The “Rock Pile” is a man-made canal-like section of the AICW, officially known as the Pine Island Cut, running between Little River and Waccamaw River. The canal is narrow and lined with submerged rocks and a rock shelf, just a foot or two below the water’s surface.
When the USACOE was building this portion of the AICW in the 1930’s they encountered a sold shelf of granite. The Corps simply blasted through this obstruction, but, over the years, the soft silt above and below these rocky outcropping has washed away, making the canal now appear wider than it really is. Also, over the years, many portions of the rock shelf have broken off, and left all sort of underwater rocks waiting to trap keels and underwater hardware.
Cruisers are urged to hold as close to the mid-width of the Pine Island Cut as possible, and announce their presence on VHF in case large commercial traffic is approaching, which could force you out of the channel’s mid-line and onto the “rocks,” especially at high tide when the rocks are fully submerged. Our suggestion is to keep a sharp lookout for rocks and IDIOTS!
June 21,2014: And now reports of two near accidents in the Rock Pile:
We were just reading this email string as we went north through the Rock Pile this morning, June 21, when we were passed by a 40-ft power boat named St Augustine going southbound at about 16 knots. He was pushing a 3-ft bow wave that had our 43-ft Shannon rocking and rolling. He did not answer our angry hail on channel 16. About 5 minutes later we heard another angry boater hailing St Augustine. If anyone meets this guy, please try to teach him some boating safety.
June 22, 2014
We were the other angry boaters that Ellen heard calling to Miss St Augustine on June 21 in the Rock Pile. Jim was trying to get him on the VHF and I was standing on the bow waving my arms and making “slow down” motions. The jerk looked right at me as he blasted by us. Luckily I was hanging on to the rail or I could have been easily thrown overboard from our 50′ Californian. He couldn’t have been more than 20 ‘ from us as he went by at that speed. I always wonder if people like that are simply ignorant of how to handle a boat or if they just don’t care about anyone else.
May 12, 2014:
This is what we heard about the accident at the Rock Pile. This information was obtained from radio conversation and a fellow boater from the marina going up there to actually see the accident – if more accurate info is needed I guess you can contact tow boat us as they were the ones working the accident – we don’t want to give out wrong info – we just wanted to remind fellow boaters the rock pile is a place you should respect and use caution/common sense.
A 42′ sport fish boat was traveling about 18 knots and was trying to pass another boat – due to each others wake he ended up on top of a rock shelf – all five people on the boat were unhurt and got off all ok.
What we heard on our radio after the accident was tow boat us asking other boaters to please slow down and do an idle speed past them – we were surprised that boaters would have to be asked and not just do it out of courtesy and common sense.
Rick and Margi
summering at Barefoot Marina
North Myrtle Beach, SC
We passed it after it happened so we don’t know specifics. Looked like the boat tried to reach a dock & hit a ledge. Or maybe he was just far out of the channel. Both SeaTow & Boat US were keeping him from tipping over. Here’s a photo.
18 knots through that stretch while passing? Hmmmm….renews my belief that HP should never exceed IQ. Don’t misunderstand me, I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, but….
There’s no cure for STUPID! Doing 18k and passing another vessel in the rock pile is not good judgment. Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment. Hopefully, they will learn.
I hail out of Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay and North Channel area, and this kind of stupidity – there’s no other word for it – is typically not seen because we have nothing BUT granite alongside our waterways. You learn quickly that in the eternal battle of fiberglass vs granite, fibreglass has never lost a round.
This sportfisher – and excuse me for saying this is no loss to boating, most of these guys are not at all courteous on the water – deserved what he got. I just hope he wasn’t insured, so that he won’t be too soon back on the water.
“Doing 18k and passing another vessel in the rock pile is not good judgment.”
Actually, it is total lack of judgement, something seen too frequently with the “in a hurry” sport-fishing crowd. I have had vessels overtake me in this area and I always appreciate when the pass occurs at idle speed. Fortunately, I can generally time my passage through here other than weekends (when traffic is heavier and perhaps less experienced), as well as in the off season.
This area should be an official (and enforced) No Wake Zone, as passing another vessel can be a real challenge, particularly at the southern end, and especially at low tide. Thankfully, I have never encountered any barge traffic here, though it may be too narrow for many commercial vessels.
Gregory Yount SV Intermezzo
I don’t wish anyone harm or damage but had that boat been passing me at 18 knots and not ended up on the rock pile, I would have! And I have a 45′ trawler.
Glad no one was hurt but hope there were substantial financial penalties which will make the boat driver think long and hard about doing something so absolutely stupid in the future.
We go thru there on a regular basis and in my opinion trying to pass at all is a bit iffy. Passing at 18 knots is just dumb. As they say ” all you need to run a boat is money, no brain is required”.