MO Cruise, October 16-24, 2020
The MO Cruise, on the St Johns River, originated with two Catalina 22 sailboats, The Mari-Lee, sailed by Vernon Senterfitt, and Outrageous, sailed by John and Anita Kjallberg. Sadly, Vernon passed away. Anita planned the trip for us but at the last minute was unable to go. Dora and I have wanted to make this cruise, but time has always gotten the better of us and we haven’t been able to go. This year, due to COVID-19, we weren’t sure we would be able to make it. In spite of the turmoil of 2020 and the increased storm activity in the southeast somehow things worked out and the cruise was on!
Though this is a favorite event for Catalina 22 owners’ other boats join in the fun as well. Eight boats made the cruise this year. Three Catalina 22s, a MacGregor, three shanty style boats, and a trawler.
Ted and Dora McGee, Catalina 22, Rhapsody in seA
Robert and Bonnie Donehoo, Catalina 22, Wingin’ It
Stan and Annie Connally, Catalina 22, Cay Cat
Paul Gallant, Shanty, Hooligan
Ned Westerlund, Pontoon, Wanderer
Tom Scott, Shanty, HMS Monkey Butt
Doug Lasater and S. Higgins, Rosborough 25, Rambling Rose
Yel Yelvington and Julie Lowe, MacGregor 26, Breaking Wind
The itinerary called for us to meet up and launch from Crystal Cove Marina in Palatka, Florida. We arrived on Friday, October 16, 2020. Crystal Cove Marina has a generous parking and launch area. Launch and parking fees were reasonable. It cost $3 to launch and $10 a day to leave our tow vehicles and trailers.
On this particular trip three of the four sailboats opted to leave the mast at home. We reasoned the entire cruise was a river cruise with little opportunity, if any, to sail. While it made launching and retrieval easier, I don’t think I would do it again. As it turned out, there were sailing opportunities. Stan and Annie, the only ones with a mast, were able to sail frequently. In addition, it seemed to be as much trouble to take the mast off the boat and put it back on as it is to step it. Those of us without our mast motored the entire trip.
We got underway late in the day. Our first stop was an anchorage just across the river from Crystal Cove Marina near green marker 47. We arrived near dusk and were anxious to set our anchor and settle in for the night. Dora went forward and dropped our anchor and waited for it to catch. We carry a Lewmar Delta 14-pound anchor along with some vinyl coated chain. We purchased this anchor years ago after our boat broke anchor and took off on a cruise near Apalachicola. We did not want to repeat that experience and this anchor has never failed to grab the bottom immediately. For some reason, on this night, it wasn’t catching. Dora asked me to back down a little more but still the anchor didn’t grab. Dora pulled up the anchor rode to try again and surprise, the anchor was gone. The chain had been rusting under the vinyl coating and picked that moment to rust through. Fortunately, we had a spare anchor and we were able to resolve the situation. We have since purchased a new Lewmar Delta 14-pound anchor and some stainless-steel chain.
Saturday we were off to our first stop, the city docks at Welaka, Florida, about 4 hours away. The city docks at Welaka are first come, first serve and they are free. During the first couple of hours we were tied up, fishing boats would go by and the wake would rock the boats as well as the docks. Towards the end of day that all settled down for a nice quiet evening. A short walk to town we found a seafood restaurant where we purchased grilled shrimp and fish sandwiches to bring back to the boat for dinner. There are showers in the park at the top of the hill, but these were closed and locked. This was of little consequence to us as Dora and I typically shower on the boat. We carry a Zodi camp shower which gives us instant hot water and awesome boat showers.
Sunday, October 18, was Dora’s birthday. After ample birthday wishes and delays to mid-morning we set out for our next destination, Silver Glen Spring. Silver Glen Spring is crystal clear and a favorite anchorage for locals. We had delayed departing Welaka knowing it would be crowded on a Sunday. We hoped that an arrival late in the afternoon would mean less of crowd. We made a stop at Georgetown Marina for gas and ice before entering Lake George.
Silver Glen Spring is on the west side of Lake George. We arrived shortly after three in the afternoon. My first impression was, I wanted to be anywhere but there. It is a relatively small area with lots of boats crammed in. Robert and Bonnie along with Dora and I found a place to anchor way in the back. It seemed that every power boat had their music turned up as loud as they could in order to drown out the music of the boat next to them, that also had their music as loud as possible.
There was country, RAP, heavy metal, and several international styles of music playing. It was terrible. Dora and I talked about leaving but weren’t really sure where to go. Around 6 PM boats started leaving, and finally around 7 PM it was quiet and peaceful. I cannot recommend this place on a weekend, even during the fall. I knew we would be back later in the week and hoped to have a more favorable impression.
We departed Silver Glen Spring Monday at first light. Our destination was Hontoon Island State Park. The southern end of Lake George gets shallow with depths under 1 foot. The channel leading back into the river is clearly marked with what almost looks like a water bridge for boats. This structure was lined with birds.
The area between the southern end of Lake George and Hontoon Island State Park was my favorite. Among other things this is where our first Bald Eagle sighting occurred. We saw seven Bald Eagles in this area. There are two draw bridges between Lake George and Hontoon. Without our mast they offered no problem for us, however; a simple hail on VHF and the bridge operator would open the bridge. The motor on Cay Cat died at one of the bridges and Breaking Wind came to the rescue with a spare motor.
We arrived at Hontoon late in the afternoon. On the northeast side of the river is Hontoon Landing where we stopped for gas and ice. On the southwest side of the river is Hontoon Island State Park, which is only accessible by water. The park service runs a ferry during the day for visitors. It cost $20.25 to stay at the state park docks, which included power, water, and hot showers. The folks at Hontoon Island State Park were friendly, helpful, and took good care of the facilities. The showers were cleaned regularly, and we felt comfortable using the showers.
Tuesday the group was scheduled to cross Lake Monroe and stay in the city of Sanford. We discussed the weather and distance. Everyone decided to spend another day at Hontoon Island State Park so we could explore the island. This would be the turn around. The park rangers took us to Hontoon Landing on the ferry. Robert, Bonnie, Dora, and I had a great lunch. We were the only ones at the restaurant, and we were seated outside on the river. After lunch Stan, Ned, Robert, and I took the motor from Cay Cat to work on it. The park rangers gave us a place we could work on it. It turned out to be a simple clogged fuel filter. Once that was replaced the motor started up and it was good for the remainder of the trip.
Wednesday morning, we were up early for the trip back to Silver Glen Spring. A stop at Hontoon Landing for breakfast and then on our way. I wasn’t really looking forward to going back into Silver Glen Spring. We arrived around 3 PM and found a completely different experience. There were fewer boats, and it was quiet. With plenty of room to anchor we were able to really enjoy the evening. The water in Silver Glen Spring is clear, almost aquarium like. Although the water temperature was a cool 72 degrees most of us went for a swim. Once in the water it wasn’t too bad. We swam over to Cay Cat. Annie gave us chocolate for our efforts.
Thursday we were up early and headed back to the city docks at Welaka. A brief rain shower followed by a gorgeous rainbow that spanned the river made our day. We stopped at Renegades on the River for lunch. Renegades is a marina and restaurant in Crescent City. We opted to eat outside, and again; we were the only ones at the restaurant. We arrived at Welaka mid-afternoon.
Friday, we headed to the historic district of Palatka. Palatka offers free docks along with lovely walkways along the river. Some of our group walked the historic district. We ate dinner at Angels Diner, Florida’s Oldest diner and featured on the TV show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. As with our other three experiences, we ate outside. Saturday was the end of the journey. We were back at Crystal Cove Marina around 9 AM. Just before we got to the docks the motor on Wingin’ It died and they paddled the short distance to the docks.
It was an enjoyable trip on our Catalina 22. We want some “MO” and would like to make the trip again. We would do a few things differently. I would take our mast. As mentioned earlier, it is as much trouble to take it off the boat and put it back on as it is to step it. Opportunities to sail did present themselves. I would also take our dinghy. There were places that would be fun to explore on a smaller boat. Hontoon Island State Park would be a great place to explore by small boat. They rent canoes and kayaks for that purpose as well. I would also add two or three days to the cruise. This would give us more time to make additional stops and stay longer in places we wanted to explore. For example, we would not go back into Silver Glen Spring on a weekend but would like to spend a couple of days there during the week. We would also like visit Salt Springs. We bypassed it this trip, but Yel and Julie stopped there and enjoyed it.
This article first appeared in the December 2020 issue of the Catalina 22 National Sailing Association's publication, MainBrace.