August 18, 2014

Florida Anchoring Wars Resume

Once again there is a big push in Florida to restrict the anchoring rights of boaters. The latest trial balloon contains the ominous suggestion to outlaw anchoring within 300 feet of waterfront property, which would essentially prevent anchoring along much of the Intracoastal Waterway. You can read more about that crazy idea here and here.

The excuse that this is only to prevent derelict vessels from clogging the waterways is being floated as usual, and as usual it is just a smokescreen. The real reasons these silly laws keep coming back to haunt us are many, but they mostly begin with a few influential and wealthy property owners and business owners complaining. The average Florida citizen doesn't live on the water and believes it is for the public to share, as is written into the Florida Constitution.

Unfortunately, there are some who believe they should be able to control the public water within their view, even though they don't own it. There are also some communities that thought forcing boaters to pay for moorings would be a money maker, though most have been sadly mistaken. The mooring business is not lucrative, particularly when it is run by a municipal government with high overheads in staffing, benefits, and bureaucracy. It is a little known fact that the Marathon mooring field is only kept going by infusions of hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funding from other sources. And, that is one of the largest, best run, and most popular fields in Florida. The city has tried to force more boaters onto moorings by charging just as much to dinghy ashore as to rent a mooring. I wonder how many people, like myself, who prefer to anchor now simply go elsewhere?

Other communities are finding that running a mooring field isn't the easy cash cow they envisioned. A boat broke loose from a mooring in St. Augustine recently, and it appears it was due to a failure of some mooring component. This type of problem will grow as mooring gear ages and more boats stress the gear during bad weather.

To compound this problem of failing moorings, cities in Florida require boat owners to sign documents that absolve the city of all liability. You might want to ask your insurance company what they think of you signing such an agreement, while at the same time putting your boat on a mooring you can't inspect. You will have no way of knowing what shape it is in, unlike your own anchor gear that gets inspected every time you haul anchor.

Anchoring has been and always will be an essential part of boating, and for many of us it is a skill and pleasure that makes boating special. Frankly, one of the main things I like to do on a boat is go some place and anchor. What's next? Are they going to outlaw sailing?