BoatUS Cruising - Tom Neale's Cruising For You: Tom's Tips - Special East Coast Alert


The cruising area of the US east coast and Bahamas is one of the most popular and, in my opinion, among the best cruising areas in the world. It is our neighborhood on “Chez Nous.” We’ve cruised thousands of miles every year in the area. From time to time I’ll give you alerts and other important information about developments and issues here. I’ll also continue the general cruising tips which are relevant wherever you cruise.

Shoaling along the east coast ICW in shallow draft harbors and inlets is reaching severe levels. This problem exists for many harbors, inlets, and waterways on both the east and the west coasts. Lack of funding for US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) dredging projects and other maintenance is the immediate cause, although the problems behind this are complex. I’ll discuss this fully at another time. You can get background information by reviewing two very helpful articles on the subject by Ryck Lydecker, Assistant Vice President for Government Affairs of BoatU.S., in the November 2001 and May 2004 issues of “BoatU.S. Magazine”.

Here are some trouble spots in North Carolina to look out for, and to WRITE YOUR CONGRESSMAN ABOUT. You can find help for writing your congressman (and other information) on the web site of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association, We’ll give you information about other areas with upcoming columns. We’re starting with the North Carolina section of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AIWW) because our observations have been that this area is experiencing particularly severe problems.

These are MLW depths, which can be shallower during spring tides (new and full moon) and with strong winds. We have observed these or had them reported to us within the last month. Some, where noted, are from USACE surveys. The ICW project depth in this area is 12 ft. This information is given in the hope that it may be helpful to you and your friends if you are in the particular areas. This information is not to be used for navigation, and you should know that the depths and channels may change substantially. Use this with caution and at your own risk, relying on current charts and official navigation resources, and prudent seamanship.

North Carolina: 12 ft project depth (3-5 ft tidal range)

  • New River Inlet Crossing, 7 ft if USACE waypoints are used to go along outside edge of the marked channel (the Alternate Channel), 3.8 ft in actual channel
  • Mason Inlet Crossing, Mile 280.3, 6.5 ft
  • Carolina Beach Inlet Crossing, 8 ft in USACE Alternate Channel, 4.1 ft in actual channel (we observed 5.5 ft, but followed advice to stay on the green side)
  • Lockwood’s Folly Inlet Crossing, 6 ft, if USACE waypoints are followed for Alternate Channel, 3.8 ft in actual centerline channel. There is a 4 to 5 foot tidal range here.
  • Sunset Beach Pontoon Bridge cannot open at some spring low tides for periods of several hours. There is a zero ft. vertical clearance under this bridge.
  • There are many people in our government who are doing the very best they can with what they have to keep the waterways and harbors open. Bob Sattin, Chief of Navigation for the US Army Corps of Engineers for the Wilmington District in North Carolina, is one of these. With his help and others, the Wilmington USACE office maintains a page at its web site which gives survey results in critical areas of NC, with GPS waypoints where needed, and a monthly updated shoaling map.
  • Also check the monthly and weekly USCG Local Notices to Mariners at for shoaling reports and for changes in buoyage due to shoaling.

For more tips, see

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