At Boca Raton, the ICW enters Lake Boca, presided over by the Boca Raton Resort and Club. Originally called The Cloisters, this was architect Addison Mizner’s masterpiece and is still one of the grandes dames of South Florida hotels. Mizner's architectural influence is seen all over Boca Raton which, in recent years, has attempted to rival Palm Beach in sheer elegance of style, if not actual wealth. The architect himself is also honored by Mizner Park, a low-rise, yet definitely upscale mall, on U.S. 1.
Boca's many shoreside attractions are also easily accessible from Delray Beach or Deerfield Beachwhich are really not far by land or water. There's an opportunity to anchor in Lake Boca Raton, on the north end, east of the waterway. There's no dockage at Spanish River Park but small boats may anchor in the lagoon there.
Boca also has an inlet, but it is another one best avoided unless you have local knowledge. Strong currents, shifting sandbars, a circuitous route and fairly heavy small boat traffic all combine to make Boca Inlet a less than desirable passage for most cruising boats.
South of Boca the waterway continues as a landcut past Deerfield Beach on the mainland side and Hillsboro Beach on the barrier island. Along both sides of the waterway you'll see many private homes, more than a few of which appear large enough to be clubs or hotels! There are also marinas and waterfront restaurants. Note that the Palm Beach/Broward County line is between Boca and Deerfield and it is marked by the first of the “15 inch Maximum Wake” signs you'll see added to the ubiquitous speed limit signs until you reach Miami-Dade County, south of Hallandale.
At Hillsboro Inlet and Lighthouse Point you move on into Pompano Beach, where traffic takes a decided turn for the busier and, often, faster. The ocean can be more peaceful — and often more safely navigable — than the waterway; much of the route is between parallel concrete seawalls and rebounding wakes can really rile things up. On the other hand, speed limits are aggressively enforced and that Broward maximum wake, as mentioned — no more than 15 inches, as measured 25 feet from the transom — tends to keep large boats at a slower pace even where 25 mph or higher speeds are otherwise legit. Then too, Hillsboro Inlet can often be tough enough to make staying inside the wiser choice. The inlet was dredged and straightened in late 2002 and again in 2006, but still, in strong northeast to southeast breezes, it is often rough enough to make passage difficult for those who don't know its unique little peculiarities. Shoaling has been reported in Ocean Park Channel between Daybeacons 1 and 8 and in the vicinity of Hillsboro River Light 68. Local knowledge is helpful here, but not absolutely necessary.
If the weather is nice and you opt for going out the inlet, go ALL the way out to the sea buoy before changing course. There's a nasty sandbar south of the channel that never fails to catch the unwary who turn too soon.
But if you stay on the ICW, you'll discover this option offers many advantages beyond simply avoiding the inlet — among them, the variety of shoreside facilities you'll find along the way, both in Lighthouse Point and Pompano Beach. There are several on the west side in canals that reach from the waterway. There's a cluster of marine-oriented businesses at the Atlantic Boulevard Bridge (Mile 1056) including Sands Harbor Marina/Hotel on the east side and a Houston's Restaurant on the west. (Continue...)
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