Bartram Trail Cruise on the St. Johns River

, Bartram Trail Cruise on the St. Johns River

The Sante Fe Audubon Society had a spectacular day on the St. Johns River, cruising on the Pride of Palatka II, photographing eagles diving for fish, ospreys and their young, historic cypress trees, and more. Here’s a quick look at the boat and the Dive Cruise of the day – after cruising, there was some diving – to retrieve sunglasses dropped overboard!

, Bartram Trail Cruise on the St. Johns River

Putnam Bartram Committee Chairman and Historian Sam Carr, middle, narrated the trip, pointing out historic sites such as Rollestown and Murphy Island. Pride of Palatka Manager Marlene Lagasse, left, organized the trip, and Anne Pierce, the organizer from the Sante Fe Audubon Society is on the right.

, Bartram Trail Cruise on the St. Johns River

The Audobon Society brought 34 passengers, who were treated to readings about and descriptions of Bartram’s route along the St. Johns River in 1764. Actually, there were two Bartrams – John Bartram, the botanist, and his son William Bartram, author of the book “Travels” that is full of his illustrations and writing. The Bartram Trail in Putnam County website is full of maps, illustrations, and history.

, Bartram Trail Cruise on the St. Johns River  , Bartram Trail Cruise on the St. Johns River

Travelling South on the river – upstream – photographers were on the lookout for bird sightings. Coming around Devil’s Elbow, a pair of bald eagles were swooping.
Cameras UP! One eagle caught a fish right as everyone’s cameras were raised and ready. I was steering the boat and did not get any good shots!

, Bartram Trail Cruise on the St. Johns River

The Pride is a 45 foot-long aluminum pontoon boat powered by twin 200 horsepower Yamaha gasoline engines. They are insanely quiet and do not smell bad. Sometimes I have to walk to the stern of the boat to make sure they actually are running, they are so quiet.

, Bartram Trail Cruise on the St. Johns River

She can carry up to 49 passengers, a captain, and a crew member. There is a wheelchair ramp that can be used with advance notice. Someone (crew) carries it to the boat when it is needed. There is a marine toilet, full set of safety equipment, four large tables with seats on each side, and several rows of seats.

, Bartram Trail Cruise on the St. Johns River

The boat is fully enclosed in clear plastic windows – so everyone stays dry and warm even in inclement weather. The Pride is operated by The Boathouse Marina, Palatka, and boat rides and tours are offered throughout the year. Watch the Bartram Trail in Putnam County website for upcoming events.

, Bartram Trail Cruise on the St. Johns River

Before the tour, in the background is Sam Carr testing out the PA system, and Skip Lagasse, Boathouse Marina owner and Pride operator.

, Bartram Trail Cruise on the St. Johns River  , Bartram Trail Cruise on the St. Johns River

My crewmember Bill dropped his sunglasses in the St. Johns River between the boat and the dock. He dove for them after the trip. Success! They had settled right next to a piling in about eight feet of water. It was a zero-visibility dive; the river is colored brown by tannic acid from leaves. Here’s a funny glance at my navigational system – the boat’s Humminbird fish finder, and a cell phone running Navionics as a backup. Plus paper chart. Redundancy!

Where on the St. Johns River would you like to explore?

What to read next: Testing the Ralf Tech Wetsuit at Devil’s Den

Watch my vlog about the trip: Bartram Trail St. Johns River Cruise

In the Background: Rat Island Yacht Club‘s trailer.

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