Anchoring Battles Reach a New Level in Florida

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In Lake Worth, FL, boats and homes currently share the water

Long-simmering disputes in Florida between waterfront residents and cruising sailors are coming to a head, with residents pushing for new regulations that would prohibit anchoring within 300 feet of residential property.

The back story: residents of Florida have long voiced concerns about derelict and abandoned boats, anchored live-aboard vessels and the sanitation issues these boats present to their waters. These complaints led to several “pilot programs” that limited—but did not prohibit—anchoring in five selected municipalities. The "Anchoring and Mooring Pilot Program" was supposed to last through 2017, but in January of 2014, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) asked for a three-year extension. 

Then, most recently, the FWC called another set of meetings for Sept. 3 in Vero Beach, FL, and Sept. 4 in Bradenton, FL, to vote on new regulations. One meeting will aim to review the Anchoring and Mooring Pilot Program, whose goals “…are to encourage the establishment of additional public mooring fields and to promote the establishment and use of public mooring fields; promote public access to the waters of this state; enhance navigational safety; protect maritime infrastructure; protect the marine environment; and deter improperly stored, abandoned or derelict vessels.”

Another meeting, the “Anchoring Public Workshops,” will discuss laws that would prevent boaters from anchoring for even one night on state navigable waters adjacent to their properties. One provision reads, “A vessel may not be anchored overnight within 300 feet of waterfront residential property or in a location that restricts use of attached docks or boat lifts.” This rule would eliminate, for instance, virtually all anchoring in Fort Lauderdale and Miami/Miami Beach.

The following charts, prepared by Mike Ahart, News Editor at Waterway Guide, show how the 300-foot residential setback law would limit existing anchorages in Florida’s Broward County:

At ICW Mile 1057, new regulations would prevent anchoring in both Lake Santa Barbara, left, and Lettuce Lake, right


The yellow area marks the only water boats could anchor in, given the new restrictions. If rode and LOA are taken into consideration, this area shrinks even more


This chart shows how new regulations would limit anchoring in Sunrise Bay Anchorage.


Today, SAIL contributing editor Wally Moran is on his way to the hearings to represent the interests of cruisers. “I fear that municipal governments, in particular Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale, which have been antagonistic to anchoring and the cruising community in the past, will use these legislative changes to accommodate demands from wealthy waterfront property owners and eliminate any anchoring whatsoever,” Moran said.

Following next week's hearings, Moran will be providing SAIL's readers with a full report. Meantime, we encourage you to attend the meetings yourself both for the sake of Floridian boaters, and for the sake of the precedent this would set—a precedent that could all too easily make its way up the East Coast and to marinas beyond. The folks at BoatUS put it well in their recent media alert, saying, "If you are a boater or sailor and having a full range of anchoring and mooring options is an important part of your cruising in Florida, consider attending one of these meetings. Active, responsible cruising boaters need to let the state know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to anchoring in Florida."

For a full list of the meetings' locations, visit

Charts and photo courtesy of Mike Ahart, Waterway Guides 

anchoring and property rights

In Canada, we have no such thing as a private beach, let alone private water in front of a house. Good grief! Here you can also go ashore, use the beach, and even sleep there if you want. The government has preserved the commons, as has been in done all over Europe, Australia and New Zealand as well. The idea of not being able to anchor in front of someone's house is ludicrous and uncivilized.
A few years ago the provincial government of BC tried to implement a fee system to anchor in provincial parks. This was struck down, as it was determined that not even the provincial government has the authority to restrict anchoring or charge for anchoring. (This is like the courts saying that the government of Florida had no authority over anchoring anywhere). In Canada, you can anchor where you want, for as long as you want, live aboard, whatever. It's nobody's business but your own. If you park in front of a big mansion, that is tough cookies for them. It was a beautiful view of a seashore, enjoyed by anchoring boaters, before they built their architectural monument to bad taste.
Now THAT is freedom. Come to BC! We love Americans. Our dollar is only worth 84 cents! We have great beer.

Turning friendly neighbors into criminals?

I live on the Saint Johns River in northeast Florida. A shallow canal from the river entitles me to pay waterfront property taxes but the Army Corp of Engineers will not allow me to dredge the canal so that I can dock my 29' sailboat next to my property.
Fortunately, I have wonderful neighbors who live across the street and have riverfront property. They allow me to anchor my sailboat just off their dock and dinghy over to use their dock to load supplies and friends aboard. IF Florida passes a law that does not allow anchoring next to a dock that you do not own, they have just turned friendship into criminal activity.
I move sailboats for friends using the AICW and the Ockeechobee Waterway. When I need fuel there is not always a marina handy but this is not a problem because with a couple of 5 gallon gas cans I can stop at the next town and hike over to the nearest gas station and I am on my way again. IF I can not anchor near a public launch ramp especially when my sailboat draws too much depth to tie up next to the launch ramp dock, it becomes more of a chore when I don't have a dinghy to refuel. All I wanted was some gas and now Florida passes an anchoring restriction that makes me a criminal because my boat has a deep keel?
What about the waterfront owner whose new home has a dock but not enough depth to accomodate his pride and joy? Will he not be allowed to anchor his boat in front of his property because the homeowner accross the canal thinks his setback may be violated because the sailboat swings on its anchor?
Legislators seem to feel if they don't write new legislation that they can not justify their elected position. What the legislators need to realize is that this is a republic, not everyone can be allowed to make the laws or the majority would trample the rights of the individuals. So we elect representatives and they need to represent the needs of the boating public equally with the needs of the landowning public. If the current laws concerning the problems of anchored derelict boats are unenforceable,. CHANGE THOSE LAWS. A legislator may think he is in touch with the boating public because he lives on the waterfront and he takes his son fishing on his SeaRay every other month and anchors out overnight. He is not in touch with the concerns of the interstate cruiser who may live on his vessel for months at a time and has replaced many anchors. Yet this is the person he must represent even against the wishes of the majority of his constituents or we are doomed to be just another failed Democracy..  

David Burnham

My Formal Response to the Florida Anchoring Restrictions

Kudos to Sail Magazine for publishing this fight, and Sail Magazine's Wally Moran and WaterwayGuide's Mike Ahart for engaging directly. Wally Moran was kind enough to quote me in his article today. I attended the September 4th Hearing in Bradenton, spoke against the proposals, and submitted the following assessment. Feel free to copy and paste.


To: Captain Gary Klein, FWC


From: John R. (Jay) Campbell, JD, 


Dear Captain Klein:


I am a Florida Licensed Attorney, with over 25 years of practice in the State. I have owned many residential properties, including waterfront property in Tampa, as recently as 2013 when my wife and I moved full time on to our boat in Palmetto. We reside at a Marina, but often cruise Southwest Florida and Southeast Florida, anchoring as is prudent, dictated by weather, tide, travel schedules and the need to rest.


I have read and completely oppose the proposed FWC restrictions on anchoring in "concept 2" related to establishing setbacks from residential property. These proposals seem designed to benefit only a few wealthy landowners at the expense of the public's right to use and enjoy these waters, as established by the federal public trust. The proposals do NOT set forth any concerns or problems the proposals are designed to address, nor do they note any review done by the FWC to ensure the setbacks are a reasonable response to any such problems. Therefore, the proposed setbacks are not reasonable encroachment of the public rights, and are illegal. 


Regarding the set back proposals, I note the following in support of all boaters, and voters, who also oppose these proposed restrictions:

1. Where are the studies FWC has done or reviewed to support the proposed 150' or 300' anchoring set backs?

2. Where are the concerns, set out in writing, that FWC is attempting to address with these setbacks?

3. Where are the legal opinions that these proposed setbacks are lawful, and not an illegal encroachment on the federal regulation of waterways as a public trust?

4. If the concern is derelict boats, or stored boats, why doesn't the proposal state so, and tailor a proposal to this more narrow concern, rather than prohibit EVERY boat from anchoring?

5. If the concern is the potential discharge of sewage, why doesn't the proposal state so, and tailor a proposal to this more narrow concern, rather than prohibit EVERY boat from anchoring?

6. If the concern is a reasonable amount of unencumbered room for landowners to use near their docks and access channels, why doesn't the proposal state so, and tailor a proposal to this more narrow concern (for example, using a common standard of 1 1/2 times boat length from the protected structure) rather than prohibit EVERY boat from anchoring?

7. Regarding the proposal to return regulation, in part, back to small local governments, why does this proposal suggest that FWC should administer a program which will allow every municipality to apply for and create it's own anchoring rules, thereby turning Florida into a patchwork quilt of regulations without a sound basis, or statewide enforcement?


The proposals seem to be unlawful, poorly thought out, against the interest of Florida citizens who are boaters, against the interests of Florida businesses which cater to boaters, and in support of ONLY a few wealthy landowners, represented by legislators who control the FWC funding. This is not how laws and regulations should be developed and implemented to support the public interest. - Jay Campbell, JD


Jay Campbell

Florida anchorages

As a long time cruiser looking forward to spending time, and money, in Florida, I strongly oppose the severe restrictions on the rights of transient visitors proposed by waterside landowners in Florida.
The fundamental legal principle of the Public Trust Doctrine, that “...lands beneath navigable water bodies are not held for the purpose of sale or conversion into private ownership, strict limitations are imposed on the state’s ability to transfer the water bodies, or parts thereof, into private hands” must be observed and maintained.

Proposed anchoring restrictions

All to often we encounter folks who seek to control all they can see. 
From time to time we charter in Florida and will occasionally have a need to anchor overnight in a river.  We've never blocked access to anything as it would be rude behavior.  We will be there just long enough to grill dinner in the evening and have a cup of freshly brewed coffee in the morning - any civil person who cares to join us is welcome (and several have).  We have formed an number of longstanding friendships over a cup in a former strangers "backyard".  After coffee we weigh anchor and are on our way.
I encourage Floridians to be more civil and social than to support this restrictive and impolite legislation.

If they do not like the

If they do not like the circumstances of the waterfront estate they bought, perhaps they should consider returning from whence they came.  If you don't like seeing or dealing with boats, waterfront Florida is probably NOT the best retirement plan!

Florida anchoring

The facts are, the Public Trust Doctrine forbids what the municipalities want to do - not that that will stop them from trying. The FWC and others who could advise on this are derelict in not speaking out.

LiveBlogging the ICW, @
Sailing Cuba, join us at

Florida Anchoring

Derelict and abusers are out there but let's not forget the responsible cruisers!  Laws like what is proposed do not assure clean waters or extreme privacy.  Let's think about the huge number of homes in Florida who use septic tanks that are way beyond there safe use.   We have had wonderful experiences with homeowners who enjoy having boats anchored off of their property.  Others can tell many stories along these lines.  In fact, cruisers have invited homeowners on board of cocktail hour, dinner, and even, a sail!  Homeowners have also invited cruisers to join them for a backyard BBQ.  Let's get real and not let the "super-rich" govern our waterways!
Sailing Bob

Sailing Bob

Ancorage in FL

This is a abuse from the shore owner, we are not welcome in FL. We hope this law will not accepted. We anchor in Lake Silvia and we notice many Florida boat use this bay to anchor for the days i bélive these peaples will be authorise for the day.


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