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Advice for a lake boater in Albemarle Sound

Old 02-13-2021, 06:07 PM
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Default Advice for a lake boater in Albemarle Sound

I've been boating for nearly 20 years on freshwater lakes in 7 different states. I've spent a little time on the Potomac River near Coles Point, Va. My family wants to take a vacation to OBX this summer. I was wondering about taking my boat down and running around on the Albemarle Sound. I have a 23' open bow Rinker 232 Captiva; it has an I/O Merc 350 mag and a B3. I have no GPS, VHF, or chart plotter on the boat, I wouldn't really know how to use one if I had it.We would just be cruising around, sight seeing, and pulling a tube or knee board. Would I just be getting myself in trouble being unfamiliar with the territory? Is boating on a body of water like that vastly different from an inland freshwater lake?
Another point of concern is putting my freshwater cooled I/O into what I must assume is brackish water, maybe even basically sea water. I'm sure I could flush it out with a hose when I'm done. I could wash the hull too I guess but that seems like a lot of work if I have to do it each day after using the boat. The whole idea makes me a little uneasy but I really have no facts to go on. I haven't even been to the OBX area over 30 years.

Thanks for any advice you can give.
Old 02-13-2021, 10:16 PM
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It would be helpful if you can specify what part of the OBX you plan to visit. To me, the OBX and Albemarle Sound don't quite go together so a more precise destination will help.
I've been in the sound several times with a similar style 21' open bow I/O and they have had it up to Cape Lookout through the ocean a few times. I hunt the sounds in a 19' skiff, but I hide in the lee if the wind is over 10-15 kts. So, a 23' is plenty of boat in good conditions, and not nearly big enough when the wind blows.
With that said, yes you can get into trouble (I certainly have) so just proceed cautiously until you get a little experience.
Mind the weather, that is likely bigger water than you are accustomed to and you will have rougher waves when the wind blows. The summer pattern is often lighter winds in the am blowing up in the afternoons. There is a lot of shallow water on the back side of the OBX and channels are often narrow, running aground is common, and a place that seems fine at one tide may not be OK at a different tide. The sandbars can be great, its fun to have a private island to yourself - but a falling tide can leave you aground for several hours, and conditions can change in that time. For navigation you can use paper charts and your smartphone maps (I'd put a phone in a ziplock). There are online charts as well https://nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/enco...enconline.html All that salt marsh looks the same from the water, so keep track of landmarks and daybeacons. I'd be cautious around the inlets, they have strong currents. Flares and a good anchor are recommended. Mind the weather.
As far as operating your I/O in salt water, make a phone call to your boat dealer. Salt is not kind to a freshwater boat and mild steel will rust in a week. My friend rinses his ski boat thoroughly after use, and will stop at a lake along the way home to launch his boat and run it for a while to flush the engine. As far as the hull, would not leave the boat in the water more than a day or so to avoid slime and barnacles. Probably not an issue if you trailer each day.
Did I mention keeping a weather eye out?


Last edited by Clarkspoon; 02-14-2021 at 09:09 AM.
Old 02-14-2021, 06:37 AM
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When you say OBX and Albemarle Sound I am assuming you are planning to stay somewhere between Nags Head and Corolla. Breaking it down further you also have the Currituck Sound. Roanoke Sound, and Croatan Sound. These are all large bodies of water and a lot of fun to run around but you need to realize that appearances can be deceiving. Many places that appear to be deep could very well be water that only comes up to your knees and the shallows can extend far from shore. Not a big deal for the locals but for someone that has never been boating there it could be rough.

Other things that should be mentioned are crab pots, which there is no shortage of and usually just outside the boundaries of the marked channels. Summer time also means a lot of big fishing boats mostly between Pirates Cove and Oregon Inlet, south of Manteo. Probably in your best interest not to be pulling a tube in the narrow channels with the large boats running back and forth from the inlet.

At the very least I would recommend downloading the Navionics boating app for your phone and using it. You can purchase a one year subscription fairly cheap and download the charts to your phone. One of the nice things about it is you can also study the area prior to coming down to give you an idea where to put the boat in as well as plan on places you would like to go. Another thing you may want to consider is purchasing towing insurance in the event something happens like running aground or breaking down. Being that you are staying in the sound you should have no trouble with cell service but a handheld VHF couldn't hurt if you wanted to get one.
Old 02-14-2021, 07:18 AM
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I live on a canal they accessed the sound and am very familiar with most everything south of the Wright Memorial Bridge with a working knowledge north of the bridge.

The answer depends heavily on where in the sound you plan to boat. Water depths are heavily wind driven, and we generally see more water in summer months with generally prevailing S to SW winds.

Whereas your boat is not ideal for the Sound, a boater with 20 years who keeps an eye on weather should be fine with the right electronics.

Tell us where you plan to boat or PM me and I can help you more.
Old 02-14-2021, 07:25 AM
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BTW, I wouldn’t worry about the salinity. It’s pretty brackish, leaning to fresher water in the Albemarle - lots of rivers feed it from
the west and north while the inlet is at the south end where it meets the Pamlico. Color is heavily influenced by tannins from rivers if that tells you anything.

I used to have an Albe 24 and got 4-5 years out of risers and manifolds running exclusively in the sound and ocean.

flush them after use and you’ll be fine.
Old 02-14-2021, 07:34 AM
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Thanks for the replies. I'm actually not sure where we're staying as my brother is making the reservations for a house. I think it's likely in the Naggs Head area. I'll find out more specifically.
Old 02-15-2021, 07:51 AM
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Save your money and your boat, rent jet skis. Call in advance.
Old 02-15-2021, 09:33 AM
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I have had 3 Mercruiser I/O powered boats and used them in both lakes and ocean. You will have no problem as long as you flush it with freshwater after use. I've had 10+ years on them all before changing risers and heat exchangers. (Make sure you flush the trailer too if you dunk it).
I would seriously consider mounting a small depth finder/GPS combo unit on your boat. VHF is good but most times a cell phone will do inside. If you venture outside at all then VHF and a tow service membership would be highly recommended.
Old 02-15-2021, 03:53 PM
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So it looks like we're staying in Southern Shores between Kitty Hawk and Duck. I appreciate all the advice. I'm still kind of on the fence. I will certainly look into what it would take to have either a GPS or a phone app on board.
Old 02-15-2021, 04:12 PM
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In your shoes, if hang out behind Jockeys Ride opposite Roanoke Island. There’s a good ramp at the west end of the Baum Bridge (US64).

Roanoke Island will block WSW winds, Colington will block N winds, and Nags Head E Winds. Docks at Manteo, Pirates Cove, if a storm pops up.

Close to Manteo for sightseeing, lunch, etc. There’s a party sandbar in the vicinity that used to be mostly local, but isn’t anymore.

Another poster said it, but if you don’t have at least a depth sounder and a GPS, you can tear up an out drive pretty quick. A 300-400 dollar unit will do what you need easily.

Good luck.
Old 02-16-2021, 05:22 AM
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I would second the advice on Jet ski rental if staying in that area. We vacation each year at KDH. By the time you pay for a GPS, haul the boat down, pay for gas, deal with the hassle of parking, trailering, washdown, salt spray and corrosion of your electrical system from the salt air, rusting of upholstery staples, corrosion of your trailer, etc. for very limited navigable water and unpredicatable weather conditions on the water, you will realize it would have been much easier to just rent some seadoos. Bring your tube and skis but leave the cleanup and corrosion headaches for the rental company.

I took my lake boat down the first two years we went down. Seemed like a good Idea at the time. I paid the price in aluminum parts getting etched and electrical switches and connectors getting corroded. You never get the salt back out once it gets in. This isn't necessarily from the sound but from the winds blowing ocean salt spray on everything parked down there for the week and just the salt air. I also ran agound several times. Keep your freshwater boat a freshwater boat and it will be in your favor when it comes time to sell. If you had a cheap flat bottom outboard skiff with very little carpet, upholstery, etc, then my advice would be different. With a larger IO, deep V, your area for boating will be very limited. With lots of carpet and upholstery and aluminum trim, your cleanup will be difficult if not impossible.

Keep in mind, most of the boats that draft more than 10" stay in dredged channels and even though there is a lot of water to look at, most of it is only a few inches deep and the bottom can be sand, muck (which will end up on feet and in your boat) or oyster bars which will tear stuff up. You can't see it until you are on it due to the stained water. Another hazard is crab pots. If you do decide to take it, stay in the marked channels and don't try any shortcuts.
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Old 02-16-2021, 05:55 AM
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Not sure about the at last post. Unless it speaks to North of the bridge.

I spend 70 hrs a year in the sound and can definatively up say that most don’t run channels. My first boat was a 24 Albemarle with a DP-SM out drive and my second is a 29 Southport with Yamaha’s. I almost never run the channels and they draw the same or more than the boat being discussed. A GPS with depth would be find for an operator with 20 years experience.

Case/point, the parasailing boats run all over the area behind Jockey’s ridge. They are all deep V’s with out drives. They run over a 1000’ outside the Roanoke channel all the time. Sailboats routinely run most of the sound without getting into channels.

Most of the sound is far deeper than 10”. Aside from that, the Albemarle isn’t all that salty. The Pamlico is, but the Albemarle isn’t. Pull boat, rinse off, flush motor and it’ll be fine.

Always a fan of more info, but also accurate info.
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Old 02-16-2021, 12:19 PM
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We stayed at a Air BnB in Manteo last summer and took our 22' Chaparral. We used the ramp off of 64 by Pirates Bay. We too the boat out a couple of times on that trip. We rode around the sound up near Jockey's Ridge for some sight seeing and ended up taking the kids to the local sand bar called Banana Island to play. I have a chart plotter and VHF, but at bare minimum I would want to have a depth gauge of some sort and the Navionics phone app. I'm used to boating in brackish water so I always flush my motor and wash the trailer after each use.
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Old 02-16-2021, 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Obxgator View Post
Not sure about the at last post. Unless it speaks to North of the bridge.

I spend 70 hrs a year in the sound and can definatively up say that most don’t run channels. My first boat was a 24 Albemarle with a DP-SM out drive and my second is a 29 Southport with Yamaha’s. I almost never run the channels and they draw the same or more than the boat being discussed. A GPS with depth would be find for an operator with 20 years experience.

Case/point, the parasailing boats run all over the area behind Jockey’s ridge. They are all deep V’s with out drives. They run over a 1000’ outside the Roanoke channel all the time. Sailboats routinely run most of the sound without getting into channels.

Most of the sound is far deeper than 10”. Aside from that, the Albemarle isn’t all that salty. The Pamlico is, but the Albemarle isn’t. Pull boat, rinse off, flush motor and it’ll be fine.

Always a fan of more info, but also accurate info.

That's why I got in trouble is I tried to go where everybody else was going that does it 70hrs or more a year rather than staying in the channels. I ended up stuck in the mud. People that boat in the sound day in and day out know the sound and the tides and its no problem. Outsiders don't and it can be a problem. Think like you never boated there before in your life.

First year we stayed in old nags head cove village and launched from their ramp and had a canal front place. The channel to the sound from the canal was mighty skinny and not much deep water in that area as I recall. Didn't go north. Apart from the channel most of what I recall was 2' or less.
Old 02-16-2021, 01:19 PM
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Nags Head Cove definitely a tight spot, but the bathymetry shows it tight on most preloaded charts. I can certainly see putting in there, and expecting what should plausibly be at an inlet to a canal community only to bottom out leaving a lousy impression.

Put in at Washington Baum bridge ramp,
watch depth and he’d be fine.

Old 02-17-2021, 08:15 PM
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Regardless of your decision, I highly recommend loading Navionics on your phone for lakes, sounds and the ocean. It has great features that are useful everywhere. And is ridiculously cheap.
Old 02-17-2021, 09:45 PM
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I ran my boat on Ablemarle Sound and the ICW for two weeks a couple of years ago. Didn't worry about the motor. Washed the boat when it got dirty or sticky from the salt. Gave it a good wash and flushed the engine when I got home. Didn't have any problems with growth, ran the boat pretty much everyday.

There are apps that are cheap or free that will work for navigation. A depth finder is something nice to have. If you don't have one already you get get a Hawkeye depth sounder for $100-150.

Bigger issue is keeping an eye on the weather and the wind. The AB Sound can get quite uncomfortable for a small boat if the wind is blowing.

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