After everything that had happened the day before Friday started out with a wonderful sunrise on the St Johns. Standing on the deck of my new boat watching the sun come up over a river that’s smooth as glass was energizing and filled me with a sense of “right”.
Being from the West Coast I’m always in awe of the size and breadth of rivers in the North Florida area. St Johns is just such a river.
I left the Green Cove Springs area at around 6:30 am. Most of the more modern sailboats I’ve sailed on the west coast they usually motor at 7 knots or so. I was doing 4- 5 knots (as per the GPS on my phone as the knot meter didn’t seem to be working) motoring along.
On a weekday there is very little traffic on this portion of the St Johns River. I only saw one commercial vessel and 3 power boats between Green Cove Springs and downtown Jacksonville.
I arrived at downtown Jacksonville around 11 am. As I hadn’t brought enough water and was still feeling dehydrated from the day before I docked at Jacksonville Landings. These are free docks (max stay is 72 hours, first come first serve) downtown along their touristy riverwalk area. Popped into a 7/11 and bought a bunch of water, then a lunch at Cinco de Mayo. Not bad but not to the level of Mexican food I’m used to… it’s hard to find good Mexican food in Jacksonville.
The next step in the trip down the river was crossing below the Main Street Bridge. I was a little intimidated by what was to come as I’d never dealt with bridges having sailed mostly on the west coast. I called up the Main Street Bridge tender and they had me stage in front of the bridge. After all the rookie and stupid mistakes of the day before I felt really good as I stationed Panali in front of the bridge and held it motionlessly in the current as I waited for the bridge to rise. A painless and simple process that I had over-stressed about for no reason.
The rest of the trip down the St Johns was just a nice stroll in the park. It’s not a straight shot from Jacksonville to the ICW and the ocean. You meander down the river bouncing back and forth between nature and industrial docks. I was accompanied on my trip by dolphins (so hot out even they were swimming slowly) and a freight ship from Switzerland. All along this portion of the St Johns there are little coves and anchorages that I’ll be sure to come out later to enjoy. I even found a little bay where all the pelicans hang out.
My trip was uneventful down the ICW (Intracostal Waterway, which is basically a water path down the entire East Coast just a mile or two inside the beaches) until I got to Atlantic Blvd Bridge. Hubris. I should have that on a sticky note stuck to my forehead. As soon as the thought “Hey, this is the last bridge, I’m almost there” crossed my mind the boat came to a sudden stop. I was aground. I had “straightened” out the curve in the ICW just a little as I approached the bridge and was too close to shore. I could rock back and forth and was actually able to turn the bow about 20 degrees towards mid channel. It looked like I was stuck waiting for the tide to come in so I could get off this mud bar. Luckily a barge came by and the guys dragged me off. The last few miles to Palani’s new home (Beach Marina) was spent staring at the depth gauge and being paranoid but we arrived without further issue.