Downtown Marina Reopens
Boating activity has resumed at the riverfront in downtown Fernandina Beach, with repairs to the southern basin complete. It’s been a long road to recovery for the Fernandina Harbor Marina. More than three years, in fact, since damage from Hurricane Matthew shut down most of the marina back in October 2016.
The “soft opening” day of the south basin at the Fernandina Harbor Marina was Jan. 24, 2020. A few of the very first boats to arrive in the marina since reopening are pictured here. It felt great to walk down the new gangway near Brett’s Waterway Cafe, and then take a stroll along the big outer dock. Plenty of curious folks were browsing around the marina this very first weekend it’s open.
In late December 2019, the city had reopened the downtown public boat ramp at the Fernandina Harbor Marina, and the dinghy dock.
Those who were familiar with the marina’s former outer dock, who walk the new southern attenuator, are sure to notice that it feels and looks far more sturdy than the old one. The new dock sections are heavier and longer (60 feet) versus the old dock sections (10-12 feet).
During calendar year 2019, the south basin of the Fernandina Harbor Marina was basically dismantled and then put back together again with new components. Work included dredging the southern basin. According to the city, this basin “was dredged to a depth of 8 feet. The outside wave attenuator has depths from 18 to 24 feet.” Also completed was realignment of the basin, the installation of new southern wave attenuator (the outer, most western dock), and adjacent interior docks.
A new ADA-compliant 80-foot-long gangway was installed that leads to the outer dock. Plus electrical and miscellaneous construction work was also completed.
Marina Accepting Reservations
According to the city, “the expected opening for transient boaters will be March 1, 2020.” Located on the Intracoastal Waterway at mile 716, the Fernandina Harbor Marina is now taking advance reservations for transient boaters. Boater check in, dinghy dock, bathhouse and laundry are all open. Mariners can also be added to a waiting list for long-term dockage. The mooring field is closed (will open later this year). Go to the Fernandina Marina website’s contact form to make advance reservations online. Or call the marina at (904) 310-3300 or 3304.
Fuel Dock Remains Closed
The fuel service area remains closed. The old fuel dock still needs to be removed (pictured here), and new one installed. At this time, the estimated target date for completion of the north basin fuel dock is June/July 2020.
Utilizing areas of the northern basin docks continues to be a small number of commercial operators. These include Amelia River Cruises, a popular river tour business, and Greyfield Inn’s private ferry service to Cumberland Island (transporting the inn’s guests aboard the Lucy R. Ferguson).
Go For The Sunsets, Too
In past years before the marina shut down, the outer dock was a favorite spot to just go and linger as the sun went down. While the new marina facilities are sure to lure back boaters, you can also bet the sunset watchers will be back as well. People go down the gangway to walk the outer dock, admire boats, and also watch the amazing sunsets that the Fernandina riverfront is known for.
Marina Open For Shrimp Festival
The Fernandina Harbor Marina had made a previous announcement about slip reservations for the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival happening May 1-3, 2020. It’s the first time in four years that the downtown marina will be full of boats for Amelia Island’s top annual tourist attraction. Over 100,000 are drawn to this northeast Florida barrier island during Festival weekend. Dock space for Shrimp Festival 2020 was released to the public January 2nd, and sold out lickety-split.
Nina & Pinta Coming To Fernandina Harbor
Speaking of the Shrimp Festival, the 2020 event will have a special attraction at the Fernandina Harbor Marina. The Columbus Foundation’s Nina & Pinta replicas, “floating museums,” will be docked downtown at the new Fernandina Harbor facilities during the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival.
Some locals may recall the Nina & Pinta were here in Fernandina Harbor six years ago, in March 2014 (pictured above).
The tall ships are due to sail into Fernandina Harbor the afternoon of April 23rd. The ships will be open for deck tours starting April 24, 2020 (a week before the Shrimp Festival), through May 3, 2020. Public deck tour tickets are $8.50 per adult (to see both ships), $6.50 for kids aged 5-16.
More About Matthew
Hurricane Matthew had approached Amelia Island as a Category 2, with sustained winds of around 110 MPH. The hurricane did stay off shore as it passed by this barrier island at the Florida-Georgia border. It was a distance of about 50 miles from the Fernandina Beach Harbor Marina, according to data from the National Hurricane Center.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, a lengthy, complicated and frustrating process encompassed the city marina (especially in relation to dealings with FEMA). Additional challenges and delays included permitting issues with the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers.
Three Hurricane Evacuations
Amelia Island has experienced three mandatory hurricane evacuations — for Matthew, Irma and Dorian — during the past four hurricane seasons (from 2016 to 2019). Let’s hope this recent frequency is just a weird weather aberration, rather than an emerging trend. Some may recall Florida’s statewide lucky streak from 2006 through 2014. It was a time when no hurricanes made landfall in Florida for nine consecutive hurricane seasons. That type of weather aberration would be very welcomed.
Amelia Island has actually been fortunate. It’s true these recent hurricane encounters were too close for comfort, and Matthew caused costly damage. Plus the loss of revenue for the city and some other local small businesses due to lack of marina activity during the years of closure. Even so, Amelia Island and its city of Fernandina Beach still fared better than other places. Some suffered the worst-case scenario, direct hits during hurricanes Matthew, Irma and Dorian.
Hurricane Dorian “Trial Run”
During the latest hurricane season in 2019, the Fernandina Harbor Marina had somewhat of a “trial run.” The brand new southern attenuator was already in place when Hurricane Dorian, Cat 2 strength, passed by about 100 miles off shore of Amelia Island in early September 2019.
Post-Dorian, Fernandina’s city manager, Dale Martin, reported that the new southern attenuator had “performed admirably,” and that docks 4, 5, and 6 (with the protection of attenuator), “fared well during the storm.” We note, however, that Dorian passed by twice as far from Fernandina’s marina, as Matthew had.
Wrangling With FEMA
The city of Fernandina Beach has been wrangling with FEMA over Hurricane Matthew reimbursement. One year after Matthew, the city reported (in October 2017) that replacement and repair costs at the marina were determined to be eligible for 75% federal reimbursement, according to FEMA. Plus at the state level, Florida would reimburse the city half (12.5%) of the remaining 25%. Unfortunately, two years later (in fall 2019), FEMA indicated they required another – the third –“CEF.” See explanation of what the “Cost Estimating Format” is all about at FEMA’s website. (Note that FEMA, as of Jan. 2020, has not started this third CEF).