Gone in the blink of an eye! We crossed the South Carolina/ Georgia line on Monday, December 2, 2013 and crossed the Georgia/ Florida line Thursday, December 5, 2013. Just four quick days, but it was such a curious part of the ICW, we thought it deserved its own little post!
When we sat down with charts to look at what Georgia was going to throw at us, we noticed that unlike the northern parts of the ICW, it was lacking in marinas. We decided to bypass Savannah because it was pretty far out of the way, but we needed a grocery stop and were coming up short in Georgia! We ended up at Thunderbolt Marina right on the ICW almost immediately after crossing the state line. Other than the fact that it was one of the only marinas near the ICW in Georgia, another selling point for this marina was that they bring Krispy Kreme doughnuts to your boat in the morning. Like, for real.
It was also at Thunderbolt when we really started to see Georgia’s tides! Holy cow do they have some tides! The dock guy at the marina said that when you go to a Georgia beach, you spend the whole day moving your beach chair! Dang. We also heard from other cruisers that lots of people go offshore in Georgia because the tides and current are such a pain.
By the way, I’d like to take a moment to tell you just how great of a job JR has been doing with the current in these parts. We felt it the strongest in Charleston when he had to drive the boat diagonally down the fairway in order to dock because the wind and current were so strong. He also did great docking in Georgia against some pretty strong current. He’s a born driver, for sure! The dock guys are great too. Every time we have to do something tricky with current, they’ll shout out a good tip or trick. We like tips and tricks!
Anyway… Georgia doesn’t allow for much money to be spent on the ICW for maintenance and dredging, so lots of spots are SHALLOW. Remember, shallow water for sailboats is boo because we have that big old thing on the bottom called a keel that keeps us from tipping over. We need about 5 feet of water before Journey’s bottom bumps. You don’t want to bump your bottom! Georgia is funny though, with such crazy tides (10 feet!), if you time it right, you can make it through without much trouble. As I mentioned in our One Month post, we added the tide to our daily planning checklist. We also downloaded The US Army Corps of Engineers ICW conditions survey for the Savannah district that noted all of the places that had shallow spots from shoaling. With the USACE information in addition to Skipper Bob, and The Waterway Guide (both the guide and the on-line updates), we were able note all of the sketchy spots and tab them on our paper charts. As we were cruising through Georgia, we could easily look at a page and see the trouble spots. This also helped us plan for hitting up the trouble spots during high tide, preferably a rising tide. That way, if you do bump your bottom and get stuck, you can wait for the rising tide to free you. If you bump and stick at a falling tide, you could be stuck, and tilty, for a loooooooong time :)
The craziest places in Georgia had all sorts of silly names. Some were scary and daunting like “Hell Gate” and others we’re kinda silly like “Buttermilk Sound.” Hell Gate was one of the first problem areas we hit and the dock guys at the marina got JR all worked up about it. As we were approaching the area, the song “Don’t Fear the Reaper” came on the radio. I kid you not, it was pretty funny. The “gate” was fine. We didn’t see anything shallower than 11 feet on our depth sounders, so we hit it when the tide was just right.
We also learned how easily we freak ourselves out about stuff that isn’t such a big deal. But, we also prepare for the worst. A little worry isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It motivates us to prepare well and be cautious. Our friend Jaye told us before leaving, “The ICW isn’t a place where tragedies occur often, just inconveniences.” We like to avoid both tragedies and inconveniences by prudent preparedness :) For us, hitting these problem areas at high or rising tide, meant that we leave around sunrise. Although I hate waking up before Mr. Sun, it was a really small price to pay to know that we will safely pass through the shallow areas.
Not being lined with homes and marinas, Georgia was a really pretty place to be. I’m a little afraid that once we get into Florida a bit farther, our secluded anchorages will be few and far between. While writing our One Month post, I realized just how much I love being the only boat in an anchorage. Georgia provided us with a few :)
We feel pretty accomplished having “beat” Georgia, not feeling the need to go offshore, instead tackling it head-on and figuring out ways around the problem areas. It can be done, and it wasn’t that bad. We’d like to encourage folks to try it even, it’s beautiful :)
Thanks for sharing – sorry we missed you guys!
The tides,huh? I’m used to them, I suppose, after being here for 15 years. But maybe that’s what is making our docking/undocking such an adventure! And maybe we’ll feel more skilled when we head south of these crazy tidal swings.
Have fun and enjoy Florida!
Oh yeah! And we were nervous about docking at home in Maryland! By the time were done with this adventure, we’ll be able to dock with our eyes closed :)
Great post, Drena! I was wondering how Hell Gate went – didn’t hear anything from JR after he expressed his concern to me.
I love following along on waterwayguide.com and plotting your progress. I’m learning a lot about the area as much as what problems you may encounter.
It is so cool that you are planning ahead for us! If you see anything tricky, let us know. We’ll be hitting the road tomorrow, do you know where we’re going?
We are transiting this area on the way North. Good advice. We will cross the Hell Gate at high tide tomorrow morning.