East Coast Alerts

By Mel Neale

Italicized text indicates our comment. Plain text is copied from the Notices to Mariners or other sources given.

New York State Canal System Summer Schedule:

The New York State Canal System is scheduled to open for navigation at 7 A.M. on Monday May 1st, weather permitting. The 2006 navigation season will run through November 15th. Recreational tolls for the 2006 Navigation Season have been waived. Recreational boaters will not need to purchase a pass this season. Hours of operation will be as follows:

May 1 to May 14 7 A.M. to 7 P.M.

May 15 to September 15 7 A.M. to 10 P.M.

September 16 to November 15 7 A.M. to 5 P.M.

The entire Erie , Cayuga-Seneca, Champlain and Oswego Canals will close for the season at 5 P.M. on November 15th. All pleasure and commercial operators are advised to exit the system before closing. Lock service will not be available after closing.

Navigation Notes

1. Scheduled days and hours of operations are dependent on weather, water levels, and construction and maintenance activities. Any changes to the published schedule will be announced in the New York State Canal System Notice to Mariners, available at 1-800- 4CANAL4 (422-6254) and www.canals.state.ny.us .

2. Commercial operators requiring after-hours or 24 hour clearance must provide 24 hour notice prior to departure. Contact the Office of Canal Maintenance and Operations at (518) 471-5016 between the hours of 7 A.M. and 4 P.M. Monday through Friday. To request 24-hour clearance outside of business hours or on weekends call Champlain Canal Lock 12 at (518) 499-1700.

Mariners planning to transit the Canal System are advised to monitor 1-800-4CANAL4 (422-6254) and www.canals.state.ny.us for updates and information.

Chesapeake Bay , Kent Narrows North Approach Shoaling:

USCG 5 th district LNM #18 states that there has been a report of shoaling to a depth of 2 feet MLW in the vicinity of Kent Island Narrows North Approach Light 4 (LLNR 26425) extending across the channel. Mariners are cautioned to transit this area with extreme caution. Chart: 12272.

Rudee Inlet Again This Month:

The City of Virginia Beach Survey of Rudee Inlet, dated April 21, 2006 , indicates a least depth of 7 feet, MLLW across the inbound entrance channel, approximately 200 feet east of the North Jetty. The survey also indicates a least depth of 9 feet, MLLW, across the channel just west of the inside South Jetty. Marine are advised to use caution. 

Good News for North Carolina ICW:

The USCG 5 th District LNM #18 announces that the Dredge JENNIE LEA II will be conducting dredging operations in the AIWW at the intersections with Lockwood's Folly, Shallotte, New River and Bogue Inlet from 09 May until 07 September, 2006. The dredge can be contacted on VHF-FM Channel 16 and 79. Mariners are requested to stay clear of the dredge, floating and submerged pipelines, buoys and wires. Mariners are requested to exercise extreme caution and no wake when approaching, passing and leaving a dredge operation location and to strictly comply with the Inland Rules of the Road.

These are the “Crossings” in the ICW channel, not the inlets themselves. Shoaling is reported in all of these inlets. Shallotte Inlet is no longer marked.

Ocracoke , NC , (Outer Banks, NOT on the ICW) Entrance Channel Dredging:

The Dredge LEXINGTON will be conducting dredging operations in Big Foot Slough until 31 May, 2006 . The dredge can be contacted on VHF-FM channels 10, 13 and 16. Mariners are requested to stay clear of the dredge, floating and submerged pipelines, buoys and wires. Mariners are requested to exercise extreme caution and no wake when approaching, passing and leaving a dredge operation location and to strictly comply with the Inland Rules of the Road.

“Bare at Low Tide” in North Carolina :

We observed on our trip north: Black Mud Channel, Mile 270.6 has a green can, “99A”, marking a “bare at low tide” area adjacent to the east side of the ICW. In the ICW channel we found around seven feet of water at mid tide off this marker, and the shoal was still bare at this tide also.

Green can “99”, which new charts show as marking Black Mud Channel, now marks where the previously marked creek channel to New Topsail Inlet intersects the ICW, at Mile 270. This creek channel has been reported to have bare spots at low tide and the Coast Guard recently removed all the markers in it.

Red Daybeacon “30”, Mile 201.3 north of Morehead City , NC which is currently replaced by a small red nun of the same number, marks a “bare at low tide” area outside the channel, but extending slightly into the channel from this marker. The chart shows a three foot shoal where this bare spot is.

Little River Swing Bridge , SC , Possible Restriction:

From the 7 th District LNM # 17: The Coast Guard proposes to change the request to open regulation of the Little River (S-20) Bridge across the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway , mile 347.3 in Horry County , South Carolina . This proposed rule will allow the swingbridge to open as necessary on the hour, twenty minutes past the hour and forty minutes past the hour form 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. , Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. At all other times, the bridge will open upon demand. This proposed action should improve the movement of vehicular traffic while not unreasonably interfering with the movement of vessel traffic. Comments and related material must reach the Coast Guard on or before June 2, 2006 . You may mail comments and related material to Commander (dpb), Seventh Coast Guard District, 909 S.E. 1st Avenue , Room 432, Miami , Florida 33131 , who maintains the public docket for this rulemaking. Comments are material received from the public, as well as documents indicated in this preamble as being available in the docket, will become part of this docket and will be available for inspection or copying at Commander (dpb), Seventh Coast Guard District, 909 S.E. 1st Avenue, Room 432, Miami, Florida 33131-3050 between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. For Further Information Contact: Mr. Barry Dragon, Project Officer, Seventh Coast Guard District, Bridge Branch at (305) 415-6743.

Ref: Docket Number CGD07-06-011

This bridge is in a very congested area at the northern entrance to the notorious “Rock Pile” section of the Atlantic ICW. There is also a high rise bridge immediately adjacent to the north. This schedule will result in a large number of boats maneuvering in the strong currents in a very narrow channel waiting for bridge openings. Boaters have reported hitting obstructions on the sides of the narrow channel near the bridge. It will also cause further difficulty for slow northbound boats attempting to get to the hourly restricted pontoon bridge at Sunset Beach . It is our opinion that, with a recently built high rise immediately adjacent to the old swing bridge, this restriction is not necessary and will lead to damage to boats and possibly personal injury. It is our opinion that this restriction should be opposed. You may do so by writing to the address in the notice above.

Moon River , Mile 594.7 GA Shoaling:

Johnny Mercer’s Moon River isn’t “wider than a mile”, and it’s apparently becoming shallower with each season. It used to be a good place to anchor. A few years ago friends were telling us that it was around 6 feet deep at the entrance, but deeper inside, good enough for their 4.5 ft draft. We just received an email from a boater who tried to anchor there on Sunday, April 30, 2006. He ran aground at the entrance in his 5 ft. draft boat. Another boat that draws 4.5 ft. went in a little further and became stuck also and had to wait for the tide to get off. It was very windy (NE) at the time, and three days after the new moon, both of which could contribute to lower than mean low tides. This is still an anchorage to use very carefully and by shallow draft vessels.

Skidaway Narrows Bridge , GA , Mile 592.8:

This bridge is now operating on the same schedule as the Causton Bluff Bridge: Year round, Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays: Closed 6:30 to 9 a.m. and 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Opens at 7 a.m., 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. only. It is on request at all other times.

Little Mud River Area, GA, Mile 653-655.5:

We passed through Georgia during a spring low tide with strong west winds which further reduced depths in the ICW. Even though there are well known shallow areas such as the Little Mud River, Jekyll Creek and Hells Gate, the approximately 8 ft. tidal range will allow most boats to get through at mid tide (preferably rising) if they follow the aids, the charts, common sense, and exercise prudent seamanship. Sometimes we just have to plan accordingly. We did, but we heard others on the VHF who did not. One very alarming scenario we followed involved several boaters who wanted to avoid the Little Mud River by going out to sea. The plan was to go out of Altamaha Sound and in to Doboy Sound at this very low tide. We reported in East Coast Alerts on July 28, 2005 that the Coast Guard has removed all markers in Altamaha Sound (NOT the ICW, but the channel to and from the ocean) due to shoaling. New charts reflect this. These people apparently did not think anything was wrong with going out an unmarked inlet. They had a course plotted with computer/GPS through the charted deeper water. They went slowly, until breakers blocked their path. They looked for a channel through the breakers. Finally the lead boat with five ft. draft was in five feet of water with nothing but breakers ahead. Thankfully they turned back and anchored to wait for the tide to rise in the Little Mud River .

Georgia Shallow Areas, from the Point of View of a Professional Local Captain:

We’ve read many reports lately about severe ICW shoaling, especially in Georgia where there has been no funding for dredging for at least four years. While this is indeed happening and we all should vigorously lobby our congressmen for support for dredging, we should be careful to separate good and not so good information. Just because a boater goes aground in a channel doesn’t necessarily mean the channel is impassable. It may mean that the boater was in the wrong place and doesn’t know it, or at the wrong stage of the tide, but is simply (and admirably) anxious to help his fellow boaters and report it.

Much has been said about Hells Gate being impassable lately with reported 2 foot depths in areas. Last fall and a few days ago we went through there with a 5 foot draft and had no problem. Many many other boats have done the same. We picked a half tide (and rising) and stayed in the channel and followed the aids. At dead low we might have had a problem, but there is around 8 foot tidal range there and we also utilized that.

Traveling the ICW is not like driving down Interstate 95. It requires careful navigation, common sense, good recent charts and good old fashioned prudent seamanship. Some are going out in the ocean based on these and other reports, not all of which may be accurate. Don’t make decisions to go out in the ocean unless you really know the inlet and the sound and have current up to date information and charts, have read all the relevant Notices to Mariners and unless you really know that the weather is and will remain good for you to re-enter. Be sure that the sea state is good. Storms far away can cause swells on the bars even though the sun is shining and winds are calm where you are. Also remember, that many of the Georgia Sounds have treacherous shallows. Current is very fast there. To see some of pictures illustrating what can happen in some of the Sounds check out http://www.southeasternphotography.com/Boats. But you can still make the trip and have fun if you utilize skills of good seamanship and pay attention.

DO urge your representatives to fund the dredging. Don’t think the lifestyle is lost.

The following is part of an email from Troup Nightingale, a TowBoatUS Captain in Brunswick, Georgia,( but speaking only in his personal capacity), private yacht Captain and Delivery Captain.

None of this information should be used for navigation and is not intended for such (see the disclaimer within email and at the end of this East Coast Alert). Depths can change daily, even hourly. We pass this on to you because it consists of observations from a person daily plying those waters which have been subject of a lot of comment lately.

Troup’s email in part:

This (survey report) is causing boaters many concerns in the Georgia area of the ICW. Many yachters are now going off-shore in seas that the average boater should not do. This is causing other issues like sediments clogging fuel filters, entering dangerous Sounds, one yachter suffering a broken leg, etc.

There is no doubt that the shoaling issue in Georgia is reaching a very bad point for the unwary yachter. However, if the yachter stays in the channel and slows down in the most troubled areas, vessels with a 6 foot draft and less will have very few problems between Sapelo Sound and Florida . I travel these waters professionally every week of the year at all tidal conditions. I always watch the depth for changes and places where TowBoatUS will probably have more business. Of the areas I will list below, we have never had to unground a vessel in the middle of the channel - never.

I cannot give any data above Sapelo Sound as it is out of my home area. Having traversed the Northern end of the Georgia ICW, I agree there are problem areas. I do know that Hell's Gate is shallow - but is passable.

Yachter’s problems consistently occur when they have left the channel to anchor, cut markers, used the shallow side of a channel when the chart shows more water on the other side (R208 Buttermilk), run marker to marker (coming close to each marker which you do not do in Georgia), simply not paying attention, not following the magenta line, following the magenta line even when it is on the wrong side of a marker…but not because they were in the middle of the defined channel in the Southern leg of the Georgia ICW.

Creighton Narrows , Eastern Quarter

4.0 feet (2.9 mile area)

This area is narrow, but following the magenta line should give at least 7 feet or better at MLW.

Rockdedundy River , East Quarter

6.0 feet (1.6 mile area)

The Rockdedundy River is NOT part of the ICW. The channel that goes past the opening of this river should give about 8+ feet or better at MLW.

Little Mud River , Western Quarter

3.5 feet (3.4 mile area)

Little Mud River , Center Half

6.0 feet (3.4 mile area)

Little Mud River , Eastern Quarter

3.0 feet (3.4 mile area)

The Little Mud River has a narrow channel. This area IS a concern and should be traveled slowly at low water. There is NO part of this area that is in the 3 foot range at MLW. Shallowest depths will be nearer to the Southern end where the channel is about 6 feet at MLW. Vessels with 5 foot draft and above should probably not go through here at MLW because of the narrow channel. Vessels should stay on the magenta line and not go close to any markers. Interestingly, ICW cruise ships with 7-10 foot drafts go through here at all tides! Only once did one get stuck and that was at a Spring Low Tide. Granted, these ships use keel coolers and can plow through the mud. This river bottom is very soft.

Altamaha Sound, Western Quarter

4.0 feet (3.7 mile area)

Altamaha Sound, Center Half

5.0 feet (3.7 mile area)

Altamaha Sound, Eastern Quarter

7.0 feet (3.7 mile area)

There is no place in the ICW magenta line channel of this Sound that has depths listed above at MLW. There is one small straight stretch just North of R208 that may see about 8.5+ feet at MLW. There IS a shoal stretching towards the channel at R208 which is getting wider (especially on the Northern side of the marker). Vessels are advised to go wide at this marker and follow the 20-24 (!) feet of water clearly marked on the charts.

Buttermilk Sound (Widener) Western Quarter 7.0 feet (vicinity DM "216A")

Buttermilk Sound, Western Quarter

2.5 feet (vicinity DM "216A" to BN "223")

Buttermilk Sound, Center Half

3.5 feet (vicinity DM "216A" to BN "223")

Buttermilk Sound, Eastern Quarter

6.0 feet (vicinity DM "216A" to BN "223")

Outside the channel (way outside) is shallow, but why would you be that far out of the channel? I would say you would find it hard to find less than 8 to 10 feet at MLW if you are following the magenta line here.

Jekyll Creek, Western Quarter

2.0 feet (5.0 mile area)

Jekyll Creek, Center Half

5.0 feet (5.0 mile area)

Jekyll Creek, Eastern Quarter

4.0 feet (5.0 mile area)

Jekyll Creek is becoming an issue, but not as described by the above data. At no point in Jekyll Creek will you find 2 feet at MLW or even on a Spring low - period; unless you are out of the channel. Currently, there are three places of concern. Going South at the Northern entrance, I have seen a hump of about 8.5 feet at MLW as you get on the range at the mouth of the creek. Follow the range and stay away from the Green markers. If you are on range, the rock jetty on your starboard side is no problem. The jetty is well marked. Follow the magenta to the next range. Slow here at MLW. The Southern end of the range is getting shallower; but you should see 6 to 8 feet at MLW. It will be less on a Spring Low. Caution should be taken leaving the range and turning port around the Green marker. Do not go next to this marker at MLW (it is out out the water!). Care must be given not to go too wide to starboard because the next stretch up to the R20 (across from Jekyll Wharf Marina) is now a narrow channel with mud banks along each side. Aim between the marina docks and the R20 for the better water. You should not see any depths below about 6 to 7 feet at MLW (shallower on a Spring low). Once at the marina, stay on the R20 side of the channel between the docks and the R20. Shoaling is now occurring at the Southern end under the docks towards the channel. You should be in about 7 feet of water. Just South of the docks should be treated with care as you make a rounded approach to the next marker (as usual, follow the curve of the creek - do not go marker to marker). South of the bridge and Jekyll Harbor Marina is fine. Stay on the magenta line.

The data being distributed makes it look like the Georgia ICW is closed down at low tide and this just is not the case. It is prudent for boaters to get valid data and to use caution where need be anywhere along the ICW.

I guess I should state that I am not responsible for the data provided here-within. In all cases, boaters should use all methods possible for providing their own safe navigation and not use one source such as this.

I always recommend to yachters traveling outside their home areas to contact their Towing Serviceproviders (the main players - TowBoatUS or SeaTow) in the areas they will be traveling for any updates to problem areas. The Service providers are more than happy to help people BEFORE they get in trouble if asked. I know we will, and do, in our area. If anyone knows about problems, it is the Towing Service providers!

I write this letter as a concerned boater who uses the ICW both professionally and recreationally. These are my personal views and observations and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone else. This is a general disclaimer meant to reflect that I am writing this as only a concerned private citizen and not as a spokesperson of any organization or company.

I am,

Captain Troup Nightingale


We emphasize again that any or all of the above data may be inaccurate by the time you reach these spots. The bottom changes continuously, particularly in areas such as these. So don’t take these as gospel and don’t use them for navigation. They aren’t intended as such. But they do help to illustrate the difference that careful responsible navigation and prudent seamanship can make.

Bridge of Lions , St. Augustine , FL Closures:

We received the following notice regarding closures at the Bridge of Lions in St Augustine , FL from Laurie Sanderson with the Bridge of Lions Rehabilitation Project . It is effective through May 12, 2006.

The channel is restricted at the Bridge of Lions through May 12, 2006 . Below is a schedule of available opening times and closed times:

CLOSED: 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Bridge of Lions in the closed position.

Boats less than 24 feet vertical clearance may be able to pass.

OPEN: 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ( noon ) Bridge of Lions can open for boat traffic during this hour.

CLOSED: 12:00 p.m. ( noon ) to 4:00 p.m. Bridge of Lions in the closed position. Boats less than 24 feet vertical clearance may be able to pass.

OPEN: 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Bridge of Lions can open for boat traffic during this hour.

CLOSED: 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Bridge of Lions in the closed position.

Boats less than 24 feet vertical clearance may be able to pass.

OPEN 9:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. Bridge of Lions can open for boat traffic during these night hours.

*Requests for a channel opening according to the above schedule should be made via marine radio to the Bridge Tender on Channel 9. If opportunities become available during construction and testing of the temporary bridge, the Bridge of Lions may provide additional openings throughout the day.

For questions regarding this notice, please call (904) 825-3647. The above schedule has been approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Bluewater Books and Charts Presents “Hurricane Expo 2006”:

On June 3, Bluewater Books & Charts in Ft. Lauderdale is dedicating an entire day to hurricane preparation and safety: Hurricane Expo 2006.

Free seminars will run all afternoon, and special discounts will be offered on hurricane tracking charts, weather instruments and, of course, books on weather and hurricane preparation. Perhaps the most valuable part of this experience will be the opportunity to discuss, one-on-one, storm stories and strategies with other local boaters and experts on storm prediction and preparation.

1:00 PM to 2:00 PM : Bob Adriance on Learning from BoatUS's Case Files
Bob Adriance, author of Seaworthy and editor of BoatUS's Seaworthy magazine, has spent the past 20 years reviewing and writing accident reports for BoatUS's Marine Insurance Division. He will go over some of the worst case scenarios during past hurricane seasons, and tell you how to avoid becoming another insurance company's case file.
2:30 PM to 3:30 PM : Captain Marti Brown on Preparing for the Worst
Captain Marti Brown, author of the Idi-Yachts books, tells you how to prepare your boat for a hurricane and shares fantastic and frightening storm footage from the Bahamas and the Florida Keys .
4:00 PM to 5:00 PM : Chris Parker on Forecasting and Tracking Tropical Systems
Weather Expert Chris Parker, author of Coastal and Offshore Weather: SE US and the Bahamas, tells you how to predict and track tropical cyclones, from formation to landfall.
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM : Reception with speaker Q&A at 5:30 .
The address is 1811 Cordova Road , Fort Lauderdale , FL 33316 . Contact 954-763-6533, ex 228 for more information, or check www.bluewaterweb.com

Nassau Sound and Sawpit Creek , FL , Dredging:

USCG 7 th District LNM #18 reports that Southwind Construction Corporation advised that dredging will commence in Nassau Sound and Sawpit Creek, Florida. The project will commence on May 8, 2006 , in the vicinity of South Amelia River Light 46 and continue south from Nassau Cutoff Light 47 to Sister Creek Light 74 in the Intracoastal Waterway . The operation will be on a continuous basis twenty-four (24) hours per day, seven (7) days per week until completion on or about October 15, 2006 . The dredge WILCO will monitor VFH-FM Channel 16. All pipelines and vessels will be visibly lighted and marked according to Coast Guard regulations. All pipelines will be positioned along the channels edge. For further information contact Mr. Steve Bassett at (812) 867-7220.

Flamingo Marina ( Everglades ) to Close for Three Months:

USCG 7 th District LNM #18 reports that URS Corporation has advised that dredging will commence in Everglades National Park in the Flamingo Channel, closing the marina and boat ramp for approximately 90 days (July 31, 2006). Dredging will be from Flamingo Channel Light 15 (LLNR 15710) to the boat launch. The approximate position of the project: 25-08-28.320N 080-55-17.760W. The dredging will be five (5) days per week from sunup to sunset. A shore based and barge-mounted excavator will be utilized for the project. Boaters may still access the Whitewater Bay area from Flamingo via the Buttonwood Canal and associated boat launch. Fuel will be available on the Buttonwood Canal side of the marina. For further information contact Everglades National Park at (305) 242-7700 or (305) 695-2945, the marina can be contacted at (239) 695-3101.

This information is not to be used for navigation. Consult the latest charts and Local Notices to Mariners and use prudent seamanship. Conditions may change. 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 or be related to that use.


Copyright 2004-2005 Tom Neale