Top East Coast Anchorage #3: Ft. Lauderdale, Lake Sylvia and the Clothing Police

Yes, you read that right.  The Clothing Police.  We’ll get there, don’t worry.  Oddly enough, this anchorage was one Phillip and I agreed on immediately as one of our Top Three.  And, it wasn’t so much the place as … the people and the experiences we had there.  But, shouldn’t that always be the defining factor?  Phillip and I had never come to Ft. Lauderdale by boat, so this was an entirely new anchorage for us.  Our friend, Pam Wall (some of you might know that name ; ), lives in Ft. Lauderdale and we were hoping to get a fun visit in with her while we were there as well as explore such a big boating hub by water.  Pam recommended we try to anchor in Lake Sylvia if we could find room.  Thankfully, if cruising the east coast taught us anything, it’s how to squeeze into tight anchorages (and (try our best to) avoid collisions).  When Phillip and I came to Ft. Lauderdale, in February 2022, we found Lake Sylvia had about a dozen or so boats anchored in it.  It was tight but not too uncomfortable.  Lake Sylvia is here.

Not much of a lake, but I didn’t name it.  Know that you do have to do a little zig-zag on the way in to avoid some shoaling on the east side of the inlet. 

But, other than that, it’s quite easy (and fun) to come in under the 17thStreet Bridge (opens every quarter and three-quarters of the hour) and motor up the Stranahan and New River to make your way in.  Plenty of mega yachts to ogle.  Unfortunately, there are some deeper pockets in the middle of Lake Sylvia—20- to 25-feet or more of depth—but the majority of the anchorage is 9-13 feet, perfect for a bit of a shorter chain drop to accommodate others.  We typically had 75 feet out and we held fine and hit no one.  Phillip and I did have to monitor boat movements closely (particularly during tide shifts), and we moved several times to avoid a bump, but that’s just part of east coast cruising we’ve found.  We liked to settle UbiQ in right about here, near the inlet.

UbiQ, floating happily on her hook in Lake Sylvia, Ft. Lauderdale

In addition to the handful of beaches and parks we found we could dinghy up to for free, you can also dinghy around all the little waterways and canals (feels a little bit like Venice!) scooting under the many bridges and dock up at the Southport Raw Bar for a minimal $5 dinghy dock charge (that goes toward your bar tab there, so no pennies lost in our opinion). Everyone needs a dinghy drink for the buzz home.

And, there’s a Whole Foods just down the road, as well as a Piggly Wiggly and many other amenities (shipping, laundromat, etc.) on, or near, 17th Street. So, it is a convenient place to anchor. It’s also a good hub for marine service providers in case you need some work done. Isn’t that always the case?

But, aside from the protection and conveniences … whhyyyy did we like this location so much that we picked it as one of our Top 3 East Coast Anchorages?  Just a few stories might help: 

Pam Wall Overhaul

This woman.  So much spunk and spirit packed into one tiny little body.  Pam Wall has inspired Phillip and I in many ways.  Her sailing resume is simply astounding.  And, the amazing part?  She laid down all those years and miles on a boat she and her late husband, Andy, built—the gallant Kandarik.  I still baffle when she tells the story of her driving the forklift to pour the lead into the keel.  That’s really getting to know a boat from the inside out.  And, while we were in Ft. Lauderdale back in February, Kandarik was hauled and undergoing some very extensive and exciting repairs.  A complete re-paint and new Kandarik graphic.  It was a real treat to see the transformation in person while we were there and get the opportunity to travel aboard Kandarik—even if only for a bit to help Pam motor from the Playboy shipyard back to her dock—and enjoy a day on the water with the Pam Wall.

Pulled My (Wo)man Card

This was priceless.  I totally got my woman card yanked.  (Don’t worry; I earned it back!)  Phillip and I met a fellow Outbound 46 owner who was also anchored in Lake Sylvia on s/v Fisaga.  Surprisingly, we’ve typically seen another Outbound at most anchorages, cities, or islands we visited.  We had followed the Fisaga crew—Eli and Hayden—via dinghy to the Atlantic side to kitesurf.  It had been blowing 20+ for days, which was great for the kite.  But, that meant some serious chest-high surf for Annie.  The only part of kitesurfing I don’t like is big, rough surf.  I have many talents.  Navigating rough waves under kite is not one of them.  When I first saw the conditions, Phillip and I both readily decided this would likely not be a kite day for Annie.  I also saw dozens of Portuguese man o’ war (literally about every 3-5 feet) strewn along the waterline on the beach.  Those things freak me out.  I’ve heard the sting can cause paralysis and permanent nerve damage. 

Ummm … no thanks.  With that combo, I was out.  We got Phillip pumped up and riding and I decided to take a nice stroll along the (man ‘o war-laden) beach, congratulating myself on my stupendous decision.

As I was making my way back to our kite gear, I noticed a woman there caring for an infant.  The little baby had to be a month old … maybe two?  She had some kite gear there, too, so I started chatting her up as her husband made his way to our site and Phillip came in for a landing.  The husband began pulling a kite out of a bag and blowing it up and I just assssuuuummmed (never do that) he was going to go kite while she stayed with the baby.  I was wrong.  So wrong.  Lord, was I wrong.  He set everything up for her, then sheeee strapped on a harness and started getting ready to launch.  The gal had just had a baby, like a month … maybe two ago and her husband tells me she hasn’t kited in like six months (I mean, she was preggers) and she picks this gnarly, nasty day to just get back on the horse while I’m standing scared and worried on the shore?

There went my woman card.

NopeNot gonna do it.  As I saw her body drag out past the surf with ease, slip her feet into her board, and sail off under kite, I knew I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t just stand there and watch that and not even try?  Maybe I’d get all tumbled and crash my kite and make a mess.  So what?  At least I would be able to say I tried?  (Thankfully, I forgot entirely about the man o’ wars when I saw her go out bare arms and legs without a second thought.  Truth be told, had I remembered them, I might not have gone).  But, go I did.  Phillip could see my face as she just scooted out into the Atlantic like there was nothing difficult about it at all.  I think he knew my decision before I did.  I suited up.  And, off I went.  I’m not going to say it was my most elegant kiting ever, and it was short lived.  But I did it!  And got my woman card back in the process. 

Here is a little video Phillip took.  I’m on the yellow kite and Rene is on the blue.  Two ladies out there in the big surf taking charge!

Backgammon Bonds Friends Old and New

And not just a single backgammon game.  An entire four-board round-robin championship.  This was some serious backgammon.  And, it also coincided with a wonderful rendezvous with some of our very good friends from back home in Pensacola who were cruising up the East Coast (while we were cruising down) and who had anchored near us in Lake Sylvia: Neal and Janet on Midnight Sun III.  We’ve met up with these fine folks many places—Annapolis for the boat show, Pirate’s Cove, AL for local shenanigans, even La Rochelle, France, where we all departed in 2018 headed across the Atlantic!

Neal, Janet, Phillip, and I enjoying dinner at Coconuts, one of our favorite restaurants in Ft. Lauderdale.

While we have many old cruising buddies in Pensacola –this won’t surprise you—we’ve made many new friends while cruising this past year.  Jamie and Sheryl on s/v Pacific High and Sarah aboard Caribbean Gem are just three of them.  Although we hadn’t met Jamie or Sheryl at the time, we rounded Cape Hatteras with Pacific High in our wake on the AIS.  We then crossed wakes with them in Beaufort, NC, and Wrightsville Beach.  You’ll find the world of boats out there starts to shrink when you’re a full-time cruiser moving from anchorage to anchorage.  But, we finally got the opportunity to meet (and befriend) Jamie and Sheryl while we were anchored together in Lake Sylvia.  We also got to learn how serious they are about backgammon.  

If you’re ever anchored near their 65-foot custom ketch, Pacific High, you’ll hear the dice rattling and clanging all morning while Jamie and Sheryl play backgammon over coffee, and then again in the evening while they play over cocktails.  Jamie moves the pieces so fast I can’t count his moves or even attempt to keep up.  Phillip and I play occasionally, with our cute little leather roll-up set, but we were no match for these two. 

Thankfully, however, backgammon is a game that involves a great deal of luck.  A luckier player can beat a more skilled player any time.  I think that’s what makes it never get old.  At the outset, it’s truly anyone’s game.  Since we had so many fellow friends and cruisers in Lake Sylvia with us, Jamie decided to host a backgammon championship on the wide expanse of his aft deck on Pacific High.  Several cruisers brought their own backgammon sets for use in the round robin.  Phillip and I snagged Neal and Janet and made it an all-out friends, old and new, backgammon championship and rendezvous.  We were rolling dice, drinking, and laughing too hard to take any pictures. It’s all up here (as Annie taps her temple). Although I wouldn’t have thought it possible, his blissful backgammon event was even topped by a special invite aboard our new friend, Sarah’s, 62-foot Sunreef catamaran, which was anchored in Lake Sylvia as well, for a Super Bowl party where Phillip and I, along with Jamie, Sheryl, made homemade pizzas and watched the game on her 55” inch saloon TV screen.  Memories like this simply cannot be matched.  *cheers*

The Clothing Police

Gees Louise.  This gal is hilarious.  Louise.  Matriarch of the insanely cool Arakai family, a four-member crew that (much like Pam Wall) built their welded aluminum catamaran from a mold and have been living and cruising full-time aboard all over the world (Australia, where they are from, to Thailand, the Caribbean, the Bahamas, the U.S., etc.) for over ten years.  Louise is a licensed captain and jack of all trades.  Her husband, Lach, is a talented and creative engineer.  They’ve been homeschooling their two kids, Siara (15), and Kai (9), aboard while cruising.  Kai has never known a home other than Arakai, who is an impressive aluminum beast, a sailing machine, and a creative hub for the kids and their many artistic and athletic pursuits.  Getting to meet and befriend super cool people like this are one of just many reasons Phillip and I love to cruise.

But, if the boat is your home, at some point you have to have laundry day, right?  And, if there’s one thing we have learned big fancy, bazillion dollar-homeowners in Ft. Lauderdale do not like to look at or talk about, it’s their laundry.  As you can see from the map above, Lake Sylvia is surrounded by mega mansions.  Beautiful three-story glass and gold homes, many with fountains and pools, most seemingly unoccupied most of the time.  They’re probably second or third homes, places to simply vacation a few weeks out of the year.  Who knows.  But, it turns out these bazillionaires do not like to look out on Lake Sylvia, which they refer to as “their backyard,” and see (God forbid) your boat anchored there with beach towels on the lifelines.  For shame!

It was a sad day for Louise.  She got busted.  I’ve been written up for many things in my life.  Speeding tickets.  Parking violations.  Failure to appear for jury duty.  But, I have never received a clothing citation.  Louise can say she has, though.  The cop, however, was even sadder. He was sent out to troll around the anchorage and write cruisers up who had too many articles of clothing hanging around their boat.  We’ve now shared several anchorages with Arakai and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen them on the hook without a single stitch of clothing drying on the lines.  There’s always some towel or bathing suit or something that needs drying.  That’s just part of boat life. 

But, it’s not permitted in Lake Sylvia, at least not so many to the point it looks tacky.  We all were watching (from below decks) the marine patrol boat that had saddled up to Arakai wondering what the cop was doing on their boat and saying to Louise.  When we finally got to catch up with Louis later and she showed us the actual violation—where, in the “Offense” section, the cop had handwritten “CLOTHING”—we all died laughing.  Louise said “the copper” (in her thick Australian accent) was really a standup guy who hated the fact that he had to get on their case, but it was his job.  Louise said “I had that capper rolling when I told him tomorrow I’d been planning to wash all of her bras and panties hang them out to dry later that afternoon, so it was a good thing he stopped by when he did. He wasn’t too keen on that,” Louise said, chuckling.  In the end, it turned out to be just another adventure and great boat story.  Louise got busted by the Clothing Police. 

If you go to Lake Sylvia, don’t let the Clothing Police get you!  I’d also recommend bringing a backgammon board.  You never know what new friends you might make over a game!  Or, if you’re lucky, a championship.  As long as you’re having fun out there that’s all that matters. 

Phillip and I have definitely had fun sharing our Top 3 anchorages when we traveled down the East Coast this past winter.  Phillip and I have since sailed UbiQ back up the East Coast and spent most of the summer soaking in all the wonderful sights, temps, anchorages, and islands the New England coast has to offer.  It’s a shame we haven’t been sailing these parts every summer.  But, it’s on our list now.  We can’t wait to start sharing our New England adventures here at HaveWind, too! 

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