JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- After weeks of being off the river, water taxi service will resume on Friday just in time for the Jaguars pre-season opener.
Finally, on the water after being on dry land for weeks, the Native Choice and the Sea Charm 1 arrived at the Landing around 9 a.m. Thursday.
Two Coast Guard inspectors soon boarded the Native Choice, a new 99 passenger water taxi, getting its first ever inspection. It was a more detailed inspection than with a pleasure craft since these boats will be carrying passengers for hire.
The inspectors checked the water integrity of the vessel, making sure it was stable and wouldn't sink. Then a check of the life saving equipment aboard.
"We wanted to insure there are enough flares, enough life jackets for each person on board," said Lauren Jorgensen of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Then it was time to go on the water and make sure the boat's crew was prepared to respond to emergencies, conducting fire drills and man overboard drills.
"A good example of why we do that is the incident we just had a week or two ago. The vessel that caught on fire right here in Jacksonville with many passengers on board. We need to insure that the crews are prepared to handle emergencies such as this," said Jorgensen.
It was Saturday night that the Annabelle Lee had a fire below deck with a wedding party on board,. All were rescued by the fire department and taken off the boat, the crew of the boat praised for their efforts during the incident.
After 5 hours on board both boats, the Coast Guard passed both boats saying they are safe for the public. Lakeshore Marine, a local company that is taking over operation of the water taxis, is excited to get started.
"We are local, this is something that should be local," said Ron Hilliard of Lakeshore Marine. "And we all, the principles of Lakeshore Marine, have all grown up on the water here, and we believe water service is very vital to Jacksonville and the citizens of Jacksonville should be provided with that service. It is something we want to provide to them."
The water taxis will begin running on Friday at 4:30 p.m., 3 hours before kickoff of the Jaguars pre-season game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Round-trips will be $7, $4 for children, seniors and military. A one way ticket is $5.
Regular hours of the water taxi service will be 11-9, Sunday through Thursday, and 11-11 on Friday and Saturday.