Hello Friends and Family,

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Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi - Part 1

Back in March on my most recent visit with my dad and most of my immediate family, we took a ride on the Water Taxi. In case you don't recall, Fort Lauderdale is nicknamed "The Venice of America" because of its extensive and intricate canal system. Originally, much of the area was swampland, developers dug canals to obtain soil (or is it sand?) to raise the level of buildable land. As a result there are canals — hundreds of miles of canals — just look at any map of the city.

Near the spot where we caught the Water Taxi is the Stranahan House — standing on its original location now surrounded with large modern commercial and residential buildings. It was built in 1901 as a trading post where Frank Stranahan operated a barge ferry across the river. It evolved into a post office, community center and town hall as Frank became Fort Lauderdale's first postmaster, banker, and businessman. He married another early pioneer, Ivy Julia Cromartie, the area's first school teacher, and it was not long before dances and community festivals were held on the upper floor of the house. In 1906, it became the Stranahan's personal residence and remained so until Ivy Stranahan's death in 1971.

We are lucky that it has survived — most of Fort Lauderdale's historical structures have been lost to termites, hurricanes and development.

Our embarkation point is in an area known as Las Olas Riverfront. It was developed as a mixed use area with shops, restaurants and high-rise condos. Unfortunately, it has not been as successful as the developers hoped — the poor economy, particularly with respect to real estate, has left many of the condos empty — and it was expected that the residents would patronize the shops and restaurants. Without them, the businesses have struggled — many failing and thus closing. Residents from other parts of Fort Lauderdale do come here (as we did to catch the Water Taxi) but they cannot depend on which restaurants are still open — decreasing the attraction.

The Water Taxi has a tour guide who tells the stories of what we are seeing. He told us a story about the New River which supposedly was created by an earthquake (relatively rare in South Florida) where the land sank, allowing ocean water to mix with Everglades freshwater, but more importantly, providing a method of transporting people and products around the area — long before it was paved with asphalt and concrete.

One of the sights repeated over and over on the tour are of modern water transportation vessals — more commonly calls "yachts". Many of them are huge and the tour guide would rattle off specs and the name of the owner — CEOs, Movie Stars, Recording Artists, Sports Superstars, etc.

He also filled us in on the history of many of the huge homes along the route. This one was owned by the infamous Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel — the American gangster involved with the Genovese crime family.


Unfortunately, I did not have a stenographer to record the information about these fine homes and yachts as I took the photos. We'll just have to look and enjoy.

It is hard to believe that there are so many people with the money to buy these impressive homes and yachts. I do not travel in such social circles so I cannot help but to gape (and perhaps drool on myself).

As we ride along taking it all it — do notice how many of these waterfront homes have piers for tying up their boats.

You might also notice that the boats are missing. We were told that many of these wealthy individuals do not really enjoy boating — so they rent out their massive yachts for equally massive rental fees. The tour guide pointed out one that rents for $1,000,000 a week — completely stocked — crew included.

So if any of my friends have a spare million sitting around and they would like to party — I would certainly enjoy an invitation. Hint, hint.

Since the Everglades are nearby, one might expect to see alligators. This was the only one we saw — live ones actually do not wonder this close to the ocean — the water is too salty for their tastes.

I do recall the owner of this fine home — Wayne Huizenga — the businessman who built Blockbuster Video, Waste Management and Autonation into successful companies. He owns or has owned at least part of the Miami Dolphins, Florida Panthers and Florida Marlins (now Miami Marlins). Unfortunately, his yacht was not in evidence — a pity because it cost some $77 million plus modifications to include a helipad. He and his family also own a number of other properties in the area. BTW, I do not think that is Huizenga operating the lawn mower — I am certain that he has people who have people who have people who cut the grass.

Huizenga also deserves credit for his philanthropy, donating generously to Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Pine Crest School in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale, Junior Achievement, the Laureus Foundation as well as funding many scholarships to students in Florida.

I don't really need a Huizenga-size mansion — this modest home would do quite nicely. Now if that offer from my new-found friend in Nigeria works out... (just kidding).

Well, if your car breaks down, you might need a tow. Here's what you do if your yacht breaks down. Poor guy.

To be continued...


Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com