By Jim Favors

By the time we had loaded our Kismet onto its trailer, we'd been cruising Florida waters for 2.5 months, most recently the Keys. As we left the 33rd Street boat ramp, in Marathon, and pointed our truck north, the realization hit us that we had a 1,740-mile road trip ahead of us before we would arrive home and could splash our Kismet into the fresh, clear blue, waters of the Great Lakes. Before that could happen, I had to make good on a couple of promises I made to Lisa as a compromise for my desire to go to Fernandina Beach, on Amelia Island, Florida, for a week-long stay during the MTOA 2012 Southern Rendezvous. We both love a good boat club rendezvous, but for us to attend this event it meant having to extend our trip more than a week past what Lisa had originally planned. The promises I made to Lisa (two stops she mentioned earlier in our trip) and the boat club stop on Amelia Island turned out to be a winning combination for both of us and it all worked into the schedule well because we had a little over a week to kill before the rendezvous started. In reality all three stops were in a northerly direction and pretty much on the route home, give or take, so this made it easier to honor my promises, as we slowly began our trek back to Michigan.

On the hard in Homestead, free to roam and explore the area with our truck.

When I make a promise I try my best to make it happen, and I’ll never forget the time I wasn’t able to keep a promise. Lisa and I were driving on California's Route 1, Pacific Coast Highway – the rural part. Lisa suggested we stop at one of the roadside stands and pick up some fresh artichokes and I agreed that gigantic, fresh picked, artichokes would be great. Unfortunately, I was also on a mission to get to our final destination, our son’s home in Los Angeles. I kept putting Lisa off until I finally said, “OK we'll stop at the next stand,” promise made! Guess what, from that point on there weren’t any more stands as we'd already past them all. How was I to know? The year was 1999 and I still remember this missed opportunity. So while we were trailering Kismet down to the Keys from the west coast of Florida, at the beginning of our winter cruise, we were quickly passing through Homestead to get to the Keys, Lisa mentioned that it would be nice to check out the little town sometime. I promised her we'd stop on our return trip north.

This is the picturesque Cooley’s Landing Marina facility.

From the cockpit of Kismet, as we were bow into the dock, we had a box seat to all the New River yachting activity.

Well, the time had arrived to keep promise number one as we neared Homestead, our first night out of the Keys. We found an RV Park to call home for two nights while we explored the little town. The idea was to use the RV Park as a base while we attempted to hit the nearby farm stands, roadside markets and nurseries. To tell the truth it had been a while since we'd done any boater homing and I was looking forward to a little land based activity while also keeping that first promise to Lisa.

As is typical when we pull into an RV Park, towing our 27-foot, shiny red, boat behind us, we get a lot of attention. It's not every day residents of an RV park see a boat being used like a conventional RV, so a small crowd began to accumulate around us to offer assistance as we tried multiple times to fit truck and trailer into a small camp site. Shortly after settling into our assigned spot a resident from a nearby fifth wheel style RV wandered over with a look of surprise on his face. In the normal course of conversation we found out that Clyde, as a young man, had sailed all over the world. He told us he'd spent the better part of 20 years sailing half of each year, then storing his boat for the remaining half while he returned home to earn additional cash for his next six months of sailing adventures. As much as we've had the good fortune to be able to have cruised U.S., Canadian and Bahamian waters, we were both amazed at how much Clyde must have seen, learned and quite frankly how he successfully executed and achieved his sailing dream.

These docked megayachts all had to cruise up the narrow New River, past Cooley’s Landing and it’s very entertaining!

After spending an afternoon exploring the agricultural section of route 5, north of Homestead, by truck and making a few purchases, we left Homestead heading north to Fort Lauderdale. Our plan was to put the boat in the water, stay at our favorite marina, and fulfill my second promise to Lisa. Fort Lauderdale, a favorite stop of Lisa’s, is considered the "Venice of America" because of its massive canal systems (some say over 300 miles worth), with 42,000 registered yachts and approximately 100 marine related businesses, has a lot more to offer than most Floridian cities for visiting boaters. Our launch destination was Cooley's Landing, a Municipal Marina on the banks of the New River with just a short walk to Las Olas and downtown Fort Lauderdale.

My very first visit to New River was in December of 1969. I was in my sophomore year of college and decided a trip to Florida over Christmas break would be a good idea and a welcome escape from the cold, northern Michigan winter. Pete, a high school friend, (together we built an 8-foot hydroplane in shop class), and I made this trip with each other. This was a road trip and we had no boat, only a great desire to be on the water while in Florida, so we booked a cruise on the fabled Jungle Queen. About the only thing I recall from the cruise was how the boat snaked its way up New River to the boat company’s private wild animal sanctuary where we saw many exotic birds and reptiles. Mission accomplished, we had gotten out on the water. Fast-forward 43 years and guess what we found? The new and improved Jungle Queen paddleboat still cruises past Cooley's Landing, and our back deck during our stay, several times a day… some things never change.

This is the only proof I have that Pete and I were in Florida in 1969, what good-looking guys we were!

Fort Lauderdale was called New River Settlement before the 20th Century. It was at the fork of the New River where the first fort stood. Over the years there have been three different forts all called Fort Lauderdale. The forts were built to defend the area during the Second Seminole War and were all named after Major William Lauderdale, the namesake of Fort Lauderdale. There isn’t much visible today that resembles those early days as the forts have long since vanished, replaced by modern marinas, water front homes, restaurants, storefronts and condos.

This is the old Jungle Queen, probably the one Pete and I were on in 1969 and it’s currently for sale.

Here you see the new and improved Jungle Queen cruising past our docked Kismet.

Cooley's Landing Marina is the perfect destination for a transient trailerable boater. I say this for many reasons but mostly because we liked that we could launch our boat, park the truck and trailer (within sight of our slip) and dock Kismet all at one facility. This is typically not the case at most facilities. In most launching situations we've encountered, we end up launching one place, parking somewhere else, then driving the boat to a marina or anchorage. In addition Cooley's is conveniently located for easy access to entertainment, dining, shopping areas and walking along the waterfront. Just steps off our dock we had access to the River Walk, we could make our way to Las Olas Avenue for some power shopping, dining, or get in our daily exercise by walking the banks of the New River.

A few days after our arrival Lisa and I decided to head out for an exploration tour of New River and its side canals by dinghy. Less than a half-mile from Cooley's there’s a fork in the river (where one of the old forts called Fort Lauderdale was located during the Seminole War). We first cruised the north fork; as far back as we could navigate – a few miles at least. We also went in and out of several side canals, all lined with homes that had boats docked in front of them – how sweet is that! Exiting the north arm we ventured into the south fork, taking in the multi-million-dollar homes along the way. It's the south fork that eventually leads back to huge marine yards that handle the mega yachts that regularily cruised past our little Kismet at Cooley's all day long. Passing the large marine yards we slipped under I-94 and ultimately made it as far back as the Jungle Queen’s private sanctuary, a place I had not seen or been to since 1969, it hadn’t changed much. We lingered near the dock listening to some exotic bird songs for a while before turning around and heading back to Cooley's Landing.

One of the many side canals we dinghied in and out of during our 4-hour New River tour.

On our return trip we came across an RV Park and Marina across the canal from the Jungle Queen sanctuary. Intrigued, we dinghied closer to take a look, you could call it research for future trips to the Fort Lauderdale area when we might like to boater home instead of cruise. Heck, maybe I could even get a job working on the Jungle Queen!

We planned a weeklong stay in Lisa’s favorite Florida (mainland) town, so we’d have plenty of time to explore the city and revisit a few familiar spots. One of our favorite restaurants is Tom Jenkins' Bar-B-Q. Whenever we're in Fort Lauderdale, we always plan a long walk to pick up some rib dinners and take them back to the boat. Founded in 1990, by two friends who have mastered a unique barbequing technique. Jenkins’ is located in a funky, small diner type building just a few blocks walk up from New River on South Federal Hwy. On our last night in Fort Lauderdale we made the trek up to the restaurant and were quickly drawn in by the aromas wafting up and out from the cooker’s smokestack. We’ve heard that if you don't see smoke coming out of a Bar-B-Q restaurant, don’t go there because it can’t be the real McCoy.

On a typical day we’d have 10 to 15 boats like this cruise by our boat on New River, some of the larger ones were being towed through.

After spending a week immersing ourselves in the quiet ambience of Fort Lauderdale and Las Olas, I was happy to have fulfilled my two promises to Lisa. In the end we both benefitted by the schedule we worked out. Satisfied and pleased to have had a successful winter boat trip, we loaded our Kismet up and, within a day, trailered her to our last winter destination, Amelia Island, a place we've heard so much about but have never been too by land or water.