#39 December 2011 New Smyrna - Merritt Island - Boca Raton - Ft. Lauderdale - Marathon

Tree within a tree
On December 1, we sadly bade our New Smyrna sailing friends, John and Cozette, adieu but not before seeing the city's tree within a tree in the park across from the museum.  The oak is tightly embracing the pine as if protecting it from storms.

Our friend, Duffy
Always a treat that we anticipate is anchoring in our friend, Bobbi's, backyard on Merritt Island, and visiting with her.  Duffy's prepared to fend for himself while the 3 of us go to our favorite Mexican restaurant there.

A tranquil reflection and a benefit of anchoring

Friends in Ft. Pierce, Marlene and Chuck, graciously let us tie to their dock while we had our dinghy repaired.  We used their car and enjoyed some of the history of their city.

USN Seal Museum
Ft. Pierce, FL

We were overwhelmed and awed as we were taught the process of becoming a Navy Seal.  Last year when we toured the USNA, I was blown away by the criteria for admission to say nothing of requirements for graduation but the Seal training seems even more grueling.  One of their weeks of rigorous training is called Hell Week.  They don't have time to eat but very little and sleep only 5-6 hours for the entire week.  I believe they have this aptly named. The Seals raise the bar!

Our next port was Boca Raton, whose literal translation is "Mouth of the Mouse".  Boca is Spanish for 'inlet' and Raton is Spanish for 'mouse'.  Believe us, there is nothing mousy about Boca!!!  Raton is also a Spanish nautical term describing rocks that gnawed at  ships' cables.

One of the gardens at the resort
Boca is known for its affluent social community and high income demographic.  It has a strict development code banning outdoor car dealerships within the municipality.  No billboards are permitted in the city.  Many buildings have Mediterranean and Spanish architectural themes, initially inspired by Addison Mizner, and significant landscaping is in place.

Dome in entry of an entry!

During the city's early history during the Florida land boom, Addison Mizner's Ritz-Carlton Cloister Inn was built in 1926 on 356 acres and later renamed the Boca Raton Resort and Club. Today it's often referred to as the "pink hotel" and its 1969 towering addition is visible from miles away on the Intracostal Waterway.   Its architecture reflects Spanish-Mediterranean, Moorish and Gothic influences.  Hidden Gardens, barrel tile roofs, archways, ornate columns, finials, intricate mosaics, fountains and beamed ceiling of ornate pecky cypress characterize this magnificent place.  I spent an afternoon being pampered with the 4 ritual baths, steam room, inhalation room, and the best massage I've ever had.  That experience defies description.  Each attendant spoke with a different accent and I was "Miss Laura" to each of them.  If you're from the 50's and remember the TV show Queen for the Day---Queen for the Day, I was!

Entry to the Cloister Inn

Our sweet friends, Reid and Lynn,gifted us with "free range" at this Boca Raton Resort and Marina. For a peek into the luxury, see www.bocaresort.com.    This resort employs 2200 representing 60 nations.

A Portion of Boca Raton Resort

We wandered the beautiful streets and were agape at the opulence and wealth of that city. It's a relatively small and concentrated area of 29 square miles but I believe many of the 1% live here. The mansions were amazing in their design, detail, and square footage. Quite a few had 100'+ yachts at their docks.  Old news from 2007, estimates the median income for a household to be $68,000 and for a family, $92,000.  According to Forbes, this is the home to 3 of the 10 most expensive gated communities in the U.S.  We drove through the Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club and it holds the #1 spot.  Below is a house on the real estate market for a pittance.

A mere $13,900,900

Wine bottles line arched doorways in one of the many resort bars.

Interestingly, I learned that Boca is the spam capital of the world, being the source of a significant proportion of all spam generated worldwide.  Given the area's appeal, the personal fortunes of typical spammers,and the area's notorious past as a fave of organized crime, this really shouldn't be too surprising.  The city was once called the "only coastal city in FL where there are more sharks on land than in the water" and has been described as the "Capone-Chicago of cyber fraud".  Again, "old news" but in 2007 it was reported that there were nine known gangs operating in Boca Raton.

Boca Raton Resort and Marina

Despite the magnificence of the homes (see run-of-the-mill mansion below), the yachts, mega-yachts, and super-yachts are unbelievable to behold!  One small marina had some 80' to 125' yachts.

An "average size" Boca Raton Mansion

 Landscapers there exhibit their professions with an exceptionally artistic touch.  Disappointingly, the only people we saw out and about on the properties were the "peeps" who groom every blade of grass and maintain everything pristinely.  Don't know where the owners were but we found it sad that we saw NONE enjoying their sparkling pools, manicured lawns, or any of the other things their wealth provides. 
Just another little shanty as we bid Boca adieu!

 It's not sour grapes but I wouldn't trade places with a single one of them.  There so so many Bentley's, Rolls, Ferrari's, Lamborghini's, etc., that we felt sorry for the Carrerra and Jag owners for having to drive low-end cars!
This guy was larger than a dinner plate.  He had dozens of family and friends swimming in his company.  Did you know the jelly fish is the only immortal animal?

A serendipity was connecting with Kelly, a friend I've not seen since mid-'80's when we both lived in Shreveport, LA.  She gave us a driving tour to show us even more extravagance!
Bill and Kelly

As wonderful as Boca was, it was time to move on.  We always look forward to being in downtown Ft. Lauderdale a block off Las Olas on the New River.

The approach and departure is always mind boggling!  At Pier 66 the 100 footers are the small fish in the pond and over shadowed by the 200' super mega yachts.
198' Titan

And look at her bow sprit!

Soon after we got situationed in our slip on the New River just off Los Olas, but also across from a very nice and fancy (from the outside) jail, e spied these newly weds.  Check out his shoes.  My very quick witted friend, Emily, suggested that he might have been "running" late!  Wish I'd thought of that!

                                  In the background is the Ft. Lauderdale City Jail
A stroll down Ft. Lauderdale's Los Olas Boulevard is a treat for the eyes and you never know what you'll see.  There are charming boutiques, small bakeries whose aromas reach out and pull you in, fascinating people-watching...or a foofy dog...

barber shop quartet...

1932 Chevrolet that originally sold for $495....


This venture always proves to be exciting and unpredictable.

We love every place we go and always hate to depart but it's time to leave Ft. Lauderdale in our wake and continue south to Billy Baggs State Park and No Name Anchorage.  We nchored in a little bay in the shadow of Cape Florida Lighthouse, built in 1825 and recognized as the oldest structure in South Florida.  Interestingly, it's the only lighthouse to have been attached by Indians.  A U.S. Army base was built there to protect the land and sea from subsequent Indian attacks.

Thursday before Christmas we arrived in Marathon and it was like returning home since we spent three months here last winter.  Six couples who were here last year are already here and were on the dock to greet us and take our lines.  Others are coming after the new year.

No roof tops nor chimneys for Santa in the Keys but we caught a glimpse of him as he rowed from boat to boat delivering his gifts.

Christmas dinner proved to be a sumptuous spread and everyone went away more than sated.

This is definitely a "happnin'" place with a bunch of old folks who love to and are very adept at partying.  There is music within walking distance every night of the week and it's actually music to which us old geezers can cut a rug. 

We're also trying to whip ourselves in shape by following our very fit leader, Tom, on bike rides.  Unfortunately, exercise doesn't "keep" and we've been lax for a month or or two.

Bill's project while we're here is to install a new freezer and refrigeration system.  I have a list of sewing projects to knock out.  Hopefully we can find time and energy to take care of the boat's needs after living like teenagers on spring break!

This month we celebrated 3 years of full-time cruising AKA "living aboard". The learning curve was straight up the first year but now we feel we're on an even keel with all things being easier resulting in our loving it more.  Wouldn't go back to land for anything.  We realize this life style is "temporary" causing us to be thankful for our health, agility, and physical ability to live as Sea Urchins.

New Year's Eve activities are scheduled and all in place so we're looking forward to a very lively welcoming of 2012.  We've had a marvelous year and wish for you a healthy 2012.

Till next year---
Bill and Laura
Marathon, FL


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