November 22, 2014

Florida Anchoring Survey Explores Restrictions

Having cruised Florida waters off and on for almost 30 years I have seen many anchoring restrictions come and go. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) is once again on a crusade to come up with some sort of new restrictions, due to the prodding of influential people behind the scenes.  

Sadly, these laws are being pushed by a few well-connected land and business owners who want to chase away anchored boaters, whether legitimate or not. Virtually every problem cited in the survey is adequately covered by existing laws and regulations already on the books. There is very little, if any, documented evidence of widespread problems of the sort listed in the survey. Where is the evidence that anchored boats are causing signficant damage to waterfront property or docks? Where is the evidence that boaters are routinely blocking access to marinas and other waterfront facilities? Where is the evidence that if these things occur law enforcement does not have the tools to deal with them? The answer is there is none, other than hearsay testimony from anonymous sources.

And, all of these isolated issues are covered by existing laws. It is not a lack of laws that is the problem, but lack of commonsense enforcement when needed.

Take the anti-anchoring survey!

The proposed regulations have all sorts of problems with them. Here’s one. The 150-foot setback rule presumes that your entire swinging circle lies 150 feet away from docks or marine infrastructure. That means you could be anchored almost 300 feet from shore to windward of you and still be in violation of the law, because if the wind switched to come from the other direction your stern could swing within 150 feet of shore, no matter how unlikely that wind shift is. But, what if I then dropped a second anchor to avoid swinging anywhere near shore? I bet it would hold up in a maritime court, but try explaining that to a local police patrol boat. And, how would they determine this measurement of your swinging circle? Another option in the above scenario would simply be to pull in a few feet of scope making me 152 feet from the object. That would technically be not a violation. The 150-foot rule sounds good to landlubbers, but in practice it would be a nightmare.