And, you are correct, we are home, not on the river. But, I never have enough time to write about this river while we are there.
The St Johns River is the longest river in the state of Florida at 310 miles or 500 km. At it widest point, the river is 3 miles wide. From Palatka to Jacksonville, the river is used extensively for commercial shipping as well as the usual recreation activities.
The downtown area of the city of Jacksonville is 35 miles from the mouth at the Atlantic Ocean. There has been major waterfront redevelopment in this area, with free dockage downtown, along with park lands, walking trails, restaurants and shopping areas. Also right near the water, with free dockage, is the stadium, EverBank Field, where you might see football games or open-air concerts.
As you approach the downtown area, the aroma of freshly roasted coffee wafts through the air from the Maxwell House Coffee factory nearby. The Main Street bridge is a lift bridge but opens on demand. It is very deceiving as, for pleasure boats, it only has to lift halfway. The total lift is for ocean-going vessels. The current can be very swift through the downtown area, so when transiting a bridge or trying to dock at one of the free piers, be aware of the water’s motion. The Florida East Coast railroad operate a bascule bridge just beyond Main Street bridge. This bridge is usually open but, if closed, be very cautious in this area. The current seems to rip through here and boaters have found themselves in trouble quickly.
In fact, when traveling this river, it is much more efficient to use the current to your advantage. Otherwise, you may find your speed reduced by several knots as you try to fight against the water’s flow. Slower vessels often anchor and await the tides turn, before proceeding.
This spring, we exited the ICW and turned into the ebbing current, fighting the stream. But, we only had a few miles to travel to our planned stop for the night. And, on that short journey, we met 5 very large ships! This river can be extremely busy, with ships, tugs and pleasure vessels. Our anchorage is not far from the Navy yard and patrols make sure that we don’t venture too close to their restricted areas.
The next morning, we caught the flowing tide and headed quickly on up the river towards our destination at Green Cove Springs. The current is much reduced by this time but is still enough to cause docking to be tricky. Thank goodness, the dockhands at Reynolds Yacht Centre are very efficient and well trained!
The Shands Bridge prevents our travels further upstream but reports from other boaters have been very favourable. They found many anchorages and lots of wildlife to keep them interested. Skipper Bob has a guidebook listing the anchorages, marinas and towns along with services available at each.
Enjoy this river!
Heather & Murray