Clay County boat yards filled quickly Friday as hundreds gathered for ‘Boater Skip Day’

Annual traditional at Bayard Point has grown from humble beginnings to one of Northeast Florida’s biggest parties

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – The 2023 Boater Skip Day was one for the books as hundreds of boats hit the St. Johns River on Friday for the unofficial annual holiday where people play hooky for a day on the water.

Sky4 flew over the gigantic party and saw hundreds of boats and by 9:30 a.m. Friday, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office sent an alert that Governors Creek, Knight’s Boat Ramp, Lakeshore Boat Ramp, Doctor’s Lake Boat Ramp, and Williams Park were all full.

Boater Skip Day, described by some as “Mardi Gras on the water,” has quickly become one of the most anticipated and well-attended boating events of the year in Northeast Florida with hundreds of boats in attendance and growing each year.

News4JAX Local Programming and Production Manager Dave Hall, a lifelong avid boater, steered our crew on Marine 4 on Friday to get up close to the fun. He said there’s something special about Boater Skip Day.

″The boating community in this area is huge. Obviously! People love to get out, have fun, and skip work,” he said with a laugh.

Boaters of all types “skip” work on the first Friday of every June and head to Marker 24 at Bayard Point in Clay County to celebrate the fun, unofficial holiday on the water.

The party gathers near a sandbar where the water is only about 5 or 6 feet deep, the boats are anchored and everyone getts out to have a good time.

Law enforcement was also out at the party, making sure people have fun, but play by the rules and be safe.

We saw crews from both the Clay and Putnam County Sheriff’s Offices patrolling the area. Safety is important to boaters like Darsha Gorman, all year round.

“They’ll ask you, ‘Hey, do you mind if we board your boat?’ and make sure you have flares and the proper amount of life vests and they’ll do some sort of oil check now,” Gorman said.

Evolving from the Friday Poker Run Raft Up, Boater Skip Day slowly became a small party on the water when more and more people and organizations got involved. Over the years, live music and floating food trucks were added. Soon, the event took on a life of its own very quickly, and North Florida Marine Association member Jill Haskell came up with the name “Boater Skip Day.”

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office has a few tips for boaters at the big event. Don’t operate your boat while under the influence, pack smart, park in the proper designated space and don’t park in the spaces used for people with trailers.

More than 4,000 people have marked that they were “interested” in the event on Facebook.

Many people hit the St. Johns River on Friday for “Boater Skip Day,” an unofficial annual holiday where people play hooky for a day on the water.

About the Authors:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.

Carianne Luter is a social media producer for News4Jax and has worked at Channel 4 since December 2015. She graduated from the University of North Florida with a communication degree.