWW Channel Conditions for Charleston to Beaufort. The surveys were conducted between October 2004 and January 2005. Minimum depths are “based generally on two profile lines running parallel to the channel centerline”. No channel marker numbers or ICW mile numbers were given, and many of the stretches were long. The channel width is given as 90 ft. Depths are Minimum at MLW. These guys found some really shallow water. Here are the shallowest areas:

Limehouse River to Yonges Island: 5.0 ft
N. Edisto River to Dawho River Bridge: 6.0 ft.
Dawho River Bridge to S. Edisto River: 7.0 ft
S. Edisto River to Fenwick Cut: 7.2 ft
Fenwick Cut to Ashepoo River: 5.9 ft
Ashepoo River to Rock Creek: 6.9 ft
Rock Creek to Combahee River: 2.6 ft
Brickyard Creek to Beaufort: 4.4 ft

This does not mean that each complete stretch is as shallow as the “minimum depth”, but the 2.6 ft is pretty scary, even if it is only in one hump. We took our 5 ft draft north through South Carolina several months after the surveys and did not run aground, but the tide was high entering the south end of the Ashepoo-Coosaw Cutoff, at the spot I think probably had the 2.6 depth. This area of South Carolina does have 5-7 ft of tidal range.

This information is not to be used for navigation. Consult the latest charts and Local Notices to Mariners and use prudent seamanship. Any person or entity that uses this information in any way, as a condition of that use, agrees to waive and does waive any and all claims which may arise from that use.

Copyright 2004-2005 Tom Neale