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March 3rd, 2014
March 3rd, 2014

From Sea to Sea, return to Canada and a 45-Year Retrospective on Ft. Lauderdale

busy Port Everglades
busy Port Everglades
Adventures in South Florida and Fort Lauderdale

With winter storms raging just north of us, we hunkered down in Fort Lauderdale, home to warm weather and a constant rotation of cruise ships.


Leaving Venice, on the Gulf Coast of Florida, where we enjoyed an overnight visit with Dorothy and Bill Clarkson (Marg´s sister and brother-in-law) we crossed the featureless centre of Florida, home to swamps, alligators and the relatively large Lake Okeechobee.  After a night in a Best Western (Palm Beach) we eventually arranged accommodation for a week in the Richard´s group of motels.  Home to an enthusiastic, wintering contingent of Quebecers this complex suffered from uneven service and we found ourselves definitely the “odd man out”.  After a week we moved up the coast to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, where we stayed for a further ten days.  As I write, we have moved twice more with accommodations growing increasingly scarce and expensive.  This is, after all, the busy season in South Florida and we had anticipated making our way north by now; however, additional repairs to the Landy and continuing bad weather as far south as Georgia and the Carolinas necessitated a change in plan.  We will soon make a mad dash to Toronto to stay with Martyn´s sister, Judy, to comply with health insurance requirements and the necessity of renewing the Landy´s licence.

So this will probably be the last report on our sea-to-sea saga.  In April we should be home in our new/old cottage by the sea in West Dublin, on the South shore of Nova Scotia.

It will then be four months since we left Los Angeles on a sunny Sunday afternoon.  A long and winding road indeed.

Fort Lauderdale - A Forty-Five-Year Retrospective

We first arrived at Ft. Lauderdale in 1969 aboard our honeymoon schooner Ayesha.  Tying up to the iconic Summerfield´s Boat Yard on the New River we enjoyed the company of other long distance sailors and an assortment of wooden sailing vessels of all shapes and sizes.  One large schooner, formerly owned by Eroll Flynn, caught our fancy and with the enthusiasm of youth we were blind to nail-sick planks and peeling paint work.

We returned a couple of years later to refit a hog-backed, sixty-eight foot schooner, the Hedda Gabler, for a Toronto client and to deliver her as far north as time, and our tolerance of her cockroach-infested interior, allowed. Blessed with an ageing Hercules diesel, the Hedda had to be kept running as the batteries were so poor that they wouldn´t hold a sufficient charge to start the engine without a battery charger. (Which, of course needed a source of 110 volt power that was infrequently available!)

In 1991-92 we brought the Pacific Swift here during her two-year offshore voyage (Victoria-Spain-Victoria) for a haul out at nearby Dania Beach.  A few years later we delivered a donated CSY charter sailboat from the Bahamas to Fort Lauderdale, with the added excitement that the engine overheated and was inoperable due to a faulty impeller and the harbour entrance and opening bridge had to be negotiated entirely under sail.

In 2000 we purchased the Rani, a Roughwater 32 sloop, ashore at Summerfield´s, where our adventure had started thirty-one years earlier.  The old boatyard was still in operation, though only just, as rumours swirled that the owner was planning to sell up, raze the boatsheds and put up condos.  After a 3-month voyage to the Bahamas we returned to Summerfield´s and sold the Rani shortly thereafter for $5,000 more than we had paid for her!

That was the last time we saw the old boatyard with its cruising folk and old world charm.  Some time before our next visit, four years ago, the boat yard had been reduced to a parking lot and a “No Trespassing” sign.  Again, on this current visit we returned to the site which was home to a few iguanas but no new high-rise condos.

There are still some charming backwaters in the Venice of America.  The traffic - vehicle, cruise ships and aeroplanes - has increased dramatically.  Modest-sized yachts, especially wooden ones, are virtually non-existent.  Miles of 100´-plus super yachts line the canals and marinas.  Many homes are for sale as bank “repos” or “short sales”.  The beaches seem busier than ever and we hope to be gone before the college crowd, fueled by beer and testosterone, descend en masse for Spring Break.

 Will we ever return?

“Never say never” is one of our adages, but the increased vehicle traffic, driven by impatient drivers, and the dearth of modest, charming, sailing vessels of character, has removed a lot of this city´s appeal.  It must be said however... the weather is hard to beat!


More Images

Where are the sailboats at Sailboat Bend on the New River?
Where are the sailboats at Sailboat Bend on the New River?
Mega yachts have replaced small cruising vessels
Mega yachts have replaced small cruising vessels
Marg enjoying the century old homes on the New River
Marg enjoying the century old homes on the New River
Another old mansion on the river, former home to orange grove millionaires now a museum.
Another old mansion on the river, former home to orange grove millionaires now a museum.
Can you find the cameleon in this photo?
Can you find the cameleon in this photo?
River traffic lifts the bridge while we have lunch on Riverwalk on the New River
River traffic lifts the bridge while we have lunch on Riverwalk on the New River
Cruise ship exiting the harbour dwarfs the entrance and the other traffic
Cruise ship exiting the harbour dwarfs the entrance and the other traffic
Fort Lauderdale, 2014; cruise ships and large yachts.
Fort Lauderdale, 2014; cruise ships and large yachts.

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