Submitted for your approval. An average American family, spending a quiet moment aboard their boat - the year 1957, in a place called Fort Lauderdale, in the land known as the Sunshine State. But look deeper, beyond the familial charm on the surface. Part the curtain and peer closer at these revolutionaries ... and at things to come.
Dad isn't showing the youngsters how to tie knots. The binnacle is covered; there are no navigation lessons there for now. No one's reading a dog-eared favorite from the ship's library or spinning a sea yarn or wetting a baited line. All eyes are fixed on the glowing box with the rabbit-ear antenna: The television has come aboard.
It was inevitable. In 1957 television was perhaps the nation's most popular form of entertainment. There was "Cheyenne," starring taciturn big guy Clint Walker; "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet," with the Nelson family; and "Leave it to Beaver," starring Jerry Mathers as the Beaver. And for a new generation of American boater, watching television in the cockpit with the wife and kids came as naturally as smoking a pipe.
Blessed with postwar prosperity and leisure time, he was looking at mass-produced boats built of fiberglass, and he wanted room on board with all the amenities for the family. L. Francis Herreshoff's "old school" cedar bucket was definitely out. In short, instead of leaving it all behind, this "new school" boating family would be taking it all with them: refrigerators, washer/dryers, the works. And the marine industry - servicing more than 12.7 million registered boats today - would spring up to support the goal.
And that includes marinas. Fort Lauderdale's Bahia Mar, the scene here, was among the world's largest in 1957, with some 400 slips. Its far-ranging amenities included a world-famous eatery, the Candlelight Restaurant, and full dockside facilities. It was a new home away from home for the modern boater. The Candlelight is gone now, torn down years ago for marina expansion. But you can still read the menu, the next time you're cruising ... the Twilight Zone.
This article originally appeared in the February 2008 issue.
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