Currents, Tides, Sounds and Shallows – Timing the Risks and Catching the Beauty of Georgia
Last Friday, almost a week ago, we thought we were leaving South Carolina behind us and starting our journey through Georgia. Our intentions were there but the weather gods had different plans for us. We arrived in Hilton Head, South Carolina on the Wednesday just before American Thanksgiving. Our plan was to stay just a few days at a dock to get water and diesel, to pump out our waste tanks and, yes, to get some laundry done. But, no, rain and wind kept us tied to the dock for several more days. We made the most of our time though. How? We finally installed our watermaker! Or, to be more accurate, all the hardware pieces of the watermaker are now installed, and the plumbing will follow in short order, once we can get a few parts from a hardware store. We won’t need to use the watermaker until the Bahamas so we still have a few weeks to finalize the set up but we are very happy with it all so far. It is a pretty slick install, if we do say so ourselves 😉.
We left Hilton Head on Monday and have been moving through Georgia every day since. This part of the ICW has been a wonderful surprise. Yes, we have to time our travels around the winds, tides and currents but the beauty of Georgia makes it all worthwhile. Throughout coastal Georgia are tidal salt marshes. Hectares upon hectares of golden-brown grasses that use the twice a day flooding tides to create a sustainable environment for blue crabs, oysters, shrimp and other fish. Certainly, the pelicans and other shorebirds appreciate it. It is common to see them plunge into the water and come up with a seafood snack. The other regular visitors around our boat are those playful dolphins. Not sure why they love to hang out with sailboats but we are really happy about it. Other than our coastal birds and mammals, most days it is just our pod of three sailboats, winding our way through the marsh. Occasionally we see another boat, but not often. There are also a few towns but they are not the norm. It is a quiet, calm and beautiful journey most days. We try to travel about 40 nautical miles a day and end with an anchorage that has some wind protection plus shore access for Ocean.
And each anchorage always seems to offer something unique. Since we have Ocean, we always go ashore to explore a bit. Sometimes that means a dinghy dock and a park, other times it is a beach that is perfect at low tide and almost disappears at high tide. Oh, those Georgia tides! They can be as much as 3 metres (9 feet) at high tide and as little as 1.3 metres (4 feet) at low tide. You can see how using the tides to our advantage has been an important part of not going aground. So far, so good! The currents in Georgia also run pretty strong. Since we sailed for many years in the Thousand Islands, and up the St. Lawrence, we have lots of experience with currents. Lovely 1, 2, maybe 3 knot currents. And that is about what we had encountered so far on this journey. Until Georgia. The current here can run 4 and 5 knots regularly. Depending on the timing, the current can stall us or make us zoom along. The other thing that stalls us are the Sounds. Huh? No, I don’t mean noise. I am referring to those little waterways that connect the ICW to the Ocean. Throughout Georgia, our ICW route passes through many of these Sounds so timing our crossing is important. The wind and current in these Sounds can be substantial!
Turning the calendar page to December, we are just about finished our journey through Georgia. We will be in Florida by the weekend and, if the weather cooperates, we should be in Miami before Christmas and planning our crossing over to Bimini in the Bahamas. We are currently at mile marker 677 so we just have a little over 400 more nautical miles on the ICW. But that is looking forward. Right now, we send a big thank you to coastal Georgia for its beauty and challenges. 😊
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Victoria is a hiker, dog-lover, blog writer and planner extraordinaire. Oh, yeah and she is kind of fond of living on a boat.