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Ocean Force Adventure: the Way to Go in Miami

Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer

Miami - -the City of Tomorrow – has a great deal of appeal for people of today. Next fall our It Happened in Miami will be published. Its history, culture, main events, attractions will be in this oral history. What follows is just one take on what some call “Magic City.”

KIM FALCONER: Growing up as a fifth generation Floridian in Stuart, we were taught how to run a boat before we learned how to ride a tricycle. I grew up on the water. When I graduated from college, it was either Miami or New York. Miami was more attractive with endless sun and water. I also thought of it as an emerging city.

I moved to Miami about twenty years ago and did marketing and public relations for the marketing agency that handled the Florida Keys & Key West Tourist Development Council and later other things in the world of marketing. When I finally had enough of the corporate world, I knew I wanted to do something with the water, the sea. It took me several years to figure that out.

Vacationing in Hawaii, where my friend had an ATV touring business, I noticed the wide use of Zodiac Rib Boats (Rigid Inflatable Boats). They are used in Hawaii for the whale watching and things like that. They are very practical, very safe, secure, and nimble. They are also not the kind of boats widely seen in tours in the mainland United States.  They are used by the Coast Guard and the DEA. I had never seen them used in Miami.   

  I had handled boats similar to the Zodiac Rib. I thought why couldn't I get one of those boats and do something in Miami, some kind of business on the water. I did a lot of research on Miami history and culture and put the idea together, the idea of a tour on the water based on what I found interesting.  Miami history and true stories are stranger than fiction. And there is endless fascination with them by curious tourists.

Before we went out with customers for the first time, we tested the tour out with friends and family and some concierges, people in the industry. There were all kinds of kinks we had to get out of the way before we opened for business. I tested for three or four months before we finally started selling a tour. This way we got feedback, refined it. The tour at first ran for two and a half hours. That was too long. We finally settled on two hours as being just right.

My first week in the business was the last week of September 2008. I had used my background in public relations to come up with the name - - Ocean Force Adventures. I wanted something that sounded strong but was also attributable to what I was doing. What we do is not just a boat ride, not just a sightseeing tour it is an experience. It does have an adventure aspect to it.

 Most of the tour is within Biscayne Bay, but we also spend time out on the ocean and we get to visit Stiltsville which can only be reached by water. Its history dates back to the 1930s when the first shack on stilts was built above the water by "Crawfish Eddie Walker." More buildings followed. “Stiltsville” became a place of mystery. Stories spread about illegal activities like gambling and drinking of liquor, banned during prohibition.  Shacks on silts. These wooden houses are one of the highlights of the tour. Some people have heard about “Stiltsville” and come on the tour especially to see it. Others have never heard about it and are charmed by the sight of colorful structures when they see it. Stiltsville has served as the setting for novels, movies, and TV shows like “Miami Vice.” It has a special pull for all who witness it – houses on stilts sticking out of the water. Real Miami! 

Other sights we talk about and view include: Port Miami, celebrity homes on Star Island and Fisher Island, Downtown Miami, the Venetian Islands and the historic Miami River, Filming locations for Miami Vice, Scarface, CSI Miami, Biscayne National Park, and Cape Florida Lighthouse. Key Biscayne and the sight of President Nixon’s Winter White House. There is also always a variety of marine life including stingrays, sharks, manatees and dolphins.

Especially memorable times in my years with Ocean Force Adventures have been dolphin sightings. There is something about seeing these incredible creatures free and enjoying their surroundings that never fails to impress me and to excite our passengers. We take great pains not to intrude on their world.  Sometimes the dolphins are playful and put on a show. Other times they are coy and do not want to be bothered by enthusiastic people on a boat with cameras at the ready. We respect the dolphins no matter what they want to do.   

Biscayne Bay boasts some of the most remarkable landmarks, natural and historical locations in the world. The speed, the agility of the Zodiac RIB enables us to explore the majority of them during our 2-hour tours. . This tour is just perfect for adding a good dose of sun, fun and saltwater adventure to anyone’s Miami vacation mix.

Tourism is the life blood of Miami and Miami Beach, but so many take it all in without ever taking to the water. For me, the best way to discover and appreciate and learn about what this “City of Tomorrow” has to offer is to see it from the water.

Photographs by Kim Falconer

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About the Authors:  Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.

They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. More about these authors.

You can contact the Frommers at: 

Email: myrna.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Email: harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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