anchorageBy Claiborne Young -
Almost everywhere I go, one question keeps popping up time after time; some variation of, “Claiborne, where are all these Florida anchorage regulations coming from?” Well, I am going to attempt to answer that question within this article/editorial, AND why I think most of these proposed prohibitions are unnecessary and probably harmful.
So, with that out of the way, here goes. First, let’s dispose of two less than savory reasons why Floridian anchorage regulations have made an appearance, stretching all the way back to the early 1990s.
1. Local and county governmental officials see anchorage regulations as a way to expand their department’s authority, or, in bureaucrat-ese, “expand their turf.”
2. There are a group of very wealthy Floridians, who, by virtue of their finances, have more than their fair share of political influence. And, they simply do not want to walk out in their backyards, and see anchored boats on the water. I once heard one property owner of this ilk testify that whenever he was on the water, he ALWAYS saw cruising craft dumping untreated sewage and trash overboard. Talk about a bald faced lie if I ever heard one!
Those favoring anchorage regulation for one of the above two reasons are beneath my contempt, and that of the entire cruising community. Haven’t we had enough of self-serving government officials and overreaching, wealthy property owners? Enough said!
Then, there are concerns about “noise pollution” and trespassing. Who among us has not dropped the hook in some quiet corner of the world, only to have another vessel show up across the way, and proceed to play loud music into the small hours. Not a fun night.
I, myself, have watched, on rare occasions, as less than sanguine cruisers pull their dinghies onto someone’s back yard, and then gaily go off to the grocery store, as if it was their right to land the dink wherever they pleased. No wonder some waterside property owners have erected large “No Trespassing” signs.
In populated regions, noise pollution and trespassing are real problems; however, I have a very simple solution for these two anchorage concerns.
There are already trespassing and “disturbing the peace”/noise pollution laws on the books of virtually every municipality and county in America. One local water cop enforcing these regulations should solve the problem nicely.
And, that brings us to the issue which I think is front and center in what I will term as the “honest” attempts to regulate anchorage (as opposed to the “dishonest” #1 and #2 reasons listed above). Can you guess what this issue might be?
I won’t keep you in suspense. Abandoned vessels and what I will term, live-aboard “hulks,” are, without any question in my tiny mind, the #1 threat to anchoring rights throughout Florida for the rest of us. We’ve all seen vessels at anchor, which have been sitting in the same spot for months on end, without anyone being aboard. And then, most of us have also gazed in wonder at “boats,” which look as if they are going to sink any moment, and then we see someone come on deck. Have you, like me, asked yourself, “Does someone actually live on that thing?”
Abandoned vessels and live-aboard hulks are safety and health risks, not to mention being more than a little bit unsightly. They often break free during bad weather, and impact other vessels or private property. And, as to the untreated waste being dumped overboard from the hulks, best not to think too closely on that topic.
In regards to abandoned vessels, has no city or county governmental official in Florida heard of “salvage laws?” Let’s again be very clear that I am NOT a lawyer, much less a maritime lawyer, but it is my understanding that if a vessel is left abandoned for 30 days or so, it can be declared as salvage and sold at public auction. A few actions like that, and I have a deep suspicion that all the abandoned vessels, which still have owners, would be removed in short order.
Too vague for you? Then Florida should do what South Carolina has just done, namely, pass a specific law which mandates that after giving generous notice, vessels abandoned for more than 30 days will be impounded and sold. What a good idea, and notice, this does NOT impact anchoring rights for any boat owners except those who leave their vessels unoccupied for longer than 30 days. And, how many responsible mariners are going to leave their boat uninspected at anchor for a month or longer.
Florida Marine Patrol can inspect hulks for MSD violations as well. Clearly, if a vessel has been sitting in the same spot for months on end, it has either long ago filled its holding tank to capacity, or exhausted its batteries, should there be a Lectra-San type device aboard.
Towns and cities are penalizing 95 percent of the cruising community to try and rid themselves of the 5 percent they don’t want.
Reprinted from The Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net, CruisersNet.net.Claiborne Young is the author of “Cruising Guide to Western Florida.”
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