After two weeks of meetings in mid-January, concerns over a narrowed channel to the Yacht & Brokerage Show appear to have been alleviated with extra tug boats.
Show Management, a part owner and the producer of the show that begins Feb. 13, said it will make sure the 500 yachts expected to come into Indian Creek for the show this month aren’t at risk because of changes in the channel.
“Surveys have revealed that there is adequate width and depth to transit the channel,” said Daniel Grant, spokesman for the show. “Is there less room that there has been in years past? Yes. But there will be additional support boats on hand to help captains who need or want it.”
At issue is the dog-leg turn at the eastern end of the deep-water channel that runs parallel to the Julia Tuttle Causeway (I-195) on the north side. A contractor for the Army Corps of Engineers has driven pilings into the channel at that end to curtain off an area where they are planting seagrass as part a mitigation project related to expansion in the Port of Miami.
That channel, which is normally about 100 feet wide and 12 feet deep, was carved in 1961 when the causeway was constructed. Though never officially marked or maintained as a channel, boaters quickly discovered it and began to use it to get to Miami Beach.
So when Corps workers began erecting pilings in early January, passing captains grew concerned.
After captains in his fleet saw the pilings being driven on Jan. 9, Capt. Glen Allen, fleet captain with Fleet Miami, said he initially met with port and Army Corp officials to confirm the channel would be maintained at 100 feet wide and 12 feet deep.
“When we went back to check, it was definitely smaller than it was intended to be,” said Capt. Allen, whose fleet includes M/Y Usher and M/Y Harle. “The channel is constricted in one spot to 40 feet, 8 feet of draft. They’ve driven the pilings right in the middle of the channel.”
“I don’t think my tug can get through there,” said Capt. Jim Steel of Steel Marine Towing, which works with yachts moving into the show. “I will do my own survey a few days before the show to see how it goes.”
The solution, some say, is to have the Corps remove or move the pilings before yachts start moving into the show the first week of February, a step it has initially resisted because of the cost, the brunt of which would fall on taxpayers.
The Corps had more meetings planned with officials from Show Management, Miami Beach and the yachting community as The Triton went to press on Jan. 21.
Despite what happens for the show, boaters hope this situation draws attention to the fact that the channel should be formalized and maintained to a navigable depth. The worst part is dog-leg at the east end of the channel as it turns north into Indian Creek Waterway and a “hump” that lessens the depth.
“We transit that channel all the time,” Capt. Allen said of the 154-foot M/Y Usher (ex-Mr. Terrible), which draws 7.5 feet. “At high tide, we have just a foot under the keel. I wouldn’t bring anything bigger than that through there.
“Long term, we need to work together to have a federally marked channel,” he said. “Nobody knew about this because there was never any Notice to Mariners about it because it’s not maintained by the Coast Guard.”
Several groups are lined up to do just that.
“The good news is this will be a positive thing, not just for the boat show but for the whole boating community,” said Michael Moore, a marine attorney who attended various meetings in January. “After the show, we will ask the Coast Guard to mark the channel and remove the shallow spots.”
As for the show, solutions were still being discussed at The Triton went to press, including having private industry pay to move the pilings temporarily. Though the Corps suggested that yachts can enter Indian Creek from the north, captains aren’t thrilled with that idea.
“It’s so skinny there, I prefer to go the other way,” Steel said. He remembers bringing the old 142-foot (43m) Broward M/Y Cocoa Bean through there and having it run aground in the middle of the channel. He had to pull the yacht out of the channel to get through, he said.
Other approaches to the channel also present limitations, including the 32 feet of air draft at Haulover and the eastern side of the Julia Tuttle Causeway, Capt. Allen said.
Another issue that is always a concern during the boat show is the tides. A week before the show when most boats will move in, high tide will be “super low”, Steel said, less than 2 feet above slack tide.
“The water depth there is really tide driven,” he said. “And with a good west wind, there would be no tide whatsoever.”
Steel towed the 200-foot Benetti M/Y Diamonds are Forever in last year in “by the skin of my teeth”, and he said that was only because there was a strong easterly wind. This year’s Belle of the Show is the 162-foot Christensen M/Y Remember When, expected to draw less than 8 feet. It was not clear which yacht registered for the show had the deepest draft.
If depth issues prove to be too much of a challenge, yachts showing up for the Yacht & Brokerage Show can opt for the Superyacht Miami exhibit at Miami Beach Marina, which has a draft of 12 feet or greater in most places and direct access from Government Cut.
“It’s always interesting, that’s for sure,” Steel said about the Miami show.
Lucy Chabot Reed is editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at email@example.com.