Thursday, November 10, 2011

Stiltsville, USA

Weather permitting, Eric and I go for a sail every other weekend. Typically, we leave our marina and head for the Gulf Stream, which is just a few miles off the coast of Miami Beach. Depending on the wind, we head either north or south, and do our best to catch a fish (which, as of today, we have yet to accomplish).

With winter approaching, the winds have changed. A consistent, strong wind now blows from the north, which has resulted in some rather rough waves in the Atlantic, where we typically sail. Since I am new to sailing, I tend to freak out whenever we encounter a wave larger than, say, 2 feet, so sailing around in the choppy, large waves of the Gulf Stream is a bit terrifying for me. Although the rational part of my brain understands it would require a wave at least 30 feet high to capsize Sea Gem (a fact Eric reassures me of each time we sail), the fear center of my brain isn't convinced. To preserve my sanity, Eric and I decided to sail around Biscayne Bay last weekend, and avoid the large waves of the open ocean until I am a bit more seasoned (or, at the very least, sedated).

Biscayne Bay is absolutely beautiful. Not only is it calmer than the open ocean, it also seems to be the sailing-epicenter of Miami. We rarely see other sailboats when we're in the Atlantic, but as soon as we entered the bay, there were dozens of them!

We also encountered something else in waters of Biscayne Bay typically not seen in the ocean: houses!

Stilt Homes

The stilt houses of Biscayne Bay are known collectively as Stiltsville. Although I was keeping a close watch on our depth meter as we made our way though the shallow channel leading into the bay, I was able to snap a few pictures of the homes in this rather unusual neighborhood:

A-frame House

Jimmy Ellenburg House

Leshaw House

Baldwin, Sessions & Shaw House

Bay Chateau

Stiltsville dates back to the early 1920s, at which time the houses served as social clubs and places to gamble. Since the bay is now protected, no new stilt homes may be built, nor may any of the remaining homes be re-built if they were destroyed by a hurricane, etc. During Stiltsville's peak, 27 houses stood in the waters of Biscayne Bay; however, after hurricanes Betsy (1965) and Andrew (1992), only 7 of these historic homes remain.

Certainly gives new meaning to the phrase "living in the sticks."

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