When we left Charleston we experienced some pretty unbelievable conditions, both good and not so good, but never terrible. It was always cold, and that affected some of our choices. It was just plain too cold to anchor out, with low temperatures in the mid thirties. Brrr. But the sun was out most of the time, and that helped. But that only lasted until we got to Port Royal, South Carolina. We were there for six days of wet, icky, cold, crud. We even changed our plans and stayed there for Thanksgiving instead of motoring on down to Isle of Hope, Georgia. The weather was nasty. But Thanksgiving up at the marina office with other boaters and some locals was fun, but still very cold.
Now, on the good side—we blasted down the coast. We seemed to get juiced up by every incoming tide all the way down. I mean, for us, we flew! We were even able to change up our routes midway during two straight days to allow for some longer days out on the water--two seventy-plus mile days and we made it to the destination of both with sunlight and time to spare. And our tide surfing also helped us in the trouble spots along the way: Hell Gate, Little Mud River, and Jekyll Creek. Plenty of water—no problems. That was until the last day—today—getting into Ortega Landing Marina in Jacksonville, Florida.
We spent the last two nights at Fernandina Harbor Marina in, you guessed it, Fernandina Beach, Florida. One reason we stopped there was to take in the town. We’d never been there before and we enjoyed it. The second reason was to acquire our Florida State Sojourner’s Permit. For you lubbers, it’s basically a state sanctioned snatch-and-grab theft tactic by Florida to rip off visiting boaters. It’s a way of getting us for something akin to personal property taxes to the state…of which we are not residents…using the waterways that don’t belong to them in the first place. And to make it all the more suck-ish, it is widely misunderstood by law enforcement officials and very unevenly enforced. Oh, and it’s a pain in the ass to get one of the little yellow permit stickers. What you’re supposed to do when you arrive at your first port of call in Florida is to somehow get to the nearest county tax office, which could be miles away, and get one. And to make it even worse is that there are some widely known abuses of the law by law enforcement. It’s a crock, but it’s the law until someone with some deep pockets challenges it. But nobody seems to know what it really means. (We chose Fernandina Beach to get our permit because it’s the Nassau County seat and there is a tax office a few blocks from the marina.)
I hate Florida.
Anyway, back to today. We left Fernandina Beach under a cloud of trouble. Our starter went on the fritz and we couldn’t get the boat started. Admittedly, it has already been rebuilt twice and we knew that it was only a matter of time before it crapped out again. It did. But I was able to use a very technical and sophisticated repair technique on it. I tapped it with a hammer. Presto! She started. So we quickly untied our lines and headed out towards our final destination of our cruising season, The Marina at Ortega Landing in Jacksonville, Florida.
Ah, what a great feeling. We were on the last leg of the year. The sun was shining and the temperature got into the eighties. We were three days ahead of schedule thanks to all of the favorable tides down the coast. Splendid! But there was one small problem. When we made the turn out of the ICW at Sisters Creek and headed inland on the St. Johns River toward Jacksonville, blammo. Bummer city. Remember me saying we had the tides in our favor the entire way down the coast, and that our cruising was fast and furious? Well, not so much on the St. Johns. As a matter of fact, we were headfirst into an outgoing tide the entire way.
My god, the trip up the river, past downtown Jacksonville, and to Ortega was excruciatingly long and BORING! We never got past about 6.2 statute miles per hour, and the hours crawled along forever. It really was the worst. Oh, and the smell! The polluted water of the river was so pungent and so acrid that, I promise this is true, it made my eyes water. Yuck.
But finally, after what seemed like years on that stinky yucky river, we did finally did get to Ortega Landing Marina where Why Knot will sit patiently while we head home until we return around April 1st.
There was a bonus to the day, kind of a reward for enduring the crummy trip to Ortega.
It was over 80 degrees. The marina’s pool was open. I got to go swimming. Amazingly, it was just six days ago that we were freezing our butts off up in Port Royal on Thanksgiving. But today we went swimming!
I love Florida.