Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Trouble in Paradise

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

I've been writing so many nice things about Marthon this year that it may be hard to mention bad things. Well, there's trouble brewing. Tonight there will be a city council meeting. A group of boaters from the harbor are going to the meeting to protest recent and proposed actions. I don't know how many will attend, so I can't call it a mob. Suffice it to say, the hotter heads here would like to make it a mob.

What's it all about? Two issues.

  1. Two weeks ago they raised the fees. The monthly mooring-ball rate increased from $275 to $300 with the new fee schedule, while monthly dinghy dockage for vessels at anchor increased from $135 to $225. The shocking part is the stiff fees for boats at anchor.
  2. Tonight they plan to vote on an ordinance that would ban anchoring anywhere in Boot Key Harbor except in a very small designated anchoring area. This would displace many dozens of boats that have been living here harmoniously at anchor for years. 
Many boaters, including myself, believe that what is really going on here is that the rich people do not want to live close to the poor people. The haves do not like the have nots. Almost none of the boats in this harbor are live-aboards in the Florida legal sense. They are all cruisers. However, there are year round cruisers who mostly live at anchor, and transient cruisers (like me) who come part of the year and stay on a mooring. The socioeconomic status of these cruisers spans an amazing range. Some are very poor, having bought their boats for only $1 and who live on next to nothing. Others are truly affluent. For example, on the cruisers net last week I heard one of them asking about buying jet fuel at the Marathon Airport. Evidently, she flew down here to her boat using her Lear Jet

I'm rather proud of this boating community. They are very egalitarian, and all of us, regardless of wealth are planning to stick up for the less advantaged. If only the land based residents of Marthon felt the same, we would have no problem. If the city succeeds in this ordinance, they will force many of these cruisers into homlessness. They will have to abandon their boats and live in one of the hobo cities hidden in the mangroves. Shameful and short sighted I think.

Anyhow, Libby and I can not go to tonight's meeting. I will however be intensely interested in hearing how it turns out. Some of the more level-headed boaters going have disciplined the mob to (a) select designated speakers, and (b) to limit their speech to three issues that can be expressed concisely.

Rates should not be changed without sufficient prior notice to those affected. Some say the Florida Sunshine Law makes that a legal requirement. A fee hike that does not apply until next winter's season is more reasonable.

The fees and anchoring restrictions are blatantly discriminatory against those who can not afford to pay.

The proposed changes would evict Captain Jack. My blog readers know Captain Jack. I've been writing about him recently. The "mob" feels strongly that no matter what else, the city must make an exception that allows Captain Jack to remain where he is.

Considering that this mob will probably be allowed only 60-120 seconds to state their grievances, I think their three items are well chosen. Stay tuned for a report on the meeting results.


  1. That's backward thinking for sure, Dick. I agree with your assessment that the wealthy residents want to force out the less fortunate. That kind of an increase is a lot of money for one individual to pay, but it's a drop in the bucket for the city of Marathon's budget.

    We're still up in Georgia. The more I read about Florida's anti-cruiser sentiments, the less inclined I am to go there. There are plenty of cruisers right here at Isle of Hope Marina that must feel the same way.

  2. We worry about Captain Jack. Is it the minimum length requirement that causes eviction? That makes no sense since the city gets it's fee for every foot of seawall / floating dock length it rents.

  3. This trend bothers me. Harbors that used to be open for anchoring are becoming clogged with rental moorings. It used to be that anything below the high water mark was "public", accessable by all.
    This is when you want a good lawyer to stand up for your rights. Does one assume that with increased fees the city assumes greater liability for any damages incurred while on said mooring or maybe even traveling between a city mooring and dinghy dock?


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