Thursday, December 6, 2012

Splitting the Greens Redux

Reminder photo of the subject area with can #5A in foreground,
flashing beacon #5 to right and day marker #7 beyond to left of red arrow.
Channel is to right of #5A and #5 across bottom of photo.
[Pictured boat is aground between #5 and #7.]
After yet another creative approach to our local aids to navigation, I felt compelled to further research. Cameron witnessed last week a boat leaving the creek with the greens properly to starboard, successfully passing #7, then #5, but then abruptly turning to starboard to pass between #5 and the associated can, #5A. Grounded! Huh?

The crewman on the bow was saying, "That way," and pointing to port and the channel beyond.

The helmsman replied with a feeble "Oh," the single syllable packed with chagrin, regret and apology.

With this variation of "splitting the greens," I believe that all potential options are now complete. I began to wonder about an alien vortex of the Bermuda Triangle type as explanation for how boats seem drawn to the shoal beyond the greens. "X" seems to mark the spot for which they are all aiming.

My research has yielded partial absolution, mostly for boaters not local to our creeks. It turns out that the chart showing Whittaker Creek does a fine job of revealing the various permanent channel markers and identifying them as appropriate. Beginning with the channel entry at Flashing red #2 in the river across from green #1, the pathway is clearly marked. Green #3 is sided by can #3A which shows the substantial encroachment of the shoal from the north/west (green) side of the channel. Red #4 rises ahead, then it is a longish run to the next greens, can #5A and flashing green #5. Because the cans are used to indicate shifting shoals, their locations are not indicated on the chart. Nevertheless, the permanent markers that are shown on the chart lay a straight line from the entry to the turn of the channel at #5.

Chart shot of Whittaker Creek entry channel.
[Note that red boat icon partially obscures the "6 ft rep 2003".]
Unfortunately, there is another clearly marked piece of information. Beginning just past red #4, there is a hashed channel on the chart with a note that reads "6 ft rep 2003," clearly indicating that the channel had six feet of depth at mean low water in 2003. The problem is that the hashed channel lies to the north/west of the marked channel and also clearly extends between greens #5 and #7. Hmmm. It does NOT show the channel rounding #5 to turn west for #7.

Note that I allowed only partial absolution and only for non-local mariners. I grew up near the coast and learned boating on these thin and narrow waterways. It would never occur to me to rely on electronic, or even paper, charts and GPS whenever I can see the markers. Charts represent the facts; markers are the facts. (If you cannot see the markers, obviously you must rely on charts and GPS and radar and whatever other tools you have available.)

Notwithstanding the clear confusion on the chart, rules is rules, and you NEVER split the greens. Tired and weary from a day on the water, sure you could miss the error when reading the chart. But splitting the greens should be like steering the boat onto a visible sandbar or shoreline; the happy mariner simply would not do that.

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