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  #1  
Old 05-21-2012
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ICW - Bypass Georgia?

I'm heading down the ICW this October for the first time in a sailboat--a Morgan 33 Out Island that draws just 4-feet. It has a full keel, and powered with a 30-HP Universal Atomic-4 gasoline engine that seems to be in excellent condition.

I talked with a few folks that said the Georgia segment of the ICW is a disaster and running hard aground is commonplace. Much of this they said was due to lack of maintenance by the Army Corps of Engineers.

More than likely, I'll be single-handing the entire voyage, and if I head offshore at Charleston and come back inside at Fernandina Beach, FL, that translates to about 24 to 30 hours with no sleep at all. Guess that would have been OK when I was 30 years old, but at 72 years of age it may be somewhat difficult to stay awake that long.

So, for those of you that have made the trip recently, is the Georgia segment of the ICW as bad as some described, or can it be safely navigated?

Thanks in advance,

Gary
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Old 05-21-2012
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Re: ICW - Bypass Georgia?

We have traveled the ICW, let's see, 11 times. Once, we went around Georgia. The folks who run aground simply aren't staying in the middle. I'll admit, that can be tricky. You have to pretend that your boat is about 200 feet long - like a barge with a tug. When you come to a mark, you do NOT immediately turn. You start a long gradual turn. Just like a tug / barge. It works. It really does. Barges do it and they draw a lot more than most of us. A boat drawing more than six feet can still do it, but has to be extra careful. We seldom see less than 7 feet.

Boats which have run aground will insist that they were 'right in the MIDDLE of the channel.' I always ask them, "So, were other boats passing you?" "Um, well, yes, I guess." is the usual response. "So, then, who was in the middle of the channel?"

We draw about 4 1/2 feet. (Also a Morgan Out Island.) We set our depth alarm at 6 feet. The rule is, on our boat, when the alarm goes off, the throttle goes to neutral. And we start looking for more water. If we do run aground, it's only a gentle bump and we can back right off.

Single handing off shore for the 24 or so hours can be done. But then you pull in and drop anchor and spend a day or more recuperating (while everyone on the inside catches up to you.) Not that outside is so bad - but, of course, you have to watch the weather, and you have to watch out for fishing fleets. You can gain some time by traveling off shore far enough, when heading north, to catch the stream - but the time you gain you lose heading out that far and back in that far. Unless you use the stream to go even farther - like Beaufort, NC. But that's a long way to single hand, and no prudent sailor would travel without a deck watch.

There is a lot of controversy about inside / outside around Georgia. You have to be extra careful where you anchor in Georgia because of their 8 or 9 foot tides. If your timing is good (read: lucky) the currents will be with you and you'll make good time on the inside. But just as often, you won't. We like the scenery - but it tends to get a little monotonous compared with most of the rest of the ICW. And sometimes the sounds can get a little bouncy.

I'd sum up by saying, if you're in a hurry, and can stay up the 24 hours and get going soon after you come back inside, then outside is the way to go. If you aren't in a hurry, and like to sleep every night, and don't mind tending the helm pretty much constantly, then inside is your best bet.

Either way, I'd never do it without my Saltwater Suzi helping. Cause, when ya gotta poop, ya gotta poop.
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Old 05-21-2012
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Re: ICW - Bypass Georgia?

I would definetly go outside from Charleston to St Mary's. About 135nm versus 220nm on the inside. 24hrs. versus 4 days. Went through Georgia on the inside for the first time last year, nice scenery, terrible currents, and the constant winding makes it hard to sail this stretch. I would also pass SC on the outside. (Southport- Charleston 24hrs, or Morehead City- Charleston 44 hrs.).
You will find about an 8 ft tide in Georgia, but I did not have any problems with shallow water, even at low tide.
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Old 05-21-2012
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Re: ICW - Bypass Georgia?

I travel through Georgia on the ICW anytime the outside weather prevents an offshore passage.
Some 'rules' I follow ... 'tide plan' your travel through the 'tricky places' before the crest of the high tide (on rising water); DO NOT 'slave-follow' the magenta line on a chartplotter ... use your eyeballs on the depth sounder and daymarks and take it easy - especially in the waters near the north side of Jekyll Island, etc. - the channel is 'wandering' but there is sufficient water if you follow your depthsounder (Im over 6ft. deep) ---- FOLLOW YOUR DEPTHSOUNDER, not the 'magenta line' !!!!!!!!
Take it slow so in case you do get stuck you can 'back off'. Follow the commercials/barges when possible as they usually know where the channel has shifted 'today'.

"Skipper Bob" publications and the Waterway Guide websites have the most recent ICW updates of shoaling and 'thin' and how to 'get around them'. Check daily when in GA and lower SC and far N. FLA.
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Old 05-21-2012
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Re: ICW - Bypass Georgia?

We draw 5 feet and go "inside" thru Georgia southbound in the autumn, when the days are short and the nights are long, cold, and dark. You can get through anywhere if you pay attention to the tides and your depthsounder. There are three shoal areas that we call the "controlling" spots that you really must pass on half-tide rising or better: Little Mud River (mile 653-654); Buttermilk Sound (mile 662-664); and Jekyll Creek (mile 681-686). The rest is pretty much okay, just watch the currents and watch what's around you instead of the magenta line. If you time your travel to pass those three on the tides, you have a pretty trip and sleep well each night.

Although, I must admit, we generally go "outside" and bypass Georgia going north in the spring, when the days are longer.
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Old 05-21-2012
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Re: ICW - Bypass Georgia?

Totally agree with Larry and Suzi, if you run hard aground, you weren't paying attention.

Oh, and we use cruisersnet.net for up-to-date info.
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Smile Re: ICW - Bypass Georgia?

Try going to this URL. It will give you a good idea of where the worst sections of the Georgia AICW are located, and how bad they really are.

Hope this helps!

Cruiser's Net » GA AICW Problems
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Re: ICW - Bypass Georgia?

I've done several overnighters singlehanded. The method I used worked well for me.
Once I would clear the inlet, and get into deeper water, I would set a course, and then start taking short naps, 10-15min, every hour or so. I found that I could stay alert for 30 hours, and not be a zombie when I arrived.
I remember one trip from Brunswick,GA to Cape Canavarel, thru the barge canal, to the ICW, then south to Cocoa. Went out to dinner, then got back to the boat, and slept 10 hours. Awake about 38hours. I was about 70 at the time. I'm now 74. Maybe this method would work for you.
Marc
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Old 05-21-2012
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Re: ICW - Bypass Georgia?

Thanks everyone - great information and I just printed the thread out for future reference.

Cheers,

Gary
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Old 05-21-2012
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Re: ICW - Bypass Georgia?

If you go outside, I would go from Hilton Head to St Augustine. I've done that a number of times, and like gershel, I cat-nap.
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