1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: Anchoring in Florida - Crisis Situation

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/