One of the most discussed topics here on the SSECN concerning the Georgia portion of the AICW for the past two years, has been the passage through St. Andrew Sound, south of Brunswick, GA and Jekyll Island. First of all, to follow the Waterway, you must journey rather far out into the Atlantic Ocean, and, if that weren’t cause enough for concern, there are marker numbering issues and shoaling near marker #32 to worry with. We have had an SSECN Navigational Alert in place for this portion of the Waterway since 8/10/12 (see http://cruisersnet.net/?p=104973).
Of course, there is a “way around” this difficult passage. Cruisers can opt for the so-called, “Umbrella Cut” alternate route, BUT this passage adds length to your cruise, and most importantly, it is narrow and SHALLOW in places at low water.
In regards to the posting below from Captains Jim and Peg Healy, their message conveys an intriguing alternative. On the one hand, it avoids the shallow depths, of the Umbrella Cut Alternate AICW route, and it also bypasses the long cruise seaward to marker #32. And, Captains Jim and Peg are highly experienced cruisers who have a knack and a reputation for delivering accurate information.
HOWEVER, there is NO guarantee that the eastern tip of Horseshoe Shoal will not have built farther to the east by the time of your transit, and it is certainly possible that you might encounter shallower depths than what Jim and Peg, or the NOAA charts, report.
Therefore, we advise that ONLY adventurous mariners, and those whose vessel is equipped with a well functioning GPS chart plotter, undertake this shortcut, and, even then, be sure to proceed with the greatest caution!
Attached is a screen shot of what we do in transiting St. Andrews Sound. Sanctuary draws 4-1/4′ and we find this route carries 7′ or more at low tide. The red lines on the screen shot are various transits of St. Andrews Sound before we established the black “route” in 2009. There are several more tracks buried under the route line.
You can see that we went all the way out to R32 one time, early on. Too rough. We don’t do that any more.
Peg and Jim Healy aboard Sanctuary
And some additional data just received from Jim and Peg:
So, anyway, here’s some additional info for our previous message. The date of the red GPS track line for our trip out past R “32” on the .jpg I sent you yesterday is April 9, 2007. For the other red track lines – those that “short-cut” across Horseshoe Shoal – dates were: April 23, 2008, May 16, 2009, November 9, 2011, April 24, 2012, November 27, 2012 and April 24, 2013. This gives you some season-to-season and year-to-year history on that track across the tail of Horseshoe Shoal.
Peg and Jim Healy aboard Sanctuary
We have taken your route in our sail boat and now our trawler, both draw 4 ft. since we first saw it recorded. Don’t recall when? Last time was four crossings in May and two in June 2013. The Floyd Creek, Umbarella Cut will work. We have never used it in our trawler but have taken the dingy, an 11 ft Boston Whaler to survey the creek. The cuts are hard to follow at high tide and do have skinny water in several places. The path you advise still is not for the faint of heart if the wind is out of the East and over 15 KTS. Watch the tide and stay safe.
Unless seriously constrained by draft or schedule, a 6 kt boat passing through Jekyll Creek at high tide can cross the outer end of Horseshoe Shoal well to the west of both #31 and #32. We made our first transit of this area 30 minutes after high tide at the Jekyll Marina Station and never saw less than 12 feet on the shoal with wave conditions moderated.
Heading south, when the magenta line crossed Latitude 31 on the chart, we turned for the old tower on Little Cumberland Island. When the water depth plummeted (west of #32 by 0.6 nm) we turned to intercept the magenta line off #33. This became our standard route.
Caveat, we are unhurried cruisers with 5.5 foot draft. We arrange our days to pass Jekyll, Crooked River, Amelia River # 1, and Sawmill Creek #49, each, an hour before high tide.
Chris & Janet