Thursday, April 5, 2012

Reed's Island Anchorage, Lower St. Johns River

Anchorages are scarce on the lower St. Johns River. Many stay at the few marinas along the river. This environment is harsh with currents in the river typically running 2 or 3 knots, occasionally over 4 knots. The river is deep but the banks are high and there are few breaks. The traffic is intense with numerous freighters and large barges headed to and from Jacksonville. There is even an active Carnival Cruise ship on the river.

Still this is White Pepper's new home, and Jan and I are determined to learn about it. The current dominates everything about the river travel especially when you are as underpowered as we are.

Today plan A was to leave Green Cove Springs and after negotiating the bridges in downtown Jacksonville anchor at Exchange Island in the shadow of the Jaguars Stadium. This was where we anchored on our trip up the river in 2011. Also a front was coming. The pic is the Main Street bridge after she graciously opened for us in midday.

However, by the time we got past downtown the current was in full ebb, the wind was up , the weather glorious and front was nowhere to be seen. We elected to go for plan B and ride the ebb current as far as possible. By 5 pm we had gotten as far as the inlet between Reed's Island and Bartrams Island (marker's green #45 and #43 respectively.) It did not seem wise to carry on so we turned in to wait out the night, the front and the current.

This is not the most scenic anchorage White Pepper has seen. It was clearly the old river channel as some of it is 20 to 30 feet deep. While I tended the anchor Jan had to carefully edge up to a shelf that was “only” 17 feet deep about a quarter of a mile off the river. There are some wind versus current issues here. But we are protected on all sides and fierce storms are predicted for later tonight.

Tomorrow if all goes well, we will pick up anchor when the current is slack (at noon) and ride the slack water to the ICW intersection 5 statute miles downstream. There we will enter the ICW at local slack water (1330). The St. Johns river and ICW intersection is notorious in cruising lore and should be taken at slack water if possible. A brisk north wind should be blowing after the front passed though, and it will blow us down to St. Augustine.