The “Rockpile”

On the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) just north of Myrtle Beach SC, (mm 350-353) is a narrower-than-normal section of channel. Normal underwater dredging (excavation) would not work due to the rock / geology. The narrow channel “looks” normal. What we don’t see is where the underwater channel is, and where the uncut shallow rock is.

There are signs on each end of this 3-mile stretch of ICW.

It is recommended to call “Securite” on VHF-16 as one enters this area so anyone coming your way can coordinate the pass.

This morning, we were one of five northbound PC-s (pleasure craft). One of the group, Elenor, a pilot style express cruiser, was in a hurry, so we let him pass us before getting to the “Rockpile” and he agreed to let us know if there was any southbound traffic. There was none. The whole experience as a bit anti-climatic and uneventful. Just what one hopes for. We timed it so we’d have over 12” of tide in our favor for this area. (The rise and fall was only about 24” here.)

We followed new Looper friends Greg and Tammy of This Is It, who also departed Osprey Marina with us within an hour of sun-up this morning.

At one point in this area, a 20’ center console wanted to overtake us all. He was likely a LOT more familiar with these waters than all of us.

USCG and International Rules dictate that overtaking vessels have to stay clear of the vessels they are overtaking. We simply stayed in the center of the channel, and let him go around us. It reminded me of one commercial tow with barges on the western rivers. We called him on VHF to see if he had a preference on which side we should pass. His response, “I’m gonna stay right in the middle. Pass on either side you want.” This response was a bit atypical, but at the end of the day, the vessel being overtaken does not have to “move over” in narrow waterways for vessels wanting to pass.

If there was any oncoming traffic today, the common advice is, “Don’t be too generous when you move over a bit.”

May your first experience in the “Rockpile” be as uneventful as ours!

I think getting an EARLY start on this weekend day was part of our success. (An early start on a weekday may probably be even better!) .

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