For the past 5 years I have been monitoring the ICW. My drive is largely enlightened self-interest. We transit the ICW route every year. Over time, we have developed a small group of like minded travelers with whom we have shared notes and observations. The sources I have come to rely on are the USCG Districts 5 and 7 weekly Notice to Mariners, and the USACE Wilmington NC and Charleston SC, district web pages. I also have learned a lot from, and shared content with Hank Pomeranz of Southport SC, Bob Sherer (AKA bob423 and a small fleet of experienced cruises who transit the ICW and the ocean inlets on a regular basis.
In the days following the passage of hurricane Florence, the USACE Wilmington District survey crews were out on the ICW surveying the waters and collecting data. In just a matter of weeks all of the most critical sections of the NC ICW were resurveyed and the survey content was made available on the USACE Wilmington website ( https://www.saw.usace.army.mil/Missions/Navigation/Hydrographic-Surveys/AIWW/CFRLR/) . The overall impression is that the ICW route is passable, although it is shoaled in some places and narrowed along much of its length, particularly in the known trouble spots. The USACE provided way points for transiting the trouble spots. Any cruiser venturing through this section of the ICW should have access to the above website and should study the route and the way points. One extremely important component of the USACE surveys is that they precisely place the ATONs as they were located at the time of the survey. Your charts will not necessarily be accurate in this regard.
A month after Florence, hurricane Michael transited this area. As of 10/19/2018 I have not found any subsequent USACE surveys. The foregoing information is based upon the post Florence surveys with anecdotal observations and input from cruisers who have transited post Michael .
The following screen shots show the USACE surveys post Florence, displayed on NOAA charts. I placed the way points where they seemed most appropriate given the survey data. They are similar to where the USACE survey way points are placed. There are no new surveys after the passage of Michael: the ICW channel may have changed!
There were three areas which particularly caught my attention after Florence and which have been further defined by subsequent vessel transits post Michael.
- New River Inlet crossing – Comments from cruisers post Michael say “square off the corner” at way point 2. Do not round off that corner. It appears that there has been additional shoaling as a result of hurricane Michael. Watch out for the shoals at way point 5. The channel through here is narrow. There is about 3.5 feet of tide in New River Inlet. It is strongly advised that if you draw 4 feet or more, enter on a rising tide.
- STM 320 – Just about one mile east of Lockwoods Folly and immediately west of R36 there is a shoal encroaching on the red side of the channel. Stay centered. If the depth finder starts to indicate shallow water, try sliding a bit towards the south “green” side of the channel right here.
- Lockwoods Folly – The USACE surveys have placed the ATONS in new locations. You MUST have access to this information. The Surveys are available as PDFs. As of 10/19/2018 cruisers have reported that the ATONs were in agreement with the USACE charts. In particular, notice G47! Reports post Michael indicate that between R46 and R46B there may be additional shoaling Similar reports have come in between R48 and R48B.
For more details on these and other ICW trouble spots
An additional means to view the USACE surveys is in Google Earth.
- Open Google Earth
- Open USACE Wilmington District Web Page
- Find the inlet crossing of interest. Let’s choose, New River Inlet Crossing.
- Click on the KMZ link and a KMZ file will be downloaded.
- Click on the downloaded file and it will open in Google Earth. Voila.
- The KMZ file does not have the ATONs. However, you can create a path through the inlet crossing and manually enter the latitude and longitude of the way points