1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: Miami Beach Report - and your Right to Anchor

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Miami Beach Report - and your Right to Anchor

Several of the 25 dinghies
anchored in Sunset Lake to block anchoring
in front of Karlton's house (shown)
Update on Miami Beach - The situation for transients in Miami Beach has gone downhill - badly. 
Miami Beach used to be a great place to hang out just as recently as two years ago. That's changed, significantly. A large part of this change is due to the changes in Florida state law, which were supposed to be helpful to boaters and which most cruisers thought would help our situation in the state. In south Florida, that may not be the case.
The anchorage at the police dock in South Beach is now full with local liveaboards and wet stored boats. There is perhaps room for one or two more boats, well out and close to the channel and significant wake action. Furthermore, due to complaints about crowding at the dock from locals and the neighbouring condos, the city is now enforcing a 20 minute limit at the dock - no mooring, just load/unload.
So given the cramped conditions in the anchorage and the lack of dinghy dockage, there's no point in anchoring there, other than perhaps overnight. It's certainly no place to visit the area from.

One can of course go around to Collins Canal to tie up. It is STRONGLY advised that you have a strong cable or chain and a very good lock, since theft has been common here.
The situation in Sunset Lake has not changed, other than for the worse, in the last two years. For those unfamiliar with the Sunset Lake situation, you can read about it here: Sunset Lake Controversy
Karlton now has nearly 25 little dinghies, effectively blocking close to a third of the anchorage. The local police advised me this morning that the neighbours are considering purchasing their own dinghies and entirely closing off the anchorage to cruising boats. They also advise me, contrary to information I have from the FWC stating the opposite, that the FWC has told them this mooring field is legal.
As well, the city has now put a No Trespass notice on the only public land on Sunset Lake, making it illegal to land there. This came as a result of pressure from the monied homeowners on Sunset Lake. The only other option is to dinghy around to the police dock and that's now a non-starter. So you can't go ashore in Miami Beach - at least, not easily.
The police are sympathetic and would like to see the tatty looking liveaboard fleet gone, as well as see Karlton's little fleet out of there. It seems the pilot program, which has made all of this legal, is NOT working in favour of transient boaters. I'll have more to say on that at a later date, largely because I have to rethink my opposition to the program, given its unintended results.
My opinion: Miami Beach is not worth the trouble. I will not be coming here again.

Now for my personal thoughts on the Sunset Lake situation - anyone who has followed the problem is aware that I've fought it as strongly as possible. I've written to the Miami Herald and seen the situation publicized in the paper, spoken at a City Council meeting on it, spoken with Karlton (the howeowner), discussed it at length with Major Daugherty of the FWC and also with the local police...most of this is public knowledge and can be read in various boating forums.
I've done my part about supporting anchoring rights, and this in a place where I spend perhaps a week total per year. I'm not even an American for pete's sake. Where is the usual US gumption about standing up to bullies, which is what Karlton is? There are seven or eight boats crowded up in this anchorage right now, crowded in an area that should comfortably support 20 boats. And I'm the only one stupid enough to kick up a fuss? No one asked me to take this on, I agree, but everyone would have benefitted from the results had I won the fight.
So I have two suggestions on how this could be handled, for anyone who wants to take up the fight.
First, and easiest - find a half dozen really trashed up boats and anchor them well in Sunset Lake. Fill them full of junk, and put a solar lawn light on them as Karlton has done with his boats. Mimic him as closely as possible.
Advise all of the homeowners on the lake by mail that since Karlton has shown it's legal to anchor on the lake, you have chosen to place these boats there - as is your right! They don't have to be big boats - some really junky looking rowboats scavenged from a local marina that wants them gone will do the trick. The local police seem to feel that a boat under 16 feet is ok without night lights, so that's your ticket. 
Then, tell the local homeowners that these boats will be removed if, and only if, Karlton removes his fleet and guarantees that it will not return.
In other words, stir and let simmer. Season to taste. Enjoy.
Second method - force Major Daugherty of the FWC, or whoever the current officer in charge is, to charge Karlton with the appropriate violations. If he won't do it from a properly worded request, go to court and get a writ of mandamus. A mandamus is basically a court order to an organization or individual to do their job - which isn't being done here.  I had thought of doing this, but as a Canadian, I might be deemed to not have legal standing on the issue.
Here's a quick rundown on what a writ of mandamus is -

A writ or order that is issued from a court of superior jurisdiction that commands an inferior tribunal, corporation, Municipal Corporation, or individual to perform, or refrain from performing, a particular act, the performance or omission of which is required by law as an obligation.
A writ or order of mandamus is an extraordinary court order because it is made without the benefit of full judicial process, or before a case has concluded. It may be issued by a court at any time that it is appropriate, but it is usually issued in a case that has already begun. (link to definition)

Lastly, if you care about your anchoring rights at all, start spreading the word on the various online forums you belong to. That's the least you can do. It's time that bullies such as Karlton found out that boaters can, and WILL, fight back.


  1. Send an e-mail to Phil Johnson, Concerned Cruisers Chair at SSCA.

  2. Wally, the following email went out to the Mayor...Chuck

    Mr. Mayor. As a long time boater and frequent visitor to Florida, I am appalled at the situation that has been ongoing in the anchorage in Sunset Lake. The only way this situation has been able to continue for so long is by the inaction of the City of Miami Beach and the FWC. In my opinion, both have failed to stop what has amounted to bullying by one landowner with apparent political clout. The state of Florida has been developing a reputation as being unfriendly to boaters for some time and the city of Miami Beach has now surpassed the state in that reputation. With today's internet, not only boaters but the world will instantly be informed of the antics of Mr. Karlton and the cities lack of resolution to this ludicrous situation. The public perception is that Mr. Karlton has an undue influence over both the city administration and the local FWC and no one is making any efforts to change that public perception. This is not the type of atmosphere that will encourage my friends or family to want to ever visit Miami Beach. We will continue to encourage everyone that will listen to take their tourist dollars elsewhere until such time that we feel the public is of greater concern than a single individual. We truly hope that Mr. Karlton is contributing enough to the local economy to compensate for the negative publicity and loss of tourist income he has affected.

  3. Done, we're in communication.

  4. Superb - now if we could get all my blog readers to do this...the mayor's email is available at http://web.miamibeachfl.gov/web_contact.aspx?webpageID=35

  5. Sounds eerily like our situation in Eau Gallie Harbor. One guy with way too much money for his own good, making trouble for those of us just trying to enjoy life. Fought it for 2 years, gave up, moved boat to Charlotte Harbor.

  6. The late Mayor Goode and I had a 'discussion' about this in Ichobods after the police came to me in Eau Gallie. You can see the outcome of that little pissing match here (http://www.southwindssailing.com/pdfs-issues/southwindsjune2007.pdf) at page 30, but after we were done, Eau Gallie and Melbourne stopped harassing boaters at anchor.
    Sometimes the good guys win.

  7. We anchored there three times last year, but we didn't try to go ashore nor were we interested in going ashore. The 2nd time there were two additional sailboats (one tied to the aft of the other) anchored on just the one anchor. They were definitely trash boats. So we investigated and here is what we discovered...what looked to be an anchor chain was notthere was a chain running fully across the bottom from where those little boats were moored to a string of mooring buoys, and the two derelict sailboats that "appeared" to be anchored on one anchor rode were actually attached to the same chain as the moorings...it is part of the billionaires ploy to make it look like cruisers are derelict. We put in a call "of inquiry" about it before leaving, but we did not hear anything back about the outcome. We actually got in the dinghy and lifted the chain and followed it just out of curiosity. We were glad we did, otherwise we might have caught our anchor on it when we were leaving. So if you anchor there, be sure your anchor does not catch on that mooring chain...if it is still there.

  8. I'm not surprised at that, a similar trick was tried in Naples FL by some rich guy who objected to boats anchoring. They like to think they own the view to the horizon.


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