The day started out like any other day when the winds gonna rip, and so is the tide on a full moon. And wanting to fish some kind of falling tide, we departed at 10am. I had Lyle and Lale F. aboard today from Little Rock. Fishing folks through and through.
Figured we start at the Jetties. The conditions were far from perfect, but workable. So we anchored up on the inside of the north rocks, and just plain bottom fished the green ocean water pouring in. The Sea Bass were a pain, but even though while my crew was getting the swing of things Lale got a few serious bites. But didn't get the fish.
It was a busy day out there, as the 15 knot winds blew from the SSE. and the swell rode in between the rocks. Seemed to us there was the same damn Navy ship going back and forth coming in, then going out. Sea Tractor tugs, 1000 foot freighters, a few mega-yachts, and of course the always Pilot boat wakes. So, it was time to be very vigilant. I had to several times start the engine, and pull up, ride the wakes, so as my anchor wouldn't get yanked by the enormous swells created by the constant traffic. (that inlet is getting very tiring these days...)
We were just talking about how many boats get in trouble out here during the year, when we heard a some noise coming from across the inlet. At first, it was hard to tell what it was, we were a bit preoccupied, I know I was. I was keeping my crew baited up and watching if my anchor was holding. But the commotion got louder, as we heard a air horn and saw a boat with guys waving their arms.
I didn't even pull my anchor. I drove over to them on the south side of the channel and just drug my anchor up off the bottom. As I speed dialed SeaTow on my cell phone, letting them know where I was and I may need help. I just wasn't sure at this point what the deal was. The closer we got, we could hear them yelling, "were sinking!!!". As I got to them, I hardly even remember pulling up my anchor line, but I did. And quickly pulled along side the rolled edge 17' center console. It was four guys standing in the boat knee deep in water! The engine cover was half way under. So I just told them, "Jump ON!!!!" Three had life jackets on, and Lale told the 4th guy to put his on.
Four guys safely now on my boat, I grabbed their anchor line as everything was floating in the 17 footer and drug the boat behind mine swiftly, hoping the water would pour out the stern. Elated, and telling us what happened I steered towards Mayport. And as I was cutting across the Navy channel, what was right behind us? The same damn Navy ship that probably was one of the causes of the whole thing.
The guys told us, the engine died sometime during the ordeal. I thought the boat may have had a hole in it or something, but they said the WAKES, just poured over the boat as they had no power. And they just kept coming. I'm sure they got stern to the wakes, and if you saw how constant the traffic was, it would be an easy thing to get swamped by all of the 4 footers coming at you.
Am I wrong for thinking, that I don't care who you are. That you are responsible for your wake? Isn't that one of the first things you learn in boating safety classes? Obviously, Navy ship, the Pilot boat, and especially those Sea Tractor orange and yellow Navy tugs don't care.
Years ago, a guy I know who fishes a 17' Boston Whaler was anchored on the south tip of the jetties and pulling his anchor when a Sea Tractor Tug or the Pilot boat went right on by the inside of the south rocks throwing a monster wake. His boat got tossed by the wake, the engine got caught in his anchor line and flipped the boat and him into the water. He was rescued by another boater, as his whaler sat upside down stuck anchored by the outboard. There was no "righting it". So help came and it was towed to Mayport Marine upside down. The boat was a loss, and he had to rebuild the whole thing. And from what he told me, it was all because of the big orange boat. And he never reported the incident to the Coast Guard or sued them because of their wake.
Another boat, friend Skinny C made it over to us as I had the 17 footer in tow, he came from over on the north side of the north Jetty, seeing all what was happening. But all was okay. SeaTow never made it. But at the same time on the VHF channel 16 the Coasties were looking for a reported over turned boat with two passengers in the water, either at the Little Jetties or the big Jetties.
Wow, another boat? So as we were heading to Mayport, the Coasties pulled up and said, "Is this them?" I said, "I didn't see any other boat out there." But that's where the real mess started. Someone called the Sheriffs office reporting an over turned boat. So as we pulled in, I had a Sheriff's department Helicopter flying around me. Then, there goes more Coasties heading out the jetties along with Fire boats, then the FWC.
We finally get back to the dock, and there's a Fire dept supervisor there asking me, "is this the over turned boat?" Then pulls up another fire rescue boat. I tell them again, "I never saw another boat out there." I think these are the guys. Then, the Coasties are calling me on the VHF. SeaTow passed on to the Coasties that I was helping a boat in distress.
The four guys got the boat to the dock and got the bilge pump working, and drained the boat. And we headed back out to the jetties. Where we caught a nice Speckled Trout on the bottom, a few Ladyfish, and Whiting. And then came the "SUPER" current. The tide started to fall, and with it was current that was UNFISHABLE.
While out there, I'm barely listening to the VHF channel 16. But there's another boat in trouble up off Amelia Island, along the beach. I didn't pay much mind to it all. I had my own problems. So we went back into the river, and stopped for a restroom break back at the boat ramp. The four guys with the boat full of water are gone?
So afterwards we head towards White Shell area. And we see the four guys in the boat idling along in the middle of the river. Then, as I pass them, they blow by me like it was yesterdays fishing trip. Heading towards Blount Island. I guess all is well?
As I pull up to White Shell rocks, my phone rings. It's some guy from Channel 12 news! "Hey Capt Dave, you're the hero of the day, huh?" I told him, "not really." I just helped out and all is fine. The four guys just blew by me heading somewhere. He asked if I could come to the boat ramp so they could do a quick story on what happened, and I told him we just left the ramp 5 minutes ago and I was on a charter and we won't be back for awhile. As I wondered, "how the heck did he fine out about all this."
And at the same time, I still hear some chit-chat on channel 16 up at Amelia Island. So we continue fishing and White Shell just wasn't panning out. When I got there the tide was perfect for a bit of float-rig fishing. But that ended real soon as the falling tide came pouring through. And the easy current, quickly became a gusher.
Then, we went over to the bluff. And the tide there was perfection. I anchored in 40 foot and we sat out some big dead shrimp pieces, I was slammed instantly, and lost whatever I had bite. Then, Lyle was slammed and it turned out to be the fish were were looking for all day. ( in between our rescue)
But no sooner we got this fish to the boat, here came the rippin current of the falling tide on this spot! And my anchor was dragging backwards. So I pulled up and re-anchored in shallower water and in current that took 6 ounce sinkers to feel the bottom, the Pinfish were wild. A shrimp lasted 2 seconds on the bottom. In current like this?? That just blew me away. Pinners, oldest known scourge of the river.
So we packed it in and headed for the dock. Hidden from the blowing wind up at the bluff. We now were on our way back through the intersetion of the river and the Intracoastal waterway. It was a "culdron of hell." White water folding over, waves coming from all directions. It was "wet and wild" let me tell ya. The kind of water the Jettywolf was built for.
I wasn't wanting Lale to get soaked. But she got wet anyhow. There was no avoiding the "Bo and Luke Duke and cousin Daisy in the ole General Lee" scene, as we made it through the area.
My crew wasn't keeping fish as they were staying down in Ponte Verda. So after bidding farewell, I cleaned up the Redbass, Trout, Whiting, I had in the box.
I put the boat on the trailer and Rusty from B&M bait and tackle called me. He said, "An exciting day out there today huh?" I said "Yep, the wind and the tide was a killer......let alone all the rest of what went on."
Then, he told me about a Shrimper up off Amelia Island who sunk or was sinking. "Hmmm, that must have been all the chatter on channel 16, I heard."
Rusty said, "Yeah, it was a boat off Amelia Island and they lost a crew member today!"
- TU article here: http://jacksonville.com/community/jacksonville-community-news/2010-10-26/story/mayport-fishing-industry-shaken-death
It's the October Full Moon! The one to watch out for.
Now, I sit and contemplate my day:
Where is a place, I can fish on these new and full moons with 6 foot tides, and not be pulling my hair out all day long?? After so many years of fishing out there, I think that place doesn't exsist.
But, I'm still looking.