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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.
      Also,
      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’.
      Jerry

      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.
      Jerry

      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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    • Important – Captain Charmaine Tells How to Correctly Navigate Through The Channel 5 Bridge (Florida Keys)

      Channel 5 is ,arguably the most important of the Inside Route to Hawk Channel, or the other way around, passages in the Florida Keys, north and east of Marathon and Moser Channel. And, Captain Charmaine has found a real possibility of dangerous navigational error in these well traveled waters. ALL Florida Keys cruisers need to read the article below CAREFULLY!!
      We would very much like to hear about your Channel 5 cruising experiences. Have you had a similar/dissimilar experience from Captain Charmaine. Please click the “Comment on This Posting/Marina/Anchorage/Bridge” link below, and share your information.


      April 29th 2011
      “Channel 5 Bridge Passage – Chart 11449 Recommended Route in Error”
      24 50.281 N, 80 46.401 W
      by Charmaine Smith Ladd

      The Channel 5 bridge spans between Long Key and Lower Matacumbe Key. It has a fendered underpass for vessels needing clearance (65′). Being the first opportunity for boats coming down to the Keys from the West coast of Florida to cross over from Florida Bay into the Atlantic, Channel 5 is understandably heavily traversed. For those desiring a calm anchorage while traveling the Atlantic to those wanting to explore the backwaters of Florida Bay, crossing via the Channel 5 bridge underpass has its reward of a calm night in the shallower waters of Florida Bay and does not disappoint with its access to the serenity and beauty of its backwaters.
      September Sea and her crew have used Channel 5 for such purposes for nearly a decade. From the first time, it became apparent that the bridge underpass was marked incorrectly on my paper chart (#11449). There is a recommended route on that chart that is in error. The recommended route takes you between the wrong bridge pilings and dangerously close to a massive utility pole piling. I made note of it directly on my chart and drew a line to show the actual route.
      The next time we passed through Channel 5, we had a chartplotter and had plotted a course based on the recommended route of the vector charts in the chartplotter. Of course the vector charts had propagated the same error, and we once again had to adjust our course to pass between the correct fendered bridge pilings. This is when the reality of the true danger became much more apparent. Charting a course based on an erred recommended route could find one in a very confusing situation, especially in foul weather or at night. The intersection of the black tracks in the photo below show where to properly cross (24 50.281 N, 80 46.401 W).
      Each time we’ve come here, it never fails that we observe other boats attempting to follow the recommended route of the chart. Just the other day, s/v Restless (shown above) was spotted on the wrong course to cross beneath Channel 5 from the Atlantic, while September Sea (also shown) was on the correct course.

      I tried to hail the vessel on Channel 16 but the couple in the cockpit either could not hear me or did not have the VHF turned on. Their vessel continued and just as I thought the Captain would try to pass beneath between the wrong bridge pilings, the realization of a huge utility pole piling staring back at him from the other side proved to quickly change his mind. The vessel turned hard to port. That was when the fenders lining the proper bridge underpass were noticed by its Captain. I am sure the vessel’s Captain then noticed that the boat behind him (we aboard September Sea) were on the proper course.
      This is a dangerous situation. The huge concrete pilings (foundations for communication cables) run parallel to the bridge on Bay side and do not give a boat much room to maneuver if the bridge is crossed anywhere but at the proper fendered opening. Those pilings are very difficult to notice from the Atlantic side.
      Yesterday, checking online with NOAA’s most recent charts, I saw the error still exists (see photo below). I’ve added a red dot on the NOAA chart to indicate where the proper crossing is actually located.

      I have learned from this that navigational chart changes do not take place unless we as cruisers report potentially dangerous errors when we see them. In the meantime, please make note on your current chart (#11449) and manually update any pertinent routes in your chartplotter.
      Cruisers helping cruisers, it’s what we’re all about!
      Charmaine Smith Ladd, s/v September Sea
      SSECN Correspondent, Florida Keys
      “Bringing you the low down from down low!”

      Question for Captain Charmaine:
      Is water always deeper in the middle of a channel when crossing? And when approaching a bridge to cross, how far in advance do you choose which pilars or opening to go thro? Maybe questions a rookie sail person might ask like me. Thank You
      Skipper Burr Bault

      Captain Charmaine replies:

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read my article, Burr. Local knowledge is often handy when navigating channels. Over time, areas of a channel can be silted in (due to hurricanes, usually) and not have the minimum depth as shown on charts. So the answer to whether or not the middle of a channel is always where the deepest waters are is: not always. Most of the time, especially in wide channels, you will find deeper water in the middle. The narrower the channel, the more local knowledge one should seek.
      On the charts, the opening beneath bridge spans for boats needing height clearance is well indicated. At that area, in most cases, boats with a mast height of up to 65′ can clear safely. In the case of Channel 5, I believe that the chart is still showing where a drawbridge of the old bridge span opened and allowed boats to pass through. When the new elevated bridge span was built, it was done so that boats could pass beneath without the need of a drawbridge and bridge tender to raise it. Therefore, the recommended route for Channel 5 shown on the charts is outdated, as it is in line with a drawbridge which no longer exists.
      At Channel 5, the placement of the new fendered opening for vessels is on the opposite end of where the old drawbridge used to be. Pilings are shown incorrectly. It is therefore very important to pass through where height clearance is optimal and the opening is clear of obstructions. Such areas are well marked on the charts and usually correct. However, in this particular case the recommended route is in error because it has not been updated since the new bridge span was built.
      Hope this helps!! Hugs!
      Charmaine

      Very informative article. Your knowledge of the 5 Channel Bridge, of the Florida Keys, is awesome!
      Linda Honore-Pitts

      I have read many of your articles and appreciate your advice and warnings. My husband and I are bringing our s/v, draft 4’8’³ from Tampa Bay to Ft. Lauderdale the last week in November. What passage would you recommend from Marathon to Miami? We have limited sailing experience on the Atlantic but we like the greater depths. We do like to anchor and are not overly excited about visitng any towns or marinas unless necessary. And as always we are under some time constraints. Thank you for any suggestions!
      Beth Falkenhagen

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    • Response to Recent Grounding in N. Alligator River, AICW Statute Mile 81

      Talk about a lesson in hard knocks! And kudos to Jerry for owning up and sharing his experience with all of us! Like so many spots along the east coast, a little research done on your float plan can save you big hassles down the way. The northern entrance to the Alligator River demands our attention and respect, as Jerry’s experience proves.

      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 bandwith 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, Skipper Jerry

      Click Here For Recent Comments On This Problem Stretch

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

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    • Where Anchor Lights Are Required in The Florida Keys – It May Surprise You

      I must admit to not knowing that even in Marathon’s Boot Key Harbor Mooring Field, display of a nighttime anchor light is required. Read on, and our Florida Keys correspondent, Captain Charmaine Smith Ladd, will explain why!

      April 19, 2011

      Where Anchor Lights are Required in the Keys – It May Surprise You!
      by Charmaine Smith Ladd

      Most cruisers feel well vamped on when it is required by law to display an anchor light. Ask and the answer will most often be, “It’s not necessary when in a designated anchorage at night.”

      However, particularly in the Florida Keys, there is a lot of confusion as to what constitutes a “designated anchorage.” It has nothing to do with whether or not an area is designed for anchoring or commonly perceived as an anchorage within an established harbor, but everything to do with whether or not the placement of the anchorage is within Inland Waters or International Waters. Even those designations cannot be determined by what one’s commonsense may indicate.

      One may surmise that Inland is within any Harbor. That would be an incorrect assumption, especially in the Florida Keys. Many a cruiser has been shocked when visited by Florida Fish & Wildlife (FWC) or the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and handed a ticket (usually around $70.00) for not displaying an anchor light when anchored in what was perceived as a “designated anchorage.” Like last night in Boot Key Harbor, where Law Enforcement was out and about issuing warnings and citations for anchor light violations.

      “It’s a designated anchorage!” is the common protest, “One does not have to use an anchor light when in a designated anchorage, and I’m in one because I’m moored in a designated mooring field!” Surely this has been heard by many an Officer while enforcing the anchoring light regulation. Cruisers truly are serious when they protest, but ignorance of the Regulations is not an excuse. With that said, here’s the low down:

      It is all about the acronym COLREGS and its demarcation lines. “COLREGS” stands for “Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions.” Basically, regulations put in place to prevent collisions of vessels. On charts it is usually seen in lower case, written as “Colregs.”

      When in Inland Waters inside of the Colregs demarcation lines {shown on coastal charts as magenta colored dashed lines} a vessel does not have to display an anchor light from dusk until dawn if it is in a “Special Anchorage” (clearly marked on the chart as such). However, there are no “Special Anchorages” in International Waters (outside of the Colregs demarcation lines) International Rules clearly state an anchored vessel MUST display an approved anchor light from dusk until dawn while anchored or moored.

      In the Florida Keys, heading southwest, the Colregs demarcation line crosses just prior to nearing waters of Lower Matecumbe Key. From there throughout the remainder of the Keys and beyond, a vessel is outside of the Colregs and therefore in International Waters: regulated to display an anchor light from dusk until dawn. Yes! This means that even while in the most protected anchorage area of the Keys, Marathon’s famous Boot Key Harbor, whether on a mooring ball or at anchor . . . one must display a USCG approved anchor light in order to be in compliance with Regulations.

      To some it seems silly. However, regulations are regulations. Once it is understood that a “designated anchorage” is deemed by its placement strictly in reference to Colregs demarcation lines on the charts, rather than being simply viewed as “any common inland place of anchorage,” it begins to make sense. When in the Keys, look for the Colregs on your charts and see where you are in relation. It will show whether or not an anchor light is required when anchoring at night.

      This writer hopes to add clarity to this issue and help prevent others who come down to the Keys thinking the displaying of an anchor light in Boot Key Harbor is debatable or voluntary. It is not. It is mandatory and enforced as per the Colregs. When outside the Colregs demarcation lines, please make sure your vessel is shining from dusk ’til dawn with an approved USCG approved anchor light (white light visible up to 2 miles in all directions).

      Besides, enjoying a nice dinner for two with the $70.00 saved from not receiving a ticket of violation leaves no bitter aftertaste! LOL

      For more information on this topic, consult USCG Regulations.

      Charmaine Smith Ladd, s/v September Sea
      SSECN Correspondent for the Florida Keys
      “Bringing You the Low Down from Down Low!”

      And, from a fellow cruiser:

      In addition, the USCG has issued an `Interpretive Rule’ (33 CFR 90.5) which states that `A vessel at anchor includes a vessel made fast to one or more mooring buoys or other similar devices attached to the ocean floor. Such vessels may be lighted as a vessel at anchor in accordance with Rule 30, or may be lighted on the corners in accordance with 33 CFR 88.13.’
      I’m not aware of an exemption from displaying anchor lights in Inland Waters. I’ve been unable to find any reference to such in my copy of COLREGS.
      Sorry, I could have been clearer.
      I should have written, `I’m not aware of an exemption from displaying anchor lights STRICTLY BECAUSE ONE IS in Inland Waters.’ Of course, there are `Special Anchorage’ areas, but in my experience they’re very rare, and are clearly outlined on the charts and the CFR’s.
      Let me try again. Unless you see a clear outlined area on your chart about a `Special Anchorage,’ with a reference to the CFR number authorizing it, you need to show a USCG approved anchor light (not a solar-powered porch light), whether anchored or on a mooring.
      Larry Shick

      And, Captain Charmaine responds:

      Very true, Larry. It was not my intention to be unclear and give the impression that as long as one is in Inland Waters no anchor light is required. A practice such as that certainly would not help prevent collisions at sea.
      Rather that such `Special Anchorages’ are found in U.S. Inland Waters, not International Waters ‘“ and clearly marked on the charts. To many a cruiser, a Harbor with anchorage is a ‘special anchorage.’ Your comment is perfect to bring the entire point to light that a designated or special anchorage is not what we may think it is, but what the charts dictate it is. Many thanks!
      Charmaine Smith Ladd, s/v September Sea
      SSECN Correspondent for the Florida Keys
      “Bringing You the Low Down from Down Low!”

      I believe the above article is inaccurate and confusing. Captain Charmaine seems to use the terms `designated anchorage’ and `Special Anchorage’ interchangeably, as if they meant the same. They do not. And she states that designated anchorages do not exist outside the COLREGS lines. They do.
      A designated anchorage is simply an attempt to establish order in a area where vessels are likely to anchor, or to safely anchor dangerous cargoes. Many designated anchorages exist along the east coast outside major ports like Beaufort, Charleston, Jacksonville, Port Everglages, Miami, etc. All of these are outside the COLREGS lines, and all require anchor lights.
      Special Anchorages do not require anchor lights. Special Anchorages are all inside the COLREGS lines simply because the federal government has no authority to alter the International COLREGS rules. As Larry Shick points out, Special Anchorages are very rare. They are listed in the Coast Pilot Chapter 2 and clearly labeled on charts. There are only six Special Anchorages from Cape Henry, VA, to Key West, FL. It is very unlikely that the average boater will ever anchor in a Special Anchorage.
      The fact that the USCG only occasionally enforces anchor lights adds to the confusion and misconception.
      Bottom line: Show an anchor light whenever you anchor or moor.
      Bruce Marschall

      Thank you for your comments, Bruce.
      I agree it is all quite confusing. My article was not meant to add further confusion but to hone in on the ever asked question as to why boats in Boot Key Harbor are required to display an anchor light ‘” as some see it as being a `designated anchorage’ and assume no anchor light is required when moored.
      Thus my conclusion in the article:
      `This writer hopes to add clarity to this issue and help prevent others who come down to the Keys thinking the displaying of an anchor light in Boot Key Harbor is debatable or voluntary. It is not. It is mandatory and enforced as per the Colregs. When outside the Colregs demarcation lines, please make sure your vessel is shining from dusk ’til dawn with an approved USCG approved anchor light (white light visible up to 2 miles in all directions).’
      I do hope that much of my article is crystal clear, as that is the intent of the article. With that said, if you feel otherwise, please let me know. I certainly do not want to mislead or confuse, but the parameters of my article were more akin to the problems we have in the Keys and BKH regarding the requirement of having an anchor light on whether in the mooring field or anchored within the boundaries of the Harbor. That has caused considerable confusion down here (and the shock of a ticket to those who thought it was okay to not display their anchor light).
      Many thanks for your comments. No doubt I have much more to learn on this subject as a whole.
      Hugs,
      Charmaine

      Change your anchor light to an LED light which draws less than 20% of what your incandescent lamp does and makes it a non issue to turn on the anchor light at dusk as the load on the battery bank is now so small’¦
      Marinebeam dot com has an excellent selection of high quality LED lamps that do not put noise in your VHF radio’¦ I have not used the Dr Led bulbs so I cannot comment there’¦
      Dennis O’Connor

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    • Missing Range Markers in Esterville Minim Creek Channel, South Carolina AICW Statute Mile 418

      The Esterville Minim Creek Channel connects the North Santee River with the Western Channel of Winyah Bay south of Gerogetown, SC. The missing range markers are charted between green marker #7 and red marker #16. Range markers are typically not as sturdy as daymarkers and a good high wind will often knock them down.

      Three of the four range markers between the North Santee River and the Estherville – Minim Creek Canal (mm 416-418) are missing. There was at least 7 ft. at mean low through the cut when we went through so it should not be a problem, but if you are looking for them they are gone.
      Mitch and Carole Brodkin

      Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Minim Creek Channel

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    • Report on Hell Gate and Offshore Options from Tybee to Jacksonville, FL

      The AICW follows the narrow, man-made canal known as Hell Gate between the Vernon and Ogeechee Rivers. These waters have been an “AICW Problem Stretch” for years. Fortunately, dredging during the summer of 2009 had kept depths decent until December of 2010 when reports of new shoaling began. Looks like the surrounding shallows are once again beginning to creep into the channel. Effective immediately, cautious captains will begin to time their traversal of Hell Gate for mid to high tide.

      Sanctuary and crew transited Hell Gate at 1500 yesterday, 4/20/2011. We are three days past full moon on celestial high and low tides. At our transit time, our chartplotter tide table showed us with plus 0.8 ft of tide, headed to negative 1.1 ft. The tidal range was greater than 9′.
      In the Hell Gate channel, we saw 5.6 ft of water in the green quarter at G “90,” which is at the slight bend at mid-cut. Due to the current in that area, we were slightly east of the centerline, but only slightly. Don’t know if Red quarter would have been better, but where we were, at -1.1 ft, we’d only have had 3.5′ of water; not enough for us.
      On Tuesday, the weather offshore was good, so we went out at St. Simons and back in at Doboy Sound, to overnight at the Duplin River. That avoids Altamaha Sound and the Little Mud on a falling/low tide. From Doboy Sound, we went out again on Wednesday, headed for Tybee, but had to come back in at Sapelo because of SE short-period waves, which were on our beam and made the ride uncomfy.
      Interesting, from Tybee to Jax, there are inlets every 15 miles that allow for safe exits if the weather deteriorates. Doboy and Sapelo are well marked. Don’t know about the others. Because of the tidal ranges in GA, though, and shallow offshore depths (40 ft at 6 miles) the tidal ebb and flood currents are strong. Plan accordingly. Also, running in 15 ft of water nearer shore can result in experiencing lesser wave size, but dodging shoals for some may increase anxiety. A personal trade-off. As the water depth on the ICW continues to deteriorate and dredging declines, these offshore runs may become more and more necessary.
      When crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas, I’ve usually heard advice that winds with a “North” component are to be avoided. Yesterday, I learned that for offshore travel along the GA, SC coast, waves directions/short period swells with an “East” component are to be respected/perhaps avoided.
      Peg and Jim Healy aboard Sanctuary, Monk 36 Hull #132

      Went through Hell Gate going north at 1 hour after low tide on Monday May 2nd, 2011. Entrance was skinny. I recorded 5.9 feet which left me with about 1 foot of clearance. Once I got through the opening, the water deepened quickly but I took it slow and watched my depth and channel all the way through.
      Captain David

      Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s “AICW Problem Stretches” Listing For Hell Gate

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

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    • Captain Charmaine Reports on Anchoring By Tarpon Belly Keys (Back Route from Marathon to Key West)

      Author's Vessel, "September Sea" Anchored at Tarpon Belly Key

      Wow, what a GREAT article by our Florida Keys SSECN Correspondent, Captain Charmaine Smith Ladd. To reach the anchorage Captain Charmaine describes hard by Tarpon Belly Key, cruisers whose craft draw 5 feet or less, might choose to run the so-called, Back Route from Marathon to Key West, at least partially. To do this, run north on Big Spanish Channel, sandwiched between Big Pine Key to the west (among others) and Little Pine Key, plus several smaller keys, to the east. At Harbor Key Bank Light, you make a turn to the southwest, and slip along the northern face of the uninhabited keys all the way to Northwest Channel, which, in turn provides access to Key West.
      Cruisers bound for Tarpon Belly Keys should depart this “back route” near Statute Mile 12287, and navigate the “Cudjoe Channel” to a point abeam of Tarpon Belly Keys. This is an unmarked passage, so the use of an up-to-date, GPS chartplotter is highly suggested.
      For those whose vessel requires more than 5 feet of water to keep off the bottom, Captain Charmaine recommends navigating an arc around Bullard Bank, Monkey Bank, and Sideboard Bank to enter Cudjoe Channel from the Northeast.
      What a neat place to be once the hook is down. Read Captain Charmaine’s article below, study her pics, and you’ll see how neat it is!

      Tarpon Belly Keys, Florida Keys
      N24 43.74 W81 31.24
      by Charmaine Smith Ladd
      September Sea is often out sailing and anchoring throughout the Florida Keys. Often the question “Where do you go?” is presented to me. When told of the plethora of unique and quaint places where we anchor, the usual response is: “There’s no protection there, is there?” Or, “That’s Bayside, what do you draw?” We draw 5’8″ and have no problems navigating Florida Bay–we simply consult and adhere to our charts!
      Cruisers often forget that shoal waters surrounding an anchoring area can be just as beneficial as a body of land for protection. When looking at charts, one limits their anchorage areas if land is viewed as the only source of protection from foul weather and indicative of a comfortable anchorage. Shoal waters can provide much the same protection.

      Exploring Ruins on Tarpon Belly Key

      One fine example of this is Tarpon Belly Keys. Looking at the charts one might view it as undesirable for protected anchoring. But a closer examination shows the shoal waters around it prohibit fetch from building in the area. The only seemingly exposed area is from the Northwest, but because of the shape of the narrow channel from the Northwest, and its surrounding shoal waters, you are quite protected. It is a very comfortable and lovely anchorage.
      Tarpon Belly Key used to be a shrimp farm. There are two man-made, coral bottomed canals that are fabulous for exploration. From a distance, it appears there is a sand beach but it is sand-colored coral. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes when going up to the Key. We are careful to have an extra long painter on the dinghy so that no chafe occurs while tied up to a tree on the Key. There’s a home-made tree swing, remnants of campfires, a foundation for what used to be the main office of the shrimp farm, and lots of remains of concrete and structural steel that gives it a feeling of walking through a historic time in the Keys. You can walk, albeit carefully, atop one of the old concrete beams from one side of the canal to the other section of the Key, then follow an overgrown road and see the other canal. It is quite picturesque!
      On Cudjoe Key, seen southwest of Tarpon Belly, the great Fat Albert makes it home. Many have seen it from afar, a big weather blimp high in the sky. However, from Tarpon Belly’s vantage point, you have an incredible view of Fat Albert as it’s docked.
      Hope you enjoy the pictures of this most unique area of the Keys! There are so many places like this where you can anchor and enjoy the beauty, wildlife, and solitude. Open your anchoring choices by remembering that surrounding shoal waters can also offer great protection!
      Charmaine Smith Ladd, s/v September Sea
      SSECN Correspondent, Florida Keys
      “Bringing you the low down from down low!”
      www.SeptemberSea.com

      Home-made Swing on Tarpon Belly Key

      Author Explores Tarpon Belly Key

      Man-made Canal on Tarpon Belly Key

      Old Dock on Shrimp Canal - Tarpon Belly Key

      Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s Florida Keys Anchorage Directory Listing For the Tarpon Belly Key Anchorage

      Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of the Tarpon Belly Key Anchorage

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    • New Fuel Stop Immediately North of St. Augustine Inlet (Statute Mile 775.5)

       904-547-2219 Inlet Marina sits on the site of the old Sea Love Marina, along the AICW/Tolomato River's eastern shores, north of St. Augustine Inlet, and hard by the Vilano Beach Bridge, will be a full fledged marina. Inlet Marina just opened with new fuel tanks installed for unleaded 89 octane gas with no ethanol and of course diesel. They currently are just a fuel stop but they are supposed to have their new restaurant opened on May 15th, called Beaches. This marina used to be the old Sea Love marina which was closed last year sometime then bought and is now permitted for 60 slips (not yet built), but they do have two floating docks, one concrete and one wood and a fuel dock. There is also a boat rental operation already there. They have a nice beach area near the dock office also. There is a lot of area behind the marina office which is planned for development with a Publix grocery planned as part of the complex and they are supposed to have a grocery delivery operation for the marina if folks want to get provisions while fueling..that is to come. The new owners are taking it slow but are committed to the new operations success. The Marina is very close to the St. Augustine inlet and on the AICW. So it is very convenient for cruisers to stop in for fuel.Inlet Marina is, as of 4/14/11, the newest SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET SPONSOR. Eventually, this facility, which sits on the site of the old Sea Love Marina, along the AICW/Tolomato River’s eastern shores, north of St. Augustine Inlet, and hard by the Vilano Beach Bridge, will be a full fledged marina. For now, these good folks are anxious to sell fuel to all passing cruisers. Please help us welcome Inlet Marina to the Cruisers’ Net fold!

      Inlet Marina just opened with new fuel tanks installed for unleaded 89 octane gas with no ethanol and of course diesel. They currently are just a fuel stop but they are supposed to have their new restaurant opened on May 15th, called Beaches. This marina used to be the old “Sea Love” marina which was closed last year sometime then bought and is now permitted for 60 slips (not yet built), but they do have two floating docks, one concrete and one wood and a fuel dock. There is also a boat rental operation already there. They have a nice beach area near the dock office also. There is a lot of area behind the marina office which is planned for development with a Publix grocery planned as part of the complex and they are supposed to have a grocery delivery operation for the marina if folks want to get provisions while fueling..that is to come. The new owners are taking it slow but are committed to the new operations success. The Marina is very close to the St. Augustine inlet and on the AICW.
      So it is very convenient for cruisers to stop in for fuel.

      This is the old “Sea Love” marina. Lat: 29*55’4″ Longitude: 81*17’55”
      Marina tele: 904-547-2219
      Marina Fax: 904-547-2221
      Fuel prices on April 14, 2011: (All taxes inlcuded – price shown is what boater pays)
      Diesel $4.09 tax included
      Gas, 89 octane, no ethanol $4.29 tax incl.

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    • Bureaucracy Woes at Savannah City Docks, Savannah, GA (Savannah River, off the AICW)

      It’s unfortunate when communications get crossed up which can easily be the case when municipal services are involved. Despite any limitations, Savannah City Docks has…LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! We’re glad Jeff survived his run-in with bureaucracy with a sense of humor!

      Don’t waste your valuable time heading for this dock. I called a week ago asked for a reservation, I was told it was 1st come 1st served. NOT TRUE. After tying up (and surviving a divorce) got all set and headed off to pay, we were ready for a little nightlife after many nights up the icw on the hook. Well we phoned a lady by the name of Shawn, we were told we could not stay as there were boats coming in with RESERVATIONS! I told Shawn that we were the only boat, 42′ at the end of the 250 foot dock. She did not seem to care and suggested a dock further up river at $3.50 per foot. It is now 8 PM, five hours later, we had dinner across from the city dock and the dock is still completely empty. Now I need a divorce lawyer.
      Skipper Jeff

      I think it sounds like a scam to send business elsewhere and a call should be made to the city with a complaint about this.
      Susan Dawson

      We had a similar problem last year on Memorial Day. We were run off as well. We were told first come-first serve and when you get there there is a number to call. Nobody answered, and next thing you know a police officer came by and made us all leave.
      Sea Huddle

      Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s Georgia Marina Directory Listing For Savannah City Docks

      Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Savannah City Docks

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    • Cyber Cafe at Charleston City Marina, AICW Statute Mile 469.5

      Welcome to The City Marina The City Marina Wins Jack Nichol Award for Design See our feature on The Visitors Network Located on mile marker 469.5 of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, the Charleston City Marina features 19,000 feet of linear dock space covering 40 acres of water. The marina was named 2005 National Marina of the Year (Marina Dock Age Magazine), and offers state-of-the-art amenities and facilities to promise an enjoyable stay. The City Marina's MegaDock extends 1,530 feet and is the longest free standing floating fuel dock in the Southeast. These features, and Historic Downtown Charleston location, make The City Marina one of the east coast's most popular marinas.Charleston City Marina, A SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET SPONSOR, is our home port, so it’s natural that I like to brag about the excellent facilities, convenient location and friendly personnel.

      Even with all the marina offers, the office staff has added free coffee (compliments of BoatUS) , complimentary USAToday and two computer stations for transients’ use. Located in the Dock Office at the north end of the MegaDock, the cyber-cafe has two lounge chairs in addition to the separate computer table and stools. Free WiFi service continues to be available in slips.
      Larry

      Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s South Carolina Marina Directory Listing For Charleston City Marina

      Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Charleston City Marina

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