Capt. Hechtman is offering a suggestion for avoiding Hell Gate (statute mile 602), one of the perennial trouble spots in the Georgia Waterway. Walburg Creek shapes the east side of Walburg Island and the Waterway lies on the west side. Good depths and great beach combing. While the creek has both a northern and southern entrance from the AICW, we prefer the northern passage, though there is still an unmarked shoal in St. Catherine’s Sound which must be bypassed.
A fun alternative is to make the fairly short journey outside through St. Catherine’s and back in at Wassaw and up the Wilmington River (and vice-versa) and avoid what is probably the least scenic part of the georgia ICW as well as
Hell Gate. Deep draft boats use both inlets, especially Wassaw, that’s how all those mega yachts that can’t clear 65 feet get into Thunderbolt Marine. It’s very handy to the great Walburg Creek Anchorage, and in our opinion more scenic.
We have a 60ft LOA boat that draws 5 feet.
What about using the Wilmington Rvr. for exit from /entrance into Thunderbolt? I’ve seen the big boats heading down from Thunderbolt and assume that is where they are heading yet the charts look dicey. Anyone with experience out there?
Even before we began the Cruisers’ Net, and Isle of Hope Marina became a SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET SPONSOR, this facility was our choice as a base of operations when visiting historic Savannah. Dockmaster/owner Charlie Waller simply can’t do enough for visiting and resident cruisers alike. These truly are “good people.” Isle of Hope Marina lies along the northwestern shores of the Waterway in the body of a hairpin turn northwest of unlighted daybeacon #46A.
Our planned two day stay turned into two weeks, then a month, then two months, and now we’re staying here as liveaboards. Georgia has abandoned the 30 day annual limit on living aboard and now allows full time liveaboards in certified marinas. Isle of Hope was the first certified and now there are a handful of us liveaboards here.
As everyone else says, the staff are great and the facilities top shelf.
Entered Hells Gate, abeam of “92” at 1348, about 1 hour after low tide. Strayed a little to far to the red side at the edge of the channel and got as low as 7.5′-corrected to center channel and saw from 8′ to 14′ to “87” at 1355, where it dropped off to 10-12′. There is a nun “90” in the cut that may not appear on some charts. Passage should not be a problem, even at low tide.
Michael J. Horowitz aboard ALTAIR
Thunderbolt Marine is a full service yacht repair, refit facility and marina located on the Waterway at Marker #35 just outside the city limits of Savannah. We continue to hear about their good people skills, good contacts and good technical skills that make Thunderbolt Marine an excellent boatyard.
We stopped here for fuel and a night on the dock ($1.75/foot) on April 9th, 2012. The current rages here and as I motored against the current alongside the gas dock for a port-side tie-up, I tossed a springline to the dockhand. Since my propwalk swings my stern to port and the 23 ponies laboring ahead down in the bilge couldn’t overcome the rush of water, I expertly backed my boat stern-in against the gas dock. Don’t use a springline to land your boat anywhere in Georgia.
After fueling, the dockhand backed us down the pier and we tied alongside the end of the long gas dock for the night. Other boats were tied alongside the inside of the gas dock.
We ate at Tubby’s, a nearby restaurant which has free appetizers if you order a beer before 5:00.
There is a shrimpdock nearby which sports a sign that reads “Open 10:00″. We didn’t try it but were tempted.
The marina has clean restrooms and laundry facilities.
We heard the sound of “bacon frying” all night which we have been told is the sound of shrimp flicking their tails against your hull to knock the grass from the bottom to score a tasty veggie snack.
In addition to the extensive repair facilities at Thunderbolt Marine, so ably described below by “Captain T,” don’t overlook the excellent transient dockage available here as well! And, I also second the recommendation for Tubby’s Tank House. The seafood is AWESOME!
The message below was copied from the GL (Great Loop) Mailing list.
Try Thunderbolt Marine on the Wilmington River. Coming North go in via Wassaw Sound, but watch the buoys carefully. Huge facility. Used to be the refit facility for Palmer Johnson. If they can’t fix it, I’d be surprised. We had a turbo replaced there a few years ago.
Watch out for the flying teeth, nasty little black fly thang’s that come out just before sundown.
Check out Tubby’s Tank House Resturant a short walk from the marina.
The Georgia version of Hinkley Yacht Services guards the AICW’s westerly banks, a short hop north of the Thunderbolt high-rise bridge. This firm has had a wonderful reputation for quality repairs, going back many years.
Personally we had very good results from the Hinckley yard that is just south of Savannah. Prices were very reasonable, they work fast and they know what they are doing.
It almost goes without saying, but let’s say it anyway, that the Georgia stretch of the Atlantic Intacoastal Waterway is the most difficult section of the entire Waterway passage from Norfolk, VA to Miami, FL. Such AICW Problem Stretches as Little Mud River and Jekyll Creek are enough to make any captain lose their religion.
Below, Captain Grogen gives us all some good, general advice about keeping to the best depths possible in these waters.
Time to comment on the “rules of the mud bottom channels”. The deepest part of the channel is probably NOT going to be in the middle. Water current on a falling (ebb) tide runs faster than water on a rising (flood) tide, and the faster water cuts a deeper channel. So, the deepest place in a tidal channel is the outside bend in a falling tide current. The next deepest place is the outside bend on a rising tide current. On some curves where the curve is outside for both the ebb and flood, to will find very deep water and the possibility that the curve is even outside the charts. The situation at MM 704 is a good example of that. On some S curves you will find shallow water in the center of the channel. At low tide look at the banks, along a steep bank you will find deep water close to the bank,
along a gradual bank, shallow water. In some of the cuts that have been dredged, it isn’t always obvious which way the water flows, so you just have to observe which way the water is flowing at a given tide state. So, read the channel by looking at it, and don’t follow the magenta line on your chart plotter. Frequently, your chart plotter will show you in the marsh, and there have even been some places where the deepest water is outside of the buoyed channel! When your depth finder is showing less than the chart, wonder slowly back and forth looking for the deep water, sometimes the deep channel isn’t very wide. You actually learn a lot about a channel at low tide when you can really see it.
4-Port Royal (MM-539.5) to Kilkenny (MM-613)
Fields Cut (MM-573.5 to 575.5) 1.5 hours before low tide
North entrance slightly favored Green Side We saw 7 – 9 feet under us
South entrance entering the Savannah river
Using center of channel We saw 3.5 feet starting just before R-50 and lasted until in the Savannah River
Hell Gate MM-601.8 to 602.2 2 hours after low tide We saw 6 feet using center of channel
This info is what we experienced in our travels. As always you are the captain of your vessel and should use this as info only. Safe travels.
The dredging of 2009 is slowly being overcome by shoaling through this perennial problem stretch, making Hell Gate another section that requires mid-to-high tide passage for vessels carrying 4ft or more draft. With his 6.25ft draft, Capt. Pascal is very alert to depth changes and his is the kind of vessel you would hope to be following through these trouble spots!
Definitely more shallow, by a couple of feet, again on the same lines I usually run thru there.
MM602, Hell Gate, 8′ to 9′ MLW thru most of the cut but some readings as low as 5′ to 6′ MLW around R90 and G89. Had 8′ of tides so I tried poking around for better readings, no luck. I usually pass about 40′ from R90, and about 30′ from G89; this time around it s definitely shallower by about 2 to 2.5′ compared to earlier this year.
Capt. Pascal Gademer
The message below comes to us from Charlie Waller, owner of Isle of Hope Marina (A SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET SPONSOR, and past president of the Georgia Marine Business Owners Association. Charlie and his organization have been working tirelessly to get the archaic, often ignored, but still a threat, regulation limiting boat owners to a 30 day stay aboard, changed. Congratulations to “GAMBA,” and everyone else who worked for this change.
As Charlie explains below, now, by filling out a simple form, cruisers can stay aboard for up to a year in Georgia waters! Finally, a real victory for the cruising community!!!
The State of Georgia has just modified the Live-Aboard rule so that it will be legal and practical to say on board your boat in Georgia for more than 30 days. A rule change will allow boaters to fill out a simple form to receive permission to be onboard for up to one year in Georgia so long as the boat is docked at a marina that meets the state’s minimum requirements for pump-out facilities. Isle of Hope Marina and just a couple of other marinas currently meet those standards, but I expect that other marinas will upgrade their facilities to take advantage of this rule change. I am heading a committee that will be working with the DNR to finalize the application form in the next few weeks. The rule change will be effective January 1, 2012.
Isle of Hope Marina
Below, we present a wide cross section of responses from the cruising community to this change in Georgia’s live-aboard regulations, As you will see, some cruisers are very appreciative, others question why any regulation is needed and/or justified, and at least one fellow captain points out the process of applying to live aboard in Georgia waters for more than 30 days is not necessarily “simple.”
We had a similar problem in Washington State years ago. The head of our DNR just flatly wanted no live aboards at all. We formed the Washington Live Aboards and fought and won. The big issues now is raw sewage being dumped and soap when washing your boat.
The best advise I can give is get together with the marina owners and managers, develop rules dealing with sewage and pump outs. Be proactive and get in front of the issue. Getting teamed up with marinas gives you more credability and greater influnce.
Final thought, don’t bad mouth the state and govermental officals its difficult to further your point of view if they’re pissed at you.
We work closely with Seattle, Tacoma and Everett and they are all pro live aboards and help keep DNR in check.
President Tacoma Live Aboards, VP of the Washington Live Aboards
The Seattle situation is still evolving, but it is shaping up to be about greywater. The City of Seattle has proposed limiting liveaboards (where marinas will accept them) to 25% of available slips. Current LABs will be allowed to stay, but once they leave the marina can’t rent to another LAB until they come below the 25% cap. The City has also proposed imposing a fee on marinas that accept LABs and additional administrative burdens. We all know that this will discourage private marina owners from renting to LABs and that the costs will flow downstream. My question re the Georgia situation is: what happens at the end of one year? That’s a good development for cruisers wanting to stay more than a month, but what’s the impact on full time residents of the state?
I think the title of this piece should be changed to “Liveaboards now tolerated at a few marinas in Georgia.” The word “welcome” does not come to mind. Like other long-term cruisers I prefer to anchor out, which means I won’t be living aboard in Georgia waters any time in the near future. By the way, I still highly recommend the beautiful ICW waters of Georgia for those who like to anchor and get away from it all–just don’t stay in one place for more than 30 days.
THANKS FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL CRUISERS
Oh Goddie! The awful is now only bad.
Why should I need a States permission to live on my boat? And why should I be forced to pay for dockage to do so?
I use a composting head and had have no need for pump-out facilities. My water and electric needs are also self met. I much prefer to live on the hook.
Bad precedent to set or accept. My opinion is that Georgia is still a place to pass through until this law is totally abandoned.
Charlie has done a great job along with many other people to help the liveaboard community.
We & MANY others each year just go off shore to avoid Georgia since they still JUST DON’T get it. They need to make their portion of the ICW navigatible at ALL tide levels. Our money their loss!
We feel sorry for all the businesses that are struggling, but until Georgia catches up with the rest of the world we & many others will just go off shore & NOT put up with the hassel!
Mike M/V Elan
Actually it is a little more complicated than just “filling out a simple form”. The 30 day law has not changed, now you must file for an extension of the 30day rule. You have to file for the extension to the Commissioner of the Georgia DNR. The commissioner, in his or her sole discretion, may grant or deny any request for an extension of time to occupy a live-aboard.
Again it is not just a simple form you must meet the following Eligibility requirements:
1. No live-aboard may be occupied in Georgia coastal waters subject to the jurisdiction of the CMPA for more than 30 days during any calendar year unless the live-aboard owner has been granted an extension of time in writing by the Commissioner.
2. The applicant shall submit a written request for an extension to the Commissioner.
3. The Commissioner shall promptly consider any written request that meet the following requirements.
a. The applicant submits the request on the application form provided by the Department to the Commissioner, c/o the Coastal Resources Division, One Conservation Way, Brunswick, Georgia 31520.
b. The Coastal Resources Division receives the request at least 15 calendar days prior to the requested extension start date.
c. The applicant certifies that the live-aboard has a secured mechanism to prevent discharge of treated and untreated sewage.
Examples of secured mechanisms considered to be effective at preventing discharge include, but are not limited to, closing the seacock and padlocking, using a non-releasable wire tie, or removing the seacock handle (with the seacock closed).
d. The applicant certifies that they will not discharge any sewage, treated or untreated, into Georgia coastal waters subject to the jurisdiction of the CMPA.
e. The applicant certifies that the live-aboard is capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water and is capable of safe, mechanically-propelled, navigation under average Georgia coastal wind and current conditions.
f. The applicant identifies the eligible marina at which the live-aboard operator will moor the live-aboard.
g. The applicant provides written documentation of a slip rental agreement with an eligible marina.
h. The applicant states the reasons for requesting the extension and the period of time for which the extension is requested.
Doesn’t seem that simple to me! Is working with the government ever simple? When you give them all that information you have given them all they need to through you out of the state and band you from ever entering the state on your way to Florida.
What about the fines when you break one of their laws?
There is no fee or tax this first year!
What other state do you have to go before a Commissioner to live in that state?
Kevin R. Quinn
I don’t see this as a victory for cruisers at all. It is a victory for the marinas. Many of us anchor whenever possible and stay away from marina life and all its distractions and expense. Trust me, I will continue to go outside and bypass Georgia altogether. My dollars are much better spent elsewhere.
At long last. Thanks to all who brought this about. It makes sense.
I have to agree with the other posters–the title of this blog entry is complete propaganda. Shame on you for trying to spin this as some great win/win situation for boaters. As if we are too stupid to figure out for ourselves what the real facts are! Pathetic.
That form is the opposite of simple, INO. And way too intrusive, asking too many questions that have zero to do with the idea of living for a while in Georgia waters.
The sad thing is, that with this guy ‘fighting’ for us boaters, we can expect that the status quo for Georgia to boaters will continue for the foreseeable future. The Georgia ‘solution’ isn’t a solution at all, as obviously made note of ad nauseum above by most boaters responding. So I agree, we will continue to avoid lingering in Georgia waters. I can’t imagine how much money the marinas lose in Georgia because of the attitude of the State.
Go to the bahamas instead. I was going to cruise North for a change, but with Georgias new regs and St. Augustines new 10 day anchoring limits upcoming why should I spend my money and time where I am not wanted. Please do not spend money in any places that are not cruiser friendly.
The Herb River intersects the Georgia portion of the AICW just south of the facilities at Thunderbolt, GA.
We anchored in the lower reaches — before any houses fronting the water. We still felt unwelcome. Passing local boats clearly didn’t like us there. It appears they all like to “gun it” just past the houses and we interfered with this. Given the Georgia tides, I would not want to encounter a wind shift at low tide on anchor.
Hinkley Yacht Services in Thunderbolt, GA is on the western side of the Waterway north of Thunderbolt Bridge (E. Victory Drive) and south of marker #34.
Stayed in May 2011. Great cheap transient rates. Nice showers and cheap dockage.
The following exchange is copied from the AGLCA mail list. SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET SPONSOR, Isle of Hope Marina certainly shines in this exchange!!!! Follow the links below for more info on this superb facility!!!
I’m looking for a nice marina in Savannah, Ga. where we can dock for about two weeks in July. We would be leaving the boat for about a week while we drive to Atlanta to visit our son, then fly to Minneapolis to visit our daughter. When we return we would spend about a week exploring the Savannah area before moving on to Charleston. Marina recommendations would be appreciated. Thanks.
Bill & Kathleen
MV BUFFALO GAL
Isle of Hope Marina Savannah.
Bob & Kemba DeGroot
We also recommend Isle of Hope.
We spent a month at Isle of Hope last June/July. The people are very knowledgeable and friendly. Laundry on site. Two loaner cars. Restaurants can be reached easily with the loaner cars or by bike. Walmart can also be reached with the loaner cars.
John & Gloria Weber
Bombay Lady III
DEFINITELY Isle of Hope Marina! We spent one night there on our journey from Fort Myers to Maine. (Still enroute….stranded in Newport RI) . They are very accommodating and friendly. Got an email “Thank You” after we left.
Jane and John Linscott
The Maine Event
We live in Savannah and kept our boat at Isle of Hope Marina from 2004 through 2009.
I highly recommend the facility; it’s secure and the people there – Rick, Patty, Chris, and the rest of the staff – are all very knowledgeable, helpful, and friendly.
The only caveat is to not downplay the current. It can be a bear, particularly if you’re assigned a slip on one of the inside docks. Plan your arrivals and departures when staff is there and they are only too happy to help.
Bill & Llisa Ballard
To reach Delegal Creek Marina, cruisers must abandon the Waterway in the Vernon River, and cruise through a confusingly marked channel into Delegal Creek. Contrary to what Captains Tammy and Micheal report below, we’ve always found low water depths on the entrance channel to be very suspect. Plans have been in the works to dredge here for years, but for various reasons, this project has never been undertaken, as far as we know!
If you will be getting a rental car, check out Delegal Creek Marina on Skidaway Island (ask for directions on getting in. There is plenty of water but there is a dogleg going in.) It’s a nice condo marina with good facilities and walking the neighborhood is quiet and safe.
Tammy & Michael
May 9th, 2011
Northbound, I passed a little closer to G89 than on previous runs and found better water, never less than 9′ MLW.
I passed about 40′ from R90, then 30′ off G89 and made the slight turn to stbd towards G87 about 100′ north of G89
at the southern entrance, stay on centerline and dont’ cut the corner close to the red, especially with an incoming tide which will push you too far to the red side. as soon as you are passed the red, the current eases off.
Pascal aboard MY Charmer, 70′ 6+ draft
Morning Star transited Hells Gate in GA this morning at slack low water. We passed each mark by about a boat length and found 5′ in one spot.
Regards, Randy Pickelmann aboard Morning Star
Sanctuary and crew transited Hell Gate at 1500 yesterday, 4/20/2011. We are three days past full moon on celestial high and low tides. At our transit time, our chartplotter tide table showed us with plus 0.8 ft of tide, headed to negative 1.1 ft. The tidal range was greater than 9′.
In the Hell Gate channel, we saw 5.6 ft of water in the green quarter at G “90,” which is at the slight bend at mid-cut. Due to the current in that area, we were slightly east of the centerline, but only slightly. Don’t know if Red quarter would have been better, but where we were, at -1.1 ft, we’d only have had 3.5′ of water; not enough for us.
On Tuesday, the weather offshore was good, so we went out at St. Simons and back in at Doboy Sound, to overnight at the Duplin River. That avoids Altamaha Sound and the Little Mud on a falling/low tide. From Doboy Sound, we went out again on Wednesday, headed for Tybee, but had to come back in at Sapelo because of SE short-period waves, which were on our beam and made the ride uncomfy.
Interesting, from Tybee to Jax, there are inlets every 15 miles that allow for safe exits if the weather deteriorates. Doboy and Sapelo are well marked. Don’t know about the others. Because of the tidal ranges in GA, though, and shallow offshore depths (40 ft at 6 miles) the tidal ebb and flood currents are strong. Plan accordingly. Also, running in 15 ft of water nearer shore can result in experiencing lesser wave size, but dodging shoals for some may increase anxiety. A personal trade-off. As the water depth on the ICW continues to deteriorate and dredging declines, these offshore runs may become more and more necessary.
When crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas, I’ve usually heard advice that winds with a “North” component are to be avoided. Yesterday, I learned that for offshore travel along the GA, SC coast, waves directions/short period swells with an “East” component are to be respected/perhaps avoided.
Peg and Jim Healy aboard Sanctuary, Monk 36 Hull #132
Went through Hell Gate going north at 1 hour after low tide on Monday May 2nd, 2011. Entrance was skinny. I recorded 5.9 feet which left me with about 1 foot of clearance. Once I got through the opening, the water deepened quickly but I took it slow and watched my depth and channel all the way through.
The dredging of 2009 is slowly being overcome by shoaling through this perennial problem stretch, making Hell Gate another section that requires mid-to-high tide passage for vessels carrying 4ft or more draft.
Came through Hell Gate with Sea Angel NC44 6′ draft on 3/25/11. Entered south end of Gate at 10:45 with 3.2′ of water above MLW. Stayed center of channel and lowest water was at the Nun on the south end: 8.2″ (<5′ at MLW). This was confirmed by Sea Tow boat operator hovering in the area with whom I spoke before entering the Gate. Rest of passage saw no less than 9″. Mostly 10 to 15″.
Skipper Ed Grygent
March 28 2011
Went through Hell’s gate about 1.75 hour before low tide. Corrected for low tide at Egg Island Tidal lowest reading was 7 feet near the square red and white checkered sign.
Skipper Stephen Starling
March 25th travelling northbound with 4.8 draft, Nova Scotia fishing trawler. Approached Hells gate with caution,. set up mid channel between red and green at the south end, depth sounder read 10 feet. We bumped 5 times over something very hard, thought we had lost our connection between engine and transmission. Then all good for rest of passage. Shook us up somewhat we were heading for anchorage and the tide was up 1 foot.
Skipper Judi Knight
Thunderbolt Marine is a full service yacht repair and refit facility and marina located on the Waterway at Marker #35 just outside the city limits of Savannah. We continue to hear about their good people skills, good contacts and good technical skills that make Thunderbolt Marine for an excellent boatyard.
Thunderbolt Marine provided me with great service on my Yanmar engine. A bolt that attached my water pump had sheared off. The bolt was permanently attached to a special bracket. Rather than ordering a new bracket, and waiting days for delivery, Thunderbolt Marine took off the bracket, drilled out the old bolt, ground down the weld on the back, and installed a new bolt and welded it to the bracket, and reinstalled everything in less than 3 hours! This is a great full service marina! They are easy to access, close to Savannah, very close to Tubby’s Tank House, and you even get donuts and a paper in the morning. Rates are reasonable, service is excellent. Highly recommend it.
Skipper David Clark
Even before we began the Cruisers’ Net, and Isle of Hope Marina became a SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET SPONSOR, this facility was our choice as a base of operations when visiting historic Savannah. Dockmaster/owner Charlie Waller simply can’t do enough for visiting and resident cruisers alike. These truly are “good people.”
I also think that Isle of Hope is definitely the place to stay to see Savannah. The downtown Savannah dock is available, but it is right in the middle of the tourist section; for my money the down side of that outweighs the upside.