No cutting corners
Everyone is no doubt familiar with the admonition about not “cutting corners.” No where is that more true in a literal sense than when navigating some of the shallow areas of the Intra-Coastal Waterway. The red and green lateral aides are (hopefully) laid out in such a way that if they are followed properly, running aground should not occur. But what is properly?
Rebecca and I recently watched a video on the ICW and it suggested that we run the marks as a barge would, as opposed to zig-zagging directly from mark to mark. Good advice I think. It’s also important to not let the wide expanses of water beside you lull you into a sense of overconfidence. I only just now finished my shift at the helm, navigating us through the Dawho River in SC. Although the river may be wide in parts, the water is very “skinny” outside the channel, especially at low tide as it is now (there is about a 7 foot tide swing here).
In addition to the more common red and green lateral aides, we have also come across more and more “ranges” in the last couple of days. For those not familiar with ranges, these pairs of marks are arranged to help mariners stay within a narrow channel. The various photos below show it quite clearly but the basic idea is to line up the closer, lower mark with the further, higher one. When they are lined up, your vessel should be in the channel. When they are out of alignment, you know that you need to make a course adjustment either to starboard or port. This is definitely more easily done while traveling towards the range but just as often, you could be moving away from it, requiring that you continually check over your shoulder to ensure that you are on course. Back in December 2008, when we did our Fast Track to Cruising Course, Capt. Mike, our instructor, referred to this action as “bobble-head, ” like the dolls. It’s funny what things stick in your mind.
Our anchorage in Charleston was right by the range markers.
Rear range marker with us very far to port (or starboard if we had been going towards the range).
This shows both range marks, with us again, very far to port (we are moving away from the range).
We are again quite far to port (moving away from range).
The same two marks now in alignment, indicating that we are in the recommended channel.
What range marks can look like from a distance.
Too far to starboard (heading towards the range)
In the channel.
Too far to port (heading towards the range)