1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: May 2017

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Summer's Coming.....

It never fails. My Facebook group Sailing and Cruising members in the north always get a bit cranky around the end of March. Their posts show it, but in the past few weeks, everyone has calmed down again.
It's been a long winter, and all they wanted was to get back on the water and get out sailing. Can't say as I blame them - I remember all too well what spending the winters ashore were like, awaiting the day when I could get to the boat and do the bottom painting and get her ready to splash.
That first night aboard was always heavenly, like coming home, even if the water was barely above freezing in Lake Huron. That first sail, first night anchored out again, usually at Beausoleil Island.
Now, being aboard full time and spending winters in the south, I don't experience that 'waiting and waiting' any more. Life is always a beach...or at least an anchorage, or a dock someplace warm!
Isn't that the dream of all of us? To retire, and spend those cold, cold winters in someplace warm? Preferably with a cold rum drink in our hands? Looking at a beach and palm trees?
Surrounded by dolphins, and great friends?
As many of you know, I lead a rally of boats south every fall, from Hampton VA to Miami FL in an event called Sail to the Sun ICW Rally. This year is my fourth Rally south, and every year, I am amazed by the great people I get to lead.
The basic idea for the Rally was to help people on what, for many, would be their first real foray into both the cruising life, and the challenging route known as the ICW, Intracoastal Waterway.
I anticipated that people were looking for guidance and assistance in planning the trip, then executing it with a minimum of stress and aggravation. Help with navigation issues, where the problem areas were, tactics on how to get by them safely, weather, provisioning, exploring. And that was correct.
What I didn't anticipate was that people were also looking for camaraderie, for new friends to replace those they were leaving behind in the snow (I HAD to add that!). Seriously, new cruisers aren't just leaving their jobs behind...they're leaving their homes, their lives, family, friends and everything else they've known for years.
That's not easy to do when you stop and think about it. It's actually kind of scary!
So joining up with a group of people who share your goals and aspirations, even if they are total strangers, makes a lot of sense. And in practice, it's been amazing.
It's hard for me to believe, but with three trips south and over 100 participants, I've seen any number of new, lifelong friendships created, more laughter and fun than you could possibly imagine.
I decided that I would put together a short video of the 2016 Sail to the Sun ICW Rally, showing some of the laughs and good times we had - recognizing that it's impossible to cram two months and more of fun and laughter into a five minute video. But you'll at least have an idea of what all the fuss is about.
If you're interested in more information on the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally, you can contact me for more information at www.ICWally.com, there's a link there. We'll be leaving Hampton VA on October 19, 2017. Hope to see you there with us.
In the meantime - enjoy a slice of the sun with the 2016 Sail to the Sun ICW Ralliers.

P.S. Just got the news today - We're doing the Dismal again! The Dismal Swamp Canal will be open by this summer!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Florida Anchoring Situation: Update 2017


So what's happening with the Florida anchoring situation now? There's good news, and there's bad news - what else is new?
This year is the year that the anchoring Pilot Program, begun in 2009, was slated to end. The Pilot Program, you might recall, established five mooring fields around Florida, and each of those five cities or regions was permitted to create its own anchoring regulations with Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) oversight and approval. The idea was to test out these various regulations and then, at the ending of the PP, enact those that worked throughout Florida so the entire state was under the same rules. More on that in a bit.
At the time, Florida ensured boaters that no new rules regarding anchoring would be instituted. And we believed them! That lasted until 2016, when perennial anti-anchoring complainers in Miami Beach managed to convince Senator Moraitis to sponsor a law that carved out three areas in which no overnight anchoring was to be permitted: Sunset Lake, Miami, where Frederick Karlton lives was one. You might remember Karlton as the crank who had 22 dinghies tied behind his house to discourage others from anchoring, along with his playing loud rap music and using spotlights to drive anchored boats off.
Then there's Venetian Causeway, Miami, where another complainer, lawyer Mark Gold, lives. He believes that the publicly owned water is his backyard. Finally, there's Middle River, Fort Lauderdale, where Senator Moraitis' father lives. Ya know, it's a lucky thing I'm not a cynic because otherwise, you might just wonder about how those three areas were chosen.
So we come to 2017. This year, the Seven Seas Cruising Association handed off the leadership in the fight to the Marine Trawler Owners' Association (MTOA) and the American Great Loop Cruisers Association (AGLCA). Those two organizations conducted a successful fund raising initiative that permitted them to hire a professional lobbyist, who was a part of the 2015 effort in which boaters prevailed against a well funded and organized attempt to restrict anchoring.
The end results were favourable to boaters. Here's the summary:
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Pursuant to Florida Statutes adopted in 2009, Florida’s FWC (Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission) conducted an Anchoring & Mooring Pilot Program which concluded in 2017. The 2009 law also required the FWC to issue a report and required the Florida Legislature to act on recommendations from the pilot program. It is this mandate that HB 7043 addresses. The bill incorporates many of the findings and recommendations from the pilot program. As of May 1, 2017, the bill has been adopted by the Florida House of Representative and the Florida Senate. The bill has been “enrolled” and sent to the Florida Governor for consideration.

Summary of the bill:
1. Prohibits local governments (cities and counties) from adopting new laws that ban or restrict anchoring and mooring outside the boundaries of existing mooring fields. This regulatory authority is reserved to the State so that local governments cannot create a confusing patchwork that varies by location.

2. Provides more flexibility for removal of derelict vessels. For example, a vessel is at risk of becoming derelict if the vessel does not have effective means of propulsion for safe navigation within 72 hours after the owner or operator of the vessel receives notice of such from a law enforcement officer and cannot provide proof of purchase of parts necessary for repair.

3. The bill does not create any new anchoring restricted areas. The bill does not include the drastic anchoring “set-backs” had been proposed by some local governments and anti-anchoring activists. The bill does, however, include the following setbacks:
a. Prohibits a vessel or floating structure from anchoring or mooring within 150 feet of a marina, boat ramp, boatyard, or other vessel launching or loading facility, within 300 feet of a superyacht repair facility.
b. Prohibits anchoring within 100 feet outward from the marked boundary of a public mooring field. A local government may establish a distance less than this (but not more) upon notification to FWC.
c. Provides exceptions to these restrictions in situations such as when weather requires temporary anchoring for safety.
Note: As stated above, the bill does not create any new anchoring restricted areas. Remember, however, that a bill was adopted during the 2016 legislative session that established anchoring restricted areas in the following locations: (a) The section of Middle River lying between Northeast 21st Court and the Intracoastal Waterway in Broward County; (b) Sunset Lake in Miami-Dade County; (c) The sections of Biscayne Bay in Miami-Dade County lying between: 1. Rivo Alto Island and Di Lido Island, 2. San Marino Island and San Marco Island, and 3. San Marco Island and Biscayne Island.

4. Prohibits a vessel or floating structure from anchoring, mooring, tying, or otherwise affixing to an unpermitted or unauthorized object that is on or affixed to the bottom of waters of the state.

5. Allows local governments to adopt the Monroe County/Florida Keys standard program for requiring proof of pump-outs within 10-14 days in certain locations such as no-discharge zones and mooring fields.
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So as you see, it's a pretty good deal for us. Now, here's the problem: those three areas I mentioned in Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Why are they a problem?
At some point, another Florida community is going to want to ban anchoring. There are several right now in fact, such as Hollywood, just north of Lauderdale. And when it happens, the local politicians are going to point at Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale's restrictions, demanding to know why they can't have the same.
There is NO possible defence of those restrictions against that demand. None whatsoever. When this happens, the success of this year's negotiations is out the window and we're back at it again. Worse still, we'll be up against a very well funded group of antagonists, people who have demonstrated their willingness to push as hard as they possibly can to bar us from anchoring.
None of this is to take away from the excellent work of this year's committee and the lobbyist they hired. We came away doing very well in fact, but we need to recognize that the fight is not over.
Some of you will remember that I predicted last year that giving these areas away would create a problem in that they would fight to keep what they won last year.
The committee wisely, in my opinion, avoided that fight this year in the interests of the bigger picture, but at the price of setting us up for a fight in the future - and that's the bad news.

Well...that was intense wasn't it? So what else is going on?
Our sponsoring pub in Cocoa, FL - Ryans - great fun!
This year's Sail to the Sun ICW Rally is starting to fill up, we're just short of half of our spaces filled now. If you're interested in joining up with a group of fellow sailors and new cruisers to head south on the ICW, check out the information at the Rally website, link here. You can request a brochure, even sign up and pay right there. If you need more information, you can contact me via the website's links, or use the contact form that pops up here.
The Sail to the Sun ICW Rally starts in Hampton VA and runs over two months, ending in Miami, Florida. The goal of the Rally is to provide participants with a stress-free, fun-filled journey south. My job is to make sure that the things about this trip that people find challenging - handling shoal areas and difficult passages, dealing with anchorages and marinas, arranging provisioning, and so on, are taken care of.
Buoy aground at Peck Lake, floated over from the Bahamas
On top of all that, there is an itinerary of fun happenings for the Rally, with a variety of marinas and stops hosting sundowners, potlucks and other events. This year, we have a tour of a rum distillery on the agenda. That ought to be entertaining! Then there are the regular dinghy raftups, dinners aboard new friends' boats - all the fun stuff that the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally is known for.'
And that's it for today - I have a new genoa kit from Sailrite and I'm off to spend a couple of hours on the sewing machine.