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archimedes 08-24-2018 11:13 PM

St Marys inlet
I've been day sailing my 19 foot Mariner in the Cumberland Sound (GA, FL line east coast) for a couple of months. There's not much area to move around as the waterway is pretty narrow and shallow and the currents are very strong, making it not the best conditions for my little boat.

I was thinking of getting a bigger keel boat (25') with a 4' draft and venturing out into the Atlantic through the St Marys inlet. I've only been through that inlet once on a 27' keel boat during my ASA103 course. It seemed pretty benign at the time - is that normal or an anomaly?

I'll be single handing most of the time. I don't really know whether having to go through that inlet whenever I want to go sailing is a practicable or not based on the normal conditions there (I know some FL inlets can be quite precarious). I don't know many sailors in this area so I don't have anyone local to ask.

Can anyone with knowledge of this area give me some advice?


bristol299bob 08-25-2018 01:00 AM

Re: St Marys inlet
Full disclosure, although I've transited a number of inlets up and down the coast, I've never transited St Mary's inlet. So these are just my thoughts and worth roughly what you are paying for it :-) (perhaps less?)

I took a look at the inlet on active captain:

To me it looks to me like it *can* get nasty when current is against wind. And that curve in the inlet suggests that the current will set such that you will tend to drift towards one jetty or the other.

Here is some of of what Active Captain has to say about the inlet:

The mean range of tide is 5.8 feet at the entrance and 6 feet at Fernandina Beach. The tidal currents at the entrance have considerable velocity and are dangerous at times, especially on the flood which generally sets northwestward and on the ebb which sets southeastward except during northeast winds when there is a strong southerly set off the end of the jetties on both tides. It has been reported that this set sometimes attains a velocity exceeding 5 knots. Maximum current velocities are reported to be 2.0 to 3.9 knots in St. Marys Entrance and 1.0 to 2.5 knots in the Cumberland Sound channel.

Those are some pretty strong currents. Based on what I have seen at other inlets I'd suspect that currents like that can set up some impressive (and possibly dangerous) conditions at times.

btw a great resource is the Inlet Chartbook:

I dont think any of this is a deal breaker but I would treat that inlet with a lot of respect and pay close attention to the wind and current on the days you choose to transit. As you approach take some time to read the inlet. Use extra care when returning from sea since you will be observing the backs of the waves making it a little harder to get a good read on the sea state in the inlet from that position.

I think its good practice to require everyone on board to wear a life vest and be clipped in during the transit of the inlet.
You will be solo so surely you have that covered.

and since you are considering a bigger boat, I'd suggest that you rule out boats with an outboard. An outboard can pop out of the water in the very sharp, steep waves that can set up in an inlet. you will want an inboard that will put all the power you have to use.

be careful, sensible and pay careful attention and you will be fine.

archimedes 08-25-2018 11:28 AM

Re: St Marys inlet
I've been living here for a while and have always wondered why there a very few active sailors around here. I think I'm beginning to understand why now.

Don L 08-25-2018 11:36 AM

Re: St Marys inlet
I've gone in/out of St Mary's many times. It's a good wide easy to transient channel. But just like all east coast entrances be aware that if the tide is going out and the wind blowing in hard it's going to be nasty.

And like already said the current there is pretty high and needs to be considered at all times.

travlin-easy 08-25-2018 12:10 PM

Re: St Marys inlet
I've been through Saint Mary's Inlet on three occasions - piece of cake compared to most. The inlet is wide, the current was never really bad and I had no trouble at all. I spent a night anchored up just across from the inlet near a large sand bar, which was a big bumpy with a 25 MPH wind from the NW, and the holding was not very good, requiring 2 anchors. I guess the inlet could get nasty with a strong easterly wind and strong ebb tide, but they all get that way.


hpeer 08-25-2018 04:45 PM

Re: St Marys inlet
Isnít this the inlet between GA and FL? Big huge jetties because boomer subs use it to access their base? Been through that one twice.

aa3jy 08-25-2018 05:47 PM

56 Attachment(s)

Originally Posted by hpeer (Post 2051548300)
Isn’t this the inlet between GA and FL? Big huge jetties because boomer subs use it to access their base? Been through that one twice.

Yes...and I wouldn't advise anyone unless one has the most current info (not 50 year old memories) on St.Marys Inlet as it was hit heavily in last years hurricane and the marina's in St. Mary's suffered considerable damage...

Don L 08-25-2018 08:38 PM

Re: St Marys inlet
Nothing about the inlet has changed the past 2 years. Just the docks at Fernadina Beach and St Maryís

cdy 08-26-2018 12:30 PM

Re: St Marys inlet
Have single handed several times in and out of the inlet - much better than St Augustine's inlet, my only warning would be - if transiting with some chop - any sailboat with a outboard will at times have an issues with the prop coming out of the water, if going against the current and/or tide - could be a problem - I have come into the inlet - with a C&C24 ( Outboard) , Freedom 28 and a Cal 36 - never had an issue - while there is a lot of water inside the inlet - there are lots of shallows and pretty big tides - one reason you don't see a lot of bigger keel boats out for a day sail

archimedes 08-26-2018 11:20 PM

Re: St Marys inlet
Well, a 25 footer with an outboard on a motor mount might not be best suited for this sailing area then. Don't think I'm going to feel comfortable trying to tackle that inlet with the outboard popping out of the water. Bummer.

I walk along the inlet fairly frequently and, at least from what I can see from land, it usually seems quite benign. But of course I can't see all the way out to the end of the jetties where it might be quite different.

I know sometimes when I'm sailing near the inlet that the current is so strong that I have a negative ground speed. A little disconcerting to be flying through the water leaving a substantial wake, but looking over at land and see that you are actually moving backwards.

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