East Coast Alerts

By Mel Neale

Special Edition

Some readers have requested an update on problem spots in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW). We have put together below some sources for keeping up with the latest details and we are providing a list of some of the continuing problem areas we have observed over our more than 30 years of travelling the AICW. This list does not include all problems, and it does not account for the repeated shoaling and repeated dredging and remarking that periodically correct the problems. Some of these areas are perfectly fine now, but over the years they have been trouble spots over and over again, for the same reason: Mother Nature doing her thing. Check Tom Neale's article in the December, 2013 issue of Soundings, "Using Your Head Instead of Your Keel," for a detailed discussion about why these areas continue to be problems, despite the best efforts of the Coast Guard, the Corps of Engineers and the dredging companies.

US Army Corps of Engineers Websites for AICW Surveys and Reports

Despite the federal government reduction in funding, the USACE does a really good job, in our opinion, at surveying and recording depths in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW). They may not be able to dredge every little shoal, but at least they let you know where the shoals are so you can plan accordingly. Check out the latest surveys at the following:

Norfolk, VA District:

Wilmington, NC District:

Charleston, SC District:

Savannah, GA District:

Jacksonville, FL District:

Online Charts

NOAA Charts on the following sites are updated to the latest USCG Local Notices to Mariners, issued weekly.

NOAA Chart Viewer:

NOAA Charts for Download in Booklet Form (printable, reduced scale):

The Magenta Line

All of us who have travelled the waters of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway know of the magenta line. It is there to help us follow the correct route, but sometimes passes on the wrong side of markers, sometimes goes ashore, sometimes puts us aground. No wonder--it's been around for about one hundred years. Change has been slow: it has been sometimes removed from charts altogether, sometimes rerouted or removed in part, but often ignored by those who update the charts. Now, NOAA wants to do something about it, and is asking for input from users of the AICW. You can send your comments addressing specific issues given in the following article of the Federal Register. Check it out, and be sure to get your comments in by December 26, 2013.


AICW Coast Guard Districts

USCG Fifth District: Coastal Waters from Shrewsbury River, New Jersey to Little River, South Carolina

USCG Seventh District: Coastal Waters from Little River, South Carolina to Panama City, Florida

Note each district uses its own format in some parts of the Local Notices to Mariners (LNM).

USCG Local Notices to Mariners (LNM)

LNM Updated weekly for each Coast Guard District:

Active USCG AICW Shoaling Notices in the Most Recent LNM
(Week 47/2013)

The following were excerpted from longer lists of Shoaling and Hazards to present only those Notices concerning the AICW.

5th District LNM Week 47/2013:

Abbreviations are explained in the first position below. Plain text is copied from LNM, italicized text is our wording added

AIWW (Coast Guard Abbreviation for Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway) To 2.7' IVO (In vicinity of) Cape Fear River/Little River Buoy 81 (LLNR 40340) (Light List number, Volume II) 781-12 (12 is for year 2012, 781 is undetermined Coast Guard numbering system) (This is in Shallotte Inlet Crossing)

AIWW To 3' Lockwoods Inlet Crossing IVO CFR/LR Buoy 47A (LLNR 40230)& Buoy 48 (LLNR 40235) 321-13 (This is in Lockwoods Folly Inlet Crossing)

AIWW To 3.4' IVO New River/Cape Fear River Buoy 121 (LLNR 39597) 358-13 (This is a lone buoy marking Mason Inlet Crossing which is in the straight stretch between the Figure Eight Island Bridge and the Wrightsville Beach Bridge, not to be confused with Masonboro Inlet, the ocean inlet at Wrightsville Beach)

7th District LNM Week 47/2013:

Abbreviations are explained in the first position below. Plain text is copied from LNM, italicized text is our wording added.


The below list is not all inclusive. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers publishes Channel Condition Surveys and Hydrographic Surveys that may be found on the Charleston, Savannah, and Jacksonville District US Army Corps of Engineers websites.

Location Significant Information Chart LNM

SC-ICW (South Carolina Intracoastal Waterway)-WB (Winyah Bay) CH (Charleston Harbor) Shoaling reported IVO (in vicinity of) Winyah Bay - Charleston Harbor DBN (daybeacon) 117A 11518 (chart number) 0313 (USCG Local Notices to Mariners number=3rd week of 2013 (LLNR 34510.5) (Light List number, Volume III) . The Army Corp did a survey in November 2012 with depths reading 4.2 - 6.5 in that area. Anything less than mean low water and the channel will become restricted to most vessels with the exception of small boats. The Army Corp has no future plans for dredging due to budget restrictions.

GA-ICW-Cumberland River Shoaling observed at Cumberland River DBN 51 (LLNR 37560) 11489 0110

FL-ICW-Amelia River Shoaling reported channel ward of Amelia River LB 6 (LLNR 7070/37950) 11489 4311 reported depth of 6ft at low tide.

FL-St Augustine Inlet Entrance to St Augustine Inlet is subject to frequent changes in depth and direction 11488 3911 because of shifting shoals. Buoys are not charted because of frequent changes in position. 11489 Mariners are advised to seek local knowledge prior to entering the channel. (St. Augustine Inlet has been dredged since the issuance of this notice, Week 39/2011. Seek updated local knowledge before using this inlet)

FL-ICW-Sawpit Creek Severe shoaling reported at low tide in Sawpit Creek IVO Sawpit Creek LT 49 (LLNR 38190) 11489 2113 TEMP 49A established (LNM 20/10) (This area is currently being dredged).

FL-ICW-Fox Cut Shoaling present IVO Fox Cut light 3 (LLNR 39680) a 2ft shoal extends approximately 11485 2812 10 yards into the channel at low tide.

FL-ICW-Ponce de Leon Cut Shoal encroaching IVO Ponce de Leon Cut Inlet Harbor Buoy 2 (LLNR 40515) and 11485 1912 Buoy 2A (LLNR 40503). Temporarily established Buoy 2B in position 29-05-10.367N/080-56-11.204W. Shoal encroaching IVO Ponce de Leon Cut Junction Buoy (40615) proceeding 5 yards channel ward depth of 4ft at low-tide, channel is very tight.

FL-ICW-Ponce de Leon Cut Extreme shoaling at low tide IVO Ponce de Leon Cut DBN 18 (LLNR 40610) a 5ft shoal extends approximately 10 yards into the channel at low tide water depth is approximately 5ft (05/13). 11485 0713

Tides and Currents

Many problem areas of the AICW are only a problem at low tide for most boats. It's a good idea to approach these areas at mid tide and rising if your draft will be a problem for the reported depths. Parts of Southern North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Northern Florida can have a tidal range from around 4 to 8 feet depending on location, the lunar state and winds. Many chart plotters have tide tables. They are available from other sources also, such as http://www.saltwatertides.com/pickpred.html.

Current affects the problem areas to the extent that it can quickly push a boat sideways out of the channel, even though the bow may be pointing directly into the channel. Most of the below problem areas are subject to this type of cross current. To avoid getting pushed out of the channel, first be aware of the direction of the current. This can be observed on any nearby stationary object such as a daybeacon, piling or dock. Then, as you head from one marker to the next, look behind you as well as ahead using both front and back markers as a range to line yourself up to keep in the channel.

AICW Trouble Spots

These are some of the places where over the years we have noticed various problems in the AICW. Not all are problems now either due to dredging, moving of markers or the addition of extra ones, or updating of printed and electronic charts (as in #1 below). But even if they aren't a problem now they are representative of areas that are prone to become a problem. When you make the trip, look for updated information in East Coast Alerts (or search www.BoatUS.com for a particular area covered in past Alerts) AND the sources given above as well as other credible sources of navigation information.

Italicized text is our wording added below and above. Plain text is copied from USCG LNM. Notice that most of these are "crossings" where the AICW is crossed or intersected by the flow from an ocean inlet and thus have strong cross-currents.

All AICW Mile Markers and coordinates given below are approximate. Coordinates may be from either the USCG LNM, Light Lists or Google Earth, which accounts for their differing formats.

North Carolina:

1. Alligator River Entrance Channel: Approximate Mile 80: Channel has been moved and remarked and may not be shown correctly if you are using dated charts. Beginning with AR1 (35-58-09.498N, 075-58-46.027W) through Green Daybeacon 9

2. Browns Inlet Crossing: (34.598523°-77.241191°) Mile 238. Shoaling, shifting channel and often different markers than charted. This is a good example of many problem areas where an inlet, creek or river flows into or across the AICW causing frequent shoaling and changes.

3. New River Inlet Crossing: (34.553833°-77.351716°) Mile 245-246. Shoaling, shifting channel

4. Mason Inlet Crossing: (34-14-59.481N, 077-46-56.297W) (see above) Mile 280. Shoaling

5. Carolina Beach Inlet Crossing:  (34.078112°-77.883680°) Mile 293.5. Shoaling

6. Lockwoods Folly Inlet Crossing: (33-55-13.022N, 078-14-15.049W) (see above) Mile 321

7. Shallotte Inlet Crossing: (33.907229°-78.383899°) (see above) Mile 330

South Carolina:

8. South of McClellanville:Daybeacon 35A (LLNR 34237)(33-04-35.030N, 079-27-43.780W) and Winyah Bay-Charleston Harbor Daybeacon 37(LLNR 34240). Generally shallow in many areas between Jeremy Creek and Awendaw Creek, especially along edges of channel: (Mile 430-436). The ACOE has no future plans for dredging due to budget restrictions. Mariners are advised to transit the area with extreme caution.

9. North of Charleston: GC 117A (LLNR 34510.5) (32-47-11.483N, 079-48-33.268W)(Mile 459) and much of area between Isle of Palms Bridge and Ben Sawyer Bridge (see above) The ACOE has no future plans for dredging due to budget restrictions. Mariners are advised to transit the area with extreme caution.

10. Ashepoo-Coosaw Cutoff: LT 177 (LLNR 35195) (32-31-27.381N, 080-28-56.149W) sits on what looks like a big mud bank that is bare at low tide, give it a wide berth. The southern exit into the Coosaw River is generally shallow in the channel (32.510093°-80.503053°) Mile 516-518. The ACOE has no future plans for dredging due to budget restrictions. Mariners are advised to transit the area with extreme caution.


11. Hell Gate: (31.862975°-81.082650°) Mile 601.4-602.4. Shoaling, shifting channel

12. Little Mud River: (31.356396°-81.335777°) is shallow throughout. Mile 653-656

13. Jekyll Creek: (31.071959°-81.429992°) is shallow from about a mile north of the Jekyll Wharf Marina south to the bridge. Mile 683-684.4


14. Matanzas Inlet Crossing: (29.718196°-81.246166°) Mile 793. Shoaling, shifting channel

15. Ponce de Leon Inlet Cut: (29-05-10.367N/080-56-11.204W) (see above) Mile 839.5. Shoaling, shifting channel

16. St. Lucie Crossroads: (27.167571° -80.180776°) Mile 988. Shoaling, shifting channel

17. Bakers Haulover Inlet Crossing: (25-54-11.963N, 080-07-47.682W) Mile 1080. Shoaling. Current depths updated every few weeks in the 7th District LNM and East Coast Alerts.



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 and also hold authors harmless from any and all claims which may arise from or be related to this use.