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Old 24-09-2014, 20:57   #1
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ICW and a Deep Draft

Hi all!!!

We are leaving from Carolina Beach, North Carolina in about two weeks (October 8th) and headed south to Key West. Our boat has a 6 foot draft and we want to take the ICW most of the way, but head offshore through some parts of Georgia when the weather is nice. However, we are a little worried about the shallowness of the ICW and would love to talk to anyone who is currently doing it or has just done it. Or maybe there is someone that will be doing it around the same time as us and can give us some pointers?

Specifically: What are the major areas we need to pay attention to? Local knowledge would be great.

Thanks!
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Old 24-09-2014, 21:16   #2
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Re: ICW and a deep draft

I just came down the East Coast to St. Mary's Georgia in my Tayana 37 (5'8" draft). On our blog, I have been writing up a bunch of my experiences, detailing the different navigational challenges we faced, mainly dealing with shoaling. Here are my navigational notes from the trip (with links to more information as I post it) and here are my very general comments about the ICW.

There are about three places, maybe four, where you will definitely have to plan on using tide to get through, but these are easily planned for.

If you have any specific questions or want to discuss anything, please do not hesitate to PM me or email me through my blog. I'd be happy to chat over the phone as well.

I wish we could have kept heading south past St. Mary's. Have a great trip!
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Old 24-09-2014, 21:18   #3
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Re: ICW and a deep draft

Thank you so much!! Very helpful.
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Old 25-09-2014, 04:55   #4
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Re: ICW and a deep draft

I did it last year and bumped 4 times with a 6 foot draft but got myself off each time. 3 bumps were in the same location.

Active Captin is very very good as people update it while they are aground

Its the cuts out to sea that pile up moving sand indide the ICW. Google earth can show you what they look like but they will have moved.

The bumps and groundings are not bad, its just mud and sand and if you have Tow Boat US you will be dragged off quickly.

Its a mass migration so just wait for a deeper draft boat and follow them
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Old 25-09-2014, 05:18   #5
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Re: ICW and a deep draft

There are relatively few bad spots where you need the tide to get over. Active Captain documents those very well, and it's easy to time your passage.

There is a detour around the Ashepoo-Coosaw Cutoff between Charleston and Beaufort, SC. You turn left on the Ashepoo River (headed south) after Fenwick Cut, head down to St. Helena Sound, and then turn right to rejoin the waterway. That saves a lot of stress, as that particular shallow spot, IMHO, is currently the worst on the ICW.

Also, the best general advice I've ever been given was to pass 10 yards on the channel side of every marker. That seems to keep you in the dredged channel.
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Old 25-09-2014, 06:09   #6
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Re: ICW and a deep draft

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Also, the best general advice I've ever been given was to pass 10 yards on the channel side of every marker. That seems to keep you in the dredged channel.
Yep, because I have bumped right beside of markers and I only draw 5'.
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Old 25-09-2014, 06:54   #7
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Re: ICW and a deep draft

Keep in mind that from the middle of South Carolina to the Florida border there can be a seven foot or more tidal change so if you go through a bad spot at high tide you should have plenty of water.

The cruising guides point out the trouble spots. Active Captain works but you have to click on each area to read what people have to say about it.
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Old 25-09-2014, 07:29   #8
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Re: ICW and a deep draft

When motoring all day every day its difficult to keep the tides in sync.. And then to try for current behind is a pain... One inlet it comes in and the next it goes out... I am sure they designed it that way to confuse Russian invaders or something.
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Old 25-09-2014, 07:59   #9
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Re: ICW and a deep draft

Advice to stay within 30 feet of markers will most certainly get you aground quite often. Many, many markers along the ICW are sitting on 2 or 3 feet of water. That's why you will often read about someone that has run aground right in the channel, and we run through a day later and find plenty of water. These are also the kinds of reports you will find on activecaptain. For the most part, stay in the middle. There are some areas that will require you to stay close to a specific marker or to stay close to one favored side of the channel. We find the best information to be on Cruisers' Net | Cruisers Helping Cruisers because they will post information that has been confirmed or let you know it hasn't, with comments from other on how to get through the problem spots. You can find the information listed for each State. Many times reported grounds are the result of people being where they're not suppose to be. We have done dozens of transit along the entire ICW and many with a 6 foot draft. Areas like Browns Inlet and the Little Mud River are well known issues and should most always be done at high tide. Browns Inlet is a matter of knowing exactly where the deeper channel is today. If you know the channel location, depths are good, If you don't, plan to spend some time there. Good luck. Chuck
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Old 25-09-2014, 08:31   #10
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Re: ICW and a deep draft

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When motoring all day every day its difficult to keep the tides in sync.. And then to try for current behind is a pain... One inlet it comes in and the next it goes out... I am sure they designed it that way to confuse Russian invaders or something.
It would have been German invaders at the time but no, that's not the reason. It was designed to minimize digging by using existing water where possible.
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Old 25-09-2014, 08:42   #11
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Re: ICW and a deep draft

And, follow the marks in the water, not the ones on your chart plotter or the magenta line.
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Old 25-09-2014, 09:17   #12
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Re: ICW and a deep draft

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Originally Posted by MarkJ View Post
When motoring all day every day its difficult to keep the tides in sync.. And then to try for current behind is a pain... One inlet it comes in and the next it goes out... I am sure they designed it that way to confuse Russian invaders or something.


And turn a corner when motoring against the current thinking the current will be with you and it's against you again!! Haven't done GA for a while but the only way to go is start early in the morning and go. No use sitting for a few hours waiting for the tide or a fair current.
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Old 25-09-2014, 10:26   #13
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Re: ICW and a deep draft

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Originally Posted by SailingBrusan View Post
Hi all!!!

We are leaving from Carolina Beach, North Carolina in about two weeks (October 8th) and headed south to Key West. Our boat has a 6 foot draft and we want to take the ICW most of the way, but head offshore through some parts of Georgia when the weather is nice. However, we are a little worried about the shallowness of the ICW and would love to talk to anyone who is currently doing it or has just done it. Or maybe there is someone that will be doing it around the same time as us and can give us some pointers?

Specifically: What are the major areas we need to pay attention to? Local knowledge would be great.

Thanks!
Off topic. They are starting work on the Whappoo Cut bridge just south of Chas. harbor. Don't know what they are doing other than causing extended road problems. Might be worth checking on.
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Old 25-09-2014, 10:49   #14
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Re: ICW and a deep draft

I did most of it with 6'-5" draft. Plowed along in some areas. The difficult spots are mentioned int he waterway guide , so he the tides for those spots.
Anchorage Guy is right.... stay completely away from the markers. Use your binoculars a lot and keep mid channel unless the guide says otherwise. Watch for currents at the bridges. ie: don't get too close while waiting.
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Old 25-09-2014, 11:52   #15
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Re: ICW and a deep draft

All right Anchorage Guy and Chechako. I'll get drawn in. Based on your figures, it looks like I've done the ICW almost as many times as you...

The argument for staying 10 yards (or, o.k., 20 yards) on the channel side of the markers is that is how the Waterway was laid out, AFAIK. The markers mark the edge of the channel. The dredging started near there, went down at a fairly steep angle to about 8' MLW, then at a shallower angle all the way to the center of the channel, which was supposed to be 12' minimum MLW, then up at a shallow angle to the far side of the channel (unmarked), then up a steep angle starting around 8' deep.

According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, the channel is supposed to be 150 feet wide. That's fifty yards. So if we want to be persnickety (it IS Cruisers' Forum, after all), the middle of the channel, which you recommend, would be 25 yards off the markers.

You say to stay in the middle of the channel. How the heck do you find the middle of the channel if not in reference to the markers? There are often posts and complaints from those who "ran aground following the magenta line" on their chart plotters.

I've had the best success following the markers and the depth finder. If the depth drops to 8 feet, I know I'm up against one wall of the channel or the other. A quick check to the nearest marker usually tells me which wall of the channel that is. (Remember, the channel runs 150 feet measured perpendicularly from that marker.) So I know which way to turn to find the deeper water.

UNLESS- it's a bad spot which hasn't been dredged, in which case I guess I'll run aground and write about it on Active Captain while I'm waiting for the tide to rise. BTW- I didn't run aground at all this year!
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