Anchoring Battles Reach a New Level in Florida

Long-simmering disputes in Florida between waterfront residents and cruising sailors came to a head this past summer, with residents pushing for new regulations that would prohibit anchoring within 300 feet of residential property.
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In Lake Worth, FL, boats and homes currently share the water

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 FWCcalled 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

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

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.

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 http://www.boatus.com/pressroom/release.asp?id=1035#.U_4FCWRdU8w.

Charts and photo courtesy of Mike Ahart, Waterway Guides 

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