Boating on the St. Johns River – Follow the Leader!
Jodi: Dave was at it again. Want to go boating on the St. Johns River next weekend? Of course! Hubby was off on an off-shore trip so Dave and I were off to the boat ramp. This is something we all do regularly so we have a system for it. I know… get out and do something new! Trust us, keep reading. We unloaded the boat and took off across Lake Monroe to warm up the motor. It was a beautiful morning!
David: We had arrived at the boat ramp on the Volusia County side of Lake Monroe a little earlier than I asked a friend to meet us. With some time on our hands, we decided to run the length of the lake to where the river enters it. Not a bad way to start the day!
J: The blue skies and calm lake made for a lovely site. We did churn it up a bit.
J: We did have to dodge these weeds fairly regularly.
D: There was quite a bit of water lettuce and water hyacinth floating downstream on the river and lake. Not an unattractive plant, but water hyacinth is highly invasive and can become dense enough to impede navigation among a host of other ills.
J: Off to the shoreline we saw these pretty purple flowers. What did you say they were called?
D: Unfortunately, these were water hyacinth in bloom. That attractiveness probably contributed to this plant being imported to the U.S. as an ornamental plant. It got into the wild and “boom”-major problem. It is on the diet of manatees, however.
J: We turned around to catch this shot and charge back across the lake to meet Dave’s friend at the ramp. Here’s our Captain for the day at the helm. Ever camera shy, Dave never looks at me when I take his picture.
D: Just trying to spare the camera.
J: This sailboat made for a nice shot as we raced the clock to pick her up.
D: On time as always, my friend met us at the dock where we launched the boat.
J: Friend in tow we headed north on the river. We went under the 17-92 bridge and the old railroad bridge.
J: The railroad bridge swings up for boats like our friends in the sailboat. We barely made it under with the bimini top up. Whew! A whole foot to spare! The river was high from all the rain we’d had recently.
D: I really didn’t give it a thought until it would have been too late. The river was up and clearance over the bimini was minimal. I’ve had some “oops” moments with the boat before – check out my garage door – but this could have pretty bad and not a little embarrassing. Not a real confidence builder for either my friend or Jodi!
J: We passed the power plant on our right. There were some men working at the top of the stack. Whatever they were doing, it sounded like a giant woodpecker pecking on the side of it! It was loud. I bet they needed some headache medicine at the end of their day. We followed a side channel off to the left side of the river. We passed through a hallway of trees. There were home-made bird houses in some of the trees. Some of them were pretty extravagant. Whoever made them sure took a lot of time and care.
D: We had been down this channel before. It was obvious that some clearing had occurred and many of the bird houses that were here before were gone.
J: So here’s where we tried something new. We turned right at the end of the ‘hallway’ and continued on having no clue where we might end up. We had plenty of gas on board so we had no worries. As we motored along we noticed two other boats behind us. We thought we must be going the ‘right’ way. Along our route we also spotted some fishermen in a bass boat. They’re here, surely we’re fine. If we need help, one of these other boaters (now very close to us) will know how to get back to the river. Dave’s friend mentioned that maybe we should ask the guys in the bass boat. Nah, we’ll just keep going.
D: Man Rule #1: Never ask for directions.
J: We passed this hawk up in a tree who, no doubt, knew where it was. As the hawk watched us all pass, I thanked it for letting me make its picture.
J: The scenery was beautiful and other than a few boaters ‘no waking’ past, it was a quiet day.
J: We saw several species of water birds along the way.
D: Great egret, anhinga and a number of little blue herons to name a few.
J: And some planes overhead. Would we need to fire up a flare? Probably not. Guaranteed, one of the other boaters knew where we were and where we would end up. Even the bass boat was now following us.
D: Yep. We were now the lead boat in this increasingly amusing flotilla. I had no real idea where we were heading. I did, however, have an unwelcome flashback to when my buddy and I got lost in one of these channels about 20 years ago. It was so bad then that we just stopped and floated hoping someone would come by and get us the hell out of there. That same feeling was slowly creeping up my spine.
J: We saw these interesting growths on a pine tree as we passed. Wild pine as Dave reminded me.
J: We came to the end of the channel where a left or right turn was necessary. Now what? We were in the lead and wanted to look like we knew where we were going. We turned right. Hey 50/50 chance of getting it right…Right? Ha! Again the other (now 3) boats followed us. We travelled on for a while longer and came upon another boat with a friendly couple aboard. We did the ‘boater’s wave’ and this time we asked… Do you know where this channel goes? Ah, nope. This is as far as we’ve ever been they said. But we think this is Hontoon Island they said pointing off to our left. Hmmm. We were all now in a much more narrow channel. Our captain decided to turn around and go back. Well, I’ll be! The other boats turned around too! They all thought WE knew where we were going!
D: I’m so glad that my life has never depended on a 50/50 chance situation because, as in this case, I would not get it right. Back the way we came into this narrower channel. I think things may have started to get a little ugly as all signs of friendly camaraderie seemed to have disappeared from the faces of the occupants of the boats following me. Even my friend seemed to have been a little put out by this time as well. The next few minutes could possibly decide my fate. White-knuckled, I steered the boat back toward the channel we had come in on. Why not just go all the way back to the beginning?
J: We were all almost back to the now left or straight turn decision again. We knew we could go back the way we came, but what was the fun in that? Then we saw…a tour boat! So, we all followed it straight out of the channel and back to the main river.
J: Now we certainly don’t recommend that you go somewhere and get yourselves lost just to try something new! We had a reasonably good idea where we were just not exactly. For us it was akin to taking a new side street in the town where you already know all of the other streets around.
D: Good advice and good attitude Jodi, however, you can never read my last few paragraphs!
J: Sure enough the friendly couple was right. We were on the ‘back side’ of Hontoon Island near Deland. We had bypassed a large portion of our ‘normal’ route. It was fun to do something different!
D: Now that we were on familiar turf, I had to admit that it was kind of fun. (Ironically, we all carried GPS-enabled cell phones so “lost” was actually kind of relative had we thought to use them!)
J: We made the turn out of the channel and headed back to the south. Hungry once again, we stopped at a sports bar along the river for some food and beverage. We left the restaurant with our designated driver at the helm and headed back towards the ramp.
D: From “captain” to “designated driver”!
J: We waited as a train was going over the bridge only a foot above our canopy!
J: We went back to the boat ramp, and bade Dave’s friend farewell. The boat was loaded up and we headed off for a ‘supply’ stop and back to the neighborhood. A great day was had by all!
Or was it??
Jodi: As it turned out, Hubby was taking a few pictures of his own while he was off shore.
Jeff was trying out that early sunrise thing…He left the neighborhood at 5:00am this time. He and his pals left Port Canaveral at 6:15am. This is a pic of their sunrise as they headed out approximately 15-20 miles east!
Most of them had a good day fishing. Here’s an example of what they caught:
Even though Hubby was a little disappointed that he didn’t catch a mahi…a bad day of fishing is always better than a good day at work!