All of Fernandina harbor underwent extensive dredging several years ago and more recently, new docks — and decks — have been installed there. During winter, be aware of severe chop, big enough to be called "seas" (3'+) when a nor'wester kicks against an ebb tide and long fetch.
Amelia Island Yacht Basin is farther south on Kingsley Creek. They welcome transients at floating docks in a sheltered basin with boatyard facilities.
Note: The twin highway bridges (SR A1A) are supposed to have a minimum (high tide) clearance of 65 feet. But we've heard reports that the actual clearance is somewhat less. If this means “close” for you, use the tide tables to help you gain some additional clearance.
Cruising types who prefer isolation have a wide choice of anchorages among the many bayous, sloughs, meanders and rivers that adjoin the ICW proper. These include Nassau Sound, Fort George River, and the great St. John’s River, which the ICW crosses just upstream from its mouth at Mayport. Vessels drawing more than five feet should treat the whole stretch of ICW behind the southern half of Amelia Island with caution. It is quite shallow with numerous shoals until you are well south of Nassau Sound, and the area is best transited on a rising tide. Deeper draft boats can avoid the problem by exiting the ICW at St. Mary's inlet and coming back in at Mayport. Both inlets are straightforward and generally classed as all-weather, though you'll add extra miles.
At the south end of Amelia Island the waterway jogs west. When crossing the Nassau River to enter a creek on the other side, be sure to positively identify your red turning mark. This route is clear on the charts and is well marked, but when you are on scene, that abrupt turn to starboard can feel wrong. Turning away from that beautiful expanse of water ahead to run toward the river's south bank is somewhat counter-intuitive. Remember that the water ahead, while broad and beautiful, is not very deep. The channel under the bridge at the mouth of the Nassau River has shoaled to impassability; the bridge no longer opens. Look for lighted marker 46 and round it while turning south for the ICW cut at Ft. George Island.
As the waterway approaches and works its way around Fort George Island, the channel is rather narrow and winding and still often shallower than the ICW project depth of 12 feet, though it's generally deep enough for most cruising pleasure boats. Just pay attention to the chart — and the markers. The waterway eventually straightens to follow a long cut down Sisters Creek, under the bridge at its mouth, and out into the broad St. Johns with Mayport to the east and Jacksonville to the west.
Here the cruising skipper faces one of the many win-win decisions typical in Florida cruising — to turn upstream to Jacksonville and the unequalled river cruising on the St. Johns River, or to continue southward down the waterway. We do both in the following pages; you may decide to do both by saving one 'til next year!
The ICW crosses the St. Johns southward across Chicopit Bay and down Pablo Creek past Jacksonville Beach, then enters a long cut to the Tolomato River at Palm Valley, around Mile 750. Through that area, where the Engineers straightened rivers, they left oxbows such as the loop around Pine Island at Mile 765, which offer great anchorages and good fishing.
At the McCormack bridge, Palm Cove Marina remains in place, open and welcoming transients, providing fuel and other services on the west side of the ICW. Beach Marine on the east side.
After that point there are some fishing camps and such along the way but the next major facility is at Camachee Cove north of St. Augustine at Mile 775.7. Note: Shoaling has been reported throughout the channel from Pablo Creek Light #46 in the Tolomato River to 500 feet south of Tolomato River Light #3. Transiting this area on or just before the high tide may add some margin of comfort. Be cautious, as always.
Camachee Cove is a very complete facility with dockage and restaurants and all the other features that make a great place to stop. A part of the larger resort complex known as Camachee Island, the marina offers excellent service and continually gets high ratings from cruising boatmen of all types. There's service on site, too.
Heading south from there, the waterway passes the remains of the old lift bridge and under the new high bridge. Below it, just inside St. Augustine Inlet, strong tides, currents and winds combine with constant shoaling to test your abilities for a short stretch. The best water is on the east side of the channel. (Remember: keep all of the red markers to starboard when southbound.)
This area has recently been dredged. Although it may be somewhat safer, caution is still advised. The inlet is rough when the weather is weather is rough and bouys are small and unlit.
If the weather is not good, before running the inlet contact the St. Augustine Municipal Marina or one of the local for the latest information.
Be sure to go out the inlet far enough to clear #59 and round quick flashing red #60 before turning westerly. The magenta line (theoretical ICW centerline) on chart 11485 has been in error here as it took the wrong side of both lighted #59 and red #60. The magenta line has been removed from the latest edition of chart 11485 but the advice is still true. In fact, because of increased shoaling inside the buoy, it is more important than ever to avoid taking it on the wrong side!
Steeped in history, St. Augustine has been attractive to seafarers for over 400 years. It still is. The city offers room to moor or anchor downtown at St. Augustine City Marina. Other St. Augustine marinas, storage facilities and yards include Camachee Cove with Camachee Yacht Yard on the north side of the city and Conch House, to the east, near the Lighthouse. On the San Sebastian River, there's Oasis Boat Yard, with full-service or DIY, Rivers Edge Marina with restaurant, the big and newly renovated St. Augustine Marine Center and several others. All are shown on Chart 1. (Shoaling has been reported in the vicinity of San Sebastian River Daybeacon #13A.)
The Spanish settled St. Augustine in 1565, and the city boasts the country's oldest fortification. It remained a remote and dangerous outpost until the 1880s, when Henry Flagler, cofounder of Standard Oil, discovered it. He built three luxury hotels there: the 1888 Spanish Renaissance Ponce de Leon Hotel (now the site of Flagler College) that features an exceptional collection of Tiffany art glass windows (the windows that "made the reputation" of Louis Tiffany); The Alcazar Hotel, which is now home to the Lightner Museum as well as St. Augustine's City Hall; and the Moorish Revival Casa Monica Hotel which has been restored to 19th Century splendor in both form and function. Flagler also built a railroad from Jacksonville to bring snowbirds to his hotels, which was the beginning of his fame as builder of the Florida East Coast Railroad that eventually went as far as Key West.(Continue...)
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