Sunday, March 12, 2017

Key West - Major update to ACOE Surveys

I am starting to get ready for the trip north in the spring so I thought I would look ahead to the inlets the caused me the most problems on the way down for shallow water. There have been lots of changes with some being dredged and some ignored with disastrous results. I've compiled a list of the most daunting inlets with surveys from the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) on their current status. The outlook is not good! Both the Shallotte and Lockwoods Folly inlets appear to offer no more than 4 MLW at best if you follow the exact best route, no small feat in itself. So read through the illustrated list below for the current status of what you can expect on the trip north this spring.  

Things have been changing on the ICW! Look no further than Brown's Inlet, the fall and most recent surveys are shown below (hint, it's been dredged!)
Browns Inlet, home of the famous "S" curve has been dredged, this is previous to dredging

Brown's Inlet after dredging, note that G61A has not been moved as of the survey date 12/6/2016
There has been a lot of activity at the inlets over the winter and the outstanding crew at the Wilmington District of the ACOE has been busy sounding the shallow areas and publishing charts to help cruisers in the coming 2017 spring migration. Some of the inlets have been dredged but some are getting worse. I'll cover the status of the inlets that show the most problems. They are ordered from north to south along the ICW.

In the listing of problem areas below, the links given will always show the latest ACOE depth survey. The Wilmington District ACOE keeps the same URL for each problem area chart so when clicking on the link, you may bring up a more recent chart than the one I display in this article. You can check on the date of the survey along the right edge of the chart and compare it to the listed date in my article. At any rate, follow the latest chart for navigation help.

The ACOE surveys also provide waypoints that provide the most leeway through the shoaling at the inlets and I've listened each group of  ACOE waypoints when given. I've used all the waypoints in my trip down the ICW this fall but obviously not the updated ones produced by the ACOE since then. However, I will be using them as I go north starting in April and will be posting my results in my blog at and on Active Captain using my handle, Bob423. As always, the captain takes full responsibility for his or her vessel. After all, things change on the ICW if you haven't noticed. Yesterday's waypoints may no longer be good the next day although usually it's not that bad.

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!

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 the Garmin Mobile app for navigation when using the GPX file routes. I've found the Garmin app to be the simplest for loading of GPX routes. 

Browns Inlet surveyed 12/6/2016 at MM 238.2 and page 75 in 2106 ICW Cruising Guide. This was the home of the famous "S" curve but it was dredged 12/6/2016 so now it's a straight path through. Take care on the position of the buoys, especially G61A. It wasn't yet moved as of the survey date (see chart). It may have been moved later.
ACOE waypoints as of 12/8/2016 (your chartplotter has an option to use this format as input, it's the format used by the ACOE so I kept it to prevent errors in changing to other formats).
WP1:  77° 12' 41.141"W    34° 37' 22.840" N
WP2:  77° 14' 24.662“ W   34° 35' 57.233" N
WP3:  77° 14' 50.020" W   34° 35' 35.677" N

New River Inlet surveyed 11/29/2016 at MM 244 and page 76 of the Guide. It's been dredged but only the channel near the reds has been dredged,

New River Inlet Crossing, 11/29/2016 Survey
ACOE Waypoints as of 11/29/2016
New River Inlet Crossing
WP1:  77° 19' 2.276" W   34° 32' 43.274" N
WP2:  77° 19' 6.255" W   34° 32' 43.252" N
WP3:  77° 21' 3.136" W   34° 33' 15.122" N
WP4:  77° 21' 7.703" W   34" 33' 14.628" N
WP5:  77° 21' 34.139" W 34" 32' 57.686" N
WP6:  77° 20' 36.401" W 34° 32' 41 .004" N
WP7:  77° 21' 7.703”  W  34" 33' 14.628" N

Topsail Inlet surveyed 2/15-28/2017 at MM 270.5 and page 79 of the Guide. The inlet crossing has been dredged but the buoys had not been moved as of 12/7/2016, take care. Now it's a straight shot through. Hopefully the buoys have been moved for the spring migration.
ACOE Survey 2/15-28/2017
Topsail ACOE waypoints as of 2/15/2017:
WP1:  77° 40' 18.157” W  34° 21' 38.757" N
WP2:  77° 40' 23.894” W  34° 21' 35.137" N
WP3:  77° 40' 34.129" W  34° 21' 28.720" N
WP4:  77° 41' 8.790"  W   34° 21' 8.226" N
WP5:  77° 42' 1.042" W    34° 20' 38.127" N

Masons Inlet surveyed 12/22/2016 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.

Masons Inlet Crossing surveyed 12/22/2016
Masons Inlet surveyed 12/22/2016:
WP1  77° 45' 40.975"W  34° 16' 22.998" N
WP2  77° 46' 50.528”W  34° 15' 5.961" N
WP3  77° 46' 54.252"W  34° 15' 4.626“ N
WP4  77° 47' 1.707" W   34° 14' 53.809" N

-Carolina Beach Inlet surveyed 1/26/2017 at MM 293.7 and page 83 of the Guide. In the Guide it's called Myrtle Grove Shoaling.

Surveyed 1/26/2017
Carolina Beach surveyed 1/26/2017:
WP1  77° 52' 50.538” W  34° 5' 14.989" N
WP2  77° 52' 55.006" W  34° 4' 59.836" N
WP3  77° 52' 57.417" W  34° 4' 44.313” N
WP4  77° 53' 2.782" W    34° 4' 40.363" N
WP5  77° 53' 21 .183"W  34° 3’ 38.277" N

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.
Western end of Snow's Cut, survey 11/8-9/2016
Snows cut ACOE waypoints as of 11/8-10/2016
WP1  77° 53' 21 .183" W   34° 3' 38.277" N
WP2  77° 53' 24.777” W    34° 3' 31.232" N
WP3  77° 54' 38.333" W    34° 3' 8.476“ N
WP4  77° 54' 58.817" W    34° 3' 7.587“ N
WP5  77° 55' 3.851” W      34° 3' 6.076" N
WP6  77° 55' 6.429" W      34° 3' 6.864" N

Lockwoods Folly Inlet at MM321 and page 88 in the Guide. The passage has closed up, there's only 4 MLW per the 2/22/2017 survey and it seems to be getting worse with every survey.
2/22/2017 survey of Lockwoods Folly

You will notice that there's no recommended route though the inlet crossing. The ACOE did not publish one. The inlet is gradually closing up. Let's hope it's dredged soon.

Here's a closeup of the necking area. You will need tide to get through.

Shallotte River Crossing survey of 9/12/2016 at MM 328 and page 89 of the Guide. Just follow the buoys.

Shallotte Inlet Crossing survey of  10/25/2016 at MM 330.5. It continues to shallow. One wonders how much shallower it is now with no survey since 10/25. I'm puzzled as why there hasn't been a more recent survey of such a critical area.
Survey of 10/25/2016
Note the necking by G81
It's getting worse, right by the middle pier in chart above
Shallotte ACOE waypoints but they are based on the 10/25/2016 survey, not updated by ACOE
WP1  78° 22° 38.316" W   33° 54' 45.054” N
WP2  78° 23' 8.224” W     33° 54' 23.376" N
WP3  78° 23' 12.603" W   33° 54' 19.532" N
WP4  78° 23' 42.002” W   33° 54' 14.359" N

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 (Amazon books). GPX routes I have used 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 north this spring, stay tuned.


PBF said...

GREAT update and comments -- Thank you!! Looks like a few outside runs for me this Spring.

Bob423 said...

PDF, maybe not. The inlets are being dredged. Hopefully they'll be done by the time we reach them.

Seadyce said...

3/19/17 Lockwoods Folly has been dredged - its a straight shot through.

Seadyce said...

3/19/17 Shallott Dredger in place. Arrived 1 hr before high tide - took R-82 wide to port then angled ne to R-80 a to port then eased back to charted channel. There was no G-81 in place. Saw minimum of 8' all the way.

Referencing Lockwoods Folly comment - arrived at high tide. I followed 48, 46b, 46a, 46 back to channel which are still in place. Saw nothing less than 8. A buddy boat with new information took the straight shot thru with 8

Bob423 said...

Fordyce, thanks for updating the dredging status!! Much appreciated.

Seadyce said...


Masons Inlet - Mid to rising - nothing less than 8

Snows Cut - Mid to rising - Entrance remains the same for good water

Carolina Beach Inlet - Mid to rising - Favor the green side - nothing less than 8.

Bob423 said...

Fordyce, your updates are most appreciated.

Seadyce said...


New River Inlet - High Tide - Hugged the reds all the way through - saw a tad over 6' in areas. Whew! Did not expect it to be so skinny!

Winston Fowler said...

Great information Bob and Capt. Eldred.
Thanks so much for taking the time to share. "Cruisers Helping Cruisers"

Seadyce said...


Browns Inlet - Dead low tide - nothing less than 8'.

One thing often missing from Active Captain comments is the boat draft. I'm sailing a 1985 Nauticat 44 with 6' draft 43,000 lbs.

Bob423 said...

Fordyce, I always convert my depth readings into MLW. With that any boater should be able to figure their clearance knowing their draft.

Janis evans said...

useful information thanks...
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Bob423 said...

Janis, this information is out of date. See the link below for access to the latest information and surveys. You will see four categories of links, one will be “ACOE Surveys of ICW Shallows.” Below that heading will be direct links to all current surveys of shallows.