If you dredge it, officials say, the megayachts will come; Deepening of Intracoastal Waterway begins (Thursday, May 5, 2016)

If you dredge it, officials say, the megayachts will come; Deepening of Intracoastal Waterway begins (Tap on blue twice for news article)

William G. Crawford, Jr., editor

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.–On Thursday, May 5, 2016, the Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND) began a two-year dredging project to deepen the Intracoastal Waterway to a minimum of 10 to 12 feet from the 17th Street Causeway Bridge north to the Sunrise Bridge to attract the burgeoning mega yacht business.

From 1912 to 1929, the Intracoastal Waterway was a privately owned waterway initially owned by St. Augustine investors that  collected tolls from boats crossing six chains at different points from Jacksonville, Fla. to Miami, Fla.  In 1881, the Florida Coast Line Canal & Transportation Company agreed to dredge the waterway for a grant of  3,840 acres of Florida owned land for every mile of waterway dredged to a depth of five feet and a width of fifty feet and the right to collect tolls. 

By 1912, the private enterprise comprised mostly of New England investors received over one million acres of public land along Florida’s Atlantic coast for dredging 268 miles of  waterway according to state specifications. Although more than 80% of the waterway’s length had already consisted of water courses, lagoons, estuaries, and sounds, commercially viable vessels like steamboats could not navigate these waters without some dredging.  In Fort Lauderdale, waterways generally were three to four feet deep and tidally influenced.  

Work in Fort Lauderdale to dredge a course through the New River Sound to create a depth of five feet deep and fifty feet wide occurred between 1893 and 1896.   In the early 1920’s, about a mile west of today’s downtown on the South Fork of the New River, boaters throughout the country regarded the Pilkington Yacht Basin as  the largest covered yacht basin Florida. This basin accommodated almost exclusively flat-bottomed boats and houseboats. In sum, while the city had been known as the ‘Gateway to the Everglades’, most of its waters were non-navigable without dredging.  In 1929, the Federal government assumed control of the waterway. The State of Florida retained ownership of the bottom lands as they existed on the date of statehood, March 3, 1845.  Tolls would no longer be collected on the Florida East Coast Canal upon assumption of control by the Federal government.

Tap twice on the blue sentence at the top of this page.

Freak storm overturns boats in Ft. Lauderdale

A freak storm overturned boats on Lake Sylvia (or Sylvan), a small protected lake surrounded by high-end residences in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Lauderdale anchorage

Region: Atlantic ICW – FL & St. Johns R.   One quarter mile from Intracoastal

Date Reported: Feb 17, 2016

Reported By: Mike Ahart, Waterway Guide News Editor

Submerged boat in Lake Sylvia, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. result of freak storm
Submerged boat in Lake Sylvia, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Source: Sun-Sentinel,NBC Miami,Boater Reports

A freak storm spawning tornados swept through areas of South Florida, overturning two occupied boats in Lake Sylvia, a popular anchorage just off the ICW at Mile 1064.5 in Ft. Lauderdale, and wreaking havoc across the region Tuesday morning, Feb. 16, 2016.

According to a NBC Miami report, one person was taken to the hospital and several people were rescued from the water in Lake Sylvia, but only minor injuries were reported. Wind speed reports from media and boaters range from 50 to 90 knots.
The powerboat was raised yesterday and towed to a local marina, and the catamaran was righted and dewatered today, according to reports

The Sun-Sentinel interviewed the owner of the flipped catamaran

Doug Reaney, 67, said from a Fort Lauderdale fire station that he was “a little wet” after being rescued from Dream Catcher, the flipped catamaran that the retired Navy veteran calls home. “I’ll probably be black and blue one of these days but I’m not hurt in any substantial way

Wanderlust Wednesday: The Venice of the North; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.: the Venice of America.

The City of Fort Lauderdale has promoted itself as the ‘Venice of America’ for almost  a century because of its  more than one hundred miles of manmade and natural canals throughout the 36-square-mile city.  But before it proclaimed itself the ‘Venice of America’ beginning in the 1920s, its weekly newspaper advertised the town on its masthead as the ‘Gateway to the Everglades’.  Under Governor Napoleon Bonaparte Broward (1905-1909), the State of Florida began a massive project to drain the Everglades to open up millions of acres of arable land for agriculture on a scale the world had never known.  The plan was to dredge five canals from Lake Okeechobee to both Florida coasts. The first to reach the Lake was the New River Drainage Canal in 1912, starting at Fort Lauderdale; hence the moniker, ‘Gateway to the Everglades’.

“Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin,” from “The Fault in Our Stars.”   Amsterdam, nicknamed the “Venice of the North,” is a city I would like to visit as part of my Wanderlust Wednesday. My friend, […]


Commodore Avylen Harcourt Brook aboard his sloop “Klyo,” in the New River Sound, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The sloop

On the sloop “Klyo,” in the New River Sound, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, were President-elect Warren Harding (in white pants and white shoes, standing in the middle with cap doffed in right hand) and owner, Commodore Avylen Harcourt Brook (short-statured, standing in the middle of two taller men in the stern with flat captain’s hat (1922)).  Courtesy, Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Historical Society. The event, or “stunt”, attracted coverage from newspapers across the country, inciting action for a second renaissance in inland waterways construction and improvements.  More than thirty citizen groups coalesced to lobby for waterways throughout the country.


Author rowing on the Intracoastal, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

The author rows a 21′ long ultra-lite Alden Star rowing shell the average person can lift and launch into the water. The oars are top-of-the-line oars hand carved from light wood in Vermont. A pair of oars will set you back about $400 but, in the opinion of the author, the cost is well worth it.

Author rows on the New River Sound (Intracoastal)
Author rows on the New River Sound (Intracoastal)

While more expensive than oars made from PVC, the slightly heavier weight lends more stability. And with experience, the combination of the ultra-lite shell propelled by the wooden oars create an experience that is just this side of heaven. The shell flat flies over water when the wind is down and the water flat.

Rowing on the New River Sound, or almost any tidally-influenced inland waterway, is a rough way to row.  While I have rowed as fast as 10 knots in ideal conditions, those instances are few and far between.  The best conditions are those found in flat water low or no wind such as lakes or closed non-tidally influenced water.

The New River Sound is a portion of the Intracoastal Waterway that runs from Lighthouse Point south through Fort Lauderdale to Hollywood, Fla.

The author took up rowing when age no longer accommodated running.  I enjoyed running. But after discovering rowing, I’d say that rowing is a better conditioning experience with less stress on the feet, ankles, and knees. One caveat: talk to your physician before undertaking any exercise regime and find the right one for you.

A Floating Hotel and Restaurant in the Intracoastal during the 1930’s

In the 1930’s, Commodore Avylen Harcourt Brook, second chairman of the Florida Inland Navigation District, diligently worked with community leaders to bring the Amphitrite, a floating hotel and restaurant to Fort Lauderdale. Actually, the Amphitrite served as a warship in the Spanish-American War and the First World War; later, she was decommissioned and sold to investors, who converted her into a floating hotel and restaurant. In Greek mythology, Amphitrite was the wife of Poseidon.

The “Amphitrite,” floating hotel

The Amphitrite seen here in the New River Sound, a large body of water of the Intracoastal Waterway, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with its bow facing north.  The floating hotel boasted a number of amenities in addition to serving as a hotel and restaurant.

Ultimately, the ship was not financially successful. The coups d’grace was delivered when a hurricane blew her from her mooring to another part of the Intracoastal. Over the years, the ship became something of an ‘eye sore’ from lack of maintenance. She was not missed by local residents when the old vessel disappeared during World War II, according to local legend.

As fantastic as a floating hotel may seem, Palm Beach County investor Harry Seymour Kelsey, developer of Kelsey City, now Lake Park, Fla., planned in the early 1920’s when he bought the Florida East Coast Canal from the estate of George Ł. Bradley to install a string of floating hotels along the Canal. His sale of the waterway to the State of Florida for later transfer to the federal government for conversion into the Intracoastal Waterway interrupted his master plan of “floating hotels” along the waterway.

William G. Crawford, Jr., Esq.
Author of “Florida’s Big Dig”