Stuff about boats
2 Years in Jacksonville.

Seattle DowntownJacksonville Downtown

I moved from Seattle to Jacksonville 2 years ago... pretty much exactly.  For the next few days I am going to talk about some of the things I have noticed that are very very different.

First, a little about the 2 cities....


  Seattle Jacksonville
Total Area 142.5 sq mi 885 sq mi
Land Area 83.9 sq mi 767 sq mi
Water Area 58.7 sq mi 116.6 sq mi
Elevation 0-520 ft 0-16 ft
Population 594,210 805,605
Pop. Ranking 24th 12th
Greater Pop. 3,344,813 1,313,228
Greater Pop. Rank 15th 40th
Ave Age 38.24 34.86
Skyscrapers > 200' 106 17
Rainfall 37.1" 52"


As you can see Jacksonville is HUGE.  In fact it is the largest city in continental America as far as land area.  In 1968 the city and county governments merged making Jacksonville proper take up nearly the entire county.  Because of this Jacksonville isn't really a city like Seattle is; it’s more like a bunch of different communities, each with its own population center with a lot of space in between.  Seattle on the other hand is fully populated with (aside from parks) pretty much no vacant land anywhere.  You can also see from the stats above that Seattle has 106 skyscrapers over 200 feet tall, vs. Jacksonville's 17.  When you look at the 2 cities skylines, there is no comparison.  In fact, Bellevue, the Seattle suburb I grew up in, has a much more impressive skyline than Jacksonville (24 buildings over 200' tall).  Another big difference between the two is Jacksonville is flat... I mean completely flat, so flat that the rivers have tides because the sea water backs up into them.  Seattle doesn't really have a flat spot anywhere, except right at the waterline, and it isn't flat there either in many spots.  Both Jacksonville and Seattle have beautiful scenery, but it is different.  Both have water everywhere, which I love.  Jacksonville's water is a mix of rivers, lakes, salt marsh, Intracoastal Waterway and ocean.  Seattle has rivers, lakes and the sound.  All of which are extremely deep.  Jacksonville's water is extremely shallow.  In fact if they didn't dredge, I am pretty sure most of the water would be un-navigable as I know because I run aground often.  Luckily the bottom in Jacksonville is just sand and mud, as opposed to Seattle’s rocky bottoms.

The RoosterOne time I went out in my little boat, The Rooster (a 10’ speedboat that used to be a rental at Disney World), with my buddy Adam.  I decided to take Adam on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, an excursion up the creeks off the intracoastal which goes from very wide down to just wide enough for the boat to slip through.  We were hanging out by the pool with our ladies having a nice time, and decided a boat ride would be brilliant.  It was an outgoing tide, but I was pretty sure it was deep enough for one ride through.  We made it all the way to the smallest part of the ride, which is also about the middle of it, the point of no return so to speak.  We had just as much creek behind us as we did ahead.  When I am going fast, up on a plane, the boat doesn’t draw much water at all, but at slow speeds it sits much lower in the water and therefore needs much deeper water.  As long as we stayed on a plane we should have made it though.  My calculations were slightly wrong.  I have never had a problem completing Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride before because I had an outcropping of oysters I used as my gauge for if it was deep enough to complete.  It turns out that after the winter the outcropping moved slightly and therefore my gauge was off by a little.  Anyway, we were halfway through the ride when the propeller started to chew into the mud.  While the boat was forcefully slowed down by the motor dragging in the mud, we also came off a plane, so the motor went deeper into the mud.  Quick side note… let me tell you a little about the mud on the bottom of the creeks.  It isn’t mud in the normal sense; it is water saturated mud and has the consistency of soft pudding.  You can usually drive a boat with the propeller in the mud, it slows you down a lot, but you can usually just power through it slowly with the motor tilted up (I am sure it’s not good for your motor but it’s better than waiting 6 hours for the tide to come back in).  This is why we were able to get as far in as we did.  For the last little bit the motor was in the mud, but we still had enough water between us and the mud that it didn’t slow us down too much so I floored it hoping to make it past the shallow part and continue on and because we were pretty much at the middle, it gets deeper from here.  Unfortunately we didn't make it do the deeper, the motor couldn't continue any more and we abruptly came to a stop.  When I surveyed the situation, I noticed it was so shallow that the bottom of the boat was sitting on the mud; we had about an inch of water.  Nowhere near enough water for pretty much any boat.   

Map picture

The problem was that the motor was deeply lodged in the mud and this little boat has no power tilt, in fact the motor can’t stay up on its own at all… and with the bottom of the boat on the mud, no matter how soft there was too much friction to move anywhere.  Luckily I carry a paddle for situations like this.  So I had Adam hold the motor tilted up out of the water while I paddled.  We tried going forward because I thought we could get to deeper water quicker going that way, but with the mud holding us down and the outgoing tide against us we didn’t go anywhere.  I should also mention that the creek at this point is only about 4 to 5 feet wide, just a little wider than the boat, so I was able to push against the grasses at the edge of the creek with the paddle to get us moving.  But unfortunately because the bottom of the boat was in the mud I couldn’t give it a shove then drift a little.  It moved only as far as I shoved it… no drifting at all.  Adams arms are getting tired of holding the old 28hp Evinrude outboard out of the water.  I kept pushing and Adam kept holding.  We weren’t making any progress going against the tide.  I decided it would be better to go back the way we came.  Also, we only had one beer and our swimsuits.  No phones, no food, no nothing.  And because it was an outgoing tide, we had about 3 hours until the tide went all the way out, came back in and the water was deep as it was at that moment.  It was getting shallower by the minute.  It would probably be 4 hours before we could motor out on our own.  And because the boat was on the bottom, it was very slow paddling.  I was getting nervous.  Not because we might get stuck, but because we had no cell phone and the women would be furious if we disappeared for 4 hours.  Hell hath no fury… you get the picture.  Because we were losing water so fast, even if we got out of this super shallow part, I was worried that even the deeper parts up ahead would be too shallow really soon. 

So I did the only thing I could think of… I got out of the boat and tried walking along the grasses and pulling the boat.  Of course I was barefoot so there is always the danger of stepping on an oyster bed, or a cat fish spike or something like that.  But it would be better than getting killed by the girls.  So I jumped off and without my weight in the boat, it was no longer as hard to move.  In fact, it was floating.  Adam was still holding the motor up, and I was trudging through the mud.  I couldn’t walk on the grasses like I had planned, because it was muddy there, and the grasses are spiky and hurt my feet.  In the mud/pudding, my feet sunk in pretty deep, about knee deep.  So I pulled the boat one step at a time, and after about 100 very difficult steps we were deep enough that the boat would be completely floating even if I got back in.  So I did.  I paddled and paddled, and we made good time because at this point we had the tide and the paddle pushing us out of the creek with no mud slowing us down.  Adam’s arms were getting really tired from holding the engine up.  After a good bit of paddling we were on the bottom again, the tide was going out faster than we could paddle and it was really shallow now, even though we were at the deeper part, if we hadn't moved at all from where we initially got stuck, we would have been high and dry.  From this point in the creek until it merges with a larger creek is, on average, about the same depth the entire way.  There are a few deep spots, but most of it is just the mud.  We still had a long way to go, and with the tide going out, I was pretty sure we weren’t going to make it.  I got out again and pulled the boat.  It was stuck on the mud.  Oh sh*t.  I pulled really hard and it came free, phew.  It was kind of like when you step in deep mud with a boot on and the suction makes it get stuck so when you take the next step your foot comes out of the boot.  The boat was the boot.  Once it came free it actually got deeper, quite a bit deeper, probably deep enough to run the boat on its own power, as long as I could get on a plane.  Adam could barely hold the motor up anymore at this point, so I told him to drop it.  I started the motor and hit it.  We started to go and started to get up on a plane, stirring up a ton of brownish blackish mud in the process.  Nope, not deep enough, we bogged down again.  Couldn’t quite get on a plane, too much motor in the mud to get the speed we needed.  But I was able to idle in it very slowly.  The entire propeller was under the mud, but the boat was floating.  It was probably a foot deep or so.  On a plane we would have no problem, but we just couldn’t get there.  So we idled, it was faster than paddling and I was really freaked about the women back home, they were going to kill us.

I tried to get on a plane a few more futile times.  At least it was still deep enough to idle.  It was probably really bad for the motor, a lot of strain spinning a propeller through pudding.  Plus the water that runs through the motor to cool it is sucked in from the bottom, so the little water pump was sucking muddy water and spitting it out the top.  But at least water was flowing through, so overheating wasn’t going to be an issue, but I am sure it’s not good for it.  One last try to get going fast.  By now we have been out there for about an hour and we were losing water fast.  This time we got on a plane.  We travelled above the mud for about 30 feet and then stopped again.  This time it was extremely shallow and the boat was on the bottom again, maybe 2 inches of water.  We had to pull the motor up again and paddle.  Adam nicely offered to let me hold the motor this time while he paddled.  Instead of holding the motor up, I grabbed the light pole from the hatch and wedged it under the motor so it stayed up on its own.  I guess I should have done that from the start instead of having Adam hold the motor that whole time.  I got out of the boat to let it sit a little higher, and Adam paddled while I walked and pulled.  It got a tiny bit deeper so I jumped back in the boat.  not deep enough to motor, but deep enough to float completely.  Since we only had one paddle I had nothing to do.  So I sat up on the side of the boat, with one leg in the boat, and one leg in the water.  I used the leg in the water to walk on the bottom.  Adam did the same on his side.  This worked really well (unless I step on an oyster) and with one leg on each side of the boat paddling/pushing off the mud we actually made good time.  We were now pretty close to where this creek merges with a much bigger creek.  I was pretty sure we were home free.  Once we got to the bigger creek we got all the way back in the boat, dropped the motor and started it.  I have been in this creek a million times and never hit the bottom, so we were going to make it out! 

I guess I had never been in this creek at a tide this low… remember we have been out at least an hour, and it was iffy when we started… now it was just plain old low tide, maybe a half hour until the lowest tide.  I could idle again, but couldn’t get it on a plane.  Too much muck.  So we idled for a while, hoping it would get a little deeper.  When I felt the motor wasn’t in the mud anymore, I hit it, trying to get up on a plane, each time, we would almost get there.  But we would inevitably hit bottom again and slow down.  Bummer.  At least I wasn’t worried about making it anymore.  I knew we would make it out without having to wait for the tide to come back in, it was just a matter of how long it would take.  After going for another 40 minutes, fast, slow, stop, paddle… over and over again, we finally made it out to the intracoastal.  Ahhh the sweet, sweet dredged intracoastal.  It was pretty much dead low tide at this point and we cruised home. 

We were pretty nervous about what we would find at home.  The cops, the Coast Guard, the girls crying… then of course angry.  We were sure that there was a countywide search and rescue in effect.  Hmmm, I wonder why there were no Coast Guard choppers circling the area.  Every agency in the state was probably out searching the waterways inch by inch for a little ten foot boat with two big men in it.  Finally we made it home.  We tied up the little boat and walked up the gang plank, our heads hung low in anticipation of the trouble we were in, to dry land.  Holy cow what an adventure.  I was trying to come up with the best way to say we screwed up, but it wasn’t our fault to try and alleviate the verbal raping we were about to get from the women. 

When we walked up to the bulkhead what did we see?  Our two girls, Screwdrivers in hand (the drink, not the tool, luckily) sitting in the hot tub laughing and some girly joke we would never get.  They didn’t even notice we were gone so long.  They weren’t even worried.  The nerve of some people.  I mean, we could’ve starved to death out there, or at least gotten really thirsty since we had no more beer. 

I guess the moral of the story is, when you are going out on a little boat to cruise up shallow creeks:

  • Do it at high tide.
  • If it’s not high tide at least do it when the tide is coming in.
  • Bring more beer than you need. (I am not condoning drinking and boating here, don’t get drunk and boat, that is very bad form and illegal, but a couple of beers in the boat is sometimes soothing)
  • Always bring your cell phone.
  • Sometimes women can surprise you with their trust in your boating skills.

That's it for today,
Thanks for reading,

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