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.