I was talking with a professional captain on the dock at our North Myrtle Beach marina. He casually commented that as we head north, the next 5 miles on the ICW was the most treacherous area on the entire waterway.
The “Rock Pile” is a stretch of the ICW near Myrtle Beach where the channel was blasted out of solid rock, leaving sharp ledges on each side and at the bottom of the narrow channel. The ledges are underwater at most tide ranges, so they are mostly invisible and dangerous to boats even slightly out of the channel.
Meeting or passing another large boat or barge in the Rock Pile is very risky. To avoid that, we followed protocol and made this Securite radio call on channels 13 and 16 before entering the rock pile:
“Securite, securite, securite.
All stations, all stations, all stations.
This is motor vessel R&R, motor vessel R&R, motor vessel R&R.
Entering the ICW rock pile northbound.
All concerned traffic please contact us on channel 13 or 16.
R&R standing by.
We drove slowly in the center of the channel, saw the rock ledges, met no boats, and had no issues.
A few miles beyond the rock pile is the Lockwood’s Folly Inlet. Again, local knowledge was that this inlet is very shallow due to shoaling and irregular dredging. But there has been some recent dredging, and temporary red and green ATONs showed a different channel than the charts. Slowly and carefully, we zigzagged our way through the newly dredged channel.
Our final challenge of the day was to emerge from the ICW channel into the wide and open Cape Fear River inlet from the Atlantic, and follow that waterway for a few miles before entering the ICW again through the narrow Swan’s Cut. Again, new water, some trepidation, but success!
We were advised to pass through the Rock Pile and Lockwood‘s Folly with at least a half tide, and on a rising tide. We timed our departure from North Myrtle Beach to hit those targets.
We were happy to get good advice from people familiar with the area, and also were relieved to pass through these risky areas without incident.