This report originally appeared on the SSECN during the fall of 2012. We have moved it back up to a current posting, as additional information has just been received, which confirms the earlier navigational advice below. So, during the spring, 2013 transient season, all northbound snowbirds, and year round Georgia cruisers, PLEASE take note!
OK, ALL AICW cruisers bound through southern Georgia within the next six months (at least), LISTEN UP! It appears we have a serious problem on the AICW’s passage through often ROUGH St. Andrew Sound, south of Jekyll Creek/Island. The data detailed below was sent to the Cruisers’ Net by way of fellow cruising guide author, Captain John Kettlewell.
Captain John, a good and long-time friend of yours truly, and I have been in close touch about this St. Andrew Sound situation, and compared notes. It appears to both John and myself, that the charted shoal north and northeast of marker #32, may well have built out almost to the northern edge of this aid to navigation. Thus, if any vessel attempts to pass #32 to its northern or eastern sides, that sad sound of keel meeting sand (or mud), will be the result.
As Captain John notes below, the marker numbering scheme, and the placement of the infamous (and ofter incorrect) magenta line in these waters is truly bizarre. John suggests, with good reason, that #32 might now be an inlet marker, and should be passed to its safe, southern side when cruising east to west through St. Andrew Sound Inlet. I agree with John that this seem plausible, BUT, conversely, the numbering suggests #32 is in fact an AICW marker.
Our collective best advice at this point, is to be SURE to pass #32 to its western and southwestern flanks, without straying too far from this aid to navigation. Under no circumstances should you attempt to pass #32 to its northerly side. Vessels cruising the AICW shoudl ignore strangely placed marker #31A. From #32, southbound AICW craft should point to eventually come abeam of marker #33 well to its western side. Note that it’s a long gap between #32 and #33!
March 2, 2013
Just transited St. Andrews Sounds going north via the ICW on 2/26/13 and we draw 5 feet in our sailboat. We went all the way out to “32″ and then turned sharply keeping “32″ to starboard (on the west side of the marker). Then we passed “31″ green to starboard also keeping to the deep water as per the charts. We were in no less than 12′ of water.
Well, we know that r32 is off station. It is actually north east of the charted position and located on the edge of the shoal that goes bare at mllw; so any vessel with 5’ or more draft can be in trouble. It’s a money maker for Sea Tow. The troubling issue is why the course line is drawn incorrectly to the west of that buoy but actually provides a guide thru safe water? Did NOAA know it’s off station and just drew the line incorrectly to give us a hint? Interestingly, if you look at a chart that’s about 10 years old ; you will see the course line is drawn on the correct side!. When a person is piloting the sound for the first time; what should they believe; the buoy or the course line? That could be an interesting debate between husband and wife and/or Captain and owner! I didn’t see any notices to mariners about the buoys location.
Here is what I am guessing, but do not know without some further research. The R32 may now be positioned as a red-on-right marker for those returning from the ocean via the inlet, therefore they want you to leave it to starboard when inbound from the ocean, but in reality you need to leave it to port when headed south on the ICW. This would mean in addition to its red color it should have a fluorescent yellow square on it indicating that it is considered a port-side beacon for the ICW (when southbound). Though according to the most current Light List, those markings are not the case so I may be wrong in this guess. Or, you could be right in that the buoy is simply off station. I will try to find out more and get back to you.
Take a look at the following messages with regard to R32 in St. Andrew’s Sound. For some reason the magenta line on the chart is on the wrong side of the buoy and has been for years, but this fellow says that now the R32 is on the edge of the shoal to the NE and if for some reason you do leave it to starboard when southbound it will put you aground. Do you have any information on the area you can share?
And, as usual, the cruising community is responding by sharing useful information! There just aren’t any better folk than cruisers!
Between 2009 and 2011, my wife and I made 4 transits of the sound on our sailboat, which draws 5 ft.. Our last was north bound to NJ in late March 2011. We were traveling with another boat and followed him through. We both treated Red “32” as an AICW bouy and passed close to port, because of the narrow channel. I always monitor closelly my nav instruments and and don’t rememmber the exact depth, but I am sure it was double digits. Everything seemed routine and no different than previous transits. Red ” 32 ” appeared to be in its usual position. As far as the magenta line is concerned, it is not unusual to see it out of place.
I would add that the sound and behind Jeckel Island are some of the more challenging parts of the waterway and have my respect and full concentration. I remember the crossing well, because the wind was from the SE and blowing around 18 to 20kn kicking up quite a sea. I felt like I was in a washing machine.
John and Honey Funston
Hielan’ Lass II
We passed thru this area July 23 2012 bound for our home port of St Augustine. Our observations were :
First , R32 was east and somewhat north of our chartplotter position
Second , It was half flood tide and depth sounder showed 6 feet on that side ( we left it to starboard per ICW southbound )
Third , G31A was nowhere in sight
We have had several nasty storms along this coast in June ( Berrell ) and in July ( Debbie ) and others without names.
Notices have been posted to be watchful for missing marks, etc.
Our sailboat,Santana, draws 3 feet 8 inches which is becoming desireable around here Safe sailing to all.
Captains Matt and Margaret
PS On the same trip, we encountered 2 , yes 2, funnel clouds in the St Simons/ Brunswick inlet on July 19 and turned around and went back out to sea. They were not forecast!
We passed St.Andrew Sound red 32 northbound in April this year and kept it close to port as we made the turn. We draw 5 feet and depths were not a problem. The breakers to the northeast were very obvious, very visible. The mark may have shifted since then as there have been two TS’s that have blown through this area in late spring/early summer.
Steve and Sheila Kamp
We transited this area last spring and twice last year. We always pass on the southwest side of R32 approximately where the magenta line shows on your chart. We have been skeptical of the channel between G31 and R32 for a years.
Walter and Ellen Solomons
In January of this year (2012) we were headed south and kept R32 on the Starboard side, on our return trip in April we kept it to port. We draw 5 feet and had no problem. We did stay close to the mark both times. We do not have a chart plotter, and had a 10 + year old chartbook so gave no thought of passing R32 on the “wrong side.” If I remember correctly, it does have an ICW yellow triangle on it.
John and Georgie Jackson
Passed through here the 6th of May and did pass to the West side of “32″ as I always do having a draft of 3′. I do this as it allows for a more gradual turn and I never see less than 10′ and this is not overly close to the mark. Has anyone reached out to the local towing services or the USCG for their input???
Donovan (EOS, TC-44)
We passed this area on 4/16 going north and got very confused and concerned about the water depth. About 6 ft. I believe we took R32 port side on the way back whereas we might have cut it going south. I have my fairly detailed track files for the trips if they are desirable but they do not show the depths recorded.
We transit this route several times a year. Last transit was June of this year heading north to Brunswick. We have a full keel 6ft draft sailing vessel and usually time our passage close to high tide due to transiting Jekyll Creek. We always pass R32 on the east side of the buoy as the CG stated (the Magenta Line is incorrect in the turn). It is a tight turn and particular attention should be paid to the alignment of G 31A and G 31 as you round R 32 keeping it to port (heading north). It is a little unnerving due to the quick depth change (deep to shallow) but there was at least 15 ft of water at high tide in June. Pretty much the same for the past 3 years. Hope this helps.
Capt. Jesse Price s/v Wind Dust
We had occasion to pass r32 on 9-6-12 at 7:45 a.m. heading South in a 48’ sailboat drawing 6’ . The buoy is on station according to our gps and it has a square yellow icw marker that’s well hidden from view if a vessel attempts to round it to the East. We passed the buoy by about 75’ to the West as the magenta line suggests and had a minimum of 12’ at low tide.
No signs of coast guard nor any other government agency.
I transited from the St Marys to Jekyll Island via the outside (St Andrews Sound) on Labor Day weekend. Many of the buoys are either missing or off position. For example, N2 is missing and 31A is off position and on its side. Local boaters indicate that the buoys become entangled in shrimp shrimp nets and once the are freed they are just left in the new position. Shoaling has occurred to the east of the channel. I found that transiting from the outer marker (C Sta) to the following points provided a safe passage at low water for my 6 ft draft: N30 55.331 W081 20.260, N30 57.095 W081 21.555, N30 57.774 W081 21.864, N30 58.750 W081 22.296, N30 58.846 W081 23.224 then straight for R 32 (staying just to the west of R 32) then proceeding north up the ICW.
Here is some real information that you can bank on:
37384 St. Andrew Buoy 31A Missing 11489 234-11 CHA 33/11
Translation into cruiser’s language:
Light list number = 37384
Aid name = St. Andrew Buoy 31A
Status = Missing
Chart number buoy can be found on = 11489
BNM Broadcast Notice to Mariners from Charleston on the 234th day of 2011
LNM Posted Start the 33 week of 2011. It is still open and not resolved.
That means the Green 31A is gone missing and has not been replaced.
You can sign up to get the LNM Local Notice to Mariners at http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=lnmMain
Captains are required to have these onboard.
There is no notice about the R32 buoy. That means that there are no reports on that buoy. If you want to double check on any buoy or marker you can call the USCG Anton in the local area that covers that section. Anton in Savannah is affectionately called Ant Tybee and you can call them at 1-912-786-5791. Email Cody.firstname.lastname@example.org. The Jacksonville Anton is 1-904-241-8422.
After speaking with Jacksonville they reported to me, that there has been no reports of R32 being off station. As far as they know it is on station. There have been some reports of the shoaling at the north breakers moving toward the west. The Jacksonville Coast Guard Station is intending to go to this area this summer and do further soundings of the shoaling.
At the end of the LNM there is a section called “AUXILIARY SAFE BOATING PROGRAM” here you can find continuing education opportunities in your area.
The USCG Jacksonville also stated that they are aware of the magenta line being on the wrong side of R32 They are working with NOAA to resolve this issue.
Captain Kevin R. Quinn
Captain John Kettlewell responds below to Captain Quinn’s note above:
Capt. Quinn: Please note that I prefaced my earlier post about the function of R32 by saying it was speculation based on the reports, now confirmed by several cruisers here (not myself), that there is deep water to the west of R32, but there is shoaling to the east. Apparently R32 is either off station or the water has shoaled, or both. For some reason the magenta line on the chart was also drawn to the west of R32, even though technically that buoy should be left to starboard when headed south. I did contact the Coast Guard with a question and they did not have an answer. As you note, they are going to look into it. The presence or lack of information in Local Notices to Mariners often lags drastically what is actually happening on the water. I’ve spent decades editing guidebooks and charts, and I understand the difficult task the Coast Guard has maintaining and monitoring thousands of navigation aids. I have often notified them of discrepancies both on the water and in their publications. In the meantime, apparently mariners must use their own judgment as to the best route through there as the aids to navigation do not mark the best channel. We have recently seem a similar situation near Ponce Inlet where despite the numerous aids to navigation in the area boaters are going aground within the marked channel. There is a notice about shoaling near the R18 daymark there, but some boaters claim the shoal extends out further and extreme care must be taken in the area.