Florida: Fernandina –Pine Island–St. Augustine

Our trip Friday would take us past Fernandina, a cute Martha’s Vineyard-esque town with an ugly, smelly paper mill next door.  A quick scan of the anchorage and mooring field (we call bumper boat alley) turned up no sign of Celise/Spirit, but we did see a sister MC 41, Double Diamond.
Hi-rise bridges keep us on our toes with more than one gasp of “oh no, we’re going to hit!!” We’d planned the day to have some current with us in the morning but the afternoon was a slow-go as we pushed two engines to barely maintain 5.8kts.

The first scary bridge encounter occurred just south of Fernandina. The entire stretch from Fernandina, FL to the St John’s River (leads to Jacksonville) is new to us- ooohh .. unexplored territory.  Just before the bridge, off to the side is an anchored sailboat. Uh oh- couldn’t fit? Sure enough it’s nearly high tide and to make matters worse, the recent
full moon brings in more water. I hail the boat, because about an hour earlier I hear another boat call “sailing vessel that just did a 180 by the bridge.” Never heard a reply. No reply to my call either, and NO height board. Russ goes for it slowly and I watch. We didn’t touch but I nearly fainted watching; it was close by inches. And guess what? A height board on the other side indicated 63’ and inches. You may recall we need 63’ and inches. This surely was our good
deed for the day, as Double Diamond about 10 mins behind us would know for sure that they could pass under.

South of the St John’s River we had the pleasure of passing under 5 bridges, the first 3 had such a raging cross current that we pushed the throttles to 2800 rpms (ideal is 2500-2600) to maintain good steerage. At one point we looked for a place to pull over, fearing the strong current would slow us down and we wouldn’t reach Pine Island by dark. Phew- we pushed on and reached Pine Island Oxbow before 5pm; two others already anchored and five more to come.

If the bridge currents weren’t enough fun, we came upon two tugs and a wide barge shortly after passing under a bridge where you had no visibility to see an approaching vessel. Not sure how things would have played out if we’d met right at the bridge.

The month has FLOWN by and we are thrilled to be in Florida again. So you don’t think our scary bridge day ruined the day’s  trip, here’s a few interesting vessels we saw along the way. Hardly a day passes without my adding several photos to the growing collection of cool boat pics.

M/Y Washingtontonian

Cute tug at Fernandina

                                                                                          Bayou Boat cruising the marshes

Friday night – ah another pretty sunset enjoyed.  Smooth-as-glass water surrounds us.

Rev’ed up the water maker Saturday morning after a leisurely choc chip pancake breakfast. Next stop, St Augustine where pirate cruisers often stop to play as described in our 3/26/11  post.  A two hour cruise with one very honest high bridge, ending with an easy swing past the inlet, through the Bridge of Lions and on to mooring ball #46.

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