An apology is owed to my faithful readers. When last we left you I had promised to tell you the story of our adventure from St. Augustine to Jacksonville and frankly tomorrow never came. It must be that the shock of being on dry land and at home sleeping in our bed that does not move made me forget and leave you all hanging in suspense. So I will endeavour to cure this oversight and bring you all up to date.
We pulled out of old St. Augustine at sunrise on a slack tide and made our way back down the San Sebastian River to the ICW and turned north. This took us past the beautifully restored Lion’s Bridge.
This was originally named the Henry Flagler Memorial Bridge but I suppose old Henry’s star has dimmed and when a former mayor donated a pair of carved lions made of Italian marble from the same quarry where the marble for Michaelangelo’s David was taken, well the city rededicated the bridge as the Lion’s Bridge.
Just past the bridge is a pass to the ocean and current is swift and the pass is presently being dredged by two large dredge barges. All the accompanying tugs and equipment made passage through quite tedious and tricky with the strong incoming tide. But we managed with a few anxious moments to do it and then we had a current pushing us north at a brisk pace.
The ride was mostly uneventful as we eased along through some fairly congested areas. We did see our friend Victor who we met in Vero Beach. His Manta Catamaran was easy to spot as we passed a line of slower moving vessels. We exchanged greetings. When he had left us in Vero waiting on our props I never thought we would see him again.
As we neared the intersection of the ICW and the pass into the St. John’s River from the Atlantic, we could see a giant cargo barge coming in from the ocean. I had heard his announcements on the VHF warning all craft of his approach. This gives boats like us notice to stay clear or get run over as thse things cannot stop in less than a mile. At first I thought we would beat him to the intersection and go ahead of him but it soon became clear that this thing was moving faster than we were. Jan suggested we throttle back and stay in the ICW until he passed. That seemed reasonable but since when have I started being reasonable. So we kept moving and slid right in behind him.
To give you some idea of the size of this thing, first look at the tiny tugboats pushing and pulling it. Now look at the size of one of those tugs as we got close.
As we ran the 21 miles from the ICW to Jacksonville we saw all manner of ships.
A telephone call to our destination revealed a problem awaiting us in downtown Jacksonville. The Main Street vertical lift bridge was broken and had been out for days. Taller boats than ours were stuck on both sides and could not move. However, we were short enough to pass and get into the downtown area. But additionally the FEC RR Bridge was undergoing repairs and was closed from 0800 to 1700 M-F with only one opening at 1200 when the union workers took lunch. We were not going to make the noon opening. This bridge is right down on the water and only a rowboat could pass under if the rower ducked his head. Luckily the area before this bridge is called Jacksonville Landing and has a beautiful waterfront dock with restaurants and shops galore. So we just pulled over and tied up for lunch. There was a Mexican place right behind us and we sat down on the patio for a liesurely meal. Usually our lunch is a sandwich gobbled on the flybridge.
Back on the boat we ran the generator to have AC and began to gather all our items that were going home the next day. Even the birdbath and peacock garden ornament had to be retrieved from the engine room. Soon the salon was filled with things we needed to get rid of when we traveled home.
Around 1600 I noticed the bridge looked to be opening an hour early. I dashed to the radio and called the bridgemaster to inquire if they were opening earlier than expected. He said no it was just a test by the workers. So I asked if they could use a test boat to pass through. He laughed but said he would call the contractor and see what they thought. Soon he was back and said it would only be open a few more minutes and how quick could we be. I replied we were shoving off and coming through. So we became the first boat through the bridge. One other small sailboat heard me on the radio and came through from the opposite direction. That is the difference between the quick and the stuck.
As we passed under the bridge a familiar sight greeted us though we had never seen it from this view. St. Vincent’s Hospital where Dr. Carlos Leon saved my life and put these stents in my heart is right on the river. I had looked down from the solarium onto the river the first day they let me walk down the hall. I never dreamed I might be out here four years later. Life can take funny turns.
A few more miles and we were nearing the entrance to the Ortega River. It is poorly marked and much shallower than the charts indicate. Our marina for the next week was in there. It was very frustrating to see the depth under those reconditioned props go down to 2 feet! Finally we came to a full stop and called another boat that seemed to be working its way in. The boat was a trawler named Alman III and Bill was at the wheel. He said this was skinny water and would get worse as we got closer in. I asked if we could follow him and he agreed but warned us that we would soon think we were running aground but it would then get deeper. Then we would pass through a very narrow bridge opening with stiff current and need to keep moving or be swept into the bridge. He was right and we made it. Here is a picture we made of bill in his dinghy when he came to visit us the next morning. Turns out he is a retired commercial fisherman and his son is still running his fleet out of Galveston, TX.
The Marina at Ortega Landing is a swank place with reasonable rates. Clubhouse, beautiful bathrooms, free laundry(a first) and a block from Publix, restaurants and the flagship of West Marine stores. We had arrived and Cbay would be safe here for a week while we headed home.
They even supplied us a dockbox for our use. Totally nice folks.
Enterprise came and got us and we rented a cute Toyota Corolla for a week. It is actually cheaper to do that than to rent a one way for each leg of the trip. Our first meal on the road was our old reliable in Lake City.
We had actually eaten at this one a couple of years ago while looking for a looper boat.
Upon arival home the house was intact and soon we were reminded of why it was important to come home.
On Saturday we had one of the daughters and her family over for dinner and our true princess, little Miss Margaret, kept four adults very busy.
On Sunday we had lunch with my frshman roomate from UGA who I had not seen in a too many years to count. Hopefully we will stay in better touch with Mike and Donna Adams.
And after lunch we took a chance and called Judge William Todd and lovely Gabriela his wife. They joined us for coffee and dessert and Young William paid! We are packing a lot into every day of this one week home.
Today we began a week of doctor appointments. I never thought when I was eating all that junk and laying on the sofa that I would spend so much of my declining years in doctors’ offices but we all must pay for our sins. I went to Dr. Bandukwala for my regular visit and Jan went to the orthopaedist to check on a shoulder she had injured in November on the boat. Then we both met at the physical therapist to get the instructions on how to get her back to 100%. I will have to be her coach and set up some exercize equipment on the boat. She will not be a cooperative patient. Tomorrow more doctors. We return to Cbay on Friday and I will take a break from blogging until the weekend when we plan to begin our side trip down the St. John’s River. So take a break and come back aboard when we shove off again for more adventures on the high seas.