Captains Glen and Jill Moore provide an excellent picture of and approach to this long-time trouble spot where depths can change quickly due to the narrow channel. And we heartily agree that these miles of undeveloped and unspoiled Waterway in Georgia are well worth the necessary planning and navigational care.
We traveled through Hell Gate on 11/9/12. The shallowest spot observed on our path was 8’ MLW south of floating R90. Using the large Georgia tides to your advantage, Hell Gate depths provide a good margin of error on your course through this narrow stretch of the ICW.
Some cruisers avoid the Georgia ICW due to stories of shallow water. They miss one of the best cruising areas of the southeast coast. Those on a delivery schedule, just trying to get south or north as quickly as possible, can save much time by going outside. It is about 115 sm from Hilton Head, SC to the St. Marys River entrance at the Florida line, while traveling between the same destinations following the ICW is a curving course of 150 sm. But, for cruisers searching for memorable experiences, it is 150 miles of natural beauty, 100’s of anchorages, and many interesting places to visit.
The term ”Problem Stretches” may be part of the problem, adding to a level of fear causing cruisers to avoid Georgia. Yes, there are areas that require attention and planning, all of which are documented on the Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net website. So, there should be no surprises. The site’s new feature of recently sounded and recorded depths by ARGUS research vessels, detailed directly on NOAA charts, provides accurate and easy-to-understand information on depths. Spending a little time researching the waterway on SSECN, annotating information directly on your charts, will provide a valuable guide to safely cruising Georgia’s section of the AICW. Navigation of these waters is a bit more challenging, but the challenge of navigation should be one of the experiences enjoyed in cruising — a n endeavor rewarded by the outstanding cruising experiences these waters can provide.
The narrow, and sometimes shallow, Georgia passages should be viewed as “Areas of Concern,” requiring increased levels of attention and planning. Often in life, the greatest of rewards require higher effort to achieve.
PBS created a documentary of the Georgia barrier islands which provides a visual and narrative description of the history and beauty of one aspect of this area: http://www.gpb.org/secretseashore#
Glen and Jill Moore
DeFever 40 Last Dance
Very good to hear positive comments about the Georgia ICW.