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Old 10-01-2009, 19:09   #1
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Hard aground in Alligator River

Thanks, Garmin. My day could have been better. The Albemarle crossing was a breeze which was a pleasant surprise. I'm coming into the mouth of the Alligator, lined up with the next marker, and I look down at the new colorado 400c with its enhanced charts, and there is a shoal right in front of me and the channel cuts right. I've had a couple close calls allready and I had found that if I stayed on that magenta line, it was always good. Well, I plowed into the sandbar and came to a very fast stop. Then the boat laid over and was being picked up and slammed down for about 2 hours before tow boat us got there. There was at least 2-4 coming straight out of the river and they were cresting right by the boat so I was getting the snot pounded out of me. My dog was FREAKING out! As you can see in the second pic, from where I hit to where the tow boat got me free after 2 hours of pulling, is about 40' and its the toughest 40' I've ever done. So, I don't know, something has to be damaged. I heard strange sounds a couple of times, like a popping. The rudder slammed alot and for almost the whole time the towboat was pulling me it was locked all the way to one side dragging along. I did drive it to the marina and the steering works as it should but something feels different. I can either turn around and go back to Great Bridge or down to Oriental, or maybe Bellhaven. Considering, I don't know the scope of damage, another Abermarle crossing doesn't seem smart. A little advise, please.

On a seperate note, I was telling a guy just last month, "if you are travelling in a boat and don't have sea tow or tow boat us, your a fool." Yet, somehow, in the madness of leaving on a first cruise, I forgot to sign up. I put it off until I decided which one I wanted then forgot. So my joyride cost me $1680.00 plus any damage to my boat all thanks to Garmin. The first pic shows #7 and #8 and me swerving to avoid the imaginary shoal. Where I hit, the chart was showing 10'.
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Old 10-01-2009, 19:30   #2
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Hey Aqua, I wish there was something I could do for you. I know we aint cruising if we aint runnin' aground. Hell, I left for my last full time cruise and ran aground at the mouth of my marina! How embarrassing is that? All I can offer is that tomorrow will be better, and that as bad as today was, I wish I was there sailing with you...thats how much I hate work. I'll bet money nothing is badly damaged, and your dog wont remember a thing tomorrow. He'll still give ya unconditional love! Good luck, and I'm sure you'll be back on track soon, Chris

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Old 10-01-2009, 19:42   #3
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Too bad. You should not follow the line and you SHOULD check out all the on line resources for the ICW which update the charts and detail the shoal areas. The Alligator River is a WELL KNOWN and documented problem area and it is easy to avoid the shoals. You will find many other areas like this on your way south and my advice to you is to stop looking at your chart plotter!! Follow the charts, the markers and the ranges and make gentle curving turns with the current.
Mark your charts in advance with the known shoaling areas and advice from:
Clairborne Young's Salty Southeast Cruisers net
BoatUS forums East Coast Alerts
Skipper Bob's Website

If you do this you will avoid the trouble spots or at least be prepared for them and going dead slow. You would have seen advice like this:

Another Report About Problems At ICW/Northem Mouth Of The Alligator River (Statute Mile 81) Friday, 07 November 2008
There have already been MANY postings here on the Net's "North Carolina" page about the navigational problems at the northern mouth of the Alligator River. The twin problems here is that the surrounding shoals have grown, and the markers have been moved. Those following blindly along with their chartplotters may end up sitting on the bottom!

Subject: MM 81 Middle Ground Alligator River
Message: The Middle Ground of the Alligator River at MM 81 continues to be a problem. A tug/barge, a powerboat, and my 6' draft S/V were consecutively aground in the marked channel on November 1, 2008. The shoaling seems to be more predominate on the West side of the channel. We found water on the East side of the narrowest portion of the channel. Our motto is "Go Slow, Minimize Damage" It worked this time.
name deleted

Subject: Re: Another Report About Problems At ICW/Northem Mouth Of The
Alligator River (Statute Mile 81)
Message: We do the trip between SE NC and the middle Chesapeake twice a year. About three years ago, we noticed that our chartplotter was heading us for trouble. So we decided to turn it off and simply follow the aids to navigation which had little resemblance to the charts. Not sure if the charts have been updated, but it is relatively easy to follow the aids without problem. This fall we entered the area under a small craft warning situation (our bad) at low tide and had no problem just following the marks. Much simpler than in years past where the aids were not as well placed. This areas has been quite stable for the last three years and we recommend that mariners simply follow the aids.
Sincerely
name deleted

and lots more!
Sorry for your trouble...an expensive lesson...but don't blame Garmin. Shoaling is constant and changing on the ICW and the mapping does not keep up.
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Old 10-01-2009, 21:42   #4
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Quote:
You will find many other areas like this on your way south and my advice to you is to stop looking at your chart plotter!!
When in close quarters the chart is more a concept than a plan. The ICW is rife with shifting shoals and you have not reached the worst ones yet. I suppose you could write a letter to Garmin but you'll still run aground.

About the only updated info is the notice to mariners that will let you know where marks have been moved by the USCG. Web sites like Skipper Bob and conversations with other boats are part of the formula to success. The do move the marks but the charts don't get updated except for the USCG ENC charts. The depth information is updated every 20 years or so.
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Old 10-01-2009, 22:12   #5
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The do move the marks but the charts don't get updated except for the USCG ENC charts. The depth information is updated every 20 years or so.
Are those the charts one sees online?Atlantic Coast NOAA Nautical Charts
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Old 11-01-2009, 05:31   #6
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Yes, you can download the charts. They seem to release charts on a weekly basis of course not all charts change but they don't relase a new chart unless they do.

The first and easier thing is to get the Notice to mariners update it also includes a list of the changes in Nav Aids and some warnings. You can even subscribe to an email system that sends you the link to the new notice when they are released.
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Old 11-01-2009, 06:21   #7
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Aquah0lic--

Before attempting to go any further, you might want to study the postings on your proposed route available at Cruisers Net your best source for up to date information on the Waterway - Home . There is a very exhaustive discussion of the problems in the Alligator River at Cruisers Net your best source for up to date information on the Waterway - ICW, Alligator River to Pungo River (Statute Mile 65 to 145) together with posts by cruisers that have recently transited the area; and, locals that know where the snags are. With that information you can annotate your paper charts or, better, a chart book that you can keep by your side in the cockpit which, together with a hand bearing compass and local titde tables, can help you avoid many of the pitfalls.

Frankly, the Garmin isn't the problem so I wouldn't go there. In future, it might be worth towing a dinghy or keeping one partially inflated on deck. With that and a laundry basket filled with 200' of rode and a Fortress FX 16, you can set a kedge in no time and get yourself off.

Something eles you might want to look at is a remote control depth sounder that can be run out ahead of the yacht (see fishsweeper the remote control boat wireless fishfinder ). While it may sound silly, a friend of ours has his wife sit out on the foredeck with one of these, scoping out the water ahead of the yacht, and calling directions back to him whenever they are entering a questionable area and he swears by it.

FWIW...

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Old 11-01-2009, 07:25   #8
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Originally Posted by Aquah0lic View Post
Considering, I don't know the scope of damage, another Abermarle crossing doesn't seem smart. A little advise, please.
Yeah, that sucks. For the crossing itself, and I would say this is true for the whole of the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds (expect for the ICW itself) I think the best piece of gear is depth or fish finder ... or even a lead line if you like it old school and are willing to go really slowly. Local knowledge rules the day in shoals.

As for the bottom, I suggest you dive it.
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Old 11-01-2009, 07:38   #9
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Yeah, that sucks. For the crossing itself, and I would say this is true for the whole of the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds (expect for the ICW itself) I think the best piece of gear is depth or fish finder ... or even a lead line if you like it old school and are willing to go really slowly. Local knowledge rules the day in shoals.

As for the bottom, I suggest you dive it.
Living and sailing in the Cape Fear region of North Carolina, I can assure you every storm shifts the shoals, sometimes dramatically. You cannot keep up with the changes, even in the ICW.
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Old 11-01-2009, 08:22   #10
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Sounds like a bad day to me. Come on down to Oriental. There are lots of resources here to help, formal and informal. Alan and the folks at Sailcraft have been very helpful, competent, and reasonable, if you need a haul out or other professional help. Right now you are venting but in a few days you will convert the data that the GPS doesn't always know the right route into wisdom that will serve you well. I think the advice to not "mistake the map for the country" is as old as cartography and may be even more important now with electronic charts and GPS. Good luck.
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Old 11-01-2009, 08:57   #11
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I had a nearly identical route entering the Aligator in Early Non. No issues. 5 Ft draft. It is a bit confusing on the charts. Hi tide?
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Old 11-01-2009, 09:10   #12
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Well, to all that say don't rely on the gps, I have mixed thoughts. First, this is my first mapping gps. I have always navigated by markers and I have been aground plenty of times in a marked channel. Of course, it was different because if I couldn't motor off, I would just jump in and push or drag the boat off. I can't drag this boat. I started the trip using markers but several times I almost hit bottom while in the channel and would check the gps which showed me at the edge of the channel. I steered back toward the magenta line and the water got deeper. Because of that and the fact that this is a brand new gps with assumably brand new charts, I decided the gps was right. Well, I know better now. I should have been going slower but thought the hard part of the trip was over so I let my guard down. That and not checking the internet ICW resources and failing to get towing coverage were my mistake.

I spoke with a friend on the phone last night who said I bit off more than I can chew, so any thoughts of turning back are gone. I'll make it to the Bahamas or die trying.
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Old 11-01-2009, 09:13   #13
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I had a nearly identical route entering the Aligator in Early Non. No issues. 5 Ft draft. It is a bit confusing on the charts. Hi tide?
It is my understanding that there is no tide here. However the wind was strong from the south so I'm sure it had blown lots of water out into the sound.
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Old 11-01-2009, 12:03   #14
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I too would advise not to trust the GPS too much in negotiating a channel. In my own river the GPS (with WASS) can get me into trouble First I use whatever channel markers there are but more importantly, particularly if there is a current or cross wind, I LOOK BEHIND ME FREQUENTLY, to see if I am still in the channel. Many times just looking over the bow it would appear that I am in the channel. However, just as often I look back and see that I have drifted to one side or the other.

Just using the depth sounder, I travel slowly and make small corrections to keep the depth at max. Combined with the course checks that usually does the trick.

We've all been there. It takes a bit of time is all.

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Old 11-01-2009, 12:15   #15
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Aquaholic...I am serious...your chart plotter can give you a sense of where you are and is helpful in the wide open, but you simply cannot use the magenta line in the ICW. You will be aground at least a half dozen times before West Palm if you do. Just use your eyes and the nav aids available and make your turns slow and wide and stick to the center of the channel unless the research shows shoaling on one side or another. You will be fine. Have done it 6 times with a 6ft. draft...only been aground twice....and both times it was due to lack of attention. You eyes and paper charts marked up with your research are all you need besides a steady hand on the wheel! Good luck!!
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