We are southbound in the ICW once again. So far, the fall 2019 trip has been very easy. I’m reminded that those of us who study and write about the ICW use terms like “problem stretches,” “trouble spots,” the “Rock Pile” and “Hell Gate”, all of which can give an air of danger and cause unwarranted apprehensions about making this trip. Boats have been making this trip for over 100 years, long before we had near real time depth readings for our charts and before the advent of the wonderful electronic navigation tools that we have today.
So far this year there have been the normal wind and weather delays here and there. There are some mechanical challenges with the bridges in Virginia, but, overall, the ICW as far as Southport, NC is pretty straightforward. The USCG has been moving the marks and if you stay more or less in the middle of the channel you’ll be OK.
It is important to recognize where the known trouble spots are located, but only so as to be sure you approach them with care. (See https://www.sailfeed.com/2019/09/icw-observations-updates-september-2019/) There are two tablet apps which have revolutionized ICW navigation over the past 2-3 years. They are Navionics Sonar Charts (NSC) and Aqua Map Master (AMM). Understand that with Navionics and Aqua Map you have two very powerful new tools. But neither chart system is always perfect. Consequently, in the known trouble spots, you should study both chart systems carefully and know the state of the tide before you proceed.
There is one minor observation to be made at Black Mud Channel, AKA New Topsail Inlet, at STM 270. There is frequent shoal building at G99a. We passed it by 125 feet on October 28 and had 8.3 feet of water at MLLW. Boats passing close to 99A saw less than 5 feet so pay attention there. Either NSC or AMM will guide you.
On October 30, we transited Lockwoods Folly. This ICW inlet crossing was dredged in March but was completely filled in by late August. There is a perfectly good route around the shoal as shown on these two chart screenshots.
- The first important note is that the USCG has apparently moved G4A recently. It does not show on any charts yet, but I have drawn a blue cross on each screen shot in its approximate location.
- As you approach from the north you will see that R46, G47 and G47a are almost in a line.
- You can transit this area by leaving the R46 mark 50-60 feet to starboard, and then steer halfway between the greens and the shore. The shore is very steep so don’t be afraid of it!
- After passing G47a, turn toward R48, and make a lazy turn at R48 as you head down the center of the channel.
- Both charts show R46A and 46B which were physically removed months ago but NOAA has not caught up.
- There is a popular route laid out on the charts by Bob423 using the USACE way points. I’d recommend that waypoint #1 be placed 60 feet south of R46. It will make the transit easier as you will have a decent route and the visual aids of the ATONs will make it much easier to find your way along.
Navionics Sonar Chart was the active navigation app we used today. Our trak is yellow the USACE route is in black. The boat’s direction is right to left (east to west) .
We have Aqua Map Master running in the background too. The red dashes are our track today. The red route is the Bob423/USACE route. The blue dashed line was our track April 3, 2019 through the newly dredged channel, now completely closed off.