The Sea Drive Blog

Don't Get Stuck At Night

Published on May 17, 2021 by Mike Scannell · 4 min read

I will start with the end of the story first. My friend Jordan is hanging over the front of my boat checking water depths at the bow with a pole, Allan is trying to pay for a charting subscription (for another app), and my wife is next to the cooler not saying anything... At this point I knew I needed to get home or this is the first and last boat that I will ever own.

Navigating the Bay in NJ, or any other part of the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway), can be challenging during the daytime. Each year the sand shifts and what was once navigable is now too shallow for my small bowrider. After my first year on the water I quickly learned from locals to:

  • Talk to Everyone People have been out on the water earlier in the season and are very excited to tell you where to be careful.
  • Go Slow This seems like a no-brainer but it is easy to forget. New water is water that you need to learn. If your new to boating you need to understand that different boats run in different depths of water. Your boat could get stuck somewhere a Jet Boat will cruise right over.
  • Take Note Use markers and landmarks to note where the shallow spots are. If you are using Sea Drive drop a marker!

These suggestions are all great until mother nature decides to turn the lights out. I will pick the story back up.

We are heading back from a dockside restaurant trying to beat the sunset. About 1.5 miles from my marina complete darkness. The good news, I can recognize landmarks because I grew up in the area. The bad news, the bay goes from 10 ft deep to 2ft very fast. My friend Allan is a pilot and natural asks: "Mike what instruments & charting do you have?" At that time I had none. He pulls out his phone and begins to look for apps to download. We waste 5 minutes looking for the most affordable, lose another 10 minutes with apps that just don't work (Or we can't figure them out because of poor user experience), and then we finally land on a usable app.

That night gave me the best first hand experience of what is needed on the water at night. Sea Drive was built on the founding principles - Charts and Basic tools are FREE & the app is simple to use. If an app like Sea Drive already existed I would have saved at least 15 minutes on the water ... Actually, I would have had the app already.

Here are some tips if your caught out at night with Sea Drive:

  • Have A Phone Mount Keep your hands free and your phone secured right in front of you. (Your friend's arm will get tired)
  • Use the Heading Line Having a straight line on your chart will help you visualize your course.
  • Pick a Landmark in the Distance Your heading line can be pointed to a key landmark making it easy to mentally visualize where you are on the water.
  • Go Slow and Don't Oversteer All water is new water in the dark. It is important to go slow making mistakes easier to correct.

We got home safely. But for me it became super important to help bring an App (Sea Drive) to life that all boaters can use. You never know when you will need charting but you'll feel safer with it on your phone.

(Also make sure you have a way to charge your phone!)