Inter Coastal Waterway (ICW) Trip (Chesapeake Bay to Miami)

November 1 – December 4, 2006


November 1.  We began our trip down the ICW (see section at the end of the log/pictures for a description and history of the waterway) in Norfolk, a major US naval base. 


Laying in stores required for our trip down the ICW … now to find a place to stow them


Red sky in morning … not a worry since we are now safe in the ICW … right … we will learn


We thought we had seen most of the ships when we were at anchor and in the marina at Willoughby Bay, but we were astounded at the number and size of ships and the support buildings as we motored down the Elizabeth River.  We remembered back to our time in Halifax / Dartmouth in July and August; there is no comparison between the Canadian and US navies. 


Multiple aircraft carriers and support ships … not of much use in Iraq’s deserts


The ICW from Norfolk to Miami is approximately 1100 miles long.  There are numerous fixed bridges with 65-foot clearance (enough for our masts with about 8 feet to spare … at high water) and more than 80 opening bridges, bascule, lift and swing.  Most of the railroad bridges are open except for the occasional closure due to trains crossing.  Some of the road bridges open on demand, but others are restricted to openings on the hour or half hour and not at all during rush hour.  Most of the bridges do not operated during strong winds (and we did have strong winds) and many close temporarily because of mechanical failure.  Our first day out we managed to pass 7 opening bridges and one lock without too many delays. 


Our first two bridges … 200 more to go


Some bridges open at specific times … we try not to play bumper boats

Fixed bridges are 60 to 65 feet high … gives us 3 feet of clearance


We did not take the alternative route, through the Dismal Swamp.  It is longer and the depths are not maintained to 6 feet.  Evidently it is very pretty.  Instead we took the “Virginia Cut.”  Some of this was in rivers, and one long stretch was a canal.  You could see dead trees and tree stumps at the edge of the canal.  Sometimes the branches reached out into the canal itself, and of course there were crab floats to be concerned about.  In the river sections, there were huge marshy areas (we thought it looked like a swamp) and many wooden shipwrecks, mostly scuttles.  At least most of them were on the chart.


The last fall colours we will see for a while

The channel is narrow and passes close to logs, deadheads and floating  trees


At the end of day 1 we anchored at a bend in the waterway in North Carolina in six feet of water with two sailboats from Montreal.  We did not get as far as planned, but it was a relatively calm, uneventful day.  ICW mile 29 of 1090. 


A couple of boats from Montreal in our first ICW anchorage


November 2.  Day two was vastly different.  We wanted to follow, rather than lead, but found ourselves in the lead when many of the boats stopped at a marina to purchase fuel.  Our paper charts are in a flipbook.  Going from one page to the next, especially if there is a bend in the channel, can take a few moments to get re-oriented.  As we attempted to find ourselves, we meandered out of the channel and were suddenly stuck on the bottom.  Fortunately, we could slither off the soft mud with a bit of a heavy hand on the throttle. 


By late morning, we were approaching Albemarle Sound, one 18-mile segment through open water.  The wind had freshened from the north.  Since we were going south, and did not have to stick to a narrow channel, we unfurled our Genoa, turned off the motor and had a fantastic sail across the sound at 7.5 knots.  As we got to the middle of the sound, we realized the waves were building, but since they were going with us, they were not a problem.  About ¾ of the way across the sound, we heard a steel tug, that had been converted into a pleasure craft (Island Girl), call the coast guard.  They had lost steerage and were being tossed broadside by the waves.  Island Girl had passed us earlier before we entered the sound, and we had visual contact with her when the call was made.  We did not think we could offer any assistance, but we furled our Genoa and headed for the boat in distress.  We decided to attempt to get a line from their boat to ours so we could tow them to a safe harbour.  We had to circle them 3 times before we successfully secured their towline.  We managed to get Island Girl undertow, but the line they provided was only 30 feet long, they could not steer the boat, and we risked having them crash into our transom.  Brian managed to pass one end of our 60-foot dock line to them and once both of us had secured the ends of the longer line, we let the 30-foot line loose.  The coast guard arrived in a Zodiac much later and waited until we were in the channel of the Alligator River before they took over getting Island Girl to the marina. 


Island Girl passing us early in the day … we were too slow for the skipper

Island Girl being towed by a slow sailboat named Pilgrim … revenge is sweet


We went about 5 miles east of the ICW channel to a secluded anchorage (no charts … we navigated by feeling our way in between 5 foot shoals) to wait out the windstorm that built and raged for another 24 hours.  We were at mile 82 of 1090.


A deeper anchorage close to where we spent the night …


November 4.  Our third day underway we motored, sometimes unfurling our Genoa, through the Alligator River, and a 20 mile cut through swampland to the Pungo River.  The wildlife along the cut never showed its face; the trip was dull.  The major excitement was having a large motor vessel approach from behind; most of them slowed down as long as we also slowed ourselves.  This gave us less of a wake that could potentially push us to shallow water. 


Pumpkin …I guess it makes it easier to find the boat in a crowded marina


As we left the cut, there was a green daymark indicating a shoal on the right side of our boat.  We passed the daymark, but not too close, since sometimes these aids to navigation are in a bit from the edge of the shoal.  As Jane tried to find the next navigation aid, Brian was below figuring out where we would anchor.  The depth sounder showed the water level decreasing.  8 feet, 7 feet, 6 feet.  Which way should we turn?  Instinct said away from the shoal we had just passed, but that was wrong.  Then channel was less than 150 feet wide, and we went hard aground on the left hand side of the channel.  To get off, we had to lower the dinghy, load one of our anchors into the dinghy, row it out to mid channel, tie the dinghy back to Pilgrim, and kedge (pull) ourselves off the shoal with the anchor windlass.  We were successful, but going aground twice in three days of travel was embarrassing; we thought we were better sailors.  We subsequently found out that some boats go aground on average once a day.  ICW mile 130 of 1090. 


November 5.  Our fourth day underway was thankfully uneventful.  The unfurled Genoa helped our motoring down the Pungo River, Pungo Creek, Goose Creek, the Hobucken Cut, and the Bay and Neuse Rivers.  We saw our first shrimp boats, a sign we are getting to southern states.  We anchored for two nights in Broad Creek to wait out some rain and wind.  We have been surprised (and dismayed) by the lack of any wildlife along the ICW.  Definitely no land mammals, and few birds and fish (on the fish finder/depth sounder).  ICW mile 174 of 1090.



The first of many shrimp boats we will pass along the ICW


November 7.  We motored to Moorehead City (sister city to Beaufort, NC) and docked at a marina where we fueled up (in a downpour, getting water into our fuel tank).  This was a no-nonsense stop, doing laundry, shopping for some supplies, and getting Brian to a dentist to replace a lost filling.  We bought some local shrimp and made Shrimp and Grits.  Palm trees and prickly pears at the marina were another sign we were heading south.  We were actually in shorts and T-shirts … in November!  ICW mile 205 of 1090.


A strong wind blowing us against the dock made departure very interesting


November 9.  In Beaufort we left the ICW for the open Atlantic.  The ICW south of Beaufort had questionable depths, and we were anxious to sail and fish again.  There was a major display of surf as we left the channel.  We hoisted a reefed main and unfurled the full Genoa for a reach down the coast. 



8 foot waves breaking against the shallows … rip tide alerts every day


We were moving along at a good 7 knot pace.  Brian deployed his new 40-lb test line on his big rod with one of his new Rapalla lures.  After a while it was bouncing along, so he reeled it in to see if there was any action.  There was.  Teeth marks on the lure.  The line went out again with another lure.  Within 15 minutes Brian was playing in a fish.  He landed it in the cockpit.  It was a 9 lb., 3-foot King Mackerel.  He took it to the aft deck to clean it and feed the hovering seagull.  Eight pounds of fish steaks went into the freezer.  The line was deployed again.  Within 30 minutes another fish was on the line.  BIGGER.  This was a 10-lb., 4 foot long King Mackerel.


The rod is hog tied to the cockpit … the normal rod holders don’t work at 7 kn


My first King of the trip



Not only was the fishing great.  It was also good to be back into sailing mode.  There were 4 foot swells with 2 foot waves that Pilgrim handled beautifully.  The water was clear and blue (not brown or green) and a warm 67 degrees. 


At 5:15 the sun set. 


A nice sunset but we still not have seen the “green flash”


After dinner we were well heeled-over and trucking along, but still slamming into some pretty big waves.  However, we were not taking spray over the cockpit like we were on our last day in the Chesapeake.  At 8:30 the boat was slamming hard into larger waves.  The water temperature was 74 degrees.  We had probably moved into the Gulf Stream, which we heard comes close to North Carolina in the vicinity of Cape Fear.  The wind increased to 16 knots, and we decided to take a reef in the main for the night, and continued to sail.  The waves were really slowing us down.  When the wind dropped to 12 knots but the waves continued, we partially furled the Genoa and turned on the motor to punch through the waves.  The wind continued to diminish the next day and we motored all day, finally anchoring after sunset at 6:15 in Winyah Bay, South Carolina.  The bad news was that we had to fight the ebb current of 2+ knots for 8 miles to get to our anchorage.  The good news was that dolphins filled the inlet mouth to feed as the tide moved out.  There must have been 100 or more diving around and under our boat.  The large brown pelicans were also soaring around our boat looking for dinner.



They love to ride the bow wave and will pass within inches of the hull


Pelicans although grace full in flight belly flop with a crash when they land in the water


We stayed at the anchorage in Winyah Bay two nights to recover from our overnight run and to get the dinghy back on davits for the ICW trip.  We discovered from Jane’s brother that our Witherspoon ancestors from Scotland landed in Winyah Bay in the 18th century before settling in the Black River. 


A peaceful anchorage that we entered at night without detailed charts


The weather was warm again.  The good news:  we are in shorts and short-sleeved shirts, the portholes are open, and the butter is soft.  The bad news:  mosquitoes abound, the refrigeration is on more often, and the drinks kept in the bilge are warm(er).  ICW mile 410 of 1090. 


November 12.  The trip down the ICW from Winyah Bay was uneventful, but stressful.  Brian had the chart book and cruising guides at hand, and Jane helmed and kept her eyes glued on the depth sounder.  We got into some shallow water, but did not touch the bottom.  If there were interesting sights along the way, I think we missed them.  The shoreline is salt marsh and FLAT. 


At the north end of our trip today there were tall pines behind the marsh, but half way to Charleston the trees disappeared.


The land continues to get flatter


 In fact, we anchored in a creek with a bend.  Some boats were anchored around the bend, and from our vantage point looked like they were anchored in a cornfield.  We can see the masts and booms, and sometimes the top of the cockpit dodger, but not the topsides. 



Yes it is a sailboat anchored in the weeds … a common site


There were some very large houses along the mainland shore (on the right side … as opposed to the ocean side on the left).  Some of them had elaborate docks with roofs and seats at the end of the fixed portion of the dock leading to the floating dock. Since there is a 4-5 foot tidal range here on the ICW there are extensive marshes between the land and the water, some of the fixed docks were 400+ feet long over the marsh. 


These docks are great for a morning jog before heading out to fish


Pelicans are beginning to out-number seagulls and even Cormorants.  They are beautiful to watch.  They soar beautifully, sometimes within a few feet of the bow.  Their landing in the water, however, is a belly flop.  The ending of Jurassic Park (part 1) that showed a flight of pelicans is exactly how they look … pterodactyl-looking.  ICW mile 452 of 1090. 


Pelicans and gulls fighting for bait scraps

November 16.  We stayed four nights in Charleston:  two at anchor and two in the marina. 


Another storm blew through the region and tornados touched down in North Carolina.  We were happy to be snug at a dock.  One large sailboat from the Cayman Islands, approximately 150 feet long with a very tall mast, had a red light on top of the mast … perhaps because the mast was as tall as some radio towers.


A touch over 120 feet with an 80 foot mast … wonder if it can be single handed?


Charleston was charming.  The magnolia trees, live oaks with Spanish moss and holly trees (hardly bushes) are beautiful.  The antebellum homes with their two story columned porches are carefully preserved, and the churches do dominate the skyline.  ICW mile 469 of 1090. 


Vintage homes and well-kept parks … nice place to spend some time


Exclusive shops make the city a very expensive place to do any shopping


Jane pointing out the Holly


November 18.  We had an excellent overnight passage from Charleston to the St. Mary’s River.  We left Charleston at 6:30 AM on the ebb tide and motored out the 8-mile approach to the Atlantic Ocean.  Because of the strong south and southwest winds on Wednesday and Thursday nights, there was a large surf breaking at the harbour entrance and 6-foot swells/waves offshore. 


Departing Charleston … red sky in morning as well … we never learn


Fort Sumter - On April 10, 1861, Brig. Gen. Beauregard, in command of the provisional Confederate forces at Charleston, South Carolina, demanded the surrender of the Union garrison of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Garrison commander Anderson refused. On April 12, Confederate batteries opened fire on the fort, which was unable to reply effectively. At 2:30 p.m., April 13, Major Anderson surrendered Fort Sumter, evacuating the garrison on the following day. The bombardment of Fort Sumter was the opening engagement of the American Civil War.


The boat became encrusted in salt again.  The wind was from the west and veered to the northwest during the afternoon.  Initially it was 15-20 knots, and we had a great sail on a close reach with full main and Genoa.  The wind, wave and sail combination helped us punch through the seas and we were making good progress at 6-7 knots.  Brian put out a line, and we got some new teeth gouges on the lure, but no fish.  At dusk the wind lessened to 8-10 knots but we decided to sail, even though the wind dropped periodically to less than 10 knots and our speed suffered.  Patience paid off; we would put up with the light winds for under 10 minutes then the wind would increase to 15 knots, speeding us along at 7 knots.  At 6:00 this morning we turned on the engine and motored for the last two hours in the Atlantic, and again for the 2 ½ hour trip up to Cumberland Island. 


As we motored up the channel (against the current, of course), Brian confirmed that a Trident sub was coming down the channel escorted by a US Coast Guard Zodiac.  The main US base for nuclear submarines is located in King’s Bay, about 2 miles north of the St. Mary’s Inlet.  We heard another sailboat talking to the Coast Guard, they had been instructed to move out of the channel under armed escort.  We also moved outside the channel.  As the escort and sub approached us, the Zodiac left the channel and came in our direction.  We moved further outside the channel.  The Zodiac continued to come toward us, so we slowed down.  A man was on the bow with his hands on the 50mm machine gun, motioning us to move further outside the channel.  The Zodiac stayed with us to ensure we did not alter course until the sub passed.  The sub is enormous (and much more technologically advanced than the Canadian subs).  Bigger than a whale.   The wake was also large because so much of the sub is under water.  ICW mile 710 of 1090. 


The first sub to sink another ship

A sub that can destroy the world


There must be some logic in sending a Zodiac to protect a Trident … any ideas?


Ohio Class “Trident” General characteristics

November 20.  We stayed two nights at Cumberland Island, and went ashore all day Sunday.  Cumberland Island is the southern-most barrier island on Georgia’s shoreline, and is a national park for the most part.  It is an excellent example of a large barrier island.  We started off hiking through the maritime forest of live oaks, magnolias, yellow pine, red cedar, and saw palmettos, cabbage palms and bottle palms all dripping with Spanish moss. 


Everything on the island is LARGE


Muscadine grapes grew up the live oaks to get to sunlight, then crashed down to the ground with the live oaks as they died, yielding grapes to the early inhabitants. 


When the trees fall the clinging vines create an impenetrable barrier


Wax myrtle, an evergreen shrub with dark blue berries, grew in the forest and on the dunes.  The berries are used to make bayberry candles.


Jane waxing eloquently about the berries usefulness

A seed pod from a Magnolia tree


 The soil was almost pure sand.  Armadillos fearlessly ran across our path digging for grubs with their long, flexible noses.  They do not seem to have any predators and no fear of humans. 



If your foot is in the way of lunch they will dig right under or through it


We also saw a deer and a couple of the wild horses that have lived on the island for centuries. 


Nice to look but they are not tame and can deliver a nasty bit


We did not see wild boar (on the north end of the island), raccoons, or snakes.  As we walked toward the Atlantic Ocean side of the island, the forest gave way to two sets of dunes with a meadow in between.  There was a boardwalk over the dunes, mainly to keep us on a path that would cause as little erosion to the dunes as possible.


The boardwalk to the beach … the horse prefer the sand


 Shrubs, ground vines and grasses kept the dunes somewhat stable.  The dunes gave way to the beach.  It was low tide so the beach was wide … over 200 yards.  Gulls, terns and sandpipers scavenged along the shore and waded in the tidal pools.  We picked up shells and crab casings and were able to identify most using our seashore field guide.



The beach at low tide … it gets completely covered at high tide


A variety of gulls looking for lunch in a tidal pool



A quiet centre


Fair winds and a kid with a kit

A fine collection that we left for someone with room to store it


The island was home to the Timucuan Indians before Europeans “discovered” North America.  A Spanish mission was established in the mid-1500’s.  In 1736 the English took control and built two forts.  Because of its location between Spanish lands (Florida) and English lands (Georgia), little homesteading occurred until the late 18th century when plantations were established and slaves brought from Africa to tend to cotton crops.  After the Civil War when the slaves were “freed” some continued working the land on Cumberland Island, but most of the plantations were abandoned and inhabitants moved to the mainland.  In the 1880’s, Thomas and Lucie Carnegie (brother of Andrew, and an equally astute business magnate) built a castle resort, Dungeness, on the south end of the island.  It was used to entertain dignitaries until the 1920’s.  The depression and decline of expensive, private resorts brought an end of life at Dungeness.   In 1959, after years of neglect, it burned.  The shell of the castle and other buildings remain, covered in vines, the garden overgrown with weeds. 


Dungeness in ruin … the wealth of a nation built it, a single vagrant destroyed it


November 24.  We left Cumberland Island to take refuge from a strong north storm at St. Mary’s.  We were anchored in the St. Mary’s River and were either in Georgia or Florida, depending on the direction and strength of the river current.  We stayed at anchor for 4 nights, enjoying the camaraderie of fellow cruisers on more than 50 boats that congregated at St. Mary’s for a Thanksgiving feast. 


St. Marys. The home of the 6th annual cruisers/townsfolk Thanksgiving Dinner


50 boats amassing for the big event

Steamed oysters for the first course


A well behaved line up of 120 people


The townsfolk provided turkey and ham and a hotel dining room and us boaters provided the side dishes and desserts for over 150 people.  The hotel owner steamed 2 bushels of oysters; Brian and Jane devoured their fair share.  It was great to meet folks from boats we had heard on the radio.  We met a number of Canadians, a few Canadians who had moved to the US, and US folks from across the country … Washington State to Texas to Michigan to the east coast.   We stayed in St. Mary’s one extra day; the strong north wind had diminished and we wanted to give the Atlantic seas an extra day to smooth out.  We consulted with other cruisers:  should we go back out into the Atlantic to Cape Canaveral or down the ICW with its narrow channels and lift bridges?  Most of the cruisers opted for the ICW, but seasoned travelers convinced us that our boat was designed for offshore cruising.  We decided to go out into the Atlantic.


November 26.  We left St. Mary’s at sunrise to take advantage of the slack current before the tide came in.  We motored out the St. Mary’s Inlet as three Coast Guard cutters escorted a Trident Nuclear Submarine into the inlet.  We do not know if it was just chance that we encountered a submarine going into and coming out of the inlet, or if it was common for subs to travel this passage so often with the King’s Bay naval base so close. 



Red sky in morning for our departure … we are getting the hang of this

And a nice sendoff from the Trident folks


There was one other sailboat leaving St. Mary’s Inlet with us:  Kindred Spirit, an aluminum sailboat from France we had first met in the Chesapeake.  As we cleared the protection of the inlet jetties, the force of the waves began to toss us.  Although the wind had diminished from 40 to 15 knots from the north, the waves were still high:  averaging 8-10 feet, but with “rogue” waves up to 15 feet.  The wind was still from the north and was strong enough to allow us sail and “cut through” the waves.  Kindred Spirit’s speed matched ours, so we traveled together until noon.  Then we both shorted sail when the gusts topped 20 knots, and Kindred Spirit pulled ahead.  We kept in touch with each other by radio until we arrived in Cape Canaveral the next morning.  By then they were about 10 miles ahead of us and continued on to Fort Pierce Inlet. 


An example of what you can/can’t see when night sailing …


We had one mishap during our bouncy ride down the Florida coast.  Jane went below to get an apple for lunch.  She was just taking off her sailing gloves to wash the apple when a rogue wave hit us.  Because she was not holding on, she was thrown across the boat and landed on the navigation station on her back ribs.  It was a painful lesson, but no broken or cracked ribs. 


Cape Canaveral is a busy port; we thought the Kennedy Space Center would dominate the shore, but the port with its boats, docks, and cruise ship sheds was all we saw.  There is one lock and two lift bridges between the Atlantic Ocean and the ICW that we had to negotiate.  We joined the ICW on Indian River just north of Cocoa, Florida at ICW mile 897.  


The barge canal and a lot of commercial traffic


A common sight … a boat abandoned and hard on the ground … if you take it away you

 assume all of the financial burdens of the boat … so they just sit there and rot

An abandoned dock facility on the barge canal … potential hazard when it falls over


The barge canal … 12 feet deep at the centre


December 4.  We had a reservation at the Cocoa Village Marina where we had arranged a mail drop.


Pilgrim hiding between a couple of 50 foot power boats … we feel very small


  We spent one day at the hospital to have Jane’s injuries checked out, then we started doing research on marinas in Florida at which we could haul Pilgrim out of the water to scrub and repaint the bottom with antifouling paint.  We discovered a “do-it-yourself” marina in Cape Canaveral and were given a good monthly rate at the Cocoa Village Marina, so decided to leave Pilgrim in Cocoa, go to Toronto for Christmas, visit family in St. Louis, then return to Florida to haul the boat on January 2.  We spent a week at the marina before flying to Toronto, which gave Jane’s back a chance to heal and to research and order equipment we need before we leave the US for the Bahamas in January. 


Cocoa Village downtown was not much more than a bunch of trinket shops


WHAT IS THE ICW?  When we decided to take the Inter Coastal Waterway (ICW) from the southern tip of Chesapeake Bay to Miami, we envisioned a water highway; perhaps not a superhighway or interstate highway, but a well marked, easy to navigate, deep, wide channel with lots of interesting things to see along the way.  It is approximately 1100 miles long.  We figured it would be safer than traveling alone in the open Atlantic Ocean.  If you look at a roadmap of the southeastern United States, it is easy to identify the Chesapeake (Baltimore, MD near the top and Norfolk, VA at the bottom).  Cape Hatteras, NC, just southeast of Norfolk is what we wanted to avoid because of the shallow water and high surf in that area.  You can see Albemarle Sound and Pamlico Sound north and south of Cape Hatteras, and the ICW does use a very small part of these bodies of water, but where is the waterway south of Beaufort / Moorehead City NC?  The waterway does not appear on a roadmap at all.


From Norfolk to Beaufort, NC the waterway follows several rivers and creeks, crosses the Albemarle Sound, goes through a number of cuts dug in swamplands, but does not really touch Pamlico sound.  The North Carolina roadmap shows clearly a thin stretch of barrier islands outside the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds.  They are visible on the roadmap because of the large sounds behind them.  The entire southeastern shore from Florida up to Cape Hatteras is made up of such barrier islands.  South of Beaufort, the islands are so close to the mainland, that the islands and waterway do not show on a roadmap. 


There are two major forces that influenced the formation of the barrier islands.  The Gulf Stream squeezes through the Florida Straits and forms a huge aquamarine river of warm salty water that flows northward.  The main shore-building influence from the north is a slow imperceptible movement of sand southward.  This water and sand movement, along with a fairly shallow continental shelf have formed these islands.  The islands are drumstick-shaped with the narrow end pointing south.  The bottom 2/3 of the ocean-side shore is a beach.  Behind the beach is a series of dunes that have grasses, vines and small shrubs.  Behind the dunes is the maritime forest, which extends to the entire top area of the “drumstick.”  On the mainline side of the barrier island is a marsh.  Sometimes there is a navigable body of water between the marsh on the barrier island and the marsh on the mainland.  Sometimes a channel is dredged in the marsh to create the waterway. 


It is interesting that the ICW in Virginia and northern North Carolina does not hug the barrier islands, despite the appearance of open water on the roadmap.  The water in the sounds is deep, but the passages near the barrier islands are full of shoals, perhaps due to an experiment to stabilize the barrier islands by planting beachgrass on the dunes.  The dunes flourished, but storms were no longer able to carry ocean-side sand over the higher dunes and surf eroded the ocean-side beach and the storm surges carried this sand through existing inlets and spread out behind (mainland-side) the barrier island.  This experiment has been “undone,” but we wonder if it contributed to shoaling near the barrier islands, causing this water unsuitable for the waterway.


From Beaufort, NC to Miami, FL the waterway follows the shoreline very closely.  Sometimes it is a dredged channel in the salt marsh, sometimes a river or creek close to the shoreline.  This section of the waterway is subject to tides and currents.  Sometimes the currents exceed 4 knots, especially where the channel narrows for bridges.  


The requirement for a waterway dates back to the Revolutionary War in the US.  The war clarified the need for better transportation routes between the colonies (from Boston down to St. Marys GA).  Thomas Jefferson thought that a system of canals connecting America’s East Coast waterways coupled with a similarly overarching road system would greatly increase national security.  Individual states began construction of canals, but it was not until 1808 that a proposal was made for a coordinated project, but approvals for the project were not forthcoming.  States continued developing canals without any real coordination.  In 1909 Congress passed the Rivers and Harbors Act authorizing the US Army Corps of Engineers to complete surveys for an intercoastal waterway system.  The Corps of Engineers is still responsible for the maintenance of the waterway.  In the past five years, funds and personnel for this work have been scarce due to the Iraq war.  The controlling depth is supposed to be 12 feet at mean low water, but is less than 6 feet in some locations.