Nov 14, 2016


El Rio de San Juan 

There are over 30 rivers in the United States that flow north and over 60 throughout the entire world. The Nile, which is the longest river on Earth, is arguably the most famous river that flows in a northerly direction.

The Saint Johns River in Jacksonville is one of those north flowing rivers, who knew ? The Saint Johns River has been the theatre and backdrop for the Learn to Row Class I joined at the Jacksonville Rowing Club. I found out yesterday that the section we usually row on, is called the Arlington River. 

In the photo below, if you follow at the top, the 115 road from L to R, where you see University Blvd. we usually row under that bridge during every class.  We are away from the main body of the river, absent of motor boats, wakes, and wind.  Usually. 

The river is 310 miles long.  he total drop of the river from its source in swamps south of Melbourne to its mouth in the Atlantic near Jacksonville is less than 30 feet, or about one inch per mile, making it one of the "laziest" rivers in the world. At its deepest, it is 40 to 45 feet deep. 

L to R yesterday ..... 
Michael in the bow seat, Joel, Elena, Erica, Raj, Fran, Dave, and Sarah in stern seat
Mary (you can barely see her) is the CoxSwain 

Yesterday we practiced the set the shell drill, being as perfectly still and balanced as possible, also the tap drill, in the square position the oars coming about 2 inches out of the water, all eight of us at the same time, without upsetting the shell balance, the shell has to remain as still and balanced as possible. 

We also practiced the transition, rowers 1 and 2 rowing, 3 and 4 joining in, then 1 and 2 dropping out to the set position, while 5 and 6 transition into the stroke. This is going to help us get to all EIGHT of us rowing at the same time next Saturday and Sunday ! ! 

We are getting much better at the transitions.  On Sunday we also learned to feather the oar as it is coming out of the water, basically rotating the face of the oar so it is parallel to the water as you stroke out and back in.  

During class yesterday, in the middle of rowing, mid stroke, both of my feet came out of the ROMAN SANDALS. I lost control of my oar and the entire crew had to  stop rowing while I tried to secure my small feet into the size 12 sandal like shoes.  It took about 2 minutes too long, I was so frustrated, the roman sandals are like buckets and I cannot get my feet to be secured in the shoe like device. 

I was afraid this was going to happen and indeed it did. My feet are about 8 inches, the sandals accommodate up to 12 inches, size 12 shoes. 

Next week I will have kayak booties on for sure.  They were highly recommend by Mary, the lady who was the Coxswain yesterday. 
She also has very small feet like I do. 

Other than this, everything else is you and the shell. During the summer months, you have to bring water on board, even though the club practices from 6:30am to 8:30am, our coach, Mark says July and August are very warm and humid on the water. 

Learn to Row practice video Nov 13th click here

Historical facts about the St. Johns River

Old Steamship on the St. Johns
The yacht steamer Keystone on the St. Johns River.

(Florida Photographic Collection Rc199992
— used by permission)
  • Before European involvement in North America, the Timucuan Indians called the St. Johns River Welaka — or river of lakes.
  • In the early 1500s, Spanish seamen called the river Rio de Corrientes — or river of currents.
  • In 1562 — almost 50 years before the settlement in Jamestown — the French established Fort Caroline on a high bluff overlooking a river they called Riviere de Mai (River of May) because they arrived there on May 1.
  • In 1565, Spanish soldiers marched north from St. Augustine, captured Fort Caroline and slaughtered the French. The Spanish renamed the river San Mateo to honor the saint whose feast followed the day they captured the river.
  • Later, the river was renamed Rio de San Juan after a mission near its mouth named San Juan del Puerto. The English translation of the name Rio de San Juan — St. Johns River — lasted through English, Confederate and American possession of the river and remains today.
  • Soon after England acquired Florida in 1763, King George III sent botanist John Bartram to explore Florida. His son, William Bartram, stayed in Florida and published his book Travels in 1791. It describes his exploration of the river as far south as Lake Harney.
  • In the 1800s, steamboats made the St. Johns River a popular winter destination for northerners. By the 1860s, several steamers were making weekly round trips from Charleston and Savannah to Jacksonville and Palatka, and other settlements.
  • Transportation has always been an important use of the St. Johns River. When William Bartram sailed down the river, he stopped briefly at an Indian village on the very spot where Palatka is located. Into the 1830s, the area was a trading post, until Fort Shannon was built there in the early 1840s to secure the strategic location during the Seminole Indian Wars. In the 1850s, Palatka became a port of entry into the interior of the state. Steamboats brought tourism and were vital to the city’s economy until the 1920s.