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    • More Problems At AICW/Northern Mouth of Alligator River (near Statute Mile 81)

      Belhaven Waterway Marina is located on Pantego Creek in Belhaven Harbor at the 135 Mile marker on the Intracoastal Waterway We are in the center of downtown Belhaven just a short walk from the HardwarI have lost count of the number of postings we’ve had here on the Net about the Waterway’s run through the northern mouth of broad Alligator River, just as this stream meets up with Albemarle Sound. That’s why, some time ago, we designated these waters as an “AICW Problem Stretch.”
      If you will be traversing this stretch of the AICW anytime soon, be SURE to follow the link below to our listing of these waters in our AICW Problem Stretch section.
      Thanks to Captain Mason for his very kind words concerning the Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net. Yes, indeed, as the spring 2011 spring migration goes forward, PLEASE help us get the word out to our fellow cruisers about the quantity and quality of info available here on the Net, and all at no charge, without the need for a users name or password!

      Hi Claiborne,
      Here is a try of your new address. I hope you are feeling much better. The following was told to me by a good friend, and it is about his friend.
      This person was coming up Alligator River, heading into Albemarle Sound. He was running twenty five knots in a 47 foot Eastbay. You guessed it, he was following the magenta line on his chart and chartplotter, and hit bottom at the curve just south of number 7 and 8. The impact tore his engines off their mounts and destroyed props, shafts and rudders. The damage estimate is above $50,000. He was fortunate not to be seriously injured.
      For the few minutes it takes to review your website before each day’s run, such hazards can hopefully be avoided. We now find many cruisers who have internet access on their vessels with aircards. This issue has been noted on your website for years now, including a post from me. This area is also well covered in various publications. I really wish we in the cruising community could get the information out better about your incredibly valuable website. It is hard for me to believe that there are still a few cruisers out there who do nothing but look at the charts and their chartplotter. Fortunately most we talk to review your website as much as I do. I wonder if a flag with a logo of your website could be made available. It might prompt questions from the few who do not know of it. I would be proud to pay for and fly such a flag.
      Recently, we were returning to Norfolk from our favorite marina, Belhaven Waterway Marina, after some work there, and were followed through this area by a 42 foot Krogen. This person had softly hit bottom here on the way south.
      I led him through, and told him about your website, which he was aware of, but had not reviewed. I think he will now.
      Again, I wish you all the best.
      With warm regards,
      Norman Mason
      Peggy Sue, Monk 36

      This just brings to mind something a tugboat captain once told me about the ICW. He said to drive the markers not the chart-keep the yellow squares (usually on the green side) to starboard and the yellow triangles (usually on the red side) to port. This would have prevented that damage to the Eastbay. We now have a very happy shipyard! This group on Facebook is providing some very useful intelligence on our migration once again. A great service to ICW users. Keep up the posting.
      The above is for heading North-the addendum was to keep the green markers between you and the ocean. Reverse this for heading south.
      To run aground on this point your going to have to pass to the WEST of the red marker on the tip of the point of land that sticks out from the west bank of the Alligator River-pretty dumb if you ask me…If you look at the markers not the chart you will be fine. Also if your not sure where your supposed to be then stop. Your supposed to pass between the red and green. It just makes a little turn here around the sand bar…..I see a boat in trouble here every trip.
      The hardest thing for a captain to do is slow down.
      Tedd Greenwald

      Transited this area in early April this year with an experienced crewmember. Like me he `refers’ to the chartplotter but `uses’ his eyes. We cleared this area with no trouble but unfortunately watched a boat behind us go aground!!!
      Capt. Larry Weiss

      I’m the Eastbay that made the mistake of relying upon the magenta line and thought I’d offer some reflections, in hopes of helping others. I sincerely wish I had known of this site [Cruisers’ Net] and will do a LOT more research in the future, including spending hours of bandwidth here. I am relatively new to cruising and unfortunately believed (ignorantly so) that I could rely on current charts. I guess my many years of flying taught me to religiously count on them, especially when they are current. Nuff said and believe me, it won’t happen again.
      My approach speed was closer to 18 kts right before entering the dog leg past the green 9. I slowed to about 15 entering the turn (NE) when the ground started coming up. There were no boats ahead of me to notice any other course.
      The depth finder said 5′ (below the hull) and then 3 so I immediately shut down the props to idle. There was a large hit, but not really a grounding. I heard a `metal on metal’ sound. We were completely stopped but floating (albeit just barely). I could feel the keel bouncing on a hard surface as the chop ran by.
      My starboard engine was all that was affected and appears to have taken the full hit; pulling the engine off it’s mount and slightly moving the strut. There is no damage, not even a scratch, to the hull. The starboard prop and shaft were moved 8-10’³ aft and the prop was impacting the rudder’¦ possibly the `metal on metal’ sound. The port engine, strut, prop and shaft were fine.
      A couple of boats came by, about 100 yds east of my location, both going from green 9 to green 7 and said they were in good water. I was facing due east at the time as the tide and chop continued to rotate me about a point. It was clear the starboard prop was hung up on something hard.
      Using the port engine and bow thruster, I was able to slowly continue to rotate (until facing due west) and back off whatever the starboard prop was sitting on, eventually getting to the line between the green 9 and green 7, which is the preferred course.
      We motored to the Alligator Marina (nice people who know quite well what the problem area is’¦ saying they see 2-3 every month) and the next morning was able to get it to a marina for repairs. At present, I have no estimate for repairs but am confident it’ll be a lot less than $50k, but in any event. it was clearly my fault for not researching the area more.
      I guess I just wanted to weigh in and admit my error and at the same time, correct the rumors which do seem to get a bit out of hand.
      Finally, it seems like even in this period of `no money Corps’ that the preferred course on charts and chartplotters could be simply adjusted for these kinds of areas when it’s apparently been known for a long time that a problem with a magenta line exists. I realize they don’t have funds to dredge, but it doesn’t seem like changing charts would be difficult since the cost is ours when we buy updates.
      Well, while I was a pilot, we used to say there were only two kinds, `those who have landed gear up; and those who have yet to..’ I guess the same goes for boating and I’m now in the former.
      Cheers, Jerry

      I can’t help myself ‘“ I just have to ask ‘“ why are people so obsessed with that magenta line? It seems to be a dangerous habit ‘“ as we’ve seen with the two prior postings ‘“ so why do people depend on something drawn by an unknown (who knows who drew it, or when, or what their capabilities were at the time, or just how outdated the information is)? Far better to use your eyes, your instruments and your charts to determine your own best course.

      Jerry replies:

      Capt Smith:
      I guess, to answer your question, `why are people are so obsessed with that magenta line’ it’s because that’s the ONLY true aid to navigation available when you’re unfamiliar with the area. The question seems to insinuate that someone is wearing blinders and not scanning the terrain. In my opinion, I find that insinuation (at least in this instance) to be an easy attack, a bit loose and off the mark.
      In the Alligator River instance, clearly the magenta line was drawn with a dogleg for a reason AND it continues to be the OFFICIAL recommended course (which clearly needs to be changed). The chart specifies that the magenta line is defined as `Channel, course, track recommended’. There is NO PHYSICAL evidence out there when cruising that magenta line that would cause you to question the recommended and charted course. Only having been there, talking to others or reading this site would allow you to know not to follow the course specifically. That’s called `prior knowledge’ and can’t be gained by looking around.
      I have also experienced a pretty bad grounding with another Captain who decided NOT to follow a doglegged magenta line (outside of Pensacola on the ICW), choosing instead to head directly from green to green. Just as in the Alligator River instance, there was NO PHYSICAL evidence available that suggested anything out of the ordinary. He used his `eyes’ and not the chart’¦ Was that wrong as well?
      I now know the Alligator River problem area pretty well. BUT, I would very much disagree that short of prior knowledge, nothing out there exists that would cause anyone to question the chart and proceed straight from green 9 to green 7, in DIRECT CONFLICT with the latest publication of a charted course.
      In my instance, I did exactly as you suggested,,, `used my eyes, instruments AND charts’. If there was anything out there that would have caused my eyes to question the instruments and finally the charts, I’d like to have it pointed out. It doesn’t exist. The ONLY reason not to follow that magenta line is to have prior knowledge, of which I claim sole personal and painful responsibility.
      Would we be having this same discussion if I posted the Pensacola grounding I spoke of? What about a time when a grounding occurs because you didn’t follow the magenta line?. I’ll wager an insurance company will be MUCH more difficult to deal with in getting the repairs accomplished in that instance. How can you explain a bad grounding when you’re OFF the magenta line? In my background, THAT would be called `Pilot Error’.
      Bottom line is, the magenta line is the best that we have, when lacking any other physical evidence. And in this instance at least, that line needs to be changed so that those of us who have never been there before can safely navigate the area without `prior knowledge’.

      I didn’t intend to point a finger at you [Jerry] in particular’¦. it was more of a generic comment. When I look at a chart, I guess you could say that I’m colorblind when it comes to that magenta line. It never enters into my line of sight ‘“ I don’t even see it. Never have, and never will.
      Capt. Mike Smith

      Claiborne, Beach House transited the mouth of the Alligator River yesterday and here is what we found. On the red side between R `6’³ and `8’³, even near the markers we had 9 feet. The green side is deeper with 12 feet holding about 75 feet off G `7’³ and going to G `9’³, again holding off about 75 feet. The marker for G `9’³ has been replaced and is in fine condition. The Coast Guard has placed a red nun, R `8A’ where everyone has cut through and run aground. So if the markers are followed correctly there is no reason for anyone to run aground. We will keep you posted on any further developments. From Norfolk to Adams Creek we have found nothing but good depths. We are heading south.
      Captain Chuck

      May 10, 2011
      Interesting discussion and i’m glad the incident with the East Bay wasn’t too serious.
      Couple of points i’d like to make, which apply not just to the Alligator River but to the entire ICW.
      1)- Watch the charts and look for the location of ATONs and how far off the channel they are located. How many time do we hear stories or read comments about someone running aground inside Green or Red XXX? being between the sticks isn’t enough’¦ there are many places where the marker is way off centerline and actually sits in pretty skinny water.
      Look for shoals near an ATON and if it comes close or extends into the `channel’, take this into account to give that spot a little extra clearance.
      Look for creeks, especially near inlets. This is often where shoaling will take place. A good example of this is the stretch just north of the Ben Sawyer Bridge in Charleston. Breach Inlet and its small creeks doens’t seem like much yet at every intersection you will find some shoaling (as much as 7′ MLW right now)
      2) the Magic-enta Line is a guideline, a suggestion. Usually this is where dredging will be done, and it’s also where most tugs are likely to run, making it the most likely places to find the deeper water. But, there is no guarantee and again look for signs of trouble like marker locations as mentioned previuosly, but also things like side creeks bringing silt into the channel, doglegs, etc’¦
      typically when approaching a known or possible trouble spot, I will first try the magic-enta line but will take it slow and watch my sounder, often poking on either side for best water if depth decrease on the line.
      3)- your depth sounder is your most critical instrument! more important that your radar and fancy GPS overlay, and maybe even more important than your plotter. Make sure you know where the transducer is and how much you have under the transducer. Props for a power vessel, keel for a sailboat. If you set an offset, make sure it’s accurate and make a note of it.
      Use the shallow depth alarm. Mine is set at 9′ (for a boat with a 6 1/4 draft). While the bottom can come up faster, it can alert you and save a prop!
      4)- In doubt, take it slow. again, watch your depths and the charts. If something doesn’t look right on the charts (see nr 1 above), slow down! Typically, when i get down to 10′, I slow down to fast idle. At 9′, I go to slow idle and if it really gets below 9′ I start coming in and out of gear. (again with a 6+ draft). At such low speed, I usually have enough time to throw the boat in reverse and back out of seriously shallowing water before hitting anything. The boat i run doens’t have the luxury of a keel and has 3′ props hanging off the bottom!
      5)- And above all, use the tides! usually, just 1 to 2 feet of tide is all you need to make transiting some of the worst stretches a less stressful experience. While sometimes schedule constraints may get in the way it’s often possible to get 6 to 8 hours of running with enough tide to enjoy the trip.
      Pascal aboard MY Charmer, 70’ 6+ draft

      Question from Jerry:
      Is the `Red 8A’ placed on the east side of the shoal area?
      Just curious graphically where they placed it. If so, it seems like they’ll HAVE to modify the magenta line on the charts as that would place it west of the channel and the new `Red 8A’. Thanks for the update.

      Red “8A” is about half way between G “7” and G “9” marking the starboard side of the channel going south or the port side heading north. Chuck

      And since the shoaling is from the west, we assume that Red Marker 8A has been placed east of the shoaling. There would be very little dogleg remaining.

      Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s “AICW Problem Stretches” Listing For Northern Alligator River

      Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To This AICW Problem Stretch

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