Lake Murray Power Squadron, Lake Murray's Boating Club

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Lake Murray Power Squadron Members Enjoy
the Hospitality of the St. Johns River

by Lt Chuck Clark and P/C Debra Allen

Commander Jerry told us to follow the diamonds; so off we went, a dozen intrepid boaters on six cruisers in search of adventure on the St. Johns River in Florida.

Boy, did we have a good time! Scroll down if you want to jump ahead to the photos!

We all met on Monday 28 March and trailered to St. Marys, GA. The tow was an uneventful 5 hours and once we arrived we began putting boats in the water to cruise over to Fernandina Harbor Marina. It was a short, pictorial cruise with marsh areas, container ships and mooring fields along the way. We received slip assignments and got situated for the night, with time to explore Fernandina Beach, enjoy dinner, and find an ice cream shop.

Tuesday we began a journey that started daily with an 0930 AIS (ask R/C David Allen about this new LMPS cruising term). The first leg of our trip took us to Palatka by way of Lake George where we tried to get into one of the springs for a raft up lunch. However, the water was a mere 1.5 feet deep, so we abandoned that idea, and proceeded to Doctor's Lake to raft up for lunch. While fueling at a nearby marina we encountered folks from Lower Richland County who spotted the ports of call on our sterns and offered a hearty welcome to the area. But, I've almost omitted our trip through Jacksonville, where we encountered something near and dear to the hearts of all who live an work in downtown Columbia -- we were delayed in getting underway on the St. Johns River because we had to wait for a train. One of many that we would encounter on this trip!

Palatka offered an interesting stop for the night. Instead of a marina, we tied up at the docks at a local hotel, where Charlie Bruce negotiated for two rooms as our payment for the slips, which provided the ladies and gents each with a "bath house." The hotel also threw in a free breakfast for the crowd.    

Wednesday we were 0930 AIS headed for Sanford. The trip was grueling as no wake zones and manatee areas stretched on endlessly, but the scenery was of nature, with only a few populated areas. As we neared Sanford, Cdr Robert Ray of the Central Florida Sail & Power Squadron met up with our group and let us across Lake Monroe to Monroe Harbour Marina. The marina even gave us a discount, despite the fact that P/C Charlie Bruce killed its pet alligator while docking Obsession. We enjoyed a brief dock party with members of CFSPS, before walking downtown as a group for a relaxing evening after the long journey through the no wake zones.

Precisely at 0930 AIS Thursday, we were back on the water headed to Acosta Creek Marina and back through the no wake manatee areas. We found a nice cove off the river deep enough to motor in and raft up for lunch, which broke up the slow ride through the no wakes. On arrival at Acosta, the river current was running strong and the docking experience was challenging, making us all look like new boaters. The locals provided a great home-made dinner of baked ziti, salad, wine, and chocolate cake for desert. And did I mention the homemade biscotti that one of the "live aboards" made? A couple of us embarrassed ourselves with that little dessert! A great time was had by all socializing with the locals who lived on boats and in campers at the marina; before the evening was done a couple of our cruisers had even discussed options for buying a couple of the boats being stored at the marina.

It was here that John Hunter woke in the middle of the night to the flashing lights of natural resource officers and Coast Guard helicopters. We learned that a lady drove her vehicle into the St. Johns River at a nearby local boat ramp -- the boat and trailer were attached. When we learned that she was successfully rescued with the vehicle, boat and trailer, there was speculation about what would make a wife so made at her husband. Unfortunately, the Coast Guard was looking for a couple who had hit a marker and were thrown from their boat. The female passenger in that boat was not found until two days later, a tragic accident that makes us all think about the safety lessons we teach on America's Boating Course.

At 0930 Friday, we were cruising back to Jacksonville when having made it this far, we identified a serious contender for the LMPS Rusty Anchor Award! While fueling at Crystal Cove Marina, Chuck Clark  while trying to assist Mike Kirk, leaned on a railing without fastening Stella's dock line to a cleat. The next thing he knew, the railing collapsed and Chuck was in the water. Luckily there were no injuries, except for his pride. It was a sight to behold as he swam to the ramp with the 10-foot piece of railing, handed the railing to the dock hand, and proceeded to board his boat and get under way. Photo evidence can be seen below -- after "nurse" Angie realized there were no injuries, out came the cell phone to capture documentation for Chuck's nomination!

We arrived in Jacksonville without further incident, where we stayed at the luxurious Marina at Ortega Landing where members of the Jacksonville Sail and Power Squadron welcomed us to their city with a poolside dock party. We had a great evening of socializing before putting up our "houses" in preparation for the forecasted rain. It came during the night and stayed into the morning, so we delayed our 0930 departure until a break in the weather gave us the opportunity to head back to Fernandina Harbor Marina for the last stop on our cruise.

We departed in pairs Saturday morning to return to the public ramp on the St. Marys River and what became a very long tow on the back roads to home in order to avoid the traffic jams on I-95 and I-26. Click on the first thumbnail below to open a slide show of our trip!

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Updated 22 March 2017
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