News & Events for Chesapeake Bay

Get ready for new anchoring regulations in Florida

Date Posted: 2014-07-30
Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

no-anchor-icon-3.jpgIf you thought that the extension of Florida's Anchoring and Mooring Pilot Program meant that new regulations would be put off until 2017, think again.

Last week's public meeting hosted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was the first workshop in an effort to draft a legislative proposal allowing Florida municipalities to enact anchoring ordinances before the Pilot Program ends – perhaps as soon as this winter.

I had a long conversation with Capt. Tom Shipp and Capt. Gary Klein of FWC yesterday, as I try to understand why FWC would open up this process before the Pilot Program is over (I was not able to attend the meetings). “This was part of the plan…we’re just moving more quickly” than we had expected, said Capt. Shipp, the coordinator of the Pilot Program.

Remember back in April – those last-minute amendments tacked on to the bill that included the extension of the pilot program? Although the amendments were voted down, certain municipalities not participating in the Pilot Program have kept the pressure on – they want the ability to draft their own ordinances to make anchoring near private residences illegal, and they want it now. “If we didn’t step into this void, we would not as likely end up” with an acceptable outcome, said Capt. Klein, who is heading up this new, parallel effort to draft guidelines for legislation.

Despite the constitutional problems with municipalities regulating anchoring in navigable waters, several may soon try to push through a new law which could quickly take us back to what Claiborne Young called the “wild west” of anchoring regulations – rules often changing from county to county, and many citations and fines (at least until the law is challenged and thrown out again). Capts. Klein and Shipp hope that working through this new process to "finally find consensus" will give the municipalities some control without adding hardship to the responsible boating community. Klein said that the idea is to use Florida Statute 327.46 - Boating-restricted areas as a general framework.

Representatives from BoatUS and Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) were among the 30-35 participants (both of these organizations are strong advocates for the boating community and, in my opinion, deserve our support). Other participants included legislative and law enforcement representatives.

There are other important pieces to the framework of guidelines, including time limitations, setbacks from marine infrastructure, proof of pump-out, and identification of derelict and pre-derelict vessels, but I’ll cover only the residential setback in this article (I’ll cover more in future articles).

What is the definition of “near” private residences? Senator Christopher Smith of Broward County in his argument for the amendment suggested that 300 feet is too close: "There are boats sitting outside of people's houses…boats within 100 yards, looking into people's houses, discharging waste, doing all kinds of things in that city's water." 

Let’s take a look at the Senator’s county, home of Ft. Lauderdale – the “Yachting Capital of the World” – which was well-represented at last week's meeting.

Broward County runs from about ICW Mile 1050 Deerfield Beach to Mile 1074 at Hallandale Beach, and each of its roughly dozen anchorages are small areas surrounded by mostly residential property. A 300-foot setback rule would effectively make it illegal to anchor almost everywhere in the county.

Middle-River-Anchorage-2.jpgWhat is a “reasonable” setback from a residential property or private dock? Most prudent skippers anchor as far as practical from docks, seawalls and other boats, but crowded anchorages (like those in Broward County) often require closer quarters. Is there a setback amount that works? Yes: 0 feet.

We’ve all probably experienced the “boat’s too close” illusion in an anchorage. A short trip in the dinghy reveals that your vessel is actually over 100 feet from what you thought might be too close. So, should we use 100 feet for the setback? No…because the same illusion happens from land (probably more so).

Regardless of the setback number used, certain homeowners will think your boat is too close, then call the police, who will then investigate and explain to the homeowner that the boat isn’t too close. (You would think that local law enforcement would push for no setbacks for the same reason; however, a contingent of them at the meeting reportedly suggested some of the larger numbers.) And let's be real – the only setback that would satisfy many of these homeowners is "infinity."

Why don’t we stay at marinas every night? Fort Lauderdale has some of the finest marina facilities in the world, and there are some I can highly recommend; however, a marina stay is not always practical for every cruiser, whether for financial reasons (and Ft. Lauderdale marinas tend to have some of the highest rates), the added hassle after a long day’s journey, or simply the preference of having a little space for oneself.

According to Klein and Shipp, two more public meetings will be scheduled very soon – one on Florida's East Coast and other on Florida's West Coast, details to come. They also said that the FWC will solicit comments via the internet for those who cannot attend the meetings (details to come).

Anyone who would like to preserve our anchoring rights in Florida should stay tuned and get involved in this process.

Here is the press release from Captain Gary Klein of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission about last week’s meeting:

In response to increasing concerns between local governments and boaters related to anchoring in state waters within local jurisdictions, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) conducted a public meeting in Tallahassee on July 21-22, 2014, to discuss anchoring issues and potential ways forward to resolve the conflicts.

Attended by interested persons representing the boating industry, resident and visiting boaters and local and state governments, the two-day meeting focused on complex issues.

“Protecting the rights of people to use the waters kept in public trust by the state is very important,” said Lt. Colonel Jack Daugherty. “We all want to keep Florida a boater-friendly state and maintain that great part of the Florida lifestyle and economy. On the other hand, local governments have the duty to respond to the needs of their citizens.  We are committed to a robust dialogue and to seeking balance between boating interests and local governments in an effort to identify points of consensus and to help resolve some of these issues.”

This year, Florida’s Legislature extended the Anchoring and Mooring Pilot Program, which was authorized in 2009 to look for solutions to these problems, for three additional years in order to allow for more time to test various anchoring strategies and to engage stakeholders in exploring possible legislative solutions. During the public meeting, a framework for potential future anchoring legislation was discussed along with several draft regulatory provisions based on components of the pilot program, each aimed at solving or minimizing specific anchoring challenges.

FWC staff will draft language based on comments from this meeting, distribute that language to interested parties and hold at least two additional public meetings to further refine a possible legislative proposal. Meeting notices and reference documents will be posted by mid-August on FWC’s Anchoring and Mooring web page, found at

Related Articles:

UPDATE: Both Florida anchoring amendments are rejected!
Florida anchoring/mooring pilot program asks for 3-year extension

  • Comment submitted by Steve Weisbrod - Thu, Jul 31st

    Maybe the FWC and the 'municipalities' should just 'cut to the chase'. Municipalities that don't want boats anchoring in their jurisdiction should just say so. They should cite and fine ANY boat anchoring in their waters. They should also be held responsible for the 'fallout' when their police and the FWC fail to enforce it consistantly. Personally, I don't want to stop in ANY area where I'm not welcome. But I'm also tired of seeing the existing laws enforced erratically. The FWC could start by enforcing 'no wake' zones. They could enforce the law prohibiting fishermen from tying off to bridges and the 'channel side' of bridge bulkheading. They could enforce existing laws regarding the myriad of small power boats that run around at night with partial or non-working running lights. Before we hear about 'not enough police and patrol boats' I can tell you that I've seen violations ignored or enforced selectively a LOT. Anyway Broward County, just say "no cruisers welcome" and we'll just go outside and avoid your piddly little area. The same holds true of any city or county in Florida.... or anywhere else. It's not rocket science guys, just tell us to stay away. I'll be happy to buy fuel and supplies elsewhere. BTW, as a Florida resident, this all seems to be a giant waste of time and taxpayer money motivated by a very small number of individuals. stay safe, steve

  • Comment submitted by Pieter van Kuppenveld - Sat, Aug 2nd

    Let me comment from the Netherlands, Europe (no I don't want to interfere in USA/Florida internal affairs). Anchoring is a substantional part of (save) boating. And lying somewhere for anchor is part of the (my) boatlife and that part makes it worthfull (not only this part). And because only I'm responsible for the safety of my ship (and its sailors) I don't accept others to intefere with my 'space of acting'. So I wouldn't like shore-people to make it difficult/prohibit it. For me it would be a reason to go elsewhere and spent my money!. But the main problem is that this 'regulation' would spread as an inkspot, 'because the neighbour-county has it'. And then there is no need for a substantional reason, but only emotional feeling. That is imho the thread for us boaters. So I wish all the involved boating interests all wishdom we can use! nPieter

  • Comment submitted by Ken Kilner - Mon, Aug 4th

    I agree with Steve Weisbrod, but what we are seeing here is nothing more than the usual NIMBY reaction of people who move into a property and then assert that because they are paying property taxes they should be able to boss around anyone that doesn't. Which means, of course, getting rid of undesirables such as smelly liveaboards. We are liveaboards in Mississippi right now, where the same attitudes prevail. I have been told flat out that we should "pay taxes like everybody else" or go back where we came from (ironically, that would be Florida). The fact of the matter is that when you choose the lifestyle you are setting yourself apart from the butchers, the bakers, and the candlestick makers in a very visible way. Your very presence in the neighborhood is an affront to their tiny, tidy view of the world. So hunker down for a long fight - this one is as old as humanity itself.

  • Comment submitted by George Sherrier - Tue, Aug 5th

    we don't need any new laws on the water.Inforce the one's we have and everyone should be happy.No pumping overboard,no littering, no wake near shore or achorages, no achoring in navigable waters,and keep the boat in a safe condition. These laws are ways to finance free water enjoyment for all. If you don't like boats near your house, don't buy on the water. I live on the water and I enjoy looking at boats in my back yard. Pump out boats are free in Ocean County, NJ and our water in the bay is clean.

  • Comment submitted by Bill Hoisington - Tue, Aug 19th

    I have requested our local radio stations in Crestview get on air and start letting the boating and fishing public know what is fixing to happen to their rights. Suggest everyone reading this to pick up the phone and call your local TV and Radio station.

  • Comment submitted by Chief Engr Bob Onboard ALLEZ! - Tue, Aug 19th

    Comment by Steve Weisbrod - Thu, Jul 31st Hits the nail right on the head. As a Florida resident of Clay, county I think Broward County and the others will shoot themselves in the foot with the anchoring restrictions. We will do what we can from our end to keep the cruising lifestyle and anchoring rights open

  • Comment submitted by C. Pruitt - Tue, Feb 3rd

    As we look ahead to moving aboard sometime during 2015, and wanting to stay "close" to downtown West Palm Beach waterfront, what is new in this debate at this time? Any updates?

  • Comment submitted by Mike Ahart, Waterway Guide News Editor - Tue, Feb 3rd

    We'll get the results of the FWC survey any moment now – I will post the info as soon as I get it. Then we'll see what the Florida legislature does with the information.

  • Comment submitted by May Galloway - Tue, Dec 1st

    If the rich think the livaboard boaters, really care enough to look in the Windows... They have too much time on there hands. Paranoid? Tell them to get curtains.... Thany you, May Galloway (Livaboard boater)

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