A depthsounder can be usefull while navigating the ICW, but depths can change very quickly. Seeing the depth
decreasing is not very meaningful on the ICW. Afterall, if you are on the best track the sounder will show a decreasing depth exactly half of the time.
We've made 25 transits of the US East Coast
with much run on the ICW. One consistant quality of the ICW, especially near inlets and intersections of rivers, is CHANGE! Because of this, stored information on chart data, Google Earth
and chart plotters can't be trusted! These devices are great for seeing what is expected and understanding potential trouble spots, but better tools are those that come with directly viewing the real world and not the charts and screens.
The use of parallax, watching the relative movement of marker positions compared to more distant features is a major tool used to judge your position and leeway.
Watching the current
lines and changes in the water surface ripples near shoals and turning points.
Being aware of, and honoring, the presence of frequently moved nuns and cans.
Recognizing that, though traveling at high tide allows greater depths, the chanel may be less defined and this is the worst time for grounding.
Don't make the mistake of using the markers as destinations. Navigation aids are no more indicating points to arrive at than points to avoid. Strive to follow the "best fit curve".
Use the VHF
to interact with other cruisers and to inquire about trouble spots.
Make a "securite call" on the VHF
at those points like Elliott Cut (at Charleston) or the "Rock Pile" at Myrtle Beach where meeting large commercial
traffic can be hazardous.
We enjoy the many friendly ports
and wilderness anchorages
on the ICW. Also, the gunkholing and even the sailing opportunities that are too often overlooked by those that are trying to hold to a schedule. One of our best tools for success on the ICW is not having time constraints!