ICW - Under Way At Last!

Okay, so you prepared your boat, you provisioned with basic supplies, and you’ve decided to enjoy each day instead of pushing on relentlessly. Your trip is NOT a delivery, right???

Well, as I write this, we have a new hurricane in the picture, and while Michael is not likely to do the damage of Florence on the ICW, it will pass over much the same areas as a tropical storm later this week. For those still struggling to return to normal, especially in the Carolinas, that is not welcome news at all. But hopefully it will diminish over land and spare this area any further headaches.

But our thoughts are definitely with the folks living in the Florida Panhandle. Hunker down and stay safe…

 Screen shot from News4Jax of the storm track as of Monday.

Screen shot from News4Jax of the storm track as of Monday.

ICW1.jpg

There were a couple of posts I did earlier in the year that might be helpful for this trip. Take a look. The first one is about bridge clearance: https://www.followingseas.media/blog/2018/3/9/monday-minute-bridge-clearance

The second is about understanding the passing rules you will most certainly use on the trip south:
https://www.followingseas.media/blog/2018/3/18/monday-minute-refresh-your-passing-signals

 In most cases, a bigger boat has some degree of authority over a small boat…except when it is full of armed Marines.

In most cases, a bigger boat has some degree of authority over a small boat…except when it is full of armed Marines.

As for planning one’s route for the day, I have a comment. I got into boats and cruising in the 1970s while living in Seattle, and my friends taught me to plan routes and find anchorages ahead of time, often in the home office or at the dining room table. Cruising the Pacific Northwest got me into that routine or style of cruising. When we built Growler, I did this preplanning on a laptop running Coastal Explorer, and I got very comfortable using it as my primary navigation tool. I planned the next day’s route in the evening.

On Spitfire, we drove the boat from the flybridge and there wasn’t provision for a computer with a sunlight readable display, so I used the chartplotter. But I found creating routes on plotters super tedious and just not worth the effort. Using an iPad helps, but our routine essentially became navigating as we go, with Laurene reading cruising guides and chart books underway to determine the day’s route in real time. And that seems to be how others do it around here. (A quick survey of my friends makes me wonder if this is an East Coast/West Coast thing.)

By the way, Laurene found the four guides we carried were never fully accurate or in agreement, and at least two of the four would be wrong at any given moment. Even the Navionics electronic charts were not without fault, and numerous times I simply stopped looking at anything other than what was around me to navigate. You get a feel for the waterway, and your senses are your best tools.

Keeping an eye on the magenta line is helpful when you leave a narrow stretch of waterway that empties you into a large bay or river system, as it can help you locate the next connecting channel that picks up the ICW again on the other side. But don’t consider this line as anything other than a rough guide, likely drawn up to 80+ years ago. It is not to be confused with a navigational route.

 Here is an example where the magenta line is incorrect on a chart. Anyone following it too closely would be out of the channel.  Traveling south on the ICW past Jekyll Point on the southern tip of Jekyll Island, one should pass G “31” on your port side, then continue past R “32” on your starboard side before turning south to pass between R “32” and GC “31A”on your port side.  This error has since been corrected by the Office of Coast Survey.

Here is an example where the magenta line is incorrect on a chart. Anyone following it too closely would be out of the channel.

Traveling south on the ICW past Jekyll Point on the southern tip of Jekyll Island, one should pass G “31” on your port side, then continue past R “32” on your starboard side before turning south to pass between R “32” and GC “31A”on your port side.

This error has since been corrected by the Office of Coast Survey.


Here is what you need to know about the magenta line when you travel the ICW:

1. The magenta line is a general guide tool only. It shows a boat operator where the next leg of the waterway is, especially helpful when transiting from one body of water to another.

2. Whenever the magenta line conflicts with the surrounding landscape, navigation aids, or your sixth sense, always stick to the navigation aids and information that you can see in front of you. Never choose the magenta line over what buoys mark as the safe route around or through a hazard or obstruction.

3. All available charting comes from the source data owned and managed by NOAA, so any inaccuracies that exist will remain so on the charts you purchase on memory cards and paper guides, until source data is changed by NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey.

4. If you find an error with the magenta line on your chart, you are urged to report it. The Office of Coast Survey hosts a website for reporting such discrepancies at http://ocsdata.ncd.noaa.gov/idrs/discrepancy.aspx.


I hope you have a safe and fun trip down the ICW, whatever your final destination. There are so many favorite places to stop and enjoy.

And each time is a different experience.