Thursday, June 5, 2014

We Love Lauderdale

N26°07.365’, W080°06.456’

So many things can contribute to one’s enjoyment of a place, or lack thereof.  We are learning that in Cruising, one must leave the boat in order to enjoy a place, and in order to leave the boat… you must find shore access.  This has become a deciding factor for us as to whether or not we will stop and how long we will stay. 

Our Anchorage
So much of the shoreline along the ICW is privately owned in Florida.  I can’t say that I’ve noticed it in the other states we’ve passed through, but it seems to have become a problem in Florida specifically.  It seems that so much more of the coastline is "developed" here than in other states.  Now, I understand that if I were to own one of these pieces of property, I would certainly not want a bunch of riff-raff, such as ourselves, hanging out in my back yard and dumping their trash in my trash bins…  But…

Our Morning View
If I were a City in Florida, I would think that the number of cruising boats passing through this way should be encouraged to drop some of their money in my coffers… and for that, they would need to have a safe designated place to access my public shores.  Since we first accessed Florida’s shores in January, Bruce and I have spent in the neighborhood of $3K per month.  That’s around $15 thousand dollars that has come to Florida from another state.  Now we understand that it may not be much when you look around at the Mega-Yachts around here, but surely if you multiply it by the number of cruising boats along the East Coast, it must count for something!  

It's Gonna Be A Rainbow Day!
So, for this reason, it mystifies and frankly turns me off when we find the many “private - do not dock” signs along the way.  We pass on through and stop where we find the doors thrown open.  In Ft. Lauderdale, we found the doors thrown open wide and felt welcome enough that we stayed for a week!  

Anchored for free...
I would rather spend my money on things that I want to do, than on lodging.  Call me cheap, but anchoring out instead of dropping $100 per night (or more) on a marina allows me to do that.  We have a finite amount of money to spend each month.  Spending it on eating out and enjoying the sites appeals.  The Las Olas Marina has an economical Mooring Field just south and across the ICW which grants access to all of the marina facilities.  Even more importantly to us, they have an even more economical deal that offers all of those same facilities to boats anchored out nearby.  

Las Olas Marina
We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale on May 31st and anchored just north of the marina.  When we registered at the dinghy dock on June 1st, we expected to pay $20 per day for dock access which would allow us to leave our dinghy safely on a designated dock, access to water for the boat, use of their very nice shower/restroom facility and use of their exceptionally nice laundry room.  There is also a rec room that we didn’t use, but it was available to us.  We got the key code to the docks so we could leave and re-enter at will, and we got the wi-fi password which, although not strong, was accessible on the boat.  Pump-out is available free even if you don’t use the other facilities, so that was a throw-in.

Our Parking Spot
BUT… it’s June 1st.  The start of “low season”.  The prices for slips, mooring field and dinghy dock access drops until October.  We got all these riches for only $12 per day.  And we only pay on the days we need shore access!  SCORE!  

So, what did we do? 

Well, first we took advantage of the super cold air conditioned laundry room.  While Bruce lugged water to the boat in 5 gallon jugs, I was left alone with the $1.50 wash/$1.50 dry machines which are HALF the price we've been paying for two months in Marathon!!!  AND, the super fast wi-fi!  I was in heaven, but I did feel appropriate levels of sympathy and gratitude for Bruce lugging water out there in the heat.  

With the housekeeping out of the way, we showered up in the luxurious rooms provided for us, then set out to see some sites!

When Bruce brought our boat home from Rhode Island over two years ago, he and Chuck stayed here in the Las. Olas Marina.  He's remembering things that they did and wants to show me the places they visited.  Our first shore expedition was to the beautiful beach here in Ft. Lauderdale.

We walked the short distance to the Atlantic side and were rewarded with a spectacular view of the Ocean, lined with tall buildings and lots of bars and shops.  

The Elbo Room
Bruce had fond memories of his visit to the Elbo Room Bar with Chuck.  I took one look at the place, positively overflowing with drunk crazy people... I looked at Bruce...  I guess with Chuck leading the way, the Elbo Room wouldn't seem so daunting.  But for me?  Pass...

So with the realization that this trip along the East Coast will most likely be a much different type of event... we turned to a nice, relaxing walk on the beach.  

I used to walk on the beaches at home and wonder if we would ever tire of it.  I think the answer is no, and the reason?  There are so many different types of beach.  Some long sloping, some with steep slopes, like these we've found on the Atlantic coast of Florida. 

And the sand. It's all so different!  The West Florida and Gulf Coast had powder white, while here, it seems more coarse and more beige colored.  Still, I love them all, and with the beautiful blue green waters of the Atlantic just right here... this one is one of the most beautiful.

We had a couple of rainy days that kept us pretty much on the boat and thinking we were lucky that the Marina wouldn't let us pay for several days in advance.  These two days we didn't need shore access.  We spent the days lazing around and doing minor boat projects, maintenance like checking oil and strainers.  I used copious amounts of water to give the heads a proper cleaning since we would be topping off our tanks prior to our departure.  Having access to water is a NICE thing.

We were invited to dinghy through the canals to visit a FaceBook friend and her husband the second evening.  I didn't take the camera so there are no pictures of this, but maybe snapping pictures of people and publishing them on the blog is a little invasive, so perhaps it's good that I left the camera at home for a change.  First, Melinda and Dave treated us to a ride to the Publix for grocery shopping in their CAR!  Being fellow boaters, (and owners of a sister ship to Dos Libras) they understand what Cruisers need!  The Publix in Ft. Lauderdale is an experience with valet parking and multiple levels... 

Next, we dinghied through the canals to the Riverwalk where we docked for free!  We walked to a restaurant called T-Mex Cantina.  The conversation flowed and dinner and margaritas were scrumptious  Yes, we are craving Mexican Food!  And yes, it was just as good as Texas!  Thank you Melinda and Dave for everything!

Primo Seats In The Back
Our next event was a lucky thing.  When searching for the phone number for the Ft. Lauderdale water taxi to see if they could pick us up at the boat... I found a Groupon for HALF OFF of the price of the Water-Taxi ride!!!  Score again!!!  So, we docked the dinghy and waited for pickup at stop #8, literally a few feet from our boat.  

Exiting the taxi under the 17th Street Bridge
The Taxi has multiple stops all around Ft. Lauderdale and a connecting boat to the town of Hollywood, FL. just to our South.  We took the short ride to the Hollywood stop where we had about an hour to wait for the next taxi.

We waved goodbye to the taxi and took a walk along the dock to gawk at the Mega-Yacht parked there.  We marveled at the beauty, thinking we probably couldn't afford the bottom job...These FENDERS probably cost what a new mainsail for our boat would...

The hull towered over our heads and there wasn't a spot on it!  We wondered how many people worked full time on this boat and the many others like her.  We also wondered how many days per year she was used and thought that it must be few...

We returned to the very nice park beneath the 17th Street Bridge.  What to do with less than an hour to kill?

Bruce remembered his last visit here and for whatever reason, he and Chuck had walked to the top of this bridge.  So I followed him to the stairs and up we went!

This is one of the more interesting looking bridges we've passed through. It is amazing to think of all of the money spent in keeping the traffic flowing along the ICW... just for us.  This bridge alone came with a $62 mil price tag, and was completed in 2001.  It still looks brand new!

We had hoped to see an opening while we were up there, but we had to settle for this gorgeous view.  Maybe next time.  But for now, we had to get back to our taxi landing so we wouldn't miss the next boat to Hollywood!

View of the bridge, from the bridge

Looking down into the Mega-Yacht  Look at those winches!

As luck would have it, the bridge opened for a Mega-Yacht to pass while we waited for our taxi.  It was still fun to see it all happen from underneath.  These huge counterweights just dropped, exposing a portion of the street.  It was all very quiet and slow.  Just awesome to behold!

Our Taxi arrived and we set off down a part of the ICW we had not yet traveled.  We passed the Port area and the cruise ship dock.  Much of this part of the shoreline was occupied by park areas.  It was all very quiet.  I was interested to see that the Mail Boat, which takes supplies to the Bahamas was docked here.

We arrived at the sleepy little town of Hollywood where we disembarked at the first stop.  There are two other stops here but they service hotels, so this is the main attraction here in Hollywood.

My ulterior motive, and the real reason I wanted to see Hollywood, was this bakery... Georgio's.   We don't eat out much and this place calls to me.  Although Bruce had no idea that this was my plan, he fell right in with it.

The walk from one side to the other...

Nice Beach Front

Near deserted beaches

I want one...
We picked up a couple of pastries and took them with us to check out the beach.  The weather and the fact that is was a low season weekday, kept the crowds to a minimum.  I imagine that this is a very popular spot otherwise and it looked like a great place to spend a long weekend.

On our way back to the taxi landing, I advised Bruce that we were going to miss lunchtime if we didn't pick something up here... so we stopped back in at Georgio's where I had spotted some luscious looking things I could not pronounce or spell...

We took our delicacies back to the ferry landing where we ate like hobos.  Well fed hobos!  I have no idea what it was but it was sort of like a shepherd's pie.  It was divine!  And it was another of those "what-are-we-doing-here" moments.  I love those.  When I wonder what my old friends and ex-co workers are doing right now... For sure it isn't THIS!

Our taxi arrived just as we were finishing up.  We got our primo spot in the back again and retraced our trip here, with one little difference...

Goodbye Hollywood.  We'll be BACK!

It was a good thing we packed our jackets... Because, 
It rained like crazy!  Most of the way back to Ft. Lauderdale!

Upon arrival back at the landing beneath 17th Street, another taxi was waiting for us.  We stepped off of one and onto another, this time a double decker!

Front row center top
We found seats on the top deck at the front where we were guaranteed a top shelf view of everything!  We had already traveled some of these canals in what is sometimes called the Venice of America.  But THIS is different!

Some opened and some didn't!  YIKES!  Duck your head!!!
The tour took us through the canals and right through the downtown area.  It was very cool navigating in amongst these towering buildings and ducking beneath the bridges.

Towboat US is towing this Mega-Yacht through the canals!

We toured past the sumptuous homes and almost-palaces of the well to do... learning finally just WHO lives here!  Our tour guide was a veritable fount of knowledge.  

Among the notables (to me) are Desi and Luci Arnaz, Wendy (of Wendy's), the founders of Blockbuster Video (sold Blockbuster just before Netflix and Redbox came out) and Sunglass Hut, the guy who makes all of the bumpers for Ford, and the guy who created the electromagnetic clutch that makes our automobile air conditioners work like they do.  These and many more, too numerous to recall...

I forget who owned what, and there were so many of note that I can't possibly picture them all here... You'll just have to go and see for yourself!

We finished making the rounds and disembarked back at our home base.  But we weren't done yet!  We had a little time left in our day and went in search of a beverage.

We felt since we had done so well in keeping to our budget, we could go back to the beach bar and have that giant 2-for-1 margarita deal we had scoped out earlier in the week!

Ahhh the day had been cool with mostly cloud cover, but that margarita hit the spot and it was fun finding long lost friends in strange places...

And sitting on the waterfront beneath the palm trees is ALWAYS good...

Again with no pictures, we were just sitting there, when a friend we had met in Marathon went strolling by.  I called his name and he joined us for happy hour.  This spilled over to a continuation back at his boat where Steve and his wife, Rachel entertained us with the story of how they went to the Bahamas, had fuel tank trouble and were towed back to Ft. Lauderdale from The Bahamas by Towboat US.  These two Cruisers live a more exciting life than we do by FAR!

Our last full day in Ft. Lauderdale was spent taking advantage of their public transportation services.  

We rode the bus around town to do a little shopping...

No visit to Ft. Lauderdale would be complete without stopping by the World's Largest (still?) West Marine Store for some necessaries, and a trip to the famous Sailorman's  in search of some obscure bargain...

We did find things we needed at BOTH stores, and thus spent a little bit more money here in the City of Ft. Lauderdale in thanks for their lovely welcome and continued support of the Cruising Community.

We are necessarily frugal by many standards, but we do love to spend money... we're just particular about where it goes that's all.  Ft. Lauderdale, we hope it's enough!

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay here in the big city.  The morning we left, we contacted the Las Olas Marina and were given the go-ahead to pull into any slip we wished to use their self service pump out.  It was nice to be able to pump out and flush our waste tanks at our leisure in the nice roomy slip.  It was easy in and easy out and we also topped off our water tanks.  Thanks are just not enough for the warm welcome we received in Ft. Lauderdale.  If any of you know of something we missed, please leave a comment and we'll catch it on the next time through!

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