Friday, June 26, 2009

Ft. Lauderdale, FL

We've made it to Ft. Lauderdale! We arrived at the Port Everglades channel on Tuesday afternoon (June 2) and made our first ever bridge call to request an opening at the SE 17th St. Causeway bascule bridge. We were immediately surrounded by massive yachts and homes, and in some cases yachts worth even more than the houses behind them. We'd initially planned to stay on the downtown city docks on New River ($0.60/ft in low season), but changed to Las Olas City Marina ($0.90/ft in low season) when we found out that the downtown docks had no shower or laundry facilities. Las Olas Marina is in the heart of downtown on the ICW, and sits both north and south of the Las Olas Blvd. Bridge. It was designed to hold mega-yachts, but also has slips for a few more "normal" sized boats in our range. The marina told us that to find our slip, we just had to look out for "Endless Summer", a 100+ foot motor yacht on the T-dock. At least we were in good company! Our slip was on F dock on the south side of Las Olas bridge with a turning basin next to us, so we had plenty of maneuvering room and didn't have to go through a second bridge opening. Even with the extra room, we still had a challenge getting into the slip. We spent an hour trying to back in, but were constantly caught and turned by the wind and currents. We finally went to the opposite side of the ICW and grabbed a mooring ball for the night. So much for air-co! At least we were able to dinghy to the marina office to check in, take showers, & do a quick provisioning run at a nearby convenience store. Having not had a "land shower" in 10 days, we were ready to take advantage of the endless water supply.

The next morning the winds were light, and we were able to get stern-in to our slip at slack tide with no problem. The crew of "Endless Summer" was there to help with our lines, and we were soon tied up, fenders out, and shore power cable connected (yay - a/c!). Now before you start thinking one of us (ahem - Stacy?) is high-maintenance about air conditioning, it was actually important that we had it in Ft. L. We planned to be off the boat more than usual in Ft. Lauderdale visiting with Stacy's college friend and seeing the sights; with the kitties shut up in the boat (sometimes overnight), we felt a lot better knowing they were protected from the 90+ temps. Anyway, we spent the rest of the morning settling in and admiring the work of the "Endless Summer" crew. They worked frantically the entire time we were there - re-teaking the deck furniture, cleaning and waxing the hull, having dry-cleaning (linens & uniforms) delivered - all so they could leave Ft. Lauderdale to go cruising that weekend. We don't know who owns the boat, but he/she sure has a dedicated team and a beautiful boat.

Wednesday afternoon, Stacy's friend, Tracy, picked us up at the marina and we got to meet her 18-month old son, RJ. What a doll! We picked up lunch and went over to the house so RJ could take his nap and we could catch up. What a lovely place - right on a canal, with a pool, a huge saltwater fish tank, and 65' fishing boat parked behind the house. RJ's dad, Sean, designs boat interiors for a living, and he'd completely re-done his boat when he bought it. It was absolutely gorgeous, and even gave Rene (die-hard sailor that he is) a new appreciation for motor yachts! That evening we left the kitties on their own to party on the boat, and we spent the night at Tracy's condo in downtown Ft. Lauderdale. We got to watch cable TV, eat pizza, enjoy beautiful views of downtown Ft. Lauderdale lit up at night, and sleep in a real bed. Ahh, the little things...

We went back to boat Thursday morning to check on the kitties; they were fine, but were ready for some company. Thursday afternoon we had a chance to visit with some other friends from Texas, Chris & Corey. We met Chris during the Veracruz race last year and got to meet his wife, Corey, when we returned to Kemah. They're really terrific people - lots of fun plus a great sense of adventure. They actually left Texas last fall to join a charter company in the British Virgin Islands. Chris is the captain and Corey is the chef on a Lagoon 450 catamaran. As luck would have it, they had been in Ft. Lauderdale for a couple of weeks, partly for work (Corey was taking cooking classes), partly for vacation. They were heading back to the BVIs on Saturday, so we were thrilled that the timing worked out to be in town at the same time. Chris and Corey came over to the boat, and we spent a few hours swapping stories and hearing all about the highs and lows of the charter business. They've had a lot of excitement, both good and bad, over the past 9 months, and we wish them smooth seas and safe travels as they rejoin their charters.

Thursday night Chris & Corey had another commitment, so we went in search of a nice spot near the beach for dinner. We came across Bubba Gump's, which we were familiar with from our trips to Maui. It's a tourist trap, but they really know how to do shrimp! We had a great meal; Stacy had a sampler platter with coconut shrimp, sauteed shrimp, peel & eat shrimp, and tempura shrimp, and Rene had crabmeat-stuffed shrimp over rice. Afterwards we found a little German beerhaus down the street for a nightcap. Friday afternoon Tracy picked us up for a get-together at Sean's. Tracy put RJ down for his nap and loaned us her minivan to run errands. We were able to have lunch, pick up a new navigation chip from Blue Water Bookstore, and provision for the party and the boat at Total Wine and Publix. After over two hours of shopping, we dropped our provisions off at the boat and went back to the house. We got to spend time with Sean, Tracy, and their friends, and had a fantastic meal. We spent the night at the house, and went back to the boat on Saturday. That afternoon, we played tourist and took the water taxi up and down the Ft. Lauderdale waterways. First we went north on the ICW to Shooter's for lunch, then south again and up the New River past "Millionaire's Row" and its homes of the rich and famous, both past and present: Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz (who once owned an entire island there), Sonny & Cher (where daughter was born), Vivien Leigh (Gone With the Wind), CEO of Circuit City, CEO/founder of Sunglass Hut (he and his wife bought his and hers yachts at the boat show a few years ago; hers was $50 million, his was $60 million; his won't fit in front of their house since her boat is already docked there with their other boat); another group of homes that are all in one family (millionaire plus his sister, nephew, etc.); the "Cape Fear" house, etc. We also got off the water taxi at Los Olas Riverwalk. There weren't many shops to visit, but we stopped in for a beer at Briny's Riverfront Irish Bar & Restaurant. It was a cute waterside bar with funky marine-style memorabilia.

Sunday we prepped the boat for our Monday morning departure. Since there wasn't much left to do thanks to our Friday provisioning run, we spent Sunday afternoon doing something we haven't done in 3 months...going to a movie! We took a taxi back to Las Olas Riverwalk, where we saw a matinee of "Angels and Demons". The movie followed the book pretty well, and we really enjoyed the distraction. That night we went back to the German beerhaus for our last dinner in Ft. Lauderdale. We enjoyed their bratwurst and sauerbraten, along with a couple of good German beers, of course! We wanted to get off at a decent time Monday morning for the 45nm trip to Lake Worth (Port of Palm Beach), so we headed back to the boat by 10pm. We left the dock by 9am Monday morning, and had a smooth ride to Lake Worth. We spent one night there, followed by a day sail to Ft. Pierce. We anchored off the ICW near Harbortown marina, which also had a dinghy dock that allowed for provisioning and sightseeing. From there, we'll be heading up to Jacksonville, FL. It'll probably take 48 hours to get there, but we'll spend a few days in Jax to enjoy the town. More to come...

P.S...there were more gorgeous boats than we can include here, but we've included them in the photo link at the bottom of the page.

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