Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Anchoring Rights Revisited

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

Forgive me.  I forgot that everybody would know what I was talking about when I wrote about the proposed Marathon ordinance, so I didn't explain it fully.  I've had several comments like this one.
I'm a little confused as to why this is still going on. The question about the legality of such anchoring restrictions was settled a few years ago (it's not legal federal rights trump. If they are talking about "liveaboards" it's a different matter, which may well be what's going on there.)
Yes it was settled, but starting last summer, it got unsettled again under something called the FWC pilot program. FWC authorized St. Augustine, Stuart, Monroe County, and St Petersburg to pass temporary ordinances. After 4 years, FWC will look at the experience from those, and recommend a statewide law on what municipalities can do.  Read about it here.

On the FWC page it says, "Notwithstanding the provisions of s. 327.60 [the anchoring law that was supposed to settle things in favor of the boaters], Florida Statutes, a county or municipality selected for participation in the pilot program may regulate by ordinance the anchoring of vessels, other than live-aboard vessels as defined in s. 327.02, Florida Statutes, outside of a mooring field."

Monroe County means all of the Keys. There are draft county ordinances and ones for Key West and Marathon.  Marathon's proposal is to ban all anchoring everywhere near the harbor and Sisters Creek except one small patch big enough for 50 boats.  Right now there are 112 boats at anchor around here and in the past there have been as many as 150 at anchor, many on the waiting list for a mooring.

In Key West, and other places in Monroe County they want to permanently ban all anchoring in the most sheltered and thus popular places.

A group of local boaters, including me, are trying to fight it at the local level.  We've badgered the city council with emails, we're working on local businesses and the chamber of commerce, and we're preparing proposals to present to the council with less drastic restrictions.  I fear that we'll be crushed because other (invisible) political forces want the ban and they are more skilled politically.  They already caught us by surprise (using lies and deceit regarding public notice) leaving us only a few days to get organized and produce something.

My personal belief is that the real issue is that locals want to get rid of "undesirable" persons who live here at anchor year long with little money to spend on things other than alcohol; in other words, discrimination. Others believe it is a case of mismanagement.  There are plenty of unenforced laws on the books to regulate derelict vessels.  However, it takes time, effort and money to enforce these laws. Enforcement people want a way to enforce sitting at a PC in their office using a mouse and a geographic information system.

One problem is that our boater arguments are contradictory.  On one hand we argue the safety issue.  A boat won't dare come here without reasonable assurance of finding a mooring or a safe anchorage.  On the other hand, we argue that local businesses will lose if boaters stop coming.  Those two contradict.  If nobody comes, then there are lots of empty moorings and anchor spots and thus no safety problem.  If it is a safety problem, then the harbor is full and no business is being lost.  We can't argue discrimination because that has never been acknowledged as the motive.

Long term, Marathoners hope to see Cuba opened up.  They believe that would cause a local boom and they want to make Marathon the hub for high speed ferries to Cuba.  In the face of a wave like that, we cruisers carry little weight.

We boaters fear most that Marathon will become the example that all of Florida will follow at the end of the 4 year pilot period leading to a general statewide ban on anchoring.

A libertarian like me has no trouble finding examples of government gone bad.


  1. Thanks for the clarification, Dick. Yet another reason to completely avoid Florida on our next sailing trip.

  2. Hi Dick,

    Like Nica said, I have no problem crossing Florida off my list. Georgia is beautiful and cruiser friendly.

    As a side note, are they also going after RV and trailer parks? Probably not. Out of sight, out of mind.

  3. Monroe County is also proposing adding things like a proof of pumpout and CG Auxiliary safety inspection. Note that nowhere in the Pilot Program law does it say the law grants these areas jurisdiction over pumpouts and safety. The law is explicit--it only allows them to control anchoring. This is a huge overreach by the county. And it was supposed to be about anchoring near a mooring field, yet they want to outlaw anchoring in Sunset Cove, which is something like 40 miles from the nearest mooring field.


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