Jacksonville – What a show!!

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With the weekend forecast promising the passage of another cold front and more 25 kt winds, we decided that watching it pass while tied to a pier would be worth the three hour run on the St. John’s River to Jacksonville.

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The cruising guides listed a free muni dock where we could tie up for 72 hours. We arrived black Friday to a packed house! It seems every boater from the Jacksonville area had come to tie up, boats were rafted to the floating dock, some 5-deep.  We found a space along the bulkhead to tie up, however getting Maerin into that space with a current ripping downstream tested the skipper’s handling skills! The spot required us to slide just in front of a large dolphin (about a 6 ft. dia.  concrete pier with a steel spring pad for large ships) and slide alongside the sea wall. The current was running so fast as to interfere with thruster operation, so it was an interesting approach! There was no yelling and no contact with anything solid, so it was a successful landing! We relocated the following morning to a spot that we were able to go ashore from the swim platform, much better than passing dogs over the rail! Especially since Molly is approaching 60 lbs!

I digress…. so the reason for all the activity… the weekend following Thanksgiving is the annual lighted boat parade, lighting of the tree, and a huge triple fireworks display. We were in for a treat! The event rates very high on the local “must-see” events, following only July 4th in popularity, we’re told. Boaters had been staking claims to their spots on the pier since the Monday before the holiday,

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and throngs of people streamed up and down the promenade that runs for about 2 miles along Jacksonville’s waterfront.  Jacksonville Landing is typical of the downtown waterfront venue found in many metropolitan areas,

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with lots of waterfront dining accompanied by the typical tourist trap shops. We have been frequenting isolated anchorages, so we were ready to tolerate a fishbowl weekend!

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We met lots of interesting folks across the rail, a couple from York who live in Colonial Heights, and some very friendly locals! A balmy evening in the 70’s was a real treat, and it was great to spend the evening on deck visiting and taking in the local sights!

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The festivities began at dark with the procession of lighted boats that began down river about a mile. You could see the line of light snaking its way up to the bridges, with 40-odd boats in the line, it was a pretty spectacular sight. The decorations ranged from delightfully tacky to creative originality, but all were a lot of fun to see. Our persistence in relocating to a spot with easier access paid off, we had prime seats for the evening’s events!

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The lighted boat parade was followed by a fireworks display that rivals any we’ve seen before. The show takes place on the river, with aerials launched from barges in three areas along the river. Two of the locations are within a half mile with bridges separating the barges, the third downstream about a mile, located strategically to provide a view from the beach. The displays are synchronized, with each location launching the same display simultaneously.

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At the same time, two of the bridges are closed to traffic and rigged with displays; the Main St. lift bridge is raised and stays in the open position during the display. During the finale, the Main St. bridge showers a spectacular waterfall of light that encompasses the entire span. A white curtain of fire falls from the raised span while the barges blast off their final volleys of spectacular sight and sound. It was without doubt the most impressive display of pyrotechnics we’ve ever seen.

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There are more photos in the gallery, just click any of the photos here that are linked to the gallery photos. The gallery photos can be viewed as a full-screen slideshow, click the “View Slideshow (Fullscreen)” option at the bottom of the navigation bar at the left of the Gallery screen, there are a lot of features in the Gallery that are fun to play with (especially for geek types like myself).

So our chance trip to Jacksonville yielded some unexpected rewards! What a great show. We kept remarking to each other how many of our friends and family would have loved the spectacle with its carnival atmosphere and the awesome fireworks topping off the evening’s festivities.

Sunday morning dawned cooler, a bit overcast and a bit more laid back as the trash trucks plied the promenade and most of the weekend revelers pulled away from the pier, a bit bleary-eyed. The Landing is like a ghost town early Sunday morning. A refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of the last 2 days. Today’s excitement includes a walk to the Winn-Dixie, defrosting the ‘fridge, and some other mundane maintenance in preparation for departure tomorrow on the outgoing current, bound for St. Augustine. Rain is promised, and sure enough, our 1/2 mile jaunt to the store was capped off with a downpour! The rest of the day promises to be rather dreary, so it looks like a good day for blogging!

Next stop beautiful and historic St. Augustine.

Say what…. SNOW?????

Oh, that was rude….sorry. We’re a bit giddy at having temps above 50!

One Response to “Jacksonville – What a show!!”

  1. Andrea on 02 Dec 2008 at 7:57 PM #

    So now you see what I have been trying to explain about the California Coast all these years. Nothing beats being away from the snow! Wow – that looks like it was an awesome show. I am green with ENVY.