Boaters at Landing not sympathetic to Foxy Lady’s needs

Boaters at Landing not sympathetic to Foxy Lady’s needs

Dinner cruise captain hopes docking compromise works

Just a little over a year ago, the Jacksonville Lady came to town, looking for a home.
The 96-foot Skipperliner, owned and operated by Captain John Michkowski of Foxy Lady Cruises, eventually found a permanent berth at River City Brewing Company. From there, Capt. Michkowski conducts public and private cruises on the St. Johns River.

He likes the set-up on the Southbank. “River City Brewing is secure, I have catering set up with them, there’s parking,” he said. “We work well together; it works out super with these guys.”

A partnership with the Jacksonville Symphony, however, requires that the Jacksonville Lady load and unload guests for a pre-symphony dinner cruise from the Hogan Street or Pearl Street [W. Coastline Drive] docks. For nearly a year Michkowski was able to move the ship to the Northbank, setting up signs indicating the site was reserved for four hours, enough time to load, cruise and unload passengers.

Captain John Michkowski getting ready to depart from the Hogan Street dock

Captain John Michkowski getting ready to depart from the Hogan Street dock

Michkowksi did so under Jacksonville Municipal Code Section 123.102, which states that “Vessels moored at the Northbank or Southbank Riverwalks shall pay a fee computed on length of vessel in feet, measured at the dock. Dockage will be based on 24-hour periods beginning with the time of arrival and ending with the time of departure. Charges are $1 per foot for dockage and water and $1.15 per foot for dockage, water and electricity.”

“I have an agreement with the City through Parks and Recreation that we can rent these docks, in front of the Hyatt, the water taxi dock, the Hogan Street or the Pearl Street dock,” the captain explained. “I always have to go over and ask the boaters to move and they usually move. But I had a rude awakening a couple of weeks ago. This guy didn’t want to move.”
Michkowski tried to explain to the boater that he had reserved the dock to pick up 110 people for the symphony dinner cruise. He called Jim Suber, Waterways Coordinator/Dock Master, who told him that those docks could not be reserved.

“The City ordinance is such that someone can park there for 72 hours and not have to leave,” said Michkowski. “So it’s Russian roulette every time we have to come over here to pick up guests.”

Since the Lady’s skipper couldn’t get the boater at Hogan Street to budge, he decided to scope out space at Pearl Street where he encountered another boater. While seeming to be sympathetic at first, when push came to shove, that boater wasn’t interested in moving either – until Michkowski proceeded to pace off the length and determined he could squeeze his 96-foot ship into the remaining dock space.

“We’re trying to give our guests an option [to board on the Northbank] rather than busing them over to River City Brewing dock,” he said. “I understand these are recreational docks and that boaters are going to be upset if we have permission to park there and we can reserve a spot.”

Suitable compromise?
Shortly after that incident, Michkowski’s partner with the Symphony, Bill Cosnotti, appealed to Jim Love, District 14 Councilman, who convened a meeting on Apr. 2 to discuss dock space rules.

Captain Michkowski explained that he had worked with the Office of Economic Development prior to purchasing the new vessel for the Jacksonville market. Foxy Lady Cruises operates a sister ship in Green Bay, WI and he wanted to explore a warmer climate.

“Bring people in from out of town, that’s what we want to do, bring them Downtown,” he explained. “I haven’t tapped the [tour] bus market yet on purpose. Typically older people on the buses can’t walk long distances to get to us.”

The walk from the parking lot at River City Brewing down to the Jacksonville Lady’s slip would be a long walk for the typical tour bus set, so Michkowski thought space on the Northbank Riverwalk would solve that problem.

“I can’t park in front of The Landing as it will block patrons’ view,” he noted. “I would prefer to be near Hogan Street for the Omni and Hyatt hotel guests.” The meeting minutes noted that Suber indicated Foxy Lady Cruises had started out using the Liberty Street dock but it was too far for guests coming from the symphony or the Omni Hotel. Michkowksi also said there was not enough parking at Liberty Street.

After deliberation and a review of the ordinances, Paige Johnston, Assistant General Counsel, was asked to put together legislation to amend a current 10-minute docking zone rule at Pearl Street by extending it to 30 minutes. The change would affect all vessels, including recreational boats, reducing the number of loading/ unloading instances from six per hour to two.
“To make it a 30-minute loading/ unloading zone for everybody is a good idea for now until they can make something permanent,” Michkowski said. “I was left with the impression that they will look at that.”

What do you think?
The change to the docking ordinance for loading/unloading will extend the Pearl Street dock zone times to accommodate Foxy Lady Cruises. The captain will need two 30-minute periods for loading and unloading passengers. Previously he would reserve the space for four-hour periods, ensuring that upon return from the dinner cruise he would have space to disembark his guests.

Let us know if you think the change from a 10-minute to a 30-minute docking period will have any drastic or adverse effects on boater access to The Landing. Is it a fair compromise? Send your thoughts to [email protected] by May 15.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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