D26: Fernandina to Jacksonville Beach

On Wednesday November 20, we needed to get to Palm Cove Marina in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, where we planned to rent a car and drive back home to Norfolk for Thanksgiving.  It could have been a short hop down the ICW, but we had two concerns.  We were experiencing exceptionally high and low tides and this section of the ICW is notorious for bridge that were less than 65 feet and shallow spots along the channel.  

After looking at the tide and current forecasts, it seemed faster and less stressful to go back out in to the ocean and sail down to St. John.  We pulled up anchor at 7:45 am and headed north out the Amelia River and into St. Mary's Inlet.  We rode the falling tide out the St. Mary's, cruised south under light but favorable winds and entered St. John's Inlet around 11:10 am.  The incoming current was running between 2 and 3 knots.  

The St. John's River is large, busy, and commercial.  Riding the current, we made good time up to the ICW turnoff heading south.  That section of the ICW is a bit confusing with multiple channels that all seemed narrow and shallow.  In reality, I did not see anything less than 12 feet following the Navionics deep channel.  

Once in the ICW heading toward Palm Cove, the currents increased in speed.  While going under one of the bridges, our boat speed reached 9.5 knots even  though I was only running the engine at 2200 rpm.  By the time we could read the height board at the base of the bridge, we were committed to going through.  Turning around with that kind of current would have been a disaster.  Luckily, we fit under all bridges.  We need 62 feet of clearance.  

We turned into the Palm Cove channel, adjusting for the side current as we entered - sort of like skidding around a bend.   Going in we saw depths of 8 feet mostly, but a few spots showing 6 feet.  This was on a rising mid-tide.  Note to self for departure.  

We had some trouble finding the fuel dock, so after a tour of the marina and backing out of some long and narrow fairways, we docked at the fuel pumps.  Unfortunately, the pumps did not work.  They tried and tried, but nothing ever came out.  So, we had to skip the fuel that day.  

We backed into a slip that seemed fine although a bit short for us.  The facilities are very nice as are the people.  The next day, however, we noticed that we were sitting hard on the bottom during low tide.  Not what the person on the phone has promised.  So, nice marina, but be aware of the shallow depths.  They are dredging the main channel constantly, but I am not sure how effective it is.  You can see a picture of the dredge they use below.  

Jacksonville Beach is a nice area to restock.  They have a Publix one large block away and a West Marine two blocks away.  Right next to the marina, we found the Marker 32 restaurant that served very tasty food and offered a beautiful view of the marina and surrounding marsh.  I highly recommend eating there.  

On Friday, we picked up a rental car and took care of some provisioning and other purchases.  I used the few extra days at the marina to do some boat maintenance and cleaning as well as more trip planning.  On Monday, we drove 9.5 hours up to Virginia Beach and the cold weather.  

We plan to drive back on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  More to come after that.  

Track from St. Mary's Inlet to St. John's River

Palm Cove Marina

Marker 32 Restaurant

Palm Cove's personal dredge

Flight Risk in her slip

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