We sit at anchor in Lake Boca Raton, just a few miles to the north of Ft Lauderdale, taking in the sun and the (relative) peace and quiet of weekday life. We had finished our run down the by now well-worn path through the dozens of timed drawbridges on the South Florida ICW a couple of days earlier and arrived at Boca totally exhausted. The last day had been particularly trying, with over a dozen bridges that we had to time just right to avoid having to tread water waiting for the next opening. And our arrival at Boca on Saturday didn’t make things any easier.
Lake Boca is a popular spot with the Lauderdale boating crowd on weekends since it sports a shallow round sandbar right smack dab in its middle. Folks drive their power boats onto the bar, chunk out an anchor and then stand around knee deep in the water, drinking, yakking and listening to music at excessive volume.
We had hoped to avoid traveling on Saturday, given what our experience the previous year had taught us about the relative skills and courtesy of the average South Florida weekend boater. However North Palm Beach Marina, our home the preceding night, had informed us there was no room at the inn for us to stay another night. So, instead we endured seven hours of near-constant bridge runs while getting rocked by dozens of wake cowboys who would no sooner slow down for a fellow boater than set their beer down while steering. Just a typical Saturday on the South Florida ICW.
Moonrise Over Lake Boca
We finally arrived at Lake Boca as the sun is sinking low on the horizon, hoping for a quick, easy anchoring followed by a well-earned cocktail. Instead we find wall-to-wall boats. We draw too much of a draft to anchor by the sandbar so we are relegated to the deeper water at the northern end of the lake (really more of a bay) where the big boats anchor. However, unlike our weekday arrival last year where we shared the anchorage three or four other boats, we find a couple of dozen large party boats crowded into the deep-water area.
Neither one of us likes to anchor in tight conditions. It’s not the actual anchoring itself that worries us; it’s the fact that everyone has to have enough room to swing as winds and tides change without colliding with each other. It gets especially tricky because catamarans, monohulls and trawlers all tend to swing differently.
Add to that the fact that many of these weekend boaters just throw out an anchor and call it good. No backing down on it to see whether the anchor is actually well set or whether they have enough scope out to keep their anchors from dragging if the weather turns nasty. All together it makes for far from ideal anchoring conditions for the two of us. But at this point we have little choice, there being no other anchor spots until Ft Lauderdale.
We pick a spot between two big party yachts, dropping back away from them as we pay out our anchor chain. This gives us some clearance from them but puts our stern partly into the channel, something we decidedly don’t like to do, being that it ranks somewhere between uncourteous and suicidal. We have little choice though as we can find no other room, but neither of us is comfortable.
It turns out though that our fears were for naught. Literally within 30 minutes of our arrival, the lake for all intents and purposes has cleared out. Even most of the big boats turned out to only be there for the day. With about 30 minutes of daylight left, we hauled up our anchor, moved to a better spot, reset our anchor and retired below for cocktails.
We decided to stay a couple of extra days to rest up and enjoy the place before pushing on for Fort Lauderdale. That turned quickly into a week when we realized we couldn’t get a marina slip anywhere in Lauderdale until the following Friday. The Fort Lauderdale Boat Show had finished a week earlier but it takes the marinas a couple of weeks to clear out the boats and tear down the temporary docks they put in place for the show (the boat show is a BIG deal).
We enjoyed our lazy days at Boca though, taking time to read, enjoy the sun and track down the bumping noise we kept hearing down below. We finally realized it was a turtle who was treating the marine growth on our hull as a snack bar. Time to get the bottom cleaned.
The Turtle Snacking on Our Boat
There was a public park with a dinghy dock just a 3 or 4 minutes dinghy ride from where we anchored that had easy access to downtown Boca Raton and several restaurants within walking distance.
We found one place called The Gluttonous Goat, a gastropub whose name seduced us. It was a neat place with some funkily quirky décor that unfortunately took itself a bit too seriously. Some of their creations were wonderful, others only so-so. The “handcrafted cocktail” that I ordered tasted like oven cleaner.
Another night we went to a swanky Italian place called Trattoria Romano to celebrate the 14th anniversary of the day Cindy and I met. 14 years of love and adventure! Who would have thought…just one dance would lead to Just One Dance?! We also met up with our friend Jamie who came down to Palm Beach on business and went out with him for Greek food.
However much we were enjoying Lake Boca, that some point we did need to continue south to Ft Lauderdale. I tried getting us a spot at Bahia Mar, the Lauderdale marina that we spent a couple of months at during our shakedown cruise two years ago. They have concrete floating docks, a handy deli and gourmet grocery store onsite, are right across from the beach and are close to the bars and restaurants of Las Olas Blvd and the beachfront. However, they were demanding $5.75 per foot per night, way more than they had charged us previously and way more than we were willing to pay. With its aging facilities and sporadically maintained bathrooms, there was just no justification for that kind of price.
Instead we opted for Las Olas Municipal Marina, which was just a block in from the beach and only asked $1.75 per foot per night. It has fixed wooden docks and does not feature a lot of amenities but the staff was helpful and the location is great. We rented a car and did our last-minute restocking in preparation for jumping over to The Bahamas.
Iguana Hanging Out with Us at Las Olas Marina
The following Saturday the winds and weather were favorable for us to jump to the outside and complete the final US leg of our trip. The ICW has one low fixed bridge that we can’t pass under between Fort Lauderdale and Miami so we have to “go on the outside” and sail in open water to make that jump. We sailed JOD about 2 miles offshore and then pointed our nose south for Biscayne Bay and the Dinner Key Marina. The angle of the wind was wrong for sailing so we ended up motoring the whole way to Miami.
We re-entered the ICW through Government Cut and were making our way under the Rickenbacher Bridge when we got a ringside seat to how bad the South Florida weekend boaters can get. We were plodding along southbound at our usual 5-6 knot pace approaching the bridge and waiting for a northbound boat (who we later learned was named Pier Pressure) to pass under the bridge. Suddenly we see two power boats flying at us from the marina on our port side. The lead boat cuts between us and Pier Pressure, intent on getting under the bridge without having to wait on us. Rude but ok.
The second boat, though, was intent on doing the same thing and they were apparently so focused on us that they were completely unaware of Pier Pressure to their left. Pier Pressure lays on its horn and veers left to avoid them. The other boat finally realizes they are on a collision course with another boat and veers right. Since they’re both now cutting in front of us, Cindy, at the helm, veers us off hard to starboard so they don’t hit us.
Then there was that surreal moment when we realize, the other two boats are going to hit and there’s nothing to be done about it. There was a sickening crunch as Pier Pressure t-bones the other boat (that we later see is called Pyscho Therapist). Fortunately, since Pier Pressure was moving slowly going under the bridge, there is no immediately visible damage and no one appeared to be hurt.
We hail the Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16 and report the accident. They call us on our cell phone and get our info. We soon field several other calls as Fish and Wildlife, the Marine Police and someone who may have been a salvage opportunist called us for more information. I jot down what we saw in case any insurance company or lawyers want our testimony, but a month later we haven’t heard from anyone.
Sunset at Dinner Key Marina
We continued on after the accident to Dinner Key Marina. We had a harrowing time trying to snag the pendant on our mooring ball, but we finally got tied up and secured. We then settled in and waited for a good weather window to make our jump across the Gulf Stream to The Bahamas.