From Boca Raton Lake, the journey past Hillsborough Inlet to Fort Lauderdale is a mere 14 nautical miles. Under normal circumstances, a 14 mile trip on Cutter Loose could be accomplished in about two hours. A total of eight restricted bridges along this stretch turn this leg into a four hour experience. Thankfully, there is little boat traffic in the ICW early on a Thursday morning. The bridges are opening just for us. As we draw closer to Fort Lauderdale, the homes become even more luxurious and the boats have become enormous. House gaping and boat watching make today’s journey along the ICW pleasurable.
Arriving in Fort Lauderdale is something of a milestone. We have traveled 1200 miles along the ICW since leaving Rock Hall on October 22nd. From here, vessels continuing south with mast heights greater than 56 feet must exit the ICW and enter the Atlantic Ocean through the Port Everglades inlet. We will confront this challenge in the next leg. But for now, we will pause for a few days to enjoy the company of friends and savor the amenities of this city of canals.
Cutter Loose is anchored in Lake Sylvia, just south of the Las Olas Boulevard Bridge. The lake is surrounded with attractive homes and the anchorage is packed to capacity with cruising boats, waiting for a weather window to sail east to the Bahamas or south to the Keys. Fort Lauderdale is a major crossroads for cruisers. The outlines of cruise ships are visible on the horizon as they enter and leave Port Everglades inlet, just a mile to the south. The ritual is for cruise ships to blow their whistles at condo dwellers along the inlet. The condo dwellers respond in-kind by beating on pots and pans.
We enjoy a champagne welcoming party aboard Cutter Loose this afternoon, courtesy of Pat’s high school friends, Joyce and Stephani. They have been busy preparing appetizers to commemorate our arrival in Fort Lauderdale. Joyce and Stephani are accompanied by their spouses Brian and Robin. After catching up in the cockpit until dark, Captain Brian escorts us to dinner at a nearby waterfront restaurant aboard the motor vessel Reef Rocket. Afterwards, we board Reef Rocket for a lightshow tour along the New River where residents have overachieved in decorating their homes and yards for the holidays.