So Long Palm Beach…Hello Stiltsville!
After an awesome week in Palm Beach we headed out at first light on Friday November 26th, the day after Thanksgiving. Our new local hosts and friends hosts Cal and Marty Landau rounded up the local cruisers and liveaboards and hosted a floating Thanksgiving Feast aboard their Fountain Pajot Venezia.
Just to ensure there was plenty of room we tied up alongside and shared his mooring. We each explored each other’s boats and noticed that although they were the same make and model there were still many differences. Our friends from Canada and Dennis Point MD aboard ‘Our White Magic’ Bob and Beckie Eddy joined us along with a few other locals and transients. It was incredible to share this holiday with such great people. This is Jessie’s first major holiday away from her family and so it was important to make it an event that felt like home.
All the Dinghy parking spots were full as the sun set and wine flowed and the feasting began. There was a vegan meatloaf we decided we would rename just “Loaf’. It was surprising tasty. We each brought something to share and our own refreshments. It felt odd celebrating this holiday in such a warm climate, but I can’t say we minded.
Our destination was now Miami, the winds were perfect, 15-18 kts on the beam with a small 2-4 swell coming from the East. With the gulfstream just yards offshore we hugged the beach so closely we could almost smell the tourists covered in oil, as Mr. Buffet might say. As we passed Mar-A-Lago the coast guard escorted us further offshore as President Elect Trump was there with his family. The rest of the day we sailed or motor sailed and heading into the Miami Inlet. With Cigarette Boats and mega Yachts a plenty it was an interesting trip around South Beach and Miami. We passed the city and headed a little further south and pulled into an anchorage just south of Miami near the Marine Stadium at a spot aptly named ‘Virginia’ Key. As the sun went down were in for a treat, our anchorage had an incredible view of the Miami skyline!
So much of our adventure so far has been fluid. It never ceases to amaze me how there seems to be some unseen force guiding us along and shaping our journey. Each place we meet incredible people who share their vehicles, their tables or their local knowledge and shape our experience. Without our boat needing fiberglass repair we would not have been able to host our friend Patrick. Without Patrick’s suggestion to head to Palm Beach we might have passed it. And his recommendation to check out the Maxi Sailboat yard ‘Cracker Boy’ we would never have met Cal. From there we would have missed our on our Turkey Day festivities and never found our anchorage in Miami or passed through Stiltsville. This coincidences or connected events have enriched our trip so far!
Stiltsville: a relic of a renegade South Florida culture that gave zero fucks.
Another local recommendation was for us to depart Miami and head to the Hawks Channel via the Stiltsville inlet. In the 1920 or 30s a man by the name of Crawfish Eddy build a shack on stilts south of Key Biscayne. In the post prohibition years, he may have hosted boozy gambling parties that soon attracted the elite of Miami. Over the next few years another structure was created named the Calvert Club. Was organized by the Miami Beach Rod and Reel Club. In 1940, the Quarter Deck club was built. It was a large house on a barge and pilings near Crawfish Eddie’s. When it opened membership cost $150 by invitation only and the club became one of the most popular spots in Miami. The club’s popularity grew after an article about the club appeared in Life magazine on February 10, 1941. The article noted that this was an “extraordinary American community dedicated solely to sunlight, salt water and the well-being of the human spirit”. The club was described as “a $100,000 play-palace equipped with bar, lounge, bridge deck, dining room and dock slips for yachts”]
The structure was renovated and expanded, only to be heavily damaged by Hurricane King late in the season. The club was rebuilt, but never regained the popularity of its early years.
Stiltsville may not have looked like much, but in the 1940s and 1950s, it was the place where lawyers, bankers, politicians, and other moneyed, well-connected Miamians came to drink, relax and kick back. Even Florida’s Governor got in on the action and was known as a frequent visitor during the 1950s.
Our favorite tale of Stiltsville has got to be about the Bikini Club. In the early 1960s an alleged grifter and scam artist ‘accidently’ grounded a 150 yacht in the mud flats of Stiltsville and turned her into a social club. Booze was free for women wearing bikinis and there was even a sun deck for those wishing to forgo clothes all together. It was closed down in the summer of 1965 for not having a liquor license and was destroyed in the 1965 Hurricane ‘Betsey’.
In 2003, a non-profit organization called the Stiltsville Trust was established to preserve these unique properties and give access to the public. Individuals, families or groups can rent a home for a weekend or a week. Applications are available online at stiltsvilletrust.org.
Who wouldn’t want to stay in an aquatic treehouse a mile offshore in beautiful ocean waters with an incredible view of the Miami Skyline!
When we came through there were only 7 structures left in various states of repair/disrepair. A man with his morning cup of coffee waved to us from one of the renovated houses. Others look to have become dens of ill repute for gritty gangs of cormorants and pelicans. Their unwavering glowering glances followed us as we passed as if to say move along…move along. And move along we did, on to Key Largo!
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