Important – Alternative to AICW/Ashepoo-Coosaw Cutoff Problem Stretch, Statute Mile 517
Captain Constant’s (dockmaster at SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET SPONSOR, Port Royal Landing Marina) report below is yet another confirmation of the many reports we have posted on the SSECN about AICW shoaling in the Ashepoo-Coosaw Cutoff Problem Stretch (see /?p=120036). And, just last Friday we appealed to the Cruising Community, for help in lobbying the South Carolina US Congressional delegation for a “supplemental appropriation” that would allow the US Army Corps of Enginners to dredge the Ashepoo – Coosaw Cutoff, and the AICW, north of Charleston, where it passes behind shallow Breach Inlet (see /?p=120893).
Captain Constant’s suggested alternate route to avoid the Cutoff seems valid, and his is Local Knowledge – always good to have! Cruising south, the “bypass” would begin by turning southeast on the Ashepoo River (downstream), at the southern end of Fenwick Cut, then continuing downstream to Combahee Bank in St. Helena Sound. After CAREFULLY bypassing the “Combahee Bank” shoals, this route then turns northwest and heads for the Coosaw River, rejoining the Waterway near statute mile 519.5, west of marker #186.
Unfortunately, both the route around the “Combahee Bank” shoals, and the AICW route near the point of rejoining the Waterway west of #186, are very sparsely marked, and the open waters from St. Helena Sound could kickup with an outgoing tide and easterly wind. THE USE OF A WELL FUNCTIONING GPS CHARTPLOTTER IS STRONGLY RECOMMENDED WHILE TRAVERSING THIS ALTERNATE ASHEPOO-COOSAW CUTOFF BYPASS ROUTE!
In spite to these challenges, until and if dredging is accomplished in the Ashepoo – Coosaaw Cutoff, this alternate passage may be preferable to the shallow depths in the Cutoff, particularly at low water.
SSECN would like to hear from ANY other cruisers who have made use of this Ashepoo – St. Helena Sound – Coosaw River alternate route. PLEASE share your experiences with our fellow cruisers. You can use the “Comment” function below, or send e-mail directly to EditorialDirector@CruisersNet.net. Thanks in advance!
I’m the dock master at Port Royal Landing Marina in Port Royal, SC. The shoaling going on just north of Beaufort at the Ashepoo-Coosaw cutoff is too low to navigate at low tide now with most trawlers and virtually all sailboats. How the dredges get through I don’t know.
One alternative to dredging this area is to move the ICW one inlet closer to the ocean. If you go east out the Coosaw River to the Ashepoo River you will see its inlet at Otter Island. This inlet is a natural river with fresh water influx and is about 20′ in depth at the mouth at one point is about 15′ then back to 20′ at the Fenwick Cut. If traveling south you would take a left when clearing the Fenwick Cut and travel close to Otter Island into the Coosaw River.
I live across the sound from this water and it is the way us locals travel now.
Captain Constant offers further advice on the Ashepoo/Coosaw Rivers junction at Combahee Bank.
When entering the Ashepoo River From the Coosaw River you should be closer to the beach at Otter Island than to the port channel marker. The shoal is shoaling there as well but not near as hard. As a rule I use, when north bound, if I see 12′-15′ of depth I will steer to starboard until I see about 20′.
The Ashepoo-Coosaw Cutoff’s bottom is V shaped, meaning the channel is in the middle of the cut. 6-8 months ago it was much deeper with 9′-10′ of depth last year. Capt Ted took a 45′ trawler through about a month ago and only found 3′ of depth.
Well this is a bad thing with the cut off! But, it would be nice if reporting vessels would post the state of the tide in their reports. If Capt. Ted had 3′ at low water very bad, but if there is 5′ at high water, not so bad. Cygnus ll draws 3’4’³
Capt. Mike Wright
We did take this alternate route a couple of years ago when heading north at low tide. We decided to avoid the cutoff and go the long way around. It worked well with our 6′ 3’³ draft. The only advice I would give is to give the Combahee Bank plenty of respect. It would appear to be shoaling further southeast.
Does this alternate route turn up the coosaw river north of combahee bank or do yu have to go around the bank on the southeast end?
In answer to Captain Smith’s question above, we recommend rounding Combahee Bank, by carefully passing to the east and south of this shoal, staying well south of the one unnumbered, but lighted marker which denotes its position. Then, set a course to the northwest, passing southwest of marker #12. Use your chartplotter to keep to the wide channel while continuing northwest to rejoin the AICW, west of marker #186. Hope that helps to answer your question!