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May 07, 2009

Greater Fort Lauderdale Really Is Greater

Pompano Beach Pier (courtesy, Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Have you ever been to Pompano Beach? It's one of those waterfront towns, perhaps the quirkiest and most colorful of a string of beach communities that make up Greater Fort Lauderdale. And it is pretty great. It's the kind of Atlantic seaside community that put Florida on the tourism map. It's the kind of place that hard-working Americans with families travel to on vacation and then vow to one day retire in. It's like Miami’s South Beach—in 1960.

It’s also one of the great, warm-water dive destinations (80-plus degrees) in the continental United States. No, the coral reefs are not as rich as they used to be, not by any means, but there’s still some biological diversity below the surface. And it’s a great, non-threatening place to learn to dive. The folks that run the dive shops are cool and fun to hang with.

Pompano’s 3.5-mile beach sparkles with clean sand (no offshore drilling here). The major dive sites are a short boat ride away (some just a few hundred yards), and the local dive industry has, over the years, sunk worn-out ships and other barriers to the sea in an attempt to replenish the reefs and make it interesting. There are 75 artificial reefs in the Greater Fort Lauderdale area, along with a tourism infrastructure offering mouth-watering dining and quaint hotels within a Frisbee toss of the beach. And, as one local said, "You can’t drive for an hour without being where you want to be in Florida."

And new this month, on May 30, some of the local captains of the dive industry are sinking the M/V Miss Lourdies, a 165-foot cargo freighter confiscated by U.S. Customs in a 2008 drug bust (they found 150 kilos of cocaine). She’ll be going down where the boundary of Pompano Beach mingles with neighboring Deerfield Beach. It has been nine years since the last wreck was sunk in South Florida. The Lourdies will no doubt be an interesting new dive site and, more importantly, help replenish the marine life. But it takes a lot of money to clean a ship of all its toxic construction materials before marine authorities let it sink. And that’s where Dan Fasano enters this blog.

After a morning dive, I share a shrimp salad with Dan at one of those idyllic, South Florida seaside cafes where the clean ocean breeze tugs at the menu. You can’t help but like Dan. He’s a 47-year-old marketing guy who worked hard and earned a life of getting all that he wanted. Dan took up diving a few years ago to overcome his fear of water. Then, two years ago he was diagnosed with a lethal form of leukemia and a mystery donor provided matching bone marrow so that Dan could have another roll of the dice. Now it’s payback time. His life of getting is now a life of giving. Dan has fronted the money for the sinking of the Lourdies, which will enhance the local marine biology and the recreational opportunities for sport divers, as well as helping the local tourism-based economy.

Good on you, Dan.

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Florida Vacation · Scuba & Snorkeling


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