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IMPORTANT – More on Marker/Charting Confusion and Increased Shoaling on AICW’s Passage Through Georgia’s St. Andrew Sound (St. M. 690), 8/10/12

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. Unfortunately, neither of us has had occasion to research this portion of the Waterway for a good two years, so WE COULD REALLY USE SOME LATE BREAKING INPUT FROM THE CRUISING COMMUNITY CONCERNING THIS POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS SITUATION! If you have cruised the St. Andrew Sound section of the AICW within the last 4 months, PLEASE e-mail me directly at, or click the “Comment on This Posting/Marina/Anchorage/Bridge” link below!
With that being said, 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. 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!
OK, AGAIN, we need to more input on this situation. PLEASE let us hear from you! The SSECN is declaring a Navigational Alert for these waters!

Update as of 12/2013

We had a wild ride southbound through the Sound on November 30, 2013 in our 26 foot Glacier Bay cat. Conditions were a lot rougher than I anticipated, and visibility got bad due to spray and the occasional breaking wave over the bow. We shaved marker 32 close on the western side, and had 10 foot depths that dropped very quickly to 35-40 feet almost immediately after we passed the marker. There were solid breaking waves on the big shoal to the east of the marker at the time, so I suspect it was close on to low tide.
Jonathan Gorham
M/V Top Cat

Earlier Contributions:

I came through traveling north on 10/13/2013 at mid-tide following the Magenta Line as usual. No problem. Saw 60′ between Stm 690 and R32 dropping to 16′ just past R32.
James H. Newsome
Contributing Writer – Southwinds Magazine
s/v Roma – Coastal Cruising With Hugh & Suze

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.
John Kettlewell

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?
John Kettlewell

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

All Sailors
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
S/V Carolina

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
M/V Rachel

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)

Jim Reed's tracks

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.
Jim Reed

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

December 18, 2013. Note the Local Advice!
Passed 32 today. Steered a course from 31 to 32 heading south and passed about 100 ft on the wrong side of 32. Minimum depth at 32 was 15.8 ft. With tide at 6.1 ft over mlw. Locals at marina also advised passing on the wrong side.
Terry, Orient Moon

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