Anchoring Battles Reach a New Level in Florida

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.


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 

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6 comments on “Anchoring Battles Reach a New Level in Florida

  1. tangara

    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.

  2. rjquinn

    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


  3. Wally Moran

    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.

  4. sailorjerry645

    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!

  5. sailorsteve

    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.


  6. billsikich

    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.

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