1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: March 2015

Friday, March 27, 2015

Florida Anchoring Battle - We Need YOU to Speak Out Please

Time to fight for anchoring rights!
Fellow boaters - I promised I would keep you up to date, and aware of what you can do to fight back against the unjust and unfair attempts in Florida to restrict anchoring rights. Well, the time is now!
I've just been speaking to SSCA not five minutes ago. Scott Berg, and Phil Johnson are in Tallahassee, fighting for us on the Florida Anchoring issue. They cannot do this on their own - they need ALL of us, and they have asked me to speak to you directly.
Everyone - right now please - send a letter regarding your opposition to the Senate anchoring bill. Even if you've already sent one, send another one. Don't put it off, it's too important.
The SSCA wants a flood of letters over the next several days, as hearings start on Tuesday. Write your letter - I'll post some ideas below to help you - and share this post with EVERYONE, on EVERY group you belong to that might even have someone using the water, even if it's only a stand up paddleboard! wink emoticon
Be polite. We are the good guys in this fight, and we have to look like it. There are enough out of control landowners - with dinghies anchored out, loud blaring stereos, even paintball guns being shot at anchored boats - to make us look good. We don't have to be shrill or angry - we just need to point out that it is not us who are the problem here.
Then - if you are a Florida resident, the SSCA NEEDS you in Tallahassee on Tuesday. They NEED to show the committee that it's not just out of staters who are crying about this issue - it's taxpaying locals. They currently have four people to put in front of the committee - how about another dozen of you making the trip?
Also - if you guys think it's the way to do this - how about some offers of cash for gas for these people who go for us? Let's get this effort humming.
I can't go - I'm too recognizable in this fight, and I'm not local - I don't present the image that this committee needs to see. They need to see you, and know you were concerned enough about this issue to take the time to come to Tallahassee to speak to them. The SSCA will give you some pointers on this beforehand - don't worry, you'll be supported all the way. Contact me using the contact link on this page if you can go, or go directly to Scott Berg on the SSCA Facebook page and let him know you're in for this.
Here are the people we need to email, the committee members:

Chairman Charlie Dean: dean.charles@flsenate.gov
Vice Chairman Wilton Simpson: simpson.wilton@flsenate.gov
Senator Thad Altman: altman.thad@flsenate.gov
Senator Greg Evers: evers.greg@flsenate.gov
Senator Alan Hays: hays.alan@flsenate.gov
Senator David Simmons: simmons.david@flsenate.gov
Senator Chris Smith: smith.chris@flsenate.gov
Senator Darren Soto: soto.darren@flsenate.gov
Below are the points you should make. Try not to copy and paste, but if you have to - hell, do it. Just get the letters out there.
Thanks everyone - together, we can WIN this one. Let's make it happen. One last remark - I already am aware of how much so many of you have done in this fight - the letters, the shares, all of it - and I'm hugely proud of the effort you have put out in defence of your rights.
Just one more time now. TOGETHER, WE CAN DO THIS.
Starting with the subject line -
Florida Senate Bill 1548
Opposition to Dwelling-Unit Anchoring Set-Back Provision
1. As boaters and cruisers, we support the SAFETY-RELATED provisions of SB 1548 that directly relate to the stated purpose and title of the bill which is Vessel Safety such as: the provisions limiting anchoring within a safe distance from a marked mooring field, public boat ramp, marine railway, launching facility or landing facility. Similarly, public safety justifies the provisions restricting the anchoring or mooring of a vessel that is incapable of navigating under its own power, vessels that cannot dewater, vessels leaking petroleum, vessels in violation of marine sanitation laws, and vessels that are unattended or derelict. We support all of these provisions.
2. But statewide legislation should not include provisions that are founded upon interests that are not necessary for safety. We oppose provisions that are designed to establish preferential rights or control over areas of public waters of the State of Florida based upon setbacks from all “developed waterfront property” that would arbitrarily create areas of public waterways within which occupants of boats may not anchor. Such provisions are related to convenience, preference, and aesthetics, rather than safety, and would result in laws that pick between classes and groups of people based upon the nature of the structure they choose to occupy.
3. Therefore, we strongly oppose the provision banning overnight anchoring in public water anywhere within 200 feet of a dwelling unit that was built on private land. We respectfully ask that, as members of this Committee, you please remove this provision
4. We are sensitive to the concerns raised by some legislators and constituents about issues related to anchored boats. Some of these relate to disputes about between a few individual high-profile property owners and boaters. We recognize that these concerns have increased and will continue to increase as more people move to Florida and buy properties located adjacent to public land such as submerged land and the waterways above it along Florida’s coast.
5. As to disputes between individual upland property owners and boaters, we believe those are matters that are proper for handling on a case-by-case basis through enforcement of civil and penal measures, such a nuisance and harassment. Although existing laws allow for policing of such bad conduct, we would support reforms that strengthen the enforcement tools to help resolve such disputes. But we do not believe the proper approach is to pass sweeping statutory statewide bans on where members of the public can anchor on public waterways throughout the State.
6. Waterfront property owners (including many of us boaters) must be reminded that the marine coastal resources of this State are not private. They are public. The submerged lands that would be roped off by a blanket set-back would encompass land that is owned by the State and, accordingly, by ALL Floridians … including many of the boaters and cruisers who also own land in Florida and pay taxes in Florida to help support the State's ownership of this submerged land.
7. We understand the “Not-In-My-Back-Yard” or NIMBY concept. But public waters are not the "back yard" to any waterfront private property. It is public submerged land. The back yard of upland private property ends at the mean high waterline. Every waterfront property purchaser knew this when they purchased their land. As upland property owners, we should not expect the government to give us control and dominion over public waters just because we purchased private property adjacent to it.
8. Such a blanket setback covering lands owned by the public would set a dangerous precedent that could lead to proposals by people owning property adjacent to other public lands (such as condos on a beach and houses next to state parks) … asking that beachgoers stay off the beach and park visitors stay away from the boundaries of state parks.
9. Similarly, as boaters, we recognize that it would be improper for us to ask government to give us control and dominion of land that is upland of the waterline through a provision preventing landowners from locating their house or condominium within 200 feet of any shoreline. This too would be unfair. To be fair, we recognize that private upland property is not the "back yard" of boaters.
10. We've heard some people in the capitol tell stories about their experiences with boats anchored near properties they own on a lake. Remember, marine coastal waterways are very different from a private lake. First, coastal waterways are not private at all. Second, in most lakes, the depths throughout it allow anchoring just about anywhere. With marine coastal waters, however, there is a small number of areas where there is enough depth to anchor a vessel and enough depth in the areas necessary to access those anchorages ... and where there is adequate protection from the wind and weather. These anchoring spots are unique and serve as the basis for the estimated 1,000,000 boats travelling throughout Florida's waterways annually.
11. The proponents of such this anchoring ban have not performed a necessary analysis showing the consequences such as the number of anchorages that would be eliminated by a particular setback. Without that geographic and bathymetric analysis, it is very risky to adopt such a setback.
12. Remember too, that there are some stretches of the Inter Coastal Waterway where there may only be a couple small suitable anchorages within a stretch of 50 miles or so and theses spots are necessary resting grounds for boaters seeking safe, daytime travel, and safe night time rest. We would not want to take away these safe havens for the convenience or view of others who are safely ashore.
13. The proponents of the anchoring setback have not performed a necessary analysis showing the economic consequences such as the amount of lost revenue, lost taxes, and lost jobs resulting from the exclusion of so many customers supporting so many coastal small businesses from the Panhandle to the Florida Keys, Southeast FL and all the way to Jacksonville. It is not clear to us that local businesses and Chambers of Commerce have been included in this discussion ... although there are some local Chambers that are starting to take notice. Without this economic analysis and full involvement from the small business community, we believe such a provision is not ripe for consideration.
14. Access to Florida's coastal waterways is a key component of this State's rich maritime history. One recent article asked whether Florida is becoming '...The most cruiser-unfriendly state'. This is a sad trend. To many, Florida MEANS water and the salt life. This needs to be preserved, protected, and jealously guarded.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Wow! That Went Well!

Thank you everyone. The last post, on the Florida Anchoring Crisis, certainly got around. In just three days, it was seen by over 4400 of you, which is a almost a new record for LiveBloggin'. The only post to exceed that number, with 5318 hits to date, is the post I did on the Middle River anchorage in Fort Lauderdale, which you can view here. Seems you LiveBloggers are fanatics about defending our right to anchor!
The most important thing you can do now is to contact Florida legislators and let them know that you do NOT approve of these changes, and that you will not come to Florida if they go through. Even if you don't now own a boat, your dollars matter to these people as a tourist, so let them know, loudly.
You can get the names and contact information you need right here, from the SSCA trifold.
Stay tuned for more news on the Florida Anchoring fight, as it will be coming to a head very shortly. And be sure you speak up for your rights, before you lose them. Look at it this way...the sooner we win this fight, the sooner I can stop writing about it, and write about fun stuff instead...like the following.

In other news - I am about to complete a project I've been working on for a while now - a film to be called Havana Dreamin': A Cuban Exploration, about sailing around Cuba, discovering the country and its people. I've already been twice to Cuba, sailing the north coast, and this next trip I'll sail the south coast to complete a circumnavigation of the island at Havana. During this trip, I'll visit Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, Guantanamo, Havana and Varadero, as well as many inland destinations. Think rum, Cohibas and tropical scenery!
The end goal of all this sailing is to make this film available via public television and the internet, so that everyday Americans, and the rest of the world too, can see for themselves what the REAL Cuba is like. In other words, not the phoney, hyped up stuff that Conan just put out, or the 'beautiful people' garbage of Paris Hilton and her narcissistic online selfies. What these people are showing you is not what Cuba is really all about. I should know, I've been there, I've seen it for myself.
Revolutionary Signage is common in Cuba
To create a film like this takes money, a lot of money, particularly if you do it the Hollywood way. The problem is, do it that way and you then get a slick, mass produced type of film that feels and looks like a travelogue - and is about as dull as one.
LiveBloggers know that's not my style. My plan is to create a beautiful, simple film about Cuba that shows the true Cuba - its people, their lives, homes, work...their attractive countryside, scenic anchorages and much more. The plan is to film this quietly, without a Cuban government 'handler' attached to us, so that we can get real footage of real Cubans in real life situations. The 'real' Cuba in other words, the one you have yet to see.
To make this happen, I need to fundraise. So far, we've raised almost $4000 out of a total of $16000 needed. $3000 of that is from a Canadian sailing foundation which only came on board last week, so I'm very, very excited.
To raise the balance, I've created an Indiegogo crowdfunding program, which you can view here, at Havana Dreamin': A Cuban Exploration.
Entrance to Marina Hemingway Club Nautico
Take a look - tell me what you think of it, and if you feel inspired by this project, please donate. There are some truly wonderful awards we have for you.
At the very least, please share the link to Havana Dreamin' with your friends, it will help us out immensely.
That's it for this issue of LiveBloggin' - next edition, back to anchoring.... ok, maybe not then.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Anchoring in Florida - Crisis Situation

I spent several days reading the results of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Anchoring Survey, conducted last November/December, after it came out a few weeks ago. The survey’s intent was to gather information to assist the FWC in making recommendations regarding changes to anchoring regulations in Florida, a topic which will be addressed by the Florida State Legislature this spring.
There were two major concerns on cruisers’ minds: the enactment of local rather than state authority for rule making, and residential setoffs. Both of these were addressed in the survey, and were the topic of much concern at two public meetings held last fall (http://www.sailmagazine.com/cruising-news/reporting-live-anchoring-meetings-florida).
My concerns are twofold: the survey’s clear anti-boater ‘bias’, and the fact that nearly a quarter of respondents are “stakeholder group not identified”.
However, that survey doesn’t matter any more, as Florida Senator Dean has just recently proposed very boater unfriendly legislation.
The Good Senator, who hails from northwest Florida, that bastion of anchoring issues - (and what favours have been promised by Florida legislators in SE Florida to the Good Senator for proposing this legislation I have to ask) - has proposed legislation that, among other things, sets up a 200 foot setoff from residential property. That’s right - 200 feet, not the 150 feet proposed by the FWC whom, rumor has it, the Good Senator is displeased with.
Can’t imagine why that would be. The FWC hasn't bothered moving the clearly illegal dinghies anchored out in Sunset Lake behind Frederick Karlton's house, placed there to block any anchoring. They must be illegal, because FWC Major Daugherty told me they were, two years ago. Now they're derelict by the FWC's own definition of the term, with heavy growth on the bottoms and sides and anchor lines, non-working solar lights instead of proper anchor lights, and they are blocking navigation.
But hey! When you donate big bucks to politicians, many sins are forgiven, and you get to keep your little dinghies, even if they are illegally anchored and derelict. Ah, but excuse me, I digress here. That's just business (and politics) as usual in Florida. One law for your rich friends, another for the rest of us....
Illegally anchored dinghies in Sunset Lake
put there to block legal anchoring
Getting back to the Good Senator’s legislation, there’s just one problem with 200 foot setoffs: they will effectively eliminate anchoring in all of south Florida. 
You read that right: a 200 setoff, with a 5:1 scope in 12 feet of water and a four foot distance to the bow, plus boat length, will eliminate over 90% of the anchorages from Palm Beach south, and reduce even the largest of anchorages such as Lake Sylvia and Middle River to one or two boats at most.
Sunset Lake, one of the safest anchorages around, will be totally gone. All of the anchorages along Venetian Causeway will be...gone. Hurricane Harbor - gone. Do I need to continue?
Given that all these anchorages are staging areas for boaters heading to the Bahamas, and that the weather isn’t always what is needed for a crossing, putting this legislation under the Vessel Safety category is ludicrous. It’s possibly the most dangerous legislation we’ve ever seen, as it could force boaters to go offshore in less than optimal conditions because they can't stay where they are.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention....if you get a ticket and don’t show in court, it’s a misdemeanor conviction. Given the transient nature of our lifestyle, who will argue the situation with a marine police officer, even when they’re in the right? Easier to move on. That’s justice, Florida style, for you.
The Seven Seas Cruising Association has taken a stand against setoffs, which was announced at the Miami Boat Show, and is preparing to address this current legislation. However, this fight needs you to step in and take a stand. Even if you sail on an inland lake, you need to involve yourself here, as other jurisdictions will take note of this legislation and possibly attempt to enact it where you boat.
I will discuss the specifics in my next blog post, as well as what we, as boaters, can do to prevent this legislation from being enacted, and keep you updated with the news as I become aware of it. In the meantime, we all need to get ready for a fight, if we are to preserve our rights to anchor in Florida. Yes, it’s that serious. The sky IS falling. Stay tuned.
If this were a cruising boat anchored here,
you can bet it would be tagged as derelict.

For more discussion on this issue, see my previous Sailfeed article at http://www.sailfeed.com/2015/02/florida-anchoring-survey-the-cynical-point-of-view/