A fabulous sunrise start, befuddling nav challenges, a brief keel plow through the mud and bluebird weather. Jacksonville Beach to Amelia Island, FL was a never-a-dull-moment day.
Day 160, March 22, 2019
I got up early, pre-sunrise, to go for a run. I wasn’t certain what to expect since there isn’t anywhere to go except the wide and busy route 90 which is the main drag between Jacksonville and Jacksonville Beach. I knew it had safe wide sidewalks and pedestrian lights, so off I went, headed east towards the beach.
It turned into a very nice run. Urban and not very pretty, but the weather was cool and clear and the sunrise was spectacular. After getting my heart rate up climbing the bridge over the waterway I ran straight east on 90 all the way to the ocean. Gorgeous. The kind of day that really makes getting up before dawn worth the effort. The run was flat and fast, and the bridge over the ICW gave me two climbs to get the lungs working — and some great views. It was a #whyirun kind of morning.
Back at the boat Palm Cove Marina I made breakfast for the crew, walked the dogs, and then Bruce and I made another trek to Publix (you can never have too much food) while our diver Ryan scrubbed the bottom. By the time we were organized to leave it was 11:30. Off we went to find more adventure.
As on our southbound trip, Pablo Creek provided challenges. Although we had a few breathless moments, this time we managed to find the appropriate route and kept the keel out of the mud. We crossed the St. John’s River and happily entered the serenity of Sisters Creek.
Sisters Creek is a lovely ride through remote marshland, around Fort George Island, the Fort George Island Cultural State Park, and the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. It is miles and miles of lovely territory, made even more beautiful by the crisp, brisk northerly and bright sunshine.
We stayed out of trouble through much of Sawpit Creek, but came upon a dredging operation near Gunnison Crossing. The dredge was mid-stream, effectively blocking passage, and appeared to be moving all the equipment. We couldn’t see any shapes flying to tell us where to go. We tried repeatedly to raise them on the radio, and waited patiently, backing into the tidal flow.
I’ll spare the details, but eventually someone appeared on the barge and tried to give us directions by incomprehensibly waving arms all over the place and yelling. We couldn’t make much of it out, but did our best. Lots more jumping and yelling and incomprehensible nonsense, and a transmission on the radio that was incoherent. And we started to plow through mud.
We made it through, but the whole episode was totally uncalled for. As we proceeded out of Sawpit Creek and across Nassau Sound, we heard a sailboat hailing the dredge operation on the VHF. The sequence was similar to ours: no response for quite a while, then some instruction that made no sense (we had just passed through — we knew it made no sense), then the predictable hail from the sailboat that they were firm aground.
These dredge operations can be very user-friendly, or they can be a nightmare. This one was a nightmare. Eventually a TowBoat rescued the sailboat and got him under way again. No excuse.
We pushed our way up the shallow and winding and shoaling South Amelia River, and made our way into the Amelia Island Marina. This was one of our few options, as the municipal facility at Fernandina was still under reconstruction and offered no facilities. Twice now we have not had good luck at the Amelia Island Marina. The staff was nice enough, the the right hand never knew what the left hand was doing, and we were given conflicting slip instructions by three differnent people, all while three of us were in a holding pattern trying to figure out what to do. We don’t care if we never go back. The live aboard situation is unpleasant, the restaurant was closed and out of business, and the grounds were shabby. Disappointing.
We did enjoy a delicious rack of lamb on the grill, but the bugs kept us inside. We had an early night and got ready for an early start the next morning.