Taking a quick cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Miami is a great way to spend a long weekend in Florida. Here are some of our tips and reflections from our trip there last weekend:
- Ideal conditions make for dream sailing. Well, duh. That’s an obvious statement. What may not be quite as obvious is how rarely ideal conditions line up with calendar openings. This past Friday, they did for us. Our trip south was powered by ideal conditions of 15-20 knots of southeasterly wind. We sailed close hauled for the entire 25-ish mile trip without the need to tack. Best of all, southeasterly winds in this part of the ocean mean the wind runs closer to the direction of the Gulf Stream’s flow, resulting in a very flat sea state. The result was one of the best sailing days any one of us could remember.
- The inlets in Florida almost always make for exciting arrivals and departures. With the current ebbing out of Miami, sailboats are slowed down by two knots while the opposing wind kicks up a very lively chop from astern. Combine in dense shipping and powerboat traffic and you have the makings of a mild pucker factor for the last portion of a cruise out in the ocean. The same is true of the Port Everglades inlet that grants access to Fort Lauderdale. When possible, cruisers will want to plan inlet transits to coincide with currents in the same direction as the wind – even if this means a slower inlet passage. The ride is infinitely smoother.
- When arriving in Miami, make sure you bring a LOT of cash or have a LOT of available credit on your cards. Miami is scenic and festive but visits there can also be ruinously expensive. Try docking rates of $6 or more per foot to start, then add in $100 rounds of (4) drinks to continue the experience. Granted, we might have found plenty of places cheaper than the Fontainebleau to visit on Saturday, but why go to Miami if you’re not going to have the full experience?
- Don’t worry about dressing up. Miami isn’t New York or Newport. Just throw your crappiest flip flops and old T-shirts in a bag and you’ll fit right in. To my thinking the fashion norms of Miami contrast sharply with the altitude of the bar and marina tabs but hey, there it is.
- Keep an eye on the forecast for your return trip. Our departure from Miami Sunday morning was met with a 20-knot easterly. As we expected, even a shift in the breeze as (seemingly) subtle as one from southeast to east puts the breeze in sufficient opposition to the Gulf Stream to kick up a very lively and confused chop. It made for an exhilarating sail home, but our Sunday passage wasn’t necessarily one every cruiser would enjoy.