Fate of ‘Magenta Line’ Will Be In Our Hands, NOAA Says


NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey is wondering whether the time has come to get rid of the magenta line on Intracoastal Waterway Charts, and an informal poll of ICW boaters and others failed to clarify the matter.

Coast Survey noted that the magenta line—some call it the “magenta highway”—has been on ICW charts for 77 years, during which time GPS and electronic navigational charts were introduced and are in widespread use.

In July, the public was asked two questions:

1.  Is there still a need for the magenta line?

2.  What do today’s users of the ICWW want the magenta  line to be? An indication of the channels the ICWW follows or a suggested route for traveling the ICWW?

According to Dawn Forsythe from the Office of Coast Survey, 62 people answered some or all  the questions. Of those, all but seven percent were familiar with the Intracoastal Waterway and 73 percent were very familiar with it. The biggest group of responders, 40 percent were recreational boaters, 30 percent operated commercial craft, 10 percent were coastal merchants and 21 percent listed themselves as  “other.”

These people had different understandings of what the magenta line signifies.

Thirty-six percent believed it to be “a recommended route showing the best water down the ICWW;” 46 percent thought it was s a “line down the middle of the ICWW channel and 18 percent said it was a “guide showing the channels that the ICWW uses.”

Boating writer and ICW expert Tom Neale once wrote:

“Years ago when the ICW was younger and dredging more frequent, ICW chart makers generally drew a magenta line to follow the channel. Popular legend was that if you stayed on the Magenta Line you’d have plenty of water. Kind of like that yellow brick road. But the channels of the ICW have been changing every day. So sometimes the magenta line works and sometimes it doesn’t. That’s why we pay careful attention to the fixed and floating aids to navigation. They’re more likely to be in the right place. Sometimes.”

More than a third of the respondents—37 percent—want the magenta line to be a recommended route showing  deepest water. Meanwhile 26 percent want it show the channels and 27 percent it to represent a trackline down the middle of the ICW channel

Clearly, of those who were asked and who responded to the questions, there is no overwhelming majority favoring one option or another. So Coast Survey will develop options and solicit public opinion through the Federal Register “request for comments” process,” Forsythe said. This comment process if more formal, and it will likely elicit a greater number of responders. Stay tuned for more information about the future of the magenta highway.

10 comments on “Fate of ‘Magenta Line’ Will Be In Our Hands, NOAA Says

  1. lee a licata

    Ithink that if one cannot keep the line as a reference for the deepest part of the channel, then one should get rid of it.

    Inaccurate info can lead to boaters running aground.

    But if one does get rid of it, suggest you slightly shade the channel you plan to keep dredged as a “promise” to us boaters that you are trying to keep the ICW open. Kind of like detours on the highway while the team fixes the main route.

  2. Captain Marty

    As a captain or crew who has done a number of ICW trips, I understand the channel markers can change. But the magenta line is a great guideline for following the ICW since that is also where the ICW markers are on the channel markers. Markers change due to shoaling and they need adjustments. The magenta line should just be the guideline, not the course or deep water. It would be so difficult to adjust the line each time there was an adjustment for a marker. But having inexperienced owners or crew on board an ICW delivery, it is so much nicer to tell them to make sure they are following the magenta line since it’s so easy to miss a marker and head up some other channel going way off course if the line was not there. I can’t tell you how many times I have ended up off course even with the magenta line from inexperienced ICW travelers.

  3. Captain Marty

    I for one hope they keep the magenta line on charts as a ‘guideline’ of where the ICW is. I can’t imagine doing an ICW trip without it knowing how easy it is to get off course even with the line.

  4. Julie Neaderthal

    Please keep the magenta line. It is a helpful reference whether it represents the deepest water, the channel (where the deepest water should be) and the the middle of the ICW channel (where the deepest water theoretically should be)

  5. Pingback: Today’s Links – October 22, 2013 | GHTA Cruising Club

  6. Pingback: Cruising Trawler – Today’s Links October 22, 2013 | Cruising Trawler

  7. William H. Winn

    Many times boating the ICW we miss the next channel marker because it is too far away or in a different direction than we expect. The Magenta Line is another cross check and should be kept.

  8. Pingback: NOAA erases the Magenta Line, will crowdsourcing step up? | electronics-trade blog

  9. Paul L. Taylor

    As I plan for my first trip down the icww, I feel that the Magenta Line will a great help in my planning, and a guide to help me avoid going off course. I know it is just an aid, but so are channel markers. The way I see it, the more aides I have as a novice, the better.

  10. Hank Recla

    I agree that the Magenta Line should remain. I plan on going down the ICW for the first time. In addition to GPS, the Magenta Line will be used as a backup to navigation. Even if it is not accurate, it can be used for general direction guide purposes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *