Boca Raton 2008       Picasa Photo Album

Emily and I drove down to Boca with a U-Haul in August '05. Tough on the old Dad to leave his daughter behind in a brand-new place and country.

Very satisfying to travel back down there and see Emily in her new digs, meet some of her friends, drive around in her fancy car and get some time in swimming, snorkeling and surfing at the local beaches.

I had a great trip. Lots of sun, surf and beer. I even got down to the Everglades on an airboat!

Wednesday    Fly Halifax to Boca, swim at Deerfield

The flight down to Boca was pretty easy. Up at 3:00 AM, off to the bus wearing everything I have, as the temperature was 39F. Off to Montreal, down to Fort Lauderdale and a quick drive to Boca with Emily's room- mate, Sara. The temperature is now 89F! Nothing like a 50 degree swing to start your day.

A quick call to Emily and I'm off to the beach, walking. Man, it is HOT! Swimming less than 2 hours from landing. I like it! Find the local places for banking, newspapers, etc, then a late lunch at a place on the Deerfield beach with a cool breeze. First time I've had a conch chowder. Not too impressed with the one I had.

Emily gets off work and it's salad, seafood (Mahimahi) and beer while we catch up. Great way to finish the day.

Thursday    Bike around Boca Raton, build a surf-board rack and swim at Boca beach

Up at sunup and out to the deck with a cup of coffee to watch the day start up. We are right on the Hillsboro Canal which wends its way out to the Intra-Coastal and then the Atlantic. Emily is working all day, so I'm left to my own devices. First, I work on the surfboard rack that she wants me to build, then it's off on the bike to tool around town. I end up at the Boca Pavilion beach. Lots of kids surfing on a school holiday.

Dinner is a wonderful veggie spaghetti that Emily makes just like her Mom, some beers and lots of chit-chat with Emily and Sara.

Friday    Snorkel Deerfield beach reef, bike to Woodfield

Emily's friend John has agreed to give me a surfing lesson in Fort Lauderdale. Unfortunately, the drive down didn't make the waves any bigger and we had to push it till the next day. We get in a nice swim and Emily suggests snorkeling after we drop off some stuff for her boyfriend Matt, who is coming back from an Indonesian surf holiday on Saturday.

I've been snorkeling once before (Eilat, Israel) in very tropical waters with schools of brightly-coloured fish. What was different here is that we went 50-60 meters offshore. It takes so little energy to paddle along in salt water. Very cool. Like being in your own movie. We found the reef and got to see all sorts of fish swimming in and out of parts of the coral. A few schools of larger fish drift by. This is a lot of fun. I am lucky enough to catch sight of some sort of turtle. I jump right up to yell for Emily, then back down to keep looking. Actually, I'm kind of I really want to get close to this guy? As it turns out he is moving away from shore a lot quicker than me, so I only get another small glimpse.

Emily is off to work, so I get another afternoon to do some biking and swimming. I call up our Uncle Sam and we agree that I'll come up for dinner. A nice, big Shabas supper then a long, argumentative walk in the gated community that he lives in and Emily works in. I leave Sam the bike and drop over to visit Emily for a ride home. Mucho rich people in this neighbourhood.

I don't know that I could handle being well-to-do. I have very simple pleasures. I enjoy my friends and the group activities that I participate in. My health is good and I really enjoy working out. Adding money would likely mess up that nice balance.

Saturday    Gator Park in the Everglades and swimming at Red Reef in Boca

Emily has the next 3 days off, so we going to fill them up. No luck with the surf lesson again today, so it is off to Gator Park in the Everglades. I have a Bucket List that I am working on that has about a dozen items on it. An airboat ride in the Everglades isn't on that list, but it's on the big Life List that's in my head. The Everglades have always fascinated me and I never miss a chance to read National Geographics that feature the area.

Our guide on the airboat ride is Dan. Quite the character. Definitely not Park Ranger material. Gravelly voice, long hair and multiple tattoos. Lives about 200 meters from the park. He is really good at informing us and hopefully scaring us a bit at the same time. We start out slow and see some birds and quite a few alligators. The weather is sunny, hot and steamy. Once he cranks the beast up a few notches, I am really happy.

We are sluicing along the waterway at a good clip and Dan is slip-sliding the boat across various patches of grass, water spray all over the place. I could do this all day! We stop for a breather out in the middle of nowhere (always wondered where that was, now I know) and Dan jokes that with cutbacks and all that, this is as far as our tickets will take us. It is a very enjoyable ride. I'd love to spend a full day or two on a boat like this. Definitely still have Everglades on the Life List.

The next part of the tour involves Howard???, a few alligators, some wresting and tons of laughter. Easily the most entertaining patter I've ever heard. He owned the small crowd and we basically did what he told us, regardless of our initial fears. He had most of us convinced that he was going to make the Israeli woman wrestle a 6 foot alligator. She was nervous the whole time, but looked equal to the challenge.

End result is we all got to touch and hold an alligator, even the kids who were quite scared at the outset. The guy was the master of his domain.

As much fun as the show was, the bit I enjoyed the most was where he stuck his hand in the alligator's mouth after just showing us the speed and strength of those jaws with a stick in that same mouth.

Back to Boca and swimming at Red Reef Beach and an excellent dinner made with some very fresh hogfish (Capitaine) caught by Emily's friend Greg.

Sunday    Surfing at Deerfield and Boca Pavilion

It's surfing Sunday! The waves at Deerfield Pier are ankle to knee-high, perfect for learning how to surf. We get in some yoga stretches and then Emily waxes up the boards, gives me some initial pointers and we head out into the waves. My only other time surfing was Spring '07 in Tofino, B.C. The waves then were knee to thigh-high and I was encased in a full wetsuit as the water temperature was 40F. Tough for a first day. Today, the water is in the 80's, I have a nice, big training board and Emily is right there to keep me on track and give me positive feedback.

I surf...?

I get myself out past the break (a first) and get to hang around sitting on the board (another first) while Emily picks waves for me to try. I do catch a few and manage to stand up at least once. Very addictive sport. Also quite frustrating and tiring. After about an hour and a half, I am completely buzzed.

Back to Emily's for the daily Greek salad (she eats even healthier than I do) and since it's vacation, a beer.

We spend the afternoon at Boca Pavilion that has a knee-high shore break. I work at it for awhile, but I'm not going to get out past these big waves so close to shore. I need more skill and practice and the legs and arms are chafed and the tank is quite out of gas. Fun to see the completely different set of wave conditions.

We put in a quick hour at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. What a great place. A long boardwalk hike out amongst all sorts of local trees, spiders, lizards and flowers, followed by a series of pools with sea turtles, hammerhead sharks, horseshoe crabs and a small manta ray. I buy an ironwood carving of a sea-turtle to commemorate my first trip to Florida. Hope to go back and do Gumbo Limbo justice next year.

Home for a shower and quick meal of salad and fish, and we head out to a local surf bar (Kahuna's) for some beer and great live music. All in all, a great day.

Surfing in Boca. The movie

Emily surfing at Deerfield Pier in some bigger waves. Dad couldn't get past the break.
Boca Surf Cam

Monday    Surfing at Deerfield and Trespass (South Deerfield). Trip to clinic

It's surfing Monday, and the waves are up. I thought they were pretty tough at the Pavilion yesterday, but I gather that they'll be up even higher the next few days. Oh boy? We start out at the Pier. Emily works at it for a bit and gets out past the break. Not so for me. I can't even get past the first set of obstacles with any consistency. The arms are gassed. I content myself with watching Emily try and work the waves about 50 yds offshore. Don't see any other girls, just a bunch of guys. Me, I'm your average Dad, nervous and proud at the same time.

These pics are from earlier in the year

We decide to move farther down to Trespass, where the waves will be a tad smaller and hopefully not as messy. We bring the boogie-board for me, as the big beast of a training surf-board has beat the stuffing out of me. I am trying to get a movie or some shots of Emily out in the surf. It is pretty windy and starts raining big time. I couldn't see anything from shore and Emily said it was worse in the water. Not too many getting up in these conditions.

I decide to give Emily's board a try. It is a lot tippier, so the chances of standing on it are basically nil. That being said, the board is a lot lighter and skinnier and I adjust to it quite quickly and get out past the break, which makes me quite happy. I am even able to sit on the board and manoeuvre it enough to chase a few waves. I am having a lot of fun.

I am having so much fun, I let my guard down a bit and end up making a bad decision on a wave that is way over my head. The board smacks me up the side of the head and I am bleeding like a stuck pig. Emily carries ice to the beach all the time (thank-you Emily), so I am on it right away. An hour of ice doesn't stop the bleeding, so it's off to a local clinic to see how my Blue Cross coverage works in the States (quite fine). A long phone call to Canada, a short time with the doctor and I am all fixed up (Durabond glue instead of the 3 stitches that it would have taken).

I have three gashes in my mouth and it's swollen like a pumpkin. Oddly enough, Emily is quite pleased that I got my first surfing injury. I have chafe spots everywhere, a big bruise on my hip, sore spots all over my body, but I guess that unless it draws blood, it doesn't count.

Emily takes me to dinner at a great Mexican place, followed by a Guinness at a local Brit bar. Again, a great day, even with the beer dribbling out of my balloon-sized lip.

In Tofino, I spent about 5 hours in the water. In that time I stood on the board a grand total of about 5 seconds, with the longest stint being about 1.5 seconds. In Boca, I got in about 4 hours of surfing and guessed it...about 4 seconds on top of a board, with 1.5 seconds being the best result. A very addictive sport.

Tuesday    Watching surfers at Deerfield, French pastry and fly home

I get up in time to watch sunup along the Hillsboro Canal from Emily's front lawn. I love sitting out there in all kinds of weather, especially the rain or early morning. The wind is up even this far from the beach, and sure enough the surf report means that I'm not going in the water, even without the facial injury. Once we get to the beach, I'm glad Emily's not going in as well. I would definitely have been too nervous to watch. Maybe next time.

We hang out at a few Deerfield beaches watching some very talented short-boarders work the vicious wave sets. A lot of fun to watch how they get themselves at past the break and then work at picking decent waves. Excellent way to spend a morning. We end up at a nice French pastry shop for coffee and croissants. Great to hang out with a local, cause I'd never find these spots.

Back to pack up and head off to the airport. The size of the yachts in Fort Lauderdale reminds me just how stinking rich this area is, as compared to all those lonely sobs waiting for intermittent bus service in Boca. The flight home goes well. We lift off out of Newark under a full moon and fly right up the western side of Manhattan, a view I know from the seat of my pants. As luck would have it, I meet a co-worker (Ray Doucette) in the Customs line and am not forced to take a taxi home at 1:00 AM. The shuttle shuts down before the last plane, you know.

Great to be home in Halifax. It was a great trip. I enjoyed myself everyday. I really enjoyed seeing daughter Emily in her new life. It's great to be a Dad.


Paddling for all I'm worth...