Another Navigational Challenge on the ICW: The Ashepoo Coosaw Cutoff

Leaving Charleston, we knew we had several areas of low water that we needed to be alert for. Since high tide was conveniently in the middle of the day, we imagined we would have no difficulties navigating the bulk of the shoaling we would encounter. However, just over forty miles from Charleston, which we would be reaching nearing mid-tide on the ebb, was a series of difficult areas in what was known as the Ashepoo Coosaw Cutoff, connecting the Ashepoo and Coosaw Rivers. Since going aground on a falling tide would mean we would be stuck for six hours or so, we decided to avoid the area altogether by heading down the Ashepoo into St. Helena Sound and then up the Coosaw to reconnect with the Intracoastal Waterway. On the charts, this path seemed to add about five miles to the trip, but would have us in deep water the entire way. But things did not quite turn out that way.
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The Trials and Delectations of Charleston: Anchoring and Oysters

Coming into Charleston, South Carolina by boat was something that I have dreamed of doing for a while. Over the years, I have had some fun times in the city with my folks, a few drunken nights with buddies and all by myself, and some long days of doing research there. Like most people, the food, architecture, history, and waterfront has drawn me in. But while I have explored each of them, I know I have only skimmed the surface and want to engage the place in a more sustained fashion. Moreover, it is hard to get the feel of any place, to really start to know how people actually live there, by coming into it for only a day or two at a time. What I really want to do is insinuate myself into the community a bit by living aboard and leisurely taking in the city over a couple weeks.
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On Our Way to Charleston: Navigating the Shoaling North of the Ben Sawyer Bridge

Initially, when my Dad and I arrived in Georgetown, SC, just off mile 403 on the Intracoastal Waterway, we thought we would push on the 65 miles to Charleston the next day, the Friday of Labor Day Weekend. However, as I looked over the charts, Skipper Bob’s Anchorages, and ActiveCaptain, it became apparent that we would not be able to make it all the way because of low water. In particular, there is a stretch of shoaling about two miles just north of the Ben Sawyer Bridge, which is the swing bridge that goes to Sullivans Island and is the last obstacle before we would reach Charleston Harbor.
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The Automobiles of the Trip

A list of cars we used on the trip:

1. My car – I originally drove it out to Branford and used it until we left Branford Landing Marina. It sat all summer at Greenwich Day School (many thanks to Meridith and Bobby!). Then, I came by and picked it up before driving it back to Peoria.
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Wharf Roaches!

Portsmouth, Virginia, just across the river from Norfolk, provides two different free docks for transients. There is really nothing better to a cruiser than a free dock in the heart of a metropolitan area, and we took advantage of it. But shortly after we tied up, we started talking to another cruising couple whose comments almost made us untie the lines and anchor out. They did not offer warnings about crime or wake, but instead noted that they had relocated because of the large number of “dock roaches” that were about. They worried that these dock roaches would climb onto their boat and infest it and cautioned us lest the bugs inundate Bear.
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Oh, That Is Just a Tank in the Middle of the Intracoastal Waterway

Heading south from Norfolk, the Intracoastal Waterway slowly introduces you to more challenging navigational elements, sort of liking advancing to a new level in a video game. You start off the first day with a dozen or so bridges and a lock. The next day, you could get some nasty weather along the Albemarle Sound, and you also need to pay careful attention for stumps and other debris in the Alligator River. Before long, you are dealing with all of the above together with current, poorly marked channels, shoaling, nine foot tides, and a host of other potential dangers.
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Navigating the Intracoastal Waterway

We pulled into the St. Mary’s River, which divides Florida and Georgia last Friday, September 5th, having left Norfolk, Virginia on August 16th.  While we did not enter Florida, we covered the core of the Intracoastal Waterway during the trip. Of course, I am going to share some of our experiences along the way. But, knowing that a few hundred boats will be covering this route over the next couple months, I figured I would try to organize most of my posts about the ICW in such a way that will make them easier to use as a guide and reference. Hence, I will provide some general comments about the ICW in this post and then add additional links and posts as I write up the trip.
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Our Navigational Notes for the Intracoastal Waterway – 2014

There are a lot of issues to be aware of on the Intracoastal Waterway, but keeping these notes handy, we managed to make it from Norfolk to St. Mary’s Georgia with no major problems. We actually wrote the notes into our copy of Skipper Bob’s Anchorages Along the Intracoastal Waterway, highlighting the most important points with a sweet orange highlighter.  I would recommend making your own list based on the guidebooks, ActiveCaptain, the USCG’s Notice to Mariners, each individual Army Corps district’s navigational notes (especially the Savannah District), and whatever other information you can get from northbound vessels, TowBoatUS, SeaTow, etc.
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Dad’s Fascination with Shrimp Boats

My Dad just uploaded a bunch of photos to Google+ from his time aboard. During the trip, he was pretty obsessed with taking pictures of shrimp boats, bridges, and his plates of oysters before he ate them, and that came through in the gallery that he posted. He got some good shots of other things too, which I am sure I will use to illustrate some posts in the future. In the meantime, here is a selection from his already whittled down photos of shrimp boats.
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My Last Night Aboard

My Dad and I brought Bear up the St. Mary’s River and dropped the hook just off the town of St. Mary’s around 6:30 this evening. Tomorrow, we will be busy changing the engine lube and transmission oil, getting a final pumpout, and topping off the diesel before bringing Bear to St. Mary’s Boat Services where she will be hauled for the winter. As it is my last night aboard Bear this summer while she is still afloat (I will probably be sleeping on her in the boatyard tomorrow night), I just wanted to share some initial thoughts about the summer.
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