Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Shelter from the Storm, Jacksonville, FL

Simple Life docked at the Landings at Jacksonville, Florida
photo by Joe Boulay
      The storm forecast was not our primary reason for heading up the St. John's River to Jacksonville, Florida but, it turned out to be a good place to wait out impending gale force winds. The main reason for heading to Jacksonville was that I had discovered that Ana Vidovic, a virtuoso classical guitarist whom I'd been following on YouTube for a number of years was giving a solo concert at Riverside Fine Arts in Jacksonville. Since we were nearby I hoped to divert up the St. John's River to attend the event. It's difficult to make any plans too far in advance when traveling aboard a sailboat. However, occasionally the stars align and plans made a few days in advance materialize.

     You may or may not know that I play classical guitar or perhaps I should say, I am a student of classical guitar. I say this because this instrument is so challenging that most who play often feel that learning and perfecting techniques is a lifelong journey. I don't know if guitar virtuosos in the world would sympathize with this concept or not but, perhaps they feel the same way. Having the opportunity to see Ana Vidovic live in concert was a dream that I'd hoped would eventually happen. She is an extraordinary talent with formidable gifts that place her among the elite musicians in the world. She's also an international performer whose tour schedule takes her throughout the world with only ten performances in the States in any given year. Between her sporadic schedule on the east coast and our hit and miss itinerary, I surmised that attending this performance was a once in a lifetime experience.

     Simple Life arrived at the free dock at the Jacksonville Landing after negotiatiating the 3+knot currents up the St. John's River off the ICW. At times we were moving at over eight knots! We researched our options with two choices for free dockage. One at Memorial Park near the Gator Bowl offered free dockage with electric and water for $8.75 per day. As we passed by the location only one boat occupied the space for 100 boats and it seemed to be in the "boonies" next to the port and away from the city. Joe and I decided to continue on toward Jacksonville Landing even though there was no electric. I assumed no boats would be there given that Jacksonville was 18 miles off the north south ICW route. Wrong once again. There was space at the dock but, it filled to capacity by late afternoon. Apparently, everyone was seeking shelter from the storm.

     The gale came and went and our wind generator never began spinning. The commercial buildings at the landing that house numerous restaurants along the waterfront made a superb wind break. The next day we'd heard that nearby St. Augustine had wind gusts to 50 knots! Either we slept through the worst of the storm or as I said Simple Life was blocked from the wind.

Ana Vidovic at the Riverside Fine Arts Center
      The concert was the following evening and we called a cab to insure an ontime arrival since our tickets were held at will call. We were second in line and had our choice of front row seating in the glorious venue which was an Episcopal Cathedral. The concert was sold out. I could not believe that we were seated front row and center. Ana was only a few feet away. I was so close that I was able to watch Ana's flawless tremolo technique which is somewhat controversial since she uses only her index and middle finger. Her solo concert began at 7:30 and continued until 10:00 PM with a brief intermission. A catered reception with wine, sandwiches and pastries was held at the conclusion of the concert where concert goers could meet Ana, have programs signed along with photo opportunities. Ana signed my program we chatted about her tremolo technique and I had my photo taken with her. I was so excited that I expected my head to explode. It was the thrill of a lifetime!
Ana Vidovic after a fabulous performance
Michele and Ana having a post concert chat


     Joe called a cab after the reception but, it never came. Nearly everyone had gone and it was time to lock the gates. The security guard said he didn't want to leave us waiting around for a cab that probably wasn't coming. He offered us a ride back to the Landing. The cab never arrived and we were fortunate that he was so kind. There are good people who will help others in need. The cruising life never fails to restore my faith in humanity.

     At departure the next day the current was not in our favor until 10:30 AM but, when it turned it would sweep us down the river into the ICW at over eight knots in less than three hours. Our journey would once again be on course and headed south. The short term goal for now is to make it to Vero Beach for the Thanksgiving Cruiser Celebration. The city provides turkeys and ham for the cruisers at the Municipal Marina and we provide the sides. Apparently, a record turnout is expected at the event this year. It promises to be an enjoyable holiday and we look forward to reuniting with cruiser friends whom we haven't caught up for awhile.