GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Thousands came to Bayard Point on Boater Skip Day to party, splash and revel during the one day adults set aside to call in sick and enjoy a day on the St. Johns …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Thousands came to Bayard Point on Boater Skip Day to party, splash and revel during the one day adults set aside to call in sick and enjoy a day on the St. Johns River.
Members of several law enforcement agencies were also on hand to ensure there weren’t any problems and everyone got home safely.
Except for 18 Boating Under the Influence citations, last Friday’s event was the largest and most successful in the history of the unofficial “Mardi Gras-like” holiday.
Although the Clay County Sheriff’s Office said the peak of the daylong event is at 2:30 p.m., they estimated more than 1,000 boats were already moored a half-mile on either side of the sandbar at Mile Marker 24.
Boaters started arriving on the river a half-day in advance. The gathering was supposed to get underway at 9 a.m., but by then, the sheriff’s office sent an alert saying ramps at Governors Creek, Knight’s Boat Ramp, Lake Shore Boat Ramp, Doctors Lake Boat Ramp and Williams Park were at capacity. The ramp was closed at Whitey’s Fish Camp on Fleming Island during the event.
Despite the congestion, the music was still loud; the atmosphere was still festive. But according to law enforcement agencies, there were no incidents.
“We’re out here because you have to be prepared for anything,” said CCSO Marine Unit Deputy Joseph Morrell. “We’ve planned for this for months. We’re working in conjunction with several agencies.”
Morrell’s boat included three members of the sheriff’s office SWAT team. While the threat of a brawl or an active shooter was remote, they were prepared for any challenge.
Agencies representing CCSO, Clay County Fire Rescue and Emergency Management and Putnam County, St. Johns County and Jacksonville sheriff’s office were on the water, along with units from Green Cove Springs and St. Augustine police departments, Jacksonville Fire Rescue and the U.S. Coast Guard. Their heavy presence didn’t dull the party atmosphere.
At the scene, a rescue helicopter, river rescue boats and ambulance were parked at the Point.
“We just wanted them to know we’re here if we’re needed,” Morrell said.
A couple of miles north of the fun, law enforcement, including the Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and CCSO, established a command post to focus on anyone with too much to drive a boat.
They also ensured everyone had a lifejacket, and every boat was equipped with flares and an ignition kill switch.
There were 18 arrests made for BUI, according to FFWCC Capt. Philip Glover. Other than that, “there were no other incidents.”
Unless you count hangover and sunburns.