Extreme Low Water Ops

At Low Tide: think of the bay as an airport, with runways and taxiways–and other areas to keep clear of.

Most of the time the water is deep enough everywhere in the river for takeoffs, landings, and fooling around. A few times a year, however, the moon, sun, rain, and wind all turn unfavorable together to make the center of our bay “dry.” At those times, boats and seaplanes need to stay out of the middle of the bay until the tide comes back in.

Fortunately, the water around the edges is always deep enough for most amphibs and floatplanes, even during those rare extremely low tides. Here’s a false-color photo to show where those low-tide channels are. The channels are like runways on an airport.

(Don’t let this image scare you, by the way. This was at an extremely low tide. The bay never really looks like this. And anyway, we never schedule spash-ins for low tide.)

Brown is soft mud. Blue-green is water. The shallowest I’ve ever seen it in the small channel on the left was 3 feet, off the end of our pier. That was on a cold winter evening with a strong NW wind blowing the river downstream. The small channel was about 3.5 feet deep at our pier when I took this photo.

At low and medium tide I often land in the deep channel beside Buzz Island, between Indian Point and the Bridge. If the wind is wrong for that runway, I land near the bridge–any direction is fine there. Then I taxi to the marina and turn south.

Sometimes at low tide I land in the small channel near the piers, and I often take off there, particularly when the wind is from the north.

The important thing is to stay out of the brown area when the water is shallow there–less than one foot deep. The river bottom is soft mud. (Too soft to walk on; you might have to lie down and swarm over it.) With enough engine power you can skid along on it and take off. But even if you should get stuck, the tide will float you in an hour or so, with no harm done.

HOW DEEP IS THE WATER in that “brown” area?

Here’s how to find out:

METHOD 1: Before taking off, check a tide table for Jordan Point: https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/noaatidepredictions.html?id=8638476 By coincidence, the water depth in the shallowest part of our bay is close to the tide tables’ prediction. It’s deeper around the edges of the bay.

NOTE that the tide tables are predictions; but wind and other factors can affect them +/- about 50%. So if a tide table says the tide height is “2.0 feet” the actual depth is likely between 1 and 3 feet.

METHOD 2: Fly over our pier and look for the painted stripes. Note where the edge of the water is in relation to them. (It was about 2.5 feet deep in the middle of the bay when I took the picture below.)

Here’s the full photo, with guides for arriving and departing.

My SeaRey draws about 1.5 feet in displacement mode with the wheels up, so when the water’s edge is at the 2 ft stripe, I can go anywhere in the bay.

On the step I’m fine at the 1 ft stripe.

I lower or raise the gear at the end of our pier, while in the small channel.

(You don’t see the blue tarp seaplane ramp because we put it out only for splash-ins. But it’s just an aiming point. If the beach is clear you can get onto the grass without the tarp.)

If your seaplane is larger than a Seabee or a Lake amphibian, just land in the deep Buzz Island channel or the shipping channel and anchor off-center in the Buzz Island channel. We’ll pick you up in a powerboat.