Well, as the name suggests, the ICW is a
3,000-mile waterway along the Atlantic and
Gulf coasts of the
States. Some lengths consist of
natural inlets, salt-water rivers, bays, and sounds; others are
The Intracoastal Waterway has a lot of commercial activity,
but it is also used extensively by recreational boaters. On the east coast, some
of the traffic in autumn and spring is by ‘snowbirds’ who regularly move south in winter and north in summer. The waterway is also used when
the ocean is too rough to travel on.
The waterway runs for most of the length of the Eastern
Seaboard. It is free to use,
but commercial users pay a fuel tax that is used to maintain and improve it.
The creation of the Intracoastal Waterway was authorised by
the United States
Congress in 1919. It is
maintained by the United States Army
Corps of Engineers.
Federal law provides for the waterway to
be maintained at a minimum depth of 12 feet (4 m) for most of its length, but
inadequate funding has prevented that. Consequently, shoaling or shallow water
are problems along several sections of the waterway; some parts have 7-foot
(2.1-m) and 9-foot (2.7-m) minimum depths. During World
War 11, the route became important as a means of avoiding the submarine menace
along the coast.
Kenny and Sarah off Loon were experienced ICW sailors and were
keen to accompany us and Scott Free to Portsmouth, Virginia. They knew good
spots to anchor overnight and also problem places to avoid. So we all set off
towards Oriental and made our way to our first fixed bridge on the ICW.
Most fixed bridges along the ICW have a 65ft
clearance. Nimue measures 61ft from the waterline to the top of the mast,
but the VHF ariel is 2ft above that! In addition the water level in the
ICW is effected by rain and wind and current, so we were naturally concerned
whether the mast would touch. We were pleased to see the bridge had a
water level gauge showing 65ft, so we made our way slowly and despite the
calculations, we still couldn’t take our eyes off the top of the mast, as the
bridge loomed ahead. From the deck of the boat, it always looks as though
the mast would hit, but thankfully we cleared it, with a little room to
Following Scott Free to the
Clearance marker at the first
You can see just how close
the mast looks to the hitting the bridge!
The 25nm trip was otherwise
uneventful and we were able to take in some wonderful new sights, including
Osprey nests on every port and starboard navigation mark.
Osprey on navigation mark
Oriental was a bit of a landmark for us, as our Insurance
company requires us to be at it’s Lat/Long co-ordinates before 1st June (for the
hurricane season). We actually made it there on 31st May!
The wind had picked up as we made our way into the tiny
harbour and dropped our anchor in 0.6m of water; just enough for the
Oriental was so picturesque and quaint and again Kenny and
Sarah had been there before and were really keen to show us around.
Unfortunately we only stayed a night before we were on our way again and on to
the notorious Wilkerson Bridge!
The Bean in Oriental– serves
really good coffee for breakfast
The free town dock in