Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: North Carolina
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I'll confess....I used a road map once (35-40 yrs ago) for a short cruise! There were problems but the road map was actually helpful.
The situation: My wife's family was planning an outing at their new water front lot in Oriental, NC. I normally sail on the Pamlico River at Washington, NC. The distance is more or less 60 miles. I didn't have a chart of the lower part of Pamlico Sound or the Neuse River at the time. It had been planned that my wife and I were to come by boat. The owner of the lot was in Virginia, so I couldn't readily get his charts. I went to several marinas/marine supply stores to get the charts. No charts were available, it seems there had been a flood or fire or other calamity at the NOAA warehouse, and orders for new charts in this area were backordered. Even those fishing guide chart books were not available. So it was use the road map or don't go. I studied the map closely and it seemed pretty straight forward. Go down the Pamilco to the ICW, take the ICW across the mouth of the Bay River (don't get confused and turn up the Bay River), enter the mouth of the Neuse and continue to Oriental. I discussed which channel marker would denote Oriental, and I was assured that Marker #2 was the place, and that there would be only one Marker #2 on the trip. Of course, there was no information on depth of water, hazards, or navigation aids on the map, but it was useful in that it showed that if I held land to starboard going and to port returning at all times except when crossing the Bay River, we would be just fine. The boat (my first) was a Venture 24 with swing keel, so we weren't concerned too much about depth, we would just not lock down the keel and if we touched bottom, we would crank up the keel a bit and move towards deeper water. We made the trip both ways using the map. Going was bit of an adventure because we hadn't anticipated the amount of motoring that initially would be required, nor that gas would be difficult to find (for some reason the marinas where I normally got fuel weren't open that day), and on entering the Neuse, we bumped bottom a number of times (crank up keel, move to deeper water, keep going). We had not anticipated (nor did any other boaters in the area) the extreme thunder storm with lots of lightning that made the Neuse part of trip interesting. Then there was that other Channel Marker #2 that we encountered which caused a bit of confusion and lost time. So Oriental was reached after dark making things a bit more challenging. But we made the social event. Return trip was uneventful other than high winds at the start.
I don't recommend using a road map, especially in off shore / open water situations, but I would do it again for this particular trip if confronted with the same situation. (I currently have on my boat several copies of charts for all the local waters that I am likely to encounter.) Today, you wouldn't encounter this situation as charts are more readily available and can be downloaded directly from the web.
P.S. The bottom in this area is generally soft. There are no hidden rocks or reefs to worry about and the boat could take a soft grounding and extract itself by raising its swing keel. I wouldn't think about trying what I did if I were in an area where rocks or reefs were an issue, nor where I want to leave sight of land and then have to make landfall later, nor if I had a fixed keel where I might do damage or be truly grounded. Also, tide was not an issue. I had general knowledge of the area and bottom prior to the trip.
Last edited by NCC320; 05-10-2010 at 08:35 AM.