Please Note That Postings Below From Fellow Cruisers Are Listed in Chronological Order, Based on Publication Date
Yellow Background Denotes Navigation Alert Postings
Please Note That Postings Below From Fellow Cruisers Are Listed in Chronological Order, Based on Publication Date
Yellow Background Denotes Navigation Alert Postings
The Main Street Bridge has a vertical clearance of 38ft (charted at 40ft), but recent reconstruction has often reduced that clearance to as little as 28ft. If you intend to pass under the bridge on the morning of April 4, then contact the Bridge Tender at 904-891-2191 to confirm your clearance.
FLORIDA – ST JOHNS RIVER – MAIN STREET BRIDGE – JACKSONVILLE: Bridge Closure.
The Main Street Bridge across the St Johns River, Jacksonville, Florida will be closed to navigation from 8:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on April 4, 2015 for an event. Vessels that may pass through the bridge without an opening may do so at any time. Chart: 11491 LNM: 08/15
Skipper Sonny Reeves is exploring the St. Johns River and, while we normally excerpt his marina reports as posted on his blog, this one is just too complete to edit, so open the link below and enjoy. Boathouse Marina overlooks the shores of the St. Johns River west-southwest of Palatka City Marina and marker #1. Cruisers docking here are within walking easy distance of the shops and restaurants in downtown Palatka.
From January 23, 2015:
Huckins Boat Yard is located on the northern shores of the Ortega River off the St. Johns River, just upstream of the Roosevelt Boulevard Bridge with a 45ft vertical clearance. Skipper Reeves joins other skippers in praising Huckins Boat Yard. See http://cruisersnet.net/?p=128570
I can’t say enough about how nice the experience at Huckins was for us.
If you are a charter boat or know someone who does captained charters, let us hear from you. We have to assume that Ms Olsen is referring to the St. Johns River as “north central Florida.”
We are looking for a 3 or 4 nite trip in the waterways of north central Florida.
There would be 2 coupels who would like to entertain the idea of a captain with sleeping quarters for us and stops and picturesque towns for food and exploration.
Can you give us some ideas of how to arrange such a trip?
Our thanks to our good friend, David Burnham, for sending in this item from the Palatka Daily News. This reopening is certainly good news for all our trailering compadres. The new launch ramps are part of a waterfront development project begun earlier this year.See link below. The ramps are a feature of Riverfront Park just southwest of the Hwy 17 Bridge.
Palatka, FL has reopened the City Dock Launch Ramps in time for the Christmas Holidays. Although the new restroom facilities have yet to be built, the four new launch ramps with floating docks next to the Palatka City Dock are now available for use. The new landscaping and picnic areas look attractive and are similar to the overall waterfront improvement proposal.
The new signs say that mooring for more than 48 hours at the dock requires prior approval by the City if you call (386)329-0100. The older signs still say that the Dock facilities close at 9PM and reopen at 5AM which implies that overnight docking is not permitted. So it is a good idea to call ahead as usage policies may be flexible as construction and improvements continue.
Murphy Island is on the south shore of the St. Johns River, south of Palatka. In addition to the free dock described by Skipper Gorham, there are two recommended anchorages in Murphy Creek (see links below). For more on Murphy Island, go to: http://www.sjrwmd.com/recreationguide/murphycreek/
Free dock stopover on the St. John’s River at Murphy Island
We came upon a nice little stopover on our recent river cruise. On the river between Dunns Creek and the railroad bridge at Buffalo Bluff, the St John’s River Water Management District has built a nice little floating dock that allows access to Murphy Island and its picnic area and several miles of nature trails. The dock is right next to marker 22 at 29 degrees 35.756′ N by 081 Degrees 39.292′W. There is very deep water on the approach and about 6 feet along the 40 foot long floating face dock. We found it a nice quiet spot to overnight, and it is also a very quick and easy stop for both human and canine crew to stretch their legs for a bit on the trails.
Maybe it is all the “gunk-holing” we used to do in the Chesapeake or the river-running we did in coastal Georgia, but this is the kind of boating adventure my family loves. And as Skipper Gorham attests, unmarked waterways like Dunns Creek are often very beautiful and just require slow travel and a sharp lookout. Good for you Skipper Gorham! Dunns Creek exits the St. Johns southward between Murphy and Rat Islands, south of Palatka.
A St. Johns side trip down Dunns Creek to Crescent Lake
Crescent Lake is the third largest Lake in Florida, and is connected to the St. Johns River by Dunns Creek. It doesn’t get many visits from cruising size craft, probably because Dunns Creek is a bit intimidating, but we recently took an overnight trip to the charming town of Crescent City, and it was worth the trip.
Dunns Creek joins the St. Johns near marker 16 upstream of Palatka and winds for about 5 miles through beautiful hardwood swamp to the north end of Crescent Lake. Most of the creek is quite deep at 20 to 40 feet, but there are no navaids, and in places the depth rises very sharply to shallow sandbars that you cannot see due to the tannin stained water, which can cause a little anxiety. By favoring the outside of the creek bends and paying attention to the very accurate bathymetry on our Navionics chart chip, we never saw less than 6 feet. There is a broad shallow area at the north end of the lake, but we also never saw less than 6 feet crossing that.
Once in Crescent Lake, there is a uniform depth of 10-12 feet all the way to Crescent City. At 29 degrees 25.822′N by 081 degrees 30.338′ W, there is a public ramp and landing with about 6 feet of water and a 50 foot face dock. Also here is the restaurant 3 Bananas, which has docking for dinghies and small craft. We had a fine dinner there and were allowed to overnight on their dock. Just offshore within dinghy distance to the docks is Bear Island, which has 7-10 feet of water 360 degrees around the island and good holding in sandy mud for an overnight anchorage.
The town of Crescent City is very pleasant to walk around, with huge live oaks and a lot of antique stores. Also don’t miss the 600 year old white cypress right behind 3 Bananas – it is one of the largest and oldest trees of its kind in Florida.
Our thanks to Michael Lieberum and Chuck Baier and Susan Landry for sending these updates on this 9/16 report by Francesca Amiker of the New4Jax team. This Florida East Coast RR bridge has been the poster child for all that can go wrong with lift bridges. Local Jacksonville boaters and businesses are not happy!! With a closed vertical clearance of ONLY 5ft, the Florida East Coast Railway Bridge crosses the St. Johns immediately west of the Acosta Bridge in downtown Jacksonville. Until someone designs a high-rise, 65ft clearance bridge for railways, we must live with mechanical breakdowns. For more on this issue in south Florida and “All Aboard Florida” railways, see: http://cruisersnet.net/?p=136159
9/25/2014 Latest from 7th District Bridge Management:
Well Good Morning Larry,
It is going to be awhile longer, they are trying to continue the repairs while operating the bridge and it is going slowly.
Seventh Coast Guard District
Bridge Management Specialist
Larry, The bridge is now opening on a limited schedule for the next week to 10 days. They have not said what the limited schedule is. Of course there is no assurance it won’t break down again.
Railway bridge over St. Johns River stuck in down position
Marine businesses say they’re losing thousands because of malfunction
Author: Francesca Amiker, Reporter, email@example.com
The railroad bridge near the Acosta Bridge has been down since last Wednesday.
A spokesperson for FEC Railway said the issue is a mechanical problem with a gear on the track that is preventing the bridge from being raised. The spokesperson said crews are working on the problem and should be finished by Friday. Rail service has not been affected, but marine services have.
For the full story, go to:
Only a mile or so upstream from downtown Jacksonville, Ortega Landing is the first facility on your starboard as you enter the Ortega River from the St. Johns. These words of praise come from our friends on the AGLCA Forum.
Our boat is currently in Jacksonville at the Marina at Ortega Landing while we take care of personal business back home in Atlanta. In my humble opinion, it is impossible to beat Ortega Landing as a great place to stay in
Jacksonville. The marina itself is superb and superior to many Yacht Clubs in both amenities and their social calendar. The Wi-Fi on the docks is fed by fiber optic and is just about as fast as my home Wi-Fi. It is hands down
the fastest Wi-Fi I have ever experienced in a marina. Our insurance (Boat US) recognizes this marina as a hurricane hole which saves us a bunch of money on insurance.
Jim King Park is the newest of Jacksonville’s dock/boat ramps and is still undergoing construction of some phases. The ramp is used as headquarters for the Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament, and is closed to the public during the tournament. The facility is located just north of the intersection of the St. Johns River and the Waterway. All of the facilities are new and the docks are listed as unlimited as to size of vessel. Skipper Reeves sends two good photos of the new floating docks. Sisters Creek bascule bridge has a 24ft closed vertical clearance.
For a listing of the facilities, go to:
It’s a 13 mile cruise up the St. Johns River from the AICW to the Jacksonville waterfront, where mariners will discover Jacksonville Landing, on the north side of the St. Johns, midway between the Main Street Bridge and the Acosta Bridge. This complex is a downtown shopping mall/food court with a stage area for special events and concerts, featuring its own dock for visiting pleasure craft.
Skipper Burnhams’ experience with the Main St Bridge illustrates the navigation headaches that Jacksonville boaters have suffered the past year. For a recent posting on the Main Street Bridge, go to http://cruisersnet.net/?p=140564
Additional info: At the Jacksonville Landing the “No Wake Zone” is often ignored and smaller cruisers can be rocking the night away. If overnighting at Jacksonville consider the more comfortable floating berth at the Metropolitan Park Marina. Also there is a free “light rail” Central station just north of the Jacksonville Landing that will give to a ride every 30 minutes over to the south shore where you can visit the MOSI museum and fall asleep for a short nap in the comfort of the planetarium…:D
A note about the Main Street Bridge: It was recently under repair with 2-4 hour reservations required for openings. I called 904-891-2191 at 0345 on Sunday morning and was given an 8am reservation at the bridge…maybe she thought it was a hoax because when I called the bridge tender on Channel 9 at 7am to let them know I was tied up at the Jacksonville Landing, HE told me that as no one was working on the bridge on Sunday that he was opening the Main Street Bridge on demand, of course!
Mill Cove is east of Jacksonville, 4 nautical miles upstream (west) of the point where the Waterway crosses the St. Johns and lies on the south side of the main shipping channel. This anchorage should not be confused with Mill Cove in Doctor Lake south of Jacksonville.
Anchored here last month and again last night in our 54′ motor yacht with 4.5′ draft. We found a spot about 200 yards back from the entrance near the charted 14′ area on the west side. Holding was good in 10-15K winds and one 180 degree tidal swing. Not much small boat traffic or waking from the main river channel, but still pretty exposed. Fun watching the container ships loading/unloading across the river. Could easily accommodate vessels to 60 feet. Anchor came up clean as a whistle in the morning.
Here is something to make your next off-shore trek even more exciting. If you happen to “stumble upon” these sculptures, take a photo and send it to us! Although this Local Notice dos not give a current lat/lon, the position of the drifting dice can be monitored on Facebook.
ATLANTIC COAST – TRIANGLE FORMED BETWEEN THE CANARY ISLANDS, PORT D’ESPAGNE VENEZUALA AND JACKSONVILLE FLORIDA: Giant Ocean Dice (AQUADICE)
The US Coast Guard received a report of two adrift independent 8′ x 8′ x 8′ orange cubes. The cubes known as a “floating sculpture” called AQUADICE. AQUADICE will be highly visible at sea. The bodies of the dice will be painted a bright phosphorescent orange with blue pips on each face. In addition each face will have constantly flashing lights visible up to 5 kilometers and with life spans of 2 years. The beacons will provide electronic signals. The voyage of AQUADICE will serve as a feasibility study for unmanned, non-sail; wind powered Trans-Atlantic shipping. This sculpture does not readily present a danger to navigation. Mariners are advised to be on the lookout. For complete information refer to the website http://aquadice.net/AQUA_DICE.html
Green Cove Springs Marina lies on the St. Johns River’s southwestern shores, in the heart of the old Navy Base, upstream of the Green Cove Springs City Dock, between Jacksonville and Palatka.
Someone else mentioned Green Cove Springs. My recommendation there is only if you want to store the boat ashore as their in water slips are not nice at all. They have a ton of boats out of the water there and it is more of a
working yard than a true marina. The facilities there are terrible and transportation from there will be much more difficult. There is very little within walking distance there. This is more of a storage facility or working on the boat out of the water facility. Plus, it is another 20 or 25 miles downriver and there is not much to see in this part of the river.
Dave & Nan Ellen Fuller
The river may not be much, but gorgeous black creek is just north of Green Cove Springs. South of the Shands bridge are Trout Creek and 6 Mile Creek. Not only is there good food at Outback Crab Shack, but if your boat will clear the bridge, you can go a ways up the narrow creek. Dinghy rides up both are recommended from this local resident.
Ortega Landing, the first facility you will encounter upon entering the Ortega River from the St. Johns, only a mile or so upstream from downtown Jacksonville, is indeed a fine facility.
I can VERY highly recommend Ortega Landing Marina off the St. John’s River in the Ortega River just past downtown Jacksonville. This recommendation is based on several factors. First, you are about 20 or so miles inland and that provides a nice
buffer for storms coming off the ocean. Second, our boat insurance (Boat/US)
considers this inland waters as long as we remain upstream of the I-95 bridge in downtown Jacksonville about three miles away. Our insurance is SUBSTANTIALLY less expensive here and was a nice surprise. Third is the marina itself. It is one of the nicest marinas we have stayed in and will rival or beat many Yacht Clubs. They have regular monthly social events – some free- some low cost, but always fun. They have free washers and dryers, deluxe showers, free ice, a nice pool and hot tub, and a terrific clubhouse for gatherings. Security is pretty good as well. The best part is a brand
new Wi-Fi system on the docks. The signals are strong, blazingly fast and good enough for streaming. I have conducted video conferences on this system and watch movies in the slip. The tide here is about a foot and a half and the water brackish, but on the floating concrete docks, tide is not an issue at all. You do get some slime on the bottom of the boat, but little to no hard growth.
Publix and West Marine are about two blocks away and there are several nice restaurants also within walking distance. There are a large number of nice restaurants in every category just a short drive away in Avondale, West End, and Riverside if you have a car.
We chose this marina because of the facilities, the people, and the area. It is about 6 hour drive from our home in Atlanta. If you need to fly somewhere, the Jacksonville airport is about 20 minutes away. The marina can arrange for an Enterprise rental car for you as they have an agreement with Enterprise, but they have no marina car to loan you. You can almost certainly find another boater with a car to take you for errands if you ask around. A very friendly and accommodating group of people here. They do not have fuel or services other than a pumpout, but there are multitudes of mechanics and craftsmen in Jacksonville. If you need a haul out or fuel close by, you can take the boat to the other side of the bridge to Lambs for a haul out.
By the way, we had no ice in the marina last winter in spite of one of the coldest winters on record there. We have an automatic bilge heater to keep things from freezing and leave the cabin heat turned on at 60 degrees. If you take the boat out
of the water, you will need to winterize it, but if you leave it in the water, just drain any water lines above the decks in areas that could freeze (hoses and sinks, etc.) and you will be fine. Be sure to close up the air vents to the bilge and the surrounding water will keep things from freezing.
Dave & Nan Ellen Fuller
The Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net is very pleased and honored to welcome veteran cruiser, Captain Jim Healy, aboard as our first “Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net Contributing Editor.” Many of you know Jim from his participation in MTOA and various on-line nautical forums. Many are the cruisers who have sought Jim’s advice about computers, networking and wi-fi aboard.
It also occurred to the SSECN that Jim is just a really GOOD writer as well. In fact, one of the best we’ve come across in quite some time. So, after some conversation at the recent MTOA Rendezvous in Fernandina Beach, Florida, Jim has joined the SSECN team, and it’s really GREAT to have him aboard.
In his first SSECN article as “Contributing Editor,” Captain Healy guides us from the AICW/St. Johns River intersection upstream to the sprawling city of Jacksonville, and nearby Ortega River with its impressive collection of marinas and repair yards!
Imagine the portion of the St. John’s River – between the ICW crossroads at Sister’s Creek/Pablo Creek and the intersection of the Ortega River southwest of the City of Jacksonville – as shaped like a hockey stick. Imagine the handle oriented mainly east/west and the paddle turned south. Imagine Jacksonville city located at the transition from the handle and the paddle.
This 24-mile stretch of the St. John’s River offers an eclectic mix of vistas which include expansive bridges and overhead power lines, a coal-fired electric generating station that has cooling towers resembling those of a nuclear power plant, large scale military and civilian shipping/seaport infrastructure, large southern mansions, residential neighborhoods with docks lining the shoreline, and undeveloped marshlands. Quite a mix.
Between the AICW crossroads and the City of Jacksonville, virtually all of the commercial seaport infrastructure is on the “north” shoreline. This includes cargo terminals and fuel terminals with docks that extend well into the river. By contrast, the “south” shore has very little large-scale commercial development. Jacksonville city itself occupies both sides of the river. Beyond Jacksonville city, the river turns south, widens and shallows.
The current in the St. John’s can run to 3 knots at ebb, which can be of significant help or hindrance to slow and/or low-power vessels. Navigation of the river can be very easy. Along commercial channels, Sanctuary and crew prefer to operate just outside the shipping channel lateral markers. On the St. John’s, we chose to run the “south” shoreline. That keeps us well away from the various security zones along the commercial “north” shore. However, on the south side, we did encounter numerous crab pots, some in as much as 40’ – 50’ of water.
Concentration and situational awareness are essential. Vessels encountered on the river will include open rowboats, kayaks and canoes, all variety of pleasure craft, large and small cruise liners, very large tows, research, military and commercial cargo vessels. The large Crowley barge tows accommodate 3 levels of tractor-trailer and RR freight car-sized vehicles. These very large barges are managed by multiple towboats, with one tug pulling the barge, via cable, and one or more tugs handling the stern swing of the barge. On AIS, these tows appear as a tight cluster of slow-moving vessels, but they definitely occupy a lot of river.
As might be imagined, there are many law enforcement swift boats from several agencies, including US navy and USCG patrol boats, Customs & Border Protection, Immigration and a plethora of state and local authorities.
On the north shore of the St. John’s, approximately 7 miles east of downtown, is Trout River. This creek offers anchorage and marina options to cruising boats. Just east of downtown, there is a public marina with floating docks, power and water. Dockage is free; power is $8.50/day. The stay limit is 72 hours.
Downtown at Jacksonville Landing, cruisers can tie up to a free wall. This location is a no-wake zone. There are no services, but it’s fine for the self-sufficient cruiser. Local attractions at the location include Chicago Pizza, Hooters and a variety of local eateries.
Just to the west of Jacksonville Landing is the Florida East Coast (FEC) railroad bridge. This bascule bridge is normally open except when a train is approaching. Virtually everyone will need this bridge to be open. There is a lighted sign that tells boaters the approximate wait time. If that time is long, tie up at Jacksonville Landing and “stretch your legs.”
Proceeding southwest through the FEC RR bridge, the St. John’s turns south and the character of the river changes. It’s just a short 2 – 3 mile run to the Ortega River. The Ortega River is reached by turning to the southwest (260°) at approximate position 30°17.35’ N, 081°40.6′ W. There are no obvious landmarks except for a large, square building on the western shoreline. The Ortega is marked red-right-returning, and boats coming from the St. John’s are “returning.” Honor the markers.
The Ortega River boat channel carries 10’ – 12’ and is well marked. There is a road bridge (Ortega River Bridge) that most boaters will need opened. The bridge is not restricted.
Depending upon final destination, there is a CSX/Amtrak railroad bridge that boaters may need opened. The RR bridge is normally opened except when a train is approaching. The RR bridge is an old single-track bridge that carries the classic Amtrak east coast passenger services, like the Silver Meteor, Silver Star and Auto-train. The RR bridge periodically experiences operational problems. Plan accordingly.
There are several large marina and boatyard operations along the Ortega River. Note particularly Lamb’s Yacht Center, which has a 100-ton boat lift and a large, well stocked onsite chandlery. Lamb’s allows liveaboards, and the folks there – staff and residents – are very friendly and helpful.
I would suggest that this area is not truly a “destination” in itself, but if planning to have work done or needing to take cover from nasty weather, it is a good, safe, secure refuge. There is a full-scale shopping center within walking distance. The shopping center boasts a Publix, CVS, UPS Store, West Marine, Belks, and several restaurants. The “Metro restaurant” is especially good for breakfast. “Tom and Betty’s” is great for home cooking at reasonable prices.
There is a large marine consignment operation (“Sailor’s Exchange;” http://www.sailors-exchange.com/) and a large “used book” store operation (“Chamblin’s Book Mine;” http://www.chamblinbookmine.com/default.aspx) in that immediate neighborhood. Bus service is available to downtown Jacksonville. US Rt. 17 is less than 5 minutes from the Ortega River marinas.
That was a nice informative post concerning the Jacksonville and Ortega area. I have a couple of voyage planning tips to add for those of you transiting the downtown Jacksonville area that may save you some fuel, time and engine wear:
As strange as it may seem, slack water does not occur in this area at high or low tide. It can be as much as 2 hours later. So, if you want to transit at slack water or “ride the tide” to save fuel, consult the Tidal Current Tables not the Tide Tables. If not, you may be bucking the current for a while with much frustration.
Also, the Main Street lift bridge in downtown Jax will be under rehab for all of 2014. So, read the weekly USCG Local Notice to Mariners online for updates, restrictions, reduced clearance and Bridge Tender contact info.
Like the headaches related to the FEC RR bridge in downtown Jacksonville, the Main Street bridge will be less than accommodating as it undergoes reconstruction that requires advanced notice for an opening. See http://cruisersnet.net/?p=134950. To make matters worse, the dates and hours that require advanced notice change weekly. A phone call to the tender, 904-891-2191, is still the best way to determine when an opening will be possible. This situation will continue until March of 2015. Skipper Charleston’s frustrations are surely shared by many.
WRONG! I was TOLD this morning that there would be at least a TWO HOUR DELAY after the request is made to open the bridge! The boat behind me requested that the bridge be opened at 10 am today but the bridge tender said she had NO RECORD OF THE REQUEST HE MADE LAST NIGHT SO HE WAS TOLD HE WOULD HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL AT LEAST 2 PM as he arrived at 10 am as he said was scheduled.
I got lucky as a SEATOW worker had scheduled an opening and was tied up at the JAX free dock near the GATOR BOWL (I will never call it any silly bank name, it’s always going to be the GATOR BOWL for me).
IF you have to wait, from the NORTH go to the free GATOR BOWL marina sponsored by the City of JAX. From the south, go to the LANDING and have a beer at Hooters, or BBQ or anything. Arguing will not get the bridge opened as I listened to those who came after me until I arrived at the next bridge between me and sleep at the marina. When Small Craft warnings are issued, it is time to sail! What a great ride this week through the Keys and up past Miami on the East Coast.
Make sure you contact the bridge tender on the phone THAT SHIFT. I heard a boater who had called the day before to schedule an opening and the tender that day had no record of it.
Green Cove Springs Marina lies on the St. Johns River’s southwestern shores, in the heart of the old Navy Base, upstream of the Green Cove Springs City Dock, between Jacksonville and Palatka. The recommendation below comes fom the AGLCA forum./p>
Green Cove Springs Marina, Green Cove Springs, FL is on the St. Johns River south of Jacksonville. Many Canadians and others store their boats during the summer, upon returning from a winter in the Bahama’s. They also have a work yard that allows live-aboard while working on your boat. Not the classiest place you’ve seen, but it serves the purpose. Next door is Reynolds Park Yacht Center and also Holland marine.
King & Sharon Cole
Blue Moon – 38′ Gulfstar
Here are several revealing photos of the free docks (no power or water connections), provided to us by our dear friends, and SSECN strategic partners, Susan Landry and Chuck Baier. As many of you already know, Chuck and Susan are the owners owners of Beach House Publications, publishers of “The Great Book of Anchorages,” (http://www.tgboa.com)! THANKS CHUCK AND SUSAN!
One word of warning – I know from personal experience that it can get surprisingly right at the Jacksonville Lnading dock, so keep an eye on the weather and wind!