offshore when conditions turn ugly. The
ICW also happens to pass through some very
beautiful areas of the United States.
Our trip had been mostly uneventful,
though we did have to seek refuge when
steady 30-plus-mph winds forced the closure
of several swing bridges along the North
Carolina waterway. That was a first for me,
as was seeing how sheets of green water over
the boat can get through a full enclosure
to soak everything on the flybridge aboard
a 46-foot trawler, on a protected waterway!
ICW travel is fairly straightforward. For the
most part, a skipper just follows the marked
magenta line on the chart, which is especially
helpful when a boat exits a confined channel
into a wide sound with no obvious direction
to go next. The magenta line is also handy
through a busy harbor or inlet, such as in St.
Augustine, where it is easy to get confused.
An early-morning departure found us motor-
ing north on calm seas in the Alligator River,
northbound to the Albemarle Sound. With
any luck, we’d make Annapolis in a couple
of days. We reached the Alligator River Swing
Bridge midmorning, and I began to relax.
The early departure meant we’d be across
Albemarle Sound before the winds came up.
Then a curious thing happened. Within
moments of leaving the swing bridge behind,
we were hard aground, stopped dead in our
tracks. We then noticed we were in good
company. A large sportfishing yacht lay a
hundred yards out of the channel; it had been
traveling fast when it ran out of water. This
made no sense. We were more or less on the
magenta line, and I’d been through this area
dozens of times before, although not recently
on a boat that drew four-and-a-half feet.
Our collective situational awareness had
been on autopilot for days as we’d dutifully followed the magenta line. Now, after
grounding, we took a closer look at the plotter and iPad and paper chart. What we saw
only confused us more. The magenta line
squirreled around buoys in a way that had us
A Grand Banks 46
Classic tied up on the
ICW in North Carolina.