El Capitan Marine & Fishing Center
We're not sure when it happened. Boating used to be the domain of hardscrabble scallywags, weird dudes with chum stuck in their beards who might have sex with a manatee if they've been at sea too long. Now it seems like country club yuppies have yanked the wooden steering wheel away. All you see are these smug yachtsman wearing loafers sans socks and dry-cleaned captain's hats. But boaters on a budget still exist, and when they need a motor for their anchor crank ($95.99) or a jerry jug ($10.99) or a rub rail ($380) — we don't know what those last two are either, but the point is this place has everything for your seafaring rig — they eschew the big, glossy emporiums and go to El Capitan. It has the best prices in town, and equipment not in stock will be ordered and ready within 48 hours. So you can get your shit fixed and get back on the water even if you're more of an eyepatch pirate than a corporate pirate. But please: Do not flirt with the endangered sea mammals.
Aquaknots Dive Center
Like dropping acid or flying to the moon, scuba diving is one way to leave the planet — or at least feel like you have. Humans, somehow, have learned how to temporarily become sea creatures, which seems like an exquisite prank on Mother Earth. To make sure the joke's not on you, the right equipment is crucial. That's why Aquaknots, a small, owner-operated shop just south of Miami International Airport, is the place to get started. They offer a wide range of budget and elite brands, including Sea Scuba, Sherwood, and Akona. Masks range from $50 to $100, and spear guns go for $75 to $400. Diving classes are available in both Spanish and English and are taught by an experienced instructor. Because underwater, in a blanket of darkness, you'll hear nothing but the sound of your breathing. Which sure makes the right equipment seem a matter of life and breath.
Stone Age Antiques
Photo by Lou Hammond
Not too long ago, when we were hanging out at Alabama Jack's, a salty dog with pink melanoma on his nose leaned over and asked, "Mate, have you done the Spiegel?" He wasn't talking about the women's clothing catalogue but the U.S. Navy landing ship submerged off Key Largo as an artificial reef. Other barflies at Jack's had bragged about the wreck-diving there before, but this guy was pushy. "It's like a freaky, sunken ghost town down there. I've been down eight times." This sent us over the edge, so we whipped out our iPhone and pulled up the ship's Wiki page. We explained to our margarita-soaked friend that even if the complicated pockets and caverns of the wreck didn't disorient and kill divers, the toxic levels of PCB eventually would. With this, he brandished a rusty ship compass from his pocket and said, "But where would I get these?" We told him even those who stayed on dry land had access to the thousands of sunken treasures. "There's a place," we whispered, "down by the Miami River with ship wheels, anchors, retro metal diving suits, and busty figureheads. It's called Stone Age Antiques. You'll never have to deep-sea dive again."
Angel Sosa Sr. opened Leader Service in 1977 on a high-traffic vehicular artery through the city of Miami. More cars drive past it every day than there are liars in the auto-repair industry, and that's a lot. Today, the shop is busy as ever thanks to a solid reputation for honesty, quality repairs, and commitment to excellence. Look for the Marathon gas pumps out front or you might miss the low-key, signless shop. Angel Jr. began turning wrenches there at the age of 18. Twenty-four years later, he's the boss, but if needed, he'll still get his hands dirty to personally explain what's wrong with your ride. Leader isn't the cheapest shop in town — with oil changes from $29.95, A/C service checks from $39.95, and front brakes on most cars from $129.95 — but we recognize the shop for its honesty. Like Angel Jr. says: "The best advertising is word of mouth. When you walk in knowing that someone was there and left satisfied before you, that's the best." He also offers this free tip: "Maintenance is cheaper than repair. Take care of your car, and you won't need a mechanic to fix it."
Want your hooptie to look a little less crappy? Start by making sure you have four matching hubcaps. Ramirez Tires has an entire lot packed with thousands of hubcaps/wheels/rims/dubs, most of them priced for the extreme budget shopper. For some reason, the grimy employees seem to regard all customers with unveiled animosity, you'll do a lot of pointing if you don't speak Spanish, and the shop's phone is disconnected. But you're looking for a $5 wheel cover for your dented 1994 Corolla. What did you expect, the white-glove treatment?

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®