Sunday, August 28, 2016

Getting ready for the fall migration - new ACOE surveys

Browns Inlet, the famous "S" curve is now a "W" 
The 2016 season of southern migration is upon us and the Wilmington District of the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) has been busy. Lucky for us, they have their act together and cover the critical inlets along the ICW that change the most year to year. So that's the good news. The bad news is that the inlets have been very active over the summer and the successful paths through them have narrowed considerably and have changed shape. Just look at the famous "S" curve at Browns Inlet above! I've looked through the surveys and picked out the ones that promise the most fun for our race to the sun and provided links for your convenience below.

The ACOE surveys also provide waypoints that provide the most leeway through the shoaling at the inlets and I've posted each one in "GPX Routes" in the "ICW Tips" section of the blog at For those that have already downloaded the past GPX files, look for updates as they become available. The update will have a version number such as "2" on the end or even "3" if it comes to that!

I've used all the waypoints I posted so far but not the updated ones from the July and August surveys. However, I will be following those waypoints as I proceed down the ICW starting 9/15 and I will post guidance in Active Captain along the way under my Bob423 handle.

Unfortunately, the other districts are not nearly so good. In fact, they are much worse. The Charleston District of the ACOE does do surveys but they are useless since they only have three buckets for depth readings:  0-3 ft, 3-12 ft and greater than 12 ft, how idiotic. The Savannah and Jacksonville districts don't even do surveys!

Below are direct links to the ACOE surveys which will show the latest surveys of a given area. As the surveys are updated by the ACOE, the link will show the latest one. I've given a name for each of the routes through the shallows using the ACOE waypoints and the file itself can be downloaded from the "GPX Routes" page on the blog site.

I've found the best way to use these waypoints for me is to have a dedicated device such as an iPad with all the routes preloaded. Mixing in these waypoints with all your other waypoints may cause problems with repeating names. I use a Garmin chartplotter for my navigation but I will be using my iPad and Navimatics Charts and Tides for the short stretches of the waypoints below. The Charts and Tides program will accept all the GPX routes in one loading but your iPad has to be connected to your laptop or desktop computer through iTunes for the one-time initial load. Once loaded, all the routes are available for tracking on your iPad. The Garmin app works too but it's limited to a maximum of 9 routes. The Navionics app doesn't allow any loading of GPX routes according to a call I placed with their help desk (after I couldn't find a way to load the routes myself). See the "GPX Routes" page for details. 

Browns Inlet at MM 238.2 and page 75 in 2016 ICW Cruising Guide. This is the home of the famous "S" curve through a red and green buoy. The path through here now looks even more challenging. A simple "S" curve now will lead you into shallow water. The ACOE shows a route through the shoaling that's a double "S" curve. Click on the link to view the route (hint, it's the picture with all the red!). The GPX file with the ACOE waypoints is BBrown.

New River Inlet at MM 244 and page 76 of the Guide. This chart is out of date since the area has been dredged since December of 2015 (see the date on the chart). However, only the channel near the reds has been dredged, cutting across the turn as shown in the chart will get you into shallow water. I saw 12 to 14 MLW on 5/1/2016 along the reds. Even though it's out of date, I've included this chart in the hopes the ACOE will survey the area before the fall migration. I did not include a route for this area since you only have to follow the reds for deep water.

Topsail Inlet at MM 270.5 and page 79 of the Guide. Be sure to not hug G99 on the approach from the north! Otherwise follow the buoys. I've included the ACOE route since it helps with the approach and exit through the buoys.The GPX route is named BTopsail

Masons Inlet at MM 280.2 and page 80 of the Guide. In the Guide it's referred to as Howe Point, the nearest landmark, but the ACOE calls it Masons Inlet. This is the passage where you hug the dockhouse. I've included the ACOE waypoint in the GPX file named BMasons

-Carolina Beach Inlet at MM 293.7 and page 83 of the Guide. In the Guide it's called Myrtle Grove Shoaling. The chart at left was sounded on 5/26/2016. The chart at right was sounded on 7/22/2016. You can see the shoals are moving and the markers have been moved. Note the positions of R154, G155 and R154A in the two charts.

This stretch was sounded at 4 to 6 ft in the channel on May 26, 2016 but in the July 22 survey the shoaling is now 4 to 5 ft MLW. The ACOE recommended waypoints bring you outside the channel as shown on your chartplotter to the green side for a minimum of 7 to 8 MLW (it was 8 to 9 MLW in May). According to the ACOE charts, G155 has been moved farther east. In the spring of 2016 you would have passed G155 to starboard going south if you followed the ACOE waypoints. As of August, the ACOE waypoints having you hugging G155 but passing it to port going south. R154 has also been moved to keep boaters away from the shoaling on the red side. Watch this one closely and monitor Active Captain closely. Mostly likely, the location of the buoys will not match what's on your chartplotter. The ACOE waypoints are in the GPX file BCarolina

Even Snow's cut hasn't escaped the shoaling. 7/21/2016 survey

Snows Cut at MM 296. Snows Cut isn't even in the Guide, it was fine in May of last year. However, it looks like there's been active shoaling down to 3 MLW in southern end of the cut in the middle of the channel. The ACOE waypoints have you doing a zigzag course through the southern part of the cut going outside of the charted channel south of the bridge for the deepest water. The turn into Snows Cut from the north is not routine either, you have to swing wide to the green side, there's shoaling at the turn. The ACOE waypoints are in the GPX file BSnows.

- Lockwods Folly approach at MM 320 and page 87 in the Guide. on ICW, north of the inlet. The channel necks down here to about 50 ft wide but requires you to hug the green side of the channel. Not much change between the 1/6/2016 survey and this one on June 16, 2016. The three ACOE waypoints are useful in finding the middle of the channel necking and are in the GPX file BLockFA2.

Lockwoods Folly is getting mighty narrow at the southern exit
Lockwoods Folly Inlet at MM321 and page 88 in the Guide. This inlet is becoming scary. The exit (coming from the north) through G47 and R48 is very narrow, looks like about 30 ft wide for 6 ft at MLW. Comparing the 6/3/2016 survey with the one here on August 10 shows the route narrowing, especially near G47. The ACOE waypoints are helpful in directing you away from G47 and more towards R48 but the path is like running through a needle at low tide with 6 MLW but it shallows quickly on either side to 4 and 5 ft MLW. Maybe by the fall migration, the buoys will be moved again. If waypoints newer than the ones in the link are posted by ACOE, I'll update the GPX file. The ACOE waypoints as of August 10, 2016 are in the GPX file BLockF2

Shallotte River Crossing at MM 328 and page 89 of the Guide. There's been no update to this survey of January 14/2016. The ACOE waypoints take you to the green side of the channel to avoid shoaling on the red side. The GPX file is BShallotteR (for Shallotte River Crossing from the north). I don't think you need ACOE waypoints for this route but there are included for completeness.

Shallotte Inlet is has a narrow entrance from the north!

Shallotte Inlet Crossing at MM 330.5. In the spring of 2016, this inlet was not a problem since it carried 8.3 MLW all the way through. Now it's a different story. The channel shown on most charts has shoaled to 2 ft at MLW and getting anywhere near G81 is a disaster. The latest survey taken August 10, 2016 shows the path to be outside the charted channel to the red side and a large area of shoaling around G81. The most difficult part of the passage is the entry point from the north. It appears to be only 50 ft wide if you want 6 ft of water at low tide. Conveniently, ACOE placed a waypoint exactly at that narrow spot and I've included it in the GPX file for this crossing under the name BShallotte

One may ask, how about all the other notorious shallow spots along the ICW? Since the other ACOE districts are not doing the outstanding job being performed by the Wilmington branch, we are left with either no surveys or ones with a 3 to 12 ft bucket! Fortunately for us, the shallow spots south of Shallotte are generally not near inlets and seem to have some stability as outlined in the 2016 ICW Cruising Guide. GPX routes are given for Hell Gate, Jekyll Island, and Fernandina which haven't changed much over the years. Of course, it's the ICW after all and you do have to be careful and check with Active Captain for new news. I will be posting as always on my trip south this fall, stay tuned.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Shallotte Inlet - major changes in depths

Survey of 8/8/2016
You can see that there's a big change at the Shallotte Inlet ICW Crossing! I breezed through here in the spring of 2016 with no problems but the channel has dramatically filled in. The best water is actually outside the charted channel on the red side. Here's a direct link to the Wilmington District ACOE survey of 8/8/2016. The ACOE provided three waypoints to follow through the area with the caution that things will certainly be changing here, stay tuned to Active Captain. I've included the three waypoints as a GPX file (see GPX Files at left). It's named BShallotte. 

Since we're getting ready to leave September 15 for Florida down the ICW, I will be watching ahead for reports of shallows that were okay in the spring of 2016 but are now not so good. I will post what I find here in the blog and add GPX routes as needed at left. The inlet carried 8.3 MLW in the spring. 

Meanwhile, Ann and I are watching developments in the Atlantic. We need a three day window to run down the New Jersey coast to reach the safety of Chesapeake City. The Atlantic appears to acting up and we may have a problem finding a window. We will not force anything, we want calm weather going south by the coast.

Monday, August 15, 2016

All GPX routes now added to Active Captain route database

For those who have Active Captain, the GPX routes under "GPX Routes" at the left under "Cruising Tips" have now been uploaded to Active Captain. Search under "Bob423" to find the routes. They can be downloaded from Active Captain. Of course, they can also be downloaded from "GPX Routes" at left.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Ebook version of 2016 ICW Cruising Guide now available

The ebook version of the 2016 ICW Cruising Guide is now available on Amazon. If you bought the paperback version, the ebook is free. I just posted the ebook last night and it may take a few days for Amazon to connect all the dots so both the ebook and paperback appear in the same listing on Amazon. Meanwhile you can find the ebook here

When the two listings are combined by Amazon (in a couple of days), then there will be a button for a free download for those bought the book. 

The ebook shows up best on the iPad with small type but it does work, even on the Kindle but the charts are more difficult to see since there's no color. I had to change some of the formatting to pack everything in.