St. Johns River Report
(Julington Creek)

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Report By:  gbailey    Date: 5/1/2006 
Rating:Trip Rating     Photos: See 2 photos     Map & Directions: View

Paddle the St. Johns River from Julington Creek to Black Creek

My Report:

by Franklin Dickinson

People reading this story will think all we ever do is search out the wind and waves. It's of course not true, but we do seem to enjoy the infrequent events when they do unfold. So, those reading Greg's previous story (Big Bend Trip #3), fear not, we DO go on leisurely trips (really we do). It's just the folks on those trips don't seem to ever write about them. Does that tell you something or am I just reading between the lines? Time will tell? Oh well.

Here goes. The weather forecast that Saturday was for 12-18 mph winds blowing out of the northeast. John, Robert, Doc, Mike and I met at around 10:30 am at Mandarin Park for a crossing of the St. Johns River from Julington Creek to Black Creek (Our mighty leader Greg couldn't go because he had his priorities in order, family harmony vs. fun with the boys&would have been a coin toss for me, hope my wife doesn't read this! Hmm, she edits what I write, darn it). The forecast of strong winds and waves on the rear quarter was definitely favoring the two rudder boys (Doc and me) over the Skeg boys (All the other less intelligent people in their antiquated boats (When you write the story, you can tell it the way you want&next time a skeg boy should do the writing)). The mileage would be eight plus there and eight plus back. When we arrived at the put in we all noted that that the winds already seemed suspiciously stronger than forecasted, oh well. Being on the lee shore, the wind waves coming down the Julington Creek were about 1-1.5 ft. As we ventured further out, the waves and wind& they just kept on building! There would end up being a nine mile fetch in which the wind could play with the river. John and Mike chose to paddle south up the river on the lee shore before crossing, trying to cross with the wind directly behind them (Those dang skeg boats you know?). Robert (Ambitious skeg boy), Doc and I went for the gusto. Doc had brought his short boat which was a wave riding bandit on the smaller waves. It was hard to keep up with him. Robert kept his usual I'll get there when I get therecadence. At about one third across I noticed, hmm, the waves were getting pretty big for the river. Doc had chosen a different course from me, while Robert had veered even further, cutting back towards the lee shoreline. Wasn't that out of the way? My guess was he was showing off and just wanted to put in more miles. Where were the skeg boys? I knew where the rudder boys were. Doc and I were having long linked rides at speeds up to 11 mph, pretty fast. We would drop into sets, accelerate and as the bigger waves over ran the smaller, we'd hit the gas and drop into the next set. We did this over and over and over again. We were about two miles ahead of the skeg boys (I bet next time they'll write the story). Of course they said the distance lost was based solely on their chosen course (maybe?). Even with Doc's and my rest periods, in which we'd turn around in the confusion (No easy task in this washing machine), stop and strain to see our buddies (We didn't), we averaged six mph crossing the river (Not bad for a couple of old men). I later laughed with Doc that if any of the guys (Or us for that matter) had called on their VHF's, we'd know they were in the water. There was no way, (While paddling anyway) we could have put our paddles down and radioed one another. At least I couldn't. Towards the windward side of the river I would guess (Nobody will believe me but thank God Robert and John had the gumption to bravely put their paddles down and take a couple of pictures (This of course proved my VHF theory incorrect (Except for me))) the waves were five to six feet at their biggest. I had rides where my bow drove under the waves and water so hard that the waves crashed all the way up to my big fat belly. I couldn't even see the bow, which buried deep in the tannic water. The event was like hitting an air brake, you just stopped. That was a good time!

Upon arriving at the public boat ramp (Which was directly exposed to the brunt of the weather and had breaking two foot waves on the actual ramp), we took out, had lunch and watched novice power boat owners put their smallish boats in the water in order to motor up Black Creek. That was about as much fun as the crossing. We were delighted to see Keith paddle down Black Creek to the take out and greet us. The comradery felt by all was visceral. We pulled up our chairs and watched these practiced boatsmen swear at their wives and at each other. We even got to see a power boat swamp and sink. As you would expect from FSKA members and as Kayakers, we hove to and lent a hand. We managed to attach lines and pulled the boat to the ramp, onto the trailer (As we slowly bailed) and saw the owners off (The women in a state of shock, crying in distress the whole time. She didn't even say thank you. Oh well). We felt terrible for them but, once again the kinsmenship ran deep and I heard quite a few ada boys. The half smiles and glancing eye contact with each other told the tale. Life was good. So, while Keith missed the best part of the trip, he got to put his Eagle Scout training to work (He was an Eagle Scout, I'm not making this up). At that point we realized we were old and out of shape. I had taken some wind speed reading at the ramp and noted to our fine group that the crossing back might be a little slower. The wind was blowing at a steady 25-30 mph with gusts to 35 and would be smack dab on our noses the whole way home. The river was white with foam and caps. We did what you all would have expected us to do (No, we did not paddle back. We called John's wife Gloria). Thankfully, she happily offered to drive forty five minutes out of her way to come and collect us and another forty five minutes out of her way to take us to our cars. Thank you Gloria just rings a little hollow. We were grateful tired men. I think if it were not for Gloria we'd still be out there and my name would be mud. Ever hopelessly optimistic, I had considered paddling back. What was I thinking? Boy am I glad we didn't. As I sat in the back of Gloria's car crossing the Doctor's Lake Bridge, I looked out over the river. The conditions made my tired out of shape body sink down deep in my seat and in my mind I said a soft thank you Gloria. Good move calling Gloria & I'm glad I thought of it!

I wish everybody could have joined us on our little outing that afternoon. It was after all only eight and one half miles. An easy paddle! No body went swimming that I know of?

Well, hopefully somebody will write about a more leisurely paddle soon as it will otherwise appear our clan of FSKA members are a little off center. I guess you had to be there & and I wish you were!

See you on the water.

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Location Data:

Distance (miles): 8
Fees/Costs $: n/a

Photos from Julington Creek:    (Click image to view full size)

St. Johns River No Comm
St. Johns River

big water on the St. Johns

St. Johns River No Comm
St. Johns River

bigger water on the St. Johns

Special Interests and Comments:

Special InterestsJulington Creek, St. Johns River

Post Date: 3/1/2009

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