Friday, July 1, 2016

Hard at work on the 2016 edition of ICW Cruising Guide

Brown's Inlet famous S curve
I'm hard at work on updating the 2016 edition of the ICW Cruising Guide. There have been many changes to the hazards, the most important of all is the dredging of the Isle of Shoals just north of the Ben Sawyer Bridge. No longer do we all have to wait for high tide to transit the area! There are changes in store for the shallows south of Fernandina. The Coast Guard will be moving the buoys to direct boaters along a course few of us have taken but has 10 ft MLW. I verified the course on my way north this spring and it's very straight forwarded. It's another example of the charts being dead wrong. The 10 MLW route takes you over land according to the charts but we all know the charts are terribly wrong in that area. At any rate, we'll have buoys to direct us, hopefully in time for the fall migration. I have included waypoints for the new route in the guide. 

Some area remain problematic such as Hell Gate but I was able to find a 5.1 MLW route through the shoals which I will document with waypoints in the 2016 guide. Jekyll Island has always been a problem. It's not obvious where the channel is and the depiction of the channel is different on different chart suppliers. Garmin and NOAA ENC charts do not agree. In this case the NOAA ENC chart is correct (the NOAA raster chart is still wrong!) I plotted a course through this shallow area for 5.7 MLW after following two tugs with several hundred feet of dredge pipe at dead low tide! The waypoints will be in the new guide. 

Creighton Narrows
With the addition of all the new waypoints it is becoming tedious to enter them manually not to mention the opportunities for errors. With that in mind, I will be posting a link to all the routes through the areas mentioned (and a few more) in GPX format. For those not familiar with the GPX file type, I've included a guide in how to load them into two popular iPad programs, the Navimatics Charts and Tides and the Garmin Mobile app. So as you approach one of the included hazard routes, you can switch over to Charts and Tides or the Garmin app and navigate your way through. 

As for the hazard maps, they are now labeled with the mile marker distance so they will be easier to find and a minimum depth reading included in the title header for easy reference. All markers now have oversized designations such as R10, G8 in large, block letters. Finally, for most of the hazards there will be a yellow line showing the deepest water I was able to find in the spring of 2016 through the hazard. 

I've included more marinas and anchorages we've found useful with a dog on board. The guide does not offer complete coverage of every marina and every anchorage, I focussed on the ones I use with a dog and spaced for an easy day's run on the way to Key West.

As always, the information in the guide is all first hand. This fall will mark the seventh trip for Ann and myself down the ICW to Key West. However, I have included pertinent hydrographic charts of key shoaling areas from the Wilmington and Charleston ACOE surveys. They offer additional insights on navigating difficult passages. When they have listed waypoints, I've included them in the guide and they will also be in the GPX list. 

The number of photos have been increased. Readers of my blog know that I'm fond of RE Mayo and Swan Point Marina although they are not prime marinas, they just happen to be spaced right for my travels. I included photos of them so cruisers won't be surprised by the "rustic" nature of the surroundings and can make their own choice before hand on whether it's for them. 

I am aiming for a publishing the 2106 version on by the end of July, hopefully before then but at least by July 31. Meanwhile I'll be posting selected pages on my blog for you to compare to previous versions and for comments. Stay tuned.