Many folks don’t realize what a fabulous sailing venue exists in Jacksonville. When the St Johns River turns south from downtown Jacksonville it opens up into the perfect sailing location. Wide enough to ensure a steady breeze and to provide room to sail no matter what direction the wind blows. Narrow enough to provide protection so the waters hardly ever get rough, even when the wind kicks up.
The shores are lined with manicured estates and ancient trees. The Florida Yacht Club and Timuquana Country Club grace the western shore. Beautiful homes stretch from San Marco south past Julington Creek along the entire eastern shore. You can even watch the planes taking off and landing from the Naval Air Station (NAS) just north of Interstate 295 (the Buckman Bridge).
Sunset Cruise on the St Johns River
Ortega on the west side of the river, just 10 minutes from downtown Jacksonville, is homeport for Now & Zen. It is the perfect departure point for a sunset sail. We recommend leaving the dock about 3 hours before sunset. We suggest that you head south sailing close hauled into the afternoon sea breeze. You get to sail up close to the shore as you criss-cross the river. With a good breeze you will be down near the Buckman Bridge in about two hours.
Turning around and heading north is the perfect time to stretch out on our comfortable bow trampolines as the colors of the sunset flood the sky. Sticking close to the eastern shore ensures an ideal view of the sinking sun. As the sun disappears below the horizon the sky fills with pinks, purples, and oranges of the after glow. By then you will be approaching downtown Jacksonville as the lights of the city create their own “light show”. One hour later you can be back at the dock as the last light of dusk fads from the sky. The perfect four hour excursion!
Day Sails on the St Johns River
If you have a full day, you can sail further south under the Buckman Bridge; perhaps stopping at Julington Creek for lunch at the New Orleans Café. Or, you could continue on south toward Green Cove Springs, passing Club Continental and Doctors Lake.
Or you could head north to enjoy the cityscape, sailing right through downtown Jacksonville passing the Jacksonville Landing and the Times-Union Center/Symphony Hall. After opening the blue eye-catching Main St Bridge, you can sail pass Metro Park and the Jaguars (Everbank) Stadium. Proceeding a bit further you can sail under the HartBridge, the 19th largest truss bridge in the world, for a glimpse of some of Jacksonville’s port operations.
A Sailing Vacation from Jacksonville
Jacksonville is a great place to start a sailing vacation too. It is only a 3-4 hour trip down theSt Johns (with the current) going by the Port of Jacksonville to the Intracoastal Waterway. You pass under the striking Dames Point Bridge, the second longest cable-stayed bridge in America, the sixth in the world, and the only one with harp stays. In a day you can be lounging on the beach at Fort George Island, bar hopping or dining in the quaint shrimping village of Fernandia, or exploring Cumberland Island. Perfect for three or four day trips and even better if you have a week to explore Georgia’s Jekyll and St Simon Islands too.
An Experience You Will Remember for Years to Come
North or south, daytime or sunset, sailing charter or private sailboat, everyone who sails on the St Johns tells me how beautiful and relaxing it is. Even the “old salts” are amazed that more folks have not discovered this treasure. So if you are visiting Jacksonville, be sure to mark a sail on the St Johns River on your “must do” list.