Buckle your life jackets for another exciting episode of our Telly-award winning documentary series Stomping Grounds that explores America’s boating hotspots! In this episode, we venture to Jacksonville, Florida, a city known as “The River City” and home to the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. Join us as we explore the vibrant boating scene and the captivating fishing opportunities in Florida’s First Coast region.
Discovering Jacksonville’s Boating Personalities
Our first stop in Jacksonville takes us to the home of Lisa “The Boatanista,” a local boating personality who resides along the picturesque riverfront. This section of the river is known as Pottsburg Creek before it drains into the Arlington River and onto the larger St. Johns River nearby, making a great connected waterway for local boaters.
Lisa, a passionate life-long boater, is the proud owner of a Freedom Boat Club franchise, where she gets people on the water and shares the joy of boating. The world’s largest and oldest boat club, Freedom Boat Club, has over 370 locations in the US, Canada, and Europe, with three highly rated locations in Northeast Florida. Members here can access the beautiful, active waters of the Intracoastal Waterway, St. John’s River, and Atlantic Ocean, enjoying reduced costs of maintenance, cleaning, repair, insurance, and storage.
Lisa invites us to spend the day on the water with her and her boating friends, fondly known as the Jacksonville “River Rats”. This tight-knit community of boaters all spend a lot of time on the water together and it shows. They also have an unofficial nickname for their friendly, down-to-earth neighborhood: “The Pottsburg Creek Country Club”.
Above: Ryan McVinney with Lisa “The Boatanista” Almeida on her boat in Jacksonville, Florida during filming of Stomping Grounds Episode 9. Photo by JJ Wolf for Boat Trader.
As we arrive at Lisa’s house, we are greeted by her dog Matey, and her two great family boats waiting at the docks for us: a 2020 Monterey M-45 runabout boat and a Monterey 345 SY family cabin cruiser pocket yacht. The Monterey M-45 is a sleek, outboard-powered runabout perfect for day boating and water sports, while the 345 SY offers a compact yacht-like experience with luxurious amenities for cruising and weekending. Both boats area ideal for entertaining and Lisa’s friends join us aboard the two vessels to embark on a day filled with adventure and breathtaking views.
Exploring Jacksonville’s Waterways
Above: A Monterey 345 SY yacht. Photo by JJ Wolf for Boat Trader.
Navigating the winding waterways of Jacksonville, we pass charming riverside homes and businesses. The city’s rich boating culture is evident as we encounter everything from avid anglers plying the waters to hikers along the popular Riverwalk Trails along the banks of the river. Jacksonville’s waterways are also teeming with wildlife, from playful dolphins and gentle manatees to majestic bald eagles and herons. The region’s estuaries serve as nurseries for young fish, shrimp, and crabs, contributing to a thriving sport fishing scene.
The Naval Influence: Blue Angels Air Show Over Water
Above: A raft up boat party begins to form on the water in Jacksonville, Florida, ahead of the annual air show, with all types of boats joining, from pontoon boats to deck boats, cabin cruisers and sportfish yachts. Photo by Boat Trader.
Jacksonville is home to two major U.S. Navy bases: Mayport Naval Station, hosting the second-largest Atlantic Fleet, and N.A.S. Jax, home to the largest Navy base in the Southeast Region. We anchor near N.A.S. Jax and witness the awe-inspiring Blue Angels Flight Squadron perform their annual over-the-water air show – a spectacular sight, from the best vantage point possible – directly below the action!
Above: Local Jacksonville boaters enjoying the NAS Air Show at a raft up party. Photo by Boat Trader.
Jacksonville is actually the birthplace of the Blue Angels, which performed its first public flight demonstration here in June of 1946. The Blue Angels’ mission is to inspire excellence and service to the country through showcasing teamwork and professionalism, highlighting naval aviation’s precision and power in F/A-18 Super Hornets.
Above: Stomping Grounds host Ryan McVinney with Camille, a young local Jacksonville boater who joined the raft up party at the Blue Angels Air Show. Photo by Boat Trader.
At NAS Jax, we join a growing boat raft up boat party. All ages, from young children to grandparents and aunts and uncles join the fun, barbecuing dogs and burgers on their transom grills, sharing food and drink, enjoying music and witnessing the spectacular display of aerial feats from the skilled pilots above.
Above: The Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron of the United States Navy, flying over the St. Johns River during their annual air show in Jacksonville, Florida at NAS Jax. Photo by Ryan McVinney for Boat Trader.
Jacksonville’s connection to the Navy is clearly deeply ingrained in the city’s boating and cultural heritage, making it a hub for maritime enthusiasts. In fact, the port of Jacksonville is among the busiest in the United States.
Meeting NFL Player Logan Cooke
Above: NFL Player Logan Cooke with Ryan McVinney. Photo by Scott Sanders for Boat Trader.
Continuing our journey, we head to Marine Max along the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) to meet Logan Cooke, the punter for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Logan, an avid fisherman and boat owner, takes us aboard his Yellowfin 26 Hybrid boat. Essentially a bay boat on steroids with a center console layout this vessel is ideal for fishing the local waters that Logan loves, particularly inshore and around the jetties. He shares his love for Jacksonville’s fishing scene, which offers a diverse range of opportunities, from bass fishing in the inland waters to offshore adventures for tuna and dolphin.
Above: Logan Cooke with fish at the Mayport Jetty in Jacksonville, Florida. Photo by Ryan McVinney for Boat Trader.
As we cruise towards the Mayport Jetties, Logan highlights the versatility of his boat, ideal for both inshore and offshore fishing. Logan explains to us that before he got the Yellowfin boat and learned more about saltwater fishing and offshore trips, he’d first had a G3 boat, and amazingly had even caught a goliath grouper onboard that small vessel. But it was time for him to upgrade and the hybrid bay boat fit the bill perfectly for him and his wife and their family.
Above: Logan Cooke holds a Jack Crevale fish (or crevalle jack) in his hands aboard his Yellowfin fishing boat. Photo by Scott Sanders for Boat Trader.
Jacksonville’s proximity to abundant fishing grounds and the breathtaking beauty of its waterways make it a prime destination for anglers like Logan who seeking diverse fishing experiences mixed with relaxing family time.
Above: NFL player Logan Cooke with Ryan McVinney aboard his Yellowfin fishing boat. Photo by Scott Sanders.
A Spiritual Connection
Above: Logan Cooke and Ryan McVinney fishing at the Mayport Jetty in Jacknsonville Florida. Photo by Scott Sanders for Boat Trader.
For Logan and his family, boating is more than just fishing. It’s an opportunity to connect with nature, appreciate God’s creation, and find solace in the serenity of the water. The water offers a sense of peace and tranquility that nourishes the soul. Logan discusses the uniqueness of each fish he hooks and how remarkable they are, illustrating a gratitude for the environment and ecosystem that he and his neighbors in Jacksonville share. Logan reflects on the importance of balancing his busy NFL career with moments of solitude on the water, where he can recharge and find inspiration.
Above: Ryan McVinney fishing onboard Logan Cooke’s Yellowfin boat. Photo by Scott Sanders for Boat Trader.
Embracing the Boatgating Tradition of Jax
Boatgating, the art of tailgating on a boat before a sporting event, is an integral part of Jacksonville’s boating culture. We join locals and boating enthusiasts for a vibrant pre-game party outside TIAA stadium, where boats converge at the marina before the Jaguars kick-off, for a full day of celebration and camaraderie. This unique experience exemplifies the love and respect that boaters in Jacksonville have for one another, creating lifelong friendships and unforgettable memories.
Above: The “Jag-n Wag-n” Pontoon Boat at the marina outside TIAA Stadium, the home of the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars football team during a boatgating event on gameday. Photo by Boat Trader.
One of the most notable vessels at the boatgating day by the Jaguar’s stadium is the “Jag-n Wag-n”, a custom-built party pontoon boat with a tiki-hut theme, hand-carved bar and engraved stools with a Jaguar theme. Built by avid fans of the Jaguars this unique vessel has a hydraulic top that can be lowered and raised, flat screen TV mounted above the bar and beer taps – making it the perfect boat for boatgating at a Jaguars game.
Above: The marina at TIAA Stadium, the home of the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars team and some world class boatgating. Photo by JJ Wolf for Boat Trader.
The Jacksonville Jaguars unique home stadium is set along the banks of the St. Johns river, making it one of the centers of boatgating in the nation. The annual Florida-Georgia College football game between the University of Florida Gators and the University of Georgia Bulldogs, held here since 1933, also attracts huge crowds for both the game and the boatgating / tailgating tradition. Boat manufacturers have taken note of this trend and are now incorporating more features geared towards boatgating such as swiveling transom loungers, multiple flatscreen TVs on swivel mounts, air conditioned cabins, whisper quiet generators, large coolers and ice boxes and of course, premium stereo systems. Luxury, entertainment, performance, and comfort are all pushing the envelope in terms of what these vessels can offer the boatgating crowd.
As our journey through Jacksonville’s boatgating and fishing scene comes to an end, we reflect on the deep-rooted boating culture that shapes the city’s identity. From the passionate boaters like Lisa “The Boatanista” and NFL player Logan Cooke, to the vibrant community of “River Rats”, Jacksonville’s love for the water creates lasting connections and unforgettable experiences. Whether you’re seeking thrilling fishing adventures, peaceful moments on the water, or the joy of boatgating with friends, Jacksonville’s First Coast is a haven for boating enthusiasts.
Join us next time as we uncover another captivating boating destination on Boat Trader’s Stomping Grounds. Until then, may your days be filled with smooth waters and endless horizons.
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