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ICW Charleston to Brunswick Ga.

Jul 31, 2016
Hunter 380 Cape Coral, Fl
There are sections now that are 3.5 feet at low tides that are suppose to be 11 feet or better and they run for miles. I can only imagine the ICW here at low tide with a northeaster, likely walkable. And the lessons of a novice (although with 60 years of boat experience, just not this experience).

Left about 14 days ago on a trip to Cape Coral Fl. 2000 Hunter 380 (900 miles, to my home), wife, dog and cat after spending 3 months at Cooper River Marina, North Charleston getting the boat ready (great place, great staff, for long stays you need a car). Neither my wife nor cat are in love with boating nor me, come to think of it, more like tolerate.

Currents in the whole area are very strong up to 3 Knots. Tides can be as much as 8 feet. Grass can grow 8 inches on the bottom of your boat in a month in the area.

Going south as I learned on the outside, all strong head winds and the water is shallow to 4 or more miles out. Many of the sounds are dicey getting in and out of. I made little progress.

First leg down ICW was to Bohicket, SC. 45 miles. Every one says plan for tides and current. Not so easy as you are traveling all day, and you are going up and down rivers as you take cuts between. One minute the tide is your friend and the next it is your enemy and there are not a lot of anchoring sites.

Getting to Bohicket was no problem, even the first cut (Elliot Cut) with the draw bridge (Wahoo) every one warned us about, we happen to hit the tide right. Bohicket Marina waved us into a slip in the interior with a running tide. DON'T. It did not go well. I should have said no, especially when the harbor master asked if I would need help.. are you joking? A boat in the opposite slip had a Dansforth hanging down from its protruding bow that as I cut into my slip snagged my new West Marine 310 RIB and tore it apart. Dansforths don't belong hanging down from a bow..... This docking attempt turned into a $3K mistake. Sailboat owners we met there said they don't even try leaving or docking when the tides are running. The reason for our late departure days later, as we waited for the tides to calm. The place otherwise is very nice, with several restaurants and a unigue shopping village a walking distance away. Loved REDs Ice House. Stayed 5 days as we waited to find out if RIB could be repaired. No luck.

Next trip was to Beaufort. SC. Again about 45 miles. A long day after leaving at 9:30 due to tides at Bohicket. One soft bottom touch. Nice transient dock at Beaufort City Marina. Docks are all linear to minimize current problems. Great town. Very Pretty old town area, Stayed 2 days. Highly Recommend,

Next leg was to Thunderbolt, GA. Again about 45 miles. Stayed at Morningstar Marina. Beware only 50 amp hookups, you will need 50 to 30 amp cables ( and for the rest of the trip, so buy some. best to get 2 or a 50 to two 30 amp splitter cable). Nice transient dock. Great restrooms. Nice staff. Great Restaurant across the street, Tubby's. And $1 well drinks at Happy Hour from 4-7. Good menu. Stayed 2 days only to see if the Happy Hour drink prices were for real.

Next leg was to Sunbury/Midway City. Only place to stay in the area, about 6 miles off ICW. Went thru Devils Gate and did not know it, no problem, tide must have been high. Stayed at Sunbury Marina/Crab Company. Transient dock is OK. Family owned and run, by Mom, Dad and their 2 sons. Son Cliff was very helpful at the dock, with the Diesel and also does the cooking. Its outdoor covered dining. Staff is good as is the food. Plan to shower and bath on your boat. Stayed 2 days because boat would not start for an hour or so , until I found a loose cable and it was too late to try to make a 66 mile trip to Brunswick Ga. and there is not much in between.

Left at 6am for Brunswick, GA. This is by far the worst leg. The MUD River area is a long stretch of 5ft or less water, hour after hour. It is not passable except at higher tides. You can't trust the Magenta line at all in this area... . Then it happened at 2 PM, 24 miles from Brunswick at Little St Simons Island, I ran hard aground in the very center of the channel to the port of a RED marker. The chart plotter said 8ft at the magenta line and showed 23 feet deep just 100 feet further to port. I waved an outboard boat coming up my stern to the port of me... It was suppose to be 23 feet deep water, but his engines kicked up. There was a shoal running across the channel. Had to wait for high tide. The tide began to run in very fast, 2 hours later spinning my boat side ways. I should have dropped an anchor off my stern. Lesson learned. Feared for my rudder. Finally broke free. Note the marinas all close between 5 and 6 pm. Often on the far side of a bridge that is closed 4-6pm, for traffic. At least no such bridges in our way this time.

We were now facing arriving at dusk at a closed Marina. Called Brunswick Landing ( does not have a current problem and is a Coast Guard Hurricane Hole, so that's good) and made arrangements for a night time arrival. Other transients agreed to help us dock. Very Tired, approaching 12 hours at the helm. Had been in several light rains, as Thunderstorms passed by and disappeared. Had to get to the dock or my wife was going to mutiny, along with the dog and the cat. The day could not get any worse.

As the sun set, we turned directly towards the ship channel bridge (this area is exposed to the sea), a few hundred feet on the other side is the turn up the creek leading to the Marina. Suddenly a storm began to form. It looked worse with every foot as I neared the bridge. I reluctantly pressed on. Yes, the day could get worse. AS I was just about ready to go under the bridge... It hit.... 70 knot winds... lightening bolts hitting near us, the pets stashed below, horizontal ran that stung, complete black out, no visibility, the boat healing way over (the fenders we had put down in prep for docking were visible) and sailing at 7+ knots, with no sails up, and then my helm chart plotter went bananas showing the way for 50 miles somewhere else (likely the touch screen was being activated by rain drops which felt like small boulders). I should have anchored. Too late. Spot lights useless. Disaster was at hand now. I could not find the narrow creek, I turned to STBD, to where I thought it might be, do we get the dog and cat out from below so if we beach they have a chance?.... the wind pushed me forward.... Foul Weather gear worthless, soaked. And an eternity later, 60 seconds maybe, a bolt of lightening struck near by and provided some light, which allowed me to see what I thought was the shore line and the hull of a large ship ahead, more to STBD. Don't recall hearing any thunder, my heart was beating too loud..... or was that my wife cursing me... saying "never going on a boat again if I live..." Then it was dark again.... Then a RED flash to PORT and again, was this a lighted buoy, but I was to STBD of it and I S/B to port of it, since I was returning, wasn't I, as that red on the right went thru my now water logged mind....

I decided to go to the STBD of the red flashing light,, 1) Because I knew the area was deep and that commercial shipping was on the starboard. 2) After the past week, my trust in markers was at an all time low. New it was not the right way, but perhaps the best choice in this case. Turned more to stbd, straightened out, some more lightening, saw now what looked like tugboats. The wind and ran was now at our back, much better. I was being pushed along at several knots, hope my rudder is ok...... One of the tug boats turned on his mounted spot light, the size of Civil War mortar.... First to warn me off ( I was 50 ft off), then to show me a path down the creek... Thank you.

Finally I found the ICON on my Raymarine hybrid touch MFD that positioned the chart around the boats position. I was in the right channel , perhaps to the wrong side of the marker, but safe.... water 35 ft deep, wind still 40 knots. We next passed a large Tall ship, and then a WW2 era , perhaps mine sweeper. Still no Marina in sight. To our PORT were flashing yellow lights... What the heck... Turned out to be dredging equipment in the light of day.... to where I should have gone.... Finally saw some yellow lights dead ahead, which appeared to be lighted power poles going down an outside gas dock, Chart plotter assured this was the marina. This was the transient dock. Lights made it a landing strip. Engine in reverse and still moving fast forward. No one was going to be foolish enough to be at the dock in this weather to help us. Could not really see the finger piers to stbd for transients that had 30 amp. Power was not on my mind, survival was. I gave as much reverse as possible, nosed the bow to first concrete piling, and then turned hard to port doing a 180 placing my starboard side and a lot of fenders up against the floating dock and then placed the boat in forward as my wife got a line around the concrete piling. Now what? I would have to leave the helm and get some lines on the cleats, but needed to keep power at the helm going forward to help my wife, auto helm? Just then I saw walking thru the rain and wind two very foolish , wonderful people coming to our aid! We walked the boat back and secured the boat. No 50 to 30 amp adapter, no power for the night. WHO CARED! The pets acted as if nothing had happened. My wife showed some real courage. And I did the best docking job I will ever do that no one will ever see!

The couple that came to help us were also novices who were on a 38' Cat, in the finger docks, that had arrived from the islands that the wife's brother had bought and they were bringing it back to the north with a professional captain, an Australian, who could have been Crocodile Dundee.. hey mate! The Aussie did not believe we were coming in, when he spotted us, waving our spot light around trying to find the finger docks.... He had said no one could make that. They came any way to our aid... Thanks very much.

Next day people came to see the boat that had weathered the storm and docked and the brave Captain/crew, which in this case the word brave means stupid, foolish, crazy, inept and VERY LUCKY. People complimented my wife on how good our boat looked. My wife had come to love the boat suddenly, that held together and did not let us down, and after weeks of fixing leaks in the plastic windows, did not let a drop of water inside.

Next day I walked 5 miles to West Marine, got a 50 to , 2 30 amp splitter adapter.. $289 bucks, so we could have some A/C. Next week will work on our new RIB at West Marine, they say they will deliver...

We have since moved to a finger slip, and will stay 2 months or until Hurricane season is over. Will pull the boat and check everything before deprating, and have some minor work done...

THE END, really.... ?


Last edited:
Jul 31, 2016
Hunter 380 Cape Coral, Fl
And then?
ALL was lost or not .... will keep adding to original post.... strange things happened... especially concerning my wife who is a land lover...


Feb 14, 2017
Mainecat 38 Anacortes
Made the same trip this past January. Good planning is essential, including possible/probable bail out spots, anticipated weather and tides/currents, and constant monitoring of progress. Biting off too big a chunk of travel distance in a day is unwise. Calling and reserving slips by mid-day is recommended, especially for us multihull guys who have a far more limited choice of slip availability.
Jul 31, 2016
Hunter 380 Cape Coral, Fl
But as the Multi in front of us showed, you draw almost 2 feet less...they made it... Would get a CAT, but will not fit in canal behind my house.. its width would be illegal... love them...

In these summer months while I have called way ahead, it is not really a necessary.... lots of spaces.... who else travels in Hurricane season...

And in the sections between Thunderbolt and Brunswick, it is a virtual desert of places..

If we don't start working on our infrastructure and its maintenance the ICW will be gone.... Coast Guard budget being cut by 30%... in first budget from new President. 11% of GDP for infrastructure under IKE , since 1980 under 2%, 1/3 of any other developed nation for 50 years...