We met up for our first dinner at Chatworth’s Pub on Super Bowl Sunday in St. Augustine to start of our flotilla of four PDQ 34 powercats. We were all prepared for what might be a very cold adventure, anticipating a chilly cruise down Florida’s longest river, the St. Johns.
After exploring the sights of historic St. Augustine, we headed north to Jacksonville and rafted in the peaceful and protected Pirate’s Cove.
Most anyone who has visited Florida recognizes Jacksonville’s skyline, but few venture down the river that reveals its many surprises. With improving sunny weather reaching a balmy 70 degrees, our experience of the river was going to be that much more enjoyable.
This river is not only long (110 miles), but also surprisingly wide as it meanders southward, almost to Orlando. At Palatka, where the river is most narrow, we spent 2 days exploring what had been an industrial, affluent city in the mid to late 1800s. A pre-arranged and exclusive tour of the Bronson-Mulholland House provided the historical background for sightseeing the following day. We toured several beautifully restored B&Bs and rounded out our stay with an evening of culture at the local playhouse.
South of Palatka, we ventured into Deep Creek for a bit of exploring. From there the river passes through sparsely populated small towns that cater to the fresh-water fishermen. The cypress tree bogs on the banks of the river contained remarkable wildlife - alligators, eagles, osprey and fish galore - before passing through the 2nd largest lake in Florida, St. George.
There is water gushing everywhere in this region of the state! The highlight was definitely an overnight in Silver Glen Springs, where millions of gallons of 72-degree fresh water comes bubbling out land, providing a most beautiful, turquoise-water anchorage and swimming hole imaginable. We even saw bubbling sand holes! This cove was teaming with fish, turtles and more bird species than one can name and is apparently a frequent stop for manatees.
Our turning point was Sanford, located on the massive Lake Monroe. Sanford, a vibrant, yet quaint small town, was teeming with tourists from Orlando and college students from nearby Rollins College.
As the neat row of PDQs meandered back up river, we are reminded of the wonderful bond we all share for the love of cruising, lasting friendships formed and our shared desire to be adventurous!