Thursday, September 7, 2017

Irma and Jose - plus what's new in 2017 ICW Cruising Guide

Look out South Carolina (after walloping Miami)
Jose heads out to sea, we hope
First, let's get the hurricanes out of the way. Irma may graze Miami before returning to the sea and head for South Carolina near Savannah. Jose looks like it will turn out to sea and there's nothing yet new off the coast of Africa. With that, September 16th to 18th is starting to look okay. Irma should be past us by then (up north) and Jose should be somewhere by Bermuda or farther east. Then it's local weather off the coast of New Jersey to examine. Time will tell.

Now on to a note I received from a buyer of the 2017 ICW Cruising Guide, with the impression it was just a redo of the 2016 version. That let me to thinking that I didn't do a very good job of highlighting the many differences and adds to the 2017 edition. Now it is true that most of the ICW doesn't go through a wholesale change from year to year but the devil is in the details. Some examples are below:

 All of the charts have been redone with better resolution and there are added charts. The coverage of the Virginia Cut is new with the 2017 issue. There are several shallow areas to avoid along that route as shown on pages 85-91. The coverage of the Crossovers on page 99 is new. Many cruisers find this section of the ICW where it splits between going to Morehead City and Beaufort confusing, so I included a chart to show how to proceed along with a recommendation on visiting the Homer Smith marina in Beaufort (last year he gave out free shrimp, ice, and had a courtesy car).

All of the inlet crossings have been updated with the latest ACOE surveys along with their recommended waypoints. The ebook version (free if you buy the book) has active links to the latest surveys by the ACOE so you can have easy access to the most current chart on your iPad or Kindle. Pay particular attention to the New River Inlet on page 107, there's a jog in the path to avoid a 4 ft area at low tide in the channel. The shoal at Masonboro by G135 on page 113 shows a route around the 5 ft shallow spot in the middle of the channel. The Myrle Grove shoal at MM292 is a false alarm on Active Captain, I show the ACOE survey of that area on page 114. Lockwoods Folly is shoaling in and the ACOE recommended a new route through the area. I show the survey and the new route on page 120.
Our resident bald eagle at the Poughkeepsie YC
He's watching us, we're watching Irma

The shoals by Minim Island are moving and there is a 4 ft spot right in the middle of the channel as shown on page 130. Unfortunately, there's not much to be done for McClellanville but I show the updated surveys on pages 132 - 135. The route through the Graham Creek shoal by R64 is new. You have to favor the red side and then swing over to the green side by R64, I show the details on page 137. I show a new route through the Dawho River shallows on page 146 for 5.6 MLW. There's a new route recommended through the Ashepoo-Coosaw cutoff on page 150 for 5.9 MLW. Be sure to favor the green side in Brickyard Creek by R210, see page 151. There's a new recommended route by the shoaling in Atlamaha Sound by G208 for 20 MLW, see page 165. If you followed the magenta line through here you would go aground. You can also avoid a shoal in Buttermilk Sound by R220 by favoring the red side as shown on page 166. The Jekyll Creek passage has been updated for a 5.7 MLW route. An updated chart for Matanzas inlet has been included showing the positions of all the buoys after dredging, see page 189. A new route through New Smyrna Beach was recommended; there's a new shoal on the ICW route there, see page 194. I included a map of the mooring placements at Vero Beach. They always give me a number and then I have to search. Now there's a map to help find your mooring. I also included a chart of the anchorage area north of the moorings, there's plenty of depth - I sounded the area in my dinghy and made a chart on page 200. I also included a chart I made of the anchorage area in Marathon for help in finding deep water on page 214. There's more room there than the NOAA charts indicate. I've skipped over many other improvements so as not to bore you too much.

None of the above information is in the 2016 guide. In all, it was about 100 hours of work. I figure I earn about $2.00/hour at this rate before taxes. If you want to get rich, don't take up publishing guides! Still, I think Amazon makes out okay. It's a publish on demand business; there is no inventory. I will continue updating my blog on what I find as Ann and I go down the ICW and also on Active Captain. The problem with AC is that there is no way to show charts with a line drawn for the best path like I have in the guide and favoring the red or green side only works if everyone uses the same charts. The NOAA ENC charts are the most widely used. Unfortunately, Garmin and Navionics charts are different enough from ENC to pose problems in some area. At least the Navionics iPad app gives the user an option to load "Govt charts" which are the ENC charts downloaded from NOAA.

We have a goal this year of recording all bridge heights, corrected to MLW. I never know what to make of a measurement corrected to high tide (there is a range of high tides, which one to use?) However, if you know the height of the bridge per the height boards at low tide, then you can refer to a tide table and figure out the vertical clearance but only after also including an offset for water level above or below normal. I cover these calculations on pages 24-27 with water level monitoring stations listed (again, the ebook has active links to the stations). These stations are not tide stations. They measure the actual water depth and give you a plus or minus relative to the predicted tide. The stations are all up and down the east coast but most cruisers don't know of them. For bridge clearance, you have to know both, the tide level and the water level plus or minus to the calculated tide. To my knowledge, nobody has put this information together for the ICW yet.

If you have recommendations on how the guide can be improved, please let me know. I've thought about breaking the guide into two books: One for the ICW Tips and one for the charts showing how to navigate the shallow spots. Another suggestion would be to publish the guide in three-ring binder format. Each guide year could just be updated pages that the user could insert in the appropriate spot in the binder (I don't know of any publisher that offers this option yet). That may be a little awkward but it might work for some. All suggestions are welcomed.

Meanwhile, we'll continue watching Irma and Jose. We're not moving until Irma goes out to sea and Jose shows a clear direction to the east.


Unknown said...

Just got the 2017 version of your book. We are getting excited about our first ever trip down the ICW. I am amazed at how many things we already have on Obsession that you suggest. Now, let's get Irma and Jose out of here so we can play. We look forward to meeting you on the ICW-our original departure date was Sept. 20. That may be delayed until closer to October now. We just learned about East River closures between Sept 21 and 29. I also keep a blog-not as technical as yours, but mostly to keep family and friends informed and entertained. Safe travels, we will be following you.
Janice on board Obsession, Newport, RI

Mary Minard said...

Bob, I did not mean it that way at all!
Having followed your AC comments with great admiration for their accuracy, I was thrilled to see your annually updated book had the information in one place which makes planning routes ahead of time much easier. When the hurricane scrambled issues last year I hung on your observations of depth and hazards as you traveled south. I was tongue in cheek saying the same thing would most likely be true again this year and that it was ironic that I had just received the thoroughly updated 2017 edition! Your blog is invaluable to me; allows me to know way ahead of time what new problems there will be and I just wrote notes to post on the pages of your book. You make AC shine.

Bob423 said...

Mary, thanks for the comments. The update took massive amounts of time. My sister in Indiana did the proof reading; she's majored in English at Ohio State University. I learned a lot from her on where commas go and don't go (inside quotes but outside parentheses - except here), the difference between farther and further, that versus which, its vs it's, and much more than I ever wanted to know. At least it got the errors down to bearable levels. The data was all from my personal notes from our spring run up the ICW. Ann is a great note taker as I call out depths. It's good to hear that someone finds the data useful. I'm finding that the hardest thing is getting reviews. I guess most people are gun shy.

At any rate, thanks for your kind words. We plan on leaving Sept 16 - 18th if we can. Irma should be by us and Jose is supposed to stay out at sea. The most encouraging thing is that there are no more "disturbances" coming off the coast of Africa that are the basis of future storms. May it stay that way.

Bob423 said...

Janice, the first trip is magical. You'll have a ton of fun. Be sure to follow where we are at by using the locator in the left column. We always have it turned on when traveling. We meet many cruisers that way as we proceed down the ICW.

Where do you plan on wintering over? We'll be in Key West February and March provided there's a Key West left after a Category 4 storm. The latest track I saw a few minutes ago has the storm going directly over Marathon! We've been living on the weather channels for the last week! Be patient with the weather, don't push.

Unknown said...

We have no definite plans for "wintering over". We thought we'd meander around, take in the sights. At one point we considered a trip to Cuba, but thinking that's not a good option now either. We planned on taking our time going down too do probably not getting to Key West until late January. I do hope we get to meet at some point.