Longtime cruiser and SSECN Contributing Editor, Captain Jim Healy, shares his knowledge and experience in these observations on this portion of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. Thank you Jim!
The entire region from Charleston to St. Augustine has high tidal ranges, ranging from 5′ at St. Augustine to as much as 9′ in Savannah/Beaufort/Charleston. Those high tidal ranges create swift tidal currents, and especially for first-times, docking is easiest in the 1/2 hour before and after slack.
There are many areas of shallow water in the region. The very best resource for current data on low water and caution areas is available via www.activecaptain.com. Two other websites that all ICW travelers should know about are www.waterwayguide.com and www.cruisersnet.net. I’m sure you are familiar with the Waterway Guide book series. The “Salty Southeast Cruiser’s Net” (SSECN) is really a boating group. It was founded by Claiborne Young. After Claiborne’s untimely loss, the group continued in operation. The Cruiser’s Net website specializes on the US Southeast. There is some duplication of material between the WWG site and the SSECN site, but there is unique value to both. Both are excellent resources for fuel prices, marinas and anchorages. These websites would make a good sidebar for any ICW article. Two of these websites require registration – SSECN does not – and all three are free, and all are very useful to ICW boaters. Both WWG and SSECN also have smart phone apps that duplicate and augment website information and are very useful on small-format devices.
There are some generalizations that apply to the region, including the stretch from Georgetown, SC all the way south to below Fernandina Beach. In some of those areas, boats drawing more than 4′ will want to consider not traveling at low tide; especially celestial low tides. The Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) is responsible for dredging the ICW. USACE is funded by state congressional delegations. In recent years, the money congress allocates to dredging has been diverted to “more pressing needs,” and so many areas of the ICW are shoaling, and in fact, the ICW resource is slowly being lost; well, allowed to die, really, by congress. There is a not-for-profit called the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association. The Executive Director is Brad Pickel; bpickel@
seahavenconsulting.com. That would make another sidebar for any article on the ICW. There are some local knowledge bypasses around some shoal areas. All of the cruising sites above can provide additional detail.
Renting a car in any of these venues greatly expands what a boating visitor can see and do. Some, but not all, marinas have courtesy cars. Generally they can’t be used for long periods, but they are useful for re-provisioning when needed.
Hope this helps.
Peg and Jim Healy aboard Sanctuary, currently at Ft. Myers, FL