There are many things to say about Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We arrived around March 12th, and planned to keep the boat there while we flew home for my Grandpa's 90th birthday. Fort Lauderdale was our choice to pause because of a cheap flight home. As a bonus our jib needed adjustment and the sailmaker is there. We also sent our Winslow Life Raft in for recertification (This took forever! Plan ahead!) For brevity's sake this post will focus on the functional knowledge of Fort Lauderdale, since many cruisers we've encountered have found it to be one of the less enjoyable and less sailor-friendly places to stop.
Note: while we were in Fort Lauderdale, most of the time the boat was anchored in Lake Sylvia, a wonderfully calm (aside from local waterskiing and bro-boat weekender traffic) and protected anchorage. The information ahead will be related from that point of reference.
Boat stuffs, boat stuffs!
First, Fort Lauderdale is a boating and marine Mecca. If you need something for your boat, be it mega yacht, sailboat, or tender, they have a place for that, or mostly anyway. The population could be measured in marine stores and be accurate to the amount of people that live in Fort Lauderdale. You have a Raritan head? There's a Raritan store. You want new charts (paper or electronic), or books? There's Bluewater Books and Charts. That said, there were many trips to West Marine, Sailorman (a cool mix of new and used boat parts), and the marine-focused hardware store, McDonald Hardware, that ended in disappointment. Mind you, we seem to be needing some very specific parts, but not parts that are unheard of. Nonetheless, it sometimes felt like we were asking for gold and all Fort Lauderdale could come up with were iguanas. If boat parts were iguanas we wouldn't have had to order anything online. Okay, enough with the iguanas, but seriously, you'll see them here.
Each day in Lake Sylvia, Rev and I could usually be seen going somewhere each day in the dinghy, and people would notice. After a few weeks the first question we'd get from new boats arriving would be "Where do you go with your dinghy?" We were usually running errands for boat projects and provisioning for our next leg. Since we're thorough dinghy explorers, here's our list of places to go with the dink.
- Southport Raw Bar: One of the commonly known places for dinghy dockage is the Southport Raw Bar, just a short dinghy ride away from Lake Sylvia. They charge $10 for a full day of docking and reimburse you the $10 if you choose to eat there during that day. We found many cruisers knew about this option, complained of the $10 charge, but were reluctant to go to further, no-fee places. From there you're a short walk to grocery stores (go the extra few blocks to the Publix instead of the Winn Dixie if you can) and anything else you may need. The whole month that we were in Fort Lauderdale, we did this only twice, as we found the food to be less spectacular than we'd like (I think I can be a food snob here since I'm dedicating some of my blog space to FOOD!) and couldn't justify paying $10 as we rarely eat out as it is.
- George English Park: Pick this place! It's 2.5 nautical miles up river from Lake Sylvia, but if you're like us and obsessively chart depths with the sonar/chart plotter in the dinghy, then you'll love the ride. Okay, okay, apparently few sailors have chart plotters in their dinghy (we do and it gets a good laugh!), but either way, George English Park is a nice ride through the river system of Fort Lauderdale. There is a nice floating dock there which is free for daytime use. The park has tennis and basketball facilities as well as the much appreciated room to run around (important things with a 5 year old!). They also have bathrooms, drinking fountains, and trash/recycling containers. Just a block away is a Publix, AND a mall! Yep, your weary cruiser eyes read that correctly, a mall! You can take your dinghy to the mall and buy your kid a bunch of $5 dresses at H&M because somehow you forgot to pack DRESSES for a dress-obsessed kid who lives in constant summer-land! (Just covering all the hypothetical catastrophes that could happen.) George English Park is also a super cheap Uber/Lyft ride from treats like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.
- 15th Street Boat Ramp: While you can't leave your dink here unattended, this is a good option for picking up and dropping people off, and disposing of trash. I've seen some people fill up water jugs here, but the fish cleaning stand grosses me out and I didn't venture further into whether you have to come in contact with that to fill up said jugs.
- Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park: This is the place to go if you just want to go to the beach. Bonus that you can beach the dinghy in the canal and there is an open air restaurant with ice cream, beer, and cheap burger fare. The beach is standard Florida beach, but the surrounding area behind the sand dunes is shady and laden with pavilions and picnic tables. Since it's a state park, the area is spruced up with all the government bells and whistles.