On 7/28/13 (a weekend no less), the Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net received a telephone call from Captain Mike Verdolini (Civil Engineering Technician, Navigation Branch, South Atlantic Charleston), at the Charleston, SC branch of the US Army Corps of Engineers. Captain Mike informed us that the Corps had just finished an official survey of the AICW from Charleston, SC to Beaufort. Two patches of severe shoaling had turned up, which he thought (quite rightly) should be brought to the IMMEDIATE ATTENTION of the cruising community.
By the way, before going further, let me just say how honored we are that the US Army Corps of Engineers turned to the Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net as their FIRST MEANS to get this important information into the hands of cruising captains.
Back to the survey, one area of concern is our old friend, the “AICW Problem Stretch,” at the southwestern tip of the Ashepoo-Coosaw Cutoff (Statute Mile 517). We are publishing a separate article about the worsening shoaling here, near marker #185 (see http://cruisersnet.net/?p=120036).
HOWEVER, what really got both Captain Mike’s and our own attention were the survey results depths, hard by marker #177 AT THE NORTHEASTERN ENTRANCE TO THE ASHEPOO-COOSAW CUTOFF (hard by the Waterway’s intersection with Rock Creek)!
As you will see in the below graphic, supplied to the SSECN by the USACOE, low water depths of as little as 1-foot, are now to be found hard by the northern side of marker #177. YIKES!!!!
These grounding depths can be bypassed by not approaching #177 closely, and favoring the NORTHERN SIDE of the AICW channel from a point 200 yards or so east-northeast of #177, to the point where the channel swings farther to the southwest, and enters the main body of the Ashepoo-Coosaw Cutoff. Again, as shown in the USACOE survey snippet below, even at low water, minimum 6.5 foot depths can be held by following this plan of action.
Of course, this all sounds much easier on paper (or, in this case, on the screen), than when you are on the water. Clearly, the passage from Rock Creek into the northeasterly entrance of the Ashepoo-Coosaw Cutoff (or the other way around), is now an area that demands MAXIMUM ALERT from all cruisers, and the most cautious navigation of these waters.
There are two aspects of this shoaling that we find particularly troubling. First, this is the first we have heard about shoaling near marker #177, and, secondly, Captain Verdolini informs us that there is no immediate budget available to dredge this troubled section of the Waterway.
WE ASK THE HELP OF THE CRUISING COMMUNITY TO HELP US DISTRIBUTE THIS VITAL, BREAKING INFORMATION TO OUR FELLOW CRUISERS. If you belong to other nautical lists or forums, please direct members of such associations to this “Navigation Alert” posting at http://cruisersnet.net/?p=119918. Both year round Palmetto State cruisers, and those cruising south on the AICW this fall, need to be well aware of this new hazard long before they actually arrive on these waters.
It almost goes without saying, but we are going to say it anyway, the Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net is declaring a Navigational Alert for these waters, and I have no doubt this Alert will remain in effect, until dredging finally takes place along this stretch of the AICW.
We would also very much like to hear from members of the cruising community who have cruised the AICW within the last thirty to sixty days between Charleston and Beaufort (or the other way around). Did you find shallow depths near #177? What did you find to be the best means to bypass this shoaling? PLEASE send your data to EditorialDirector@CruisersNet.net. Your fellow cruisers can’t wait to hear from you!
The entire Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net team promises to keep a very CLOSE EYE on this developing situation as we move into the fall, 2013 transient season. We will bring you fresh info just as soon as it is available. In the meantime, everyone take care on these waters, and, again, please let us hear about your experiences at #177!!!!
Update as of 7/30/13 – After publishing the article above, we immediately brought this situation to the attention of Brad Pickel, Executive Director of our strategic web partner, the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Assocation (http://www.atlintracoastal.org/). As you will see from his message below, Brad took action immediately, and we HOPE the meetings he describes will shake loose some additional funds for dredging these problem waters SOON!
Thank you Claiborne. I have followed up with the Charleston District and the message you heard was correct. This area along with Breach Inlet are priority areas for maintenance, but there are no funds currently available for these efforts. If funds were to become available, it would be through a supplemental or emergency appropriations bill. Some of our board members and I will be meeting with representatives of Senator Graham and Senator Scott’s staff tomorrow and we will definitely bring these concerns to their attention. I will let you know of any additional feedback I receive on this topic.
Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association
And, responding to our request for information from the cruising community, several captains have responded. Note that all either swing wide of #177, or came through at half to mid-tide. SMART!
Sir, in response to your call for feedback from cruisers who recently traversed the Ashepoo Coosaw cutoff:
On Monday, 24 June 2013, I traversed this area southbound at dead low tide. I did not encounter the shoaling your alert mentioned near marker 177, but I stayed wide of that marker.
We passed marker 177 today 8-3-2013 at about half falling tide. The marker was on dry ground. However there was plenty of water ( 15 to 20 ft ) if you take the turn wide. Of a much greater concern was the rest of the cut to marker 185, in some places we only say 5.2 to 5.7 ft under our boat while on plane. I can only imagine there is very little water in this cut at full low tide. Be very cautious when transiting this area.
We passed marker 177 northbound around June 1st of this year at near mid-tide. I had noticed a shoal off 177 before at low tide so our strategy was to “square the corner”. By this I mean we continued into Rock Creek unitl mid-stream before turning starboard and we would continue at the middle of Rock Creek when southbound until turning to port only when we are centered at the Ashepoo-cut off Canal. ‘best of luck, Aythya crew
CAVALIER cruised the AICW north past markers 177 and 185 on 23 June 2013 about 2 hours past high tide. We draw 5 feet and at no time saw less than 7 feet at both areas. We stuck to the center of the channel. No issues.
Jeanne and Terry
Regarding the Marker 177 at Ashepoo cut-off and Rock Creek. I passed this point at medium tide about June 1st of this year without noting a problem. I have seen a shoal off 177 before at low tide and my strategy has been to “square the corner”. By this I mean proceding to the center of Rock Creek before turnng starboard when northbound & proceding to the center of the cut-off canal before truning to port when southbound. Hope the conditions of the waterway are maintained. Thanks for your alerts,
Passed marker 177 southbound yesterday afternoon at low tide. Swinging wide of the marker at about mid- width of the cutoff there was over 20 ft of depth until well past the marker. Much shallower at the western end past #185.