News & Events for Chesapeake Bay

Florida anchoring ban bill approved by Governor

Date Posted: 2016-03-24
Source: Florida Assembly

Florida legislation that would ban overnight anchoring in several areas popular with cruising boaters – and may set a precedent for other banned areas – was approved by Governor Scott today (Mar. 24, 2016). Starting July 1, 2016, it will be illegal to anchor at any time during the period between one-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise in the following public waterways, with some exceptions:

  • The section of Middle River lying between Northeast 21st Court and the Intracoastal Waterway in Broward County. (Middle River is one of the very few viable anchorages for cruising-sized boats in the Fort Lauderdale area. At the public workshop (held by the State Affairs Committee of the Florida House of Representatives on October 8, 2015), Rep. George Moraitis, Jr. of Broward County (Ft. Lauderdale) stated that he planned to introduce a bill that would declare Middle River a "Water Recreation Area" where anchoring is prohibited. He said that he has constituents who complain that water skiers have no room due to the amount of boats anchored there – see related article: Anchoring setbacks and time limits discussed at Florida House.)
  • Sunset Lake in Miami-Dade County. (This Miami Beach anchorage is popular for cruisers waiting for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas, and in the past afforded easy access to Miami Beach for services and provisioning. It is adjacent to the residence of one of the most vocal advocates of anchoring bans in Miami Beach, who has anchored 30 small sailboats in Sunset Lake behind his house to restrict others from the ability to anchor there – see related article noted above. The City of Miami Beach recently passed an amendment to an ordinance which now makes it unlawful to tie a dinghy to the canal wall to visit the city, leaving only limited dinghy access – see related article: Miami Beach cracks down on dinghy access).
  • The sections of Biscayne Bay in Miami-Dade County lying between Rivo Alto Island and Di Lido Island, San Marino Island and San Marco Island, and San Marco Island and Biscayne Island. (This is another popular anchorage area for cruisers, and one section is adjacent to the residence of another vocal advocate of anchoring bans. These islands are connected by low causeways, and the anchorage areas are in no way well-suited for water-skiing – see related article noted above.)

The exceptions:

  • If the vessel suffers a mechanical failure that poses an unreasonable risk of harm to the vessel or the persons onboard unless the vessel anchors. The vessel may anchor for 3 business days or until the vessel is repaired, whichever occurs first.
  • If imminent or existing weather conditions in the vicinity of the vessel pose an unreasonable risk of harm to the vessel or the persons onboard unless the vessel anchors. The vessel may anchor until weather conditions no longer pose such risk. During a hurricane or tropical storm, weather conditions are deemed to no longer pose an unreasonable risk of harm when the hurricane or tropical storm warning affecting the area has expired.
  • During events described in s.327.48 or other special events, including, but not limited to, public music performances, local government waterfront activities, or fireworks displays. A vessel may anchor for the lesser of the duration of the special event or 3 days.
  • Vessels owned or operated by a governmental entity for law enforcement, firefighting, military, or rescue purposes.
  • Construction or dredging vessels on an active job site.
  • Vessels actively engaged in commercial fishing.
  • Vessels engaged in recreational fishing if the persons onboard are actively tending hook and line fishing gear or nets.

The bill provides that "any person cited for a violation of any provision of this subsection shall be deemed to be charged with a noncriminal infraction, shall be cited for such an infraction, and shall be cited to appear before the county court. The civil penalty for any such infraction is $50, except as otherwise provided in this section. Any person who fails to appear or otherwise properly respond to a uniform boating citation shall, in addition to the charge relating to the violation of the boating laws of this state, be charged with the offense of failing to respond to such citation and, upon conviction, be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083. A written warning to this effect shall be provided at the time such uniform boating citation is issued."

The provisions of this law would sunset if and when new legislation is enacted as a result of the recommendations from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Anchoring & Mooring Pilot Program. A report is due to be submitted to the Florida legislature by January 2017.

See HB-CS1051 full text.

  • Comment submitted by capt. robert beringer - Thu, Mar 24th

    A sad, sad day for the boaters of Florida. I just dread what happens next. CS/CS/HB 1051 (2016) Anchoring Limitation Areas -- Approved by Governor

  • Comment submitted by Bob McLeran - Thu, Mar 24th

    It's a sad day not only for boaters in the state of Florida, but for the citizens who now have even more evidence of the political payola involved in legislation across the state. Shame on you, Florida legislators for passing such an outlandish bill as a result of the $$$ contributions from a few well-heeled hacks, and on Scott for approving this travesty to appease a few private interests!

  • Comment submitted by Anew Boater - Thu, Mar 24th

    Another example of the Golden Rule: "He who has the gold makes the rules" Especially when it comes to dealing with politicians.

  • Comment submitted by Bob Miller - Thu, Mar 24th

    I am a Florida resident and a boater for the past 60 years. I keep my cruising yacht in the Chesapeake and have in the past regularly cruised to Florida. As a result of these anchoring sanctions I will no longer plan on cruising in Florida waters as I now consider them unsafe. I am urging all of my friends to do the same. I am sorry if this action causes economic distress to the many boating support business in Florida. There are, however many other more welcoming areas to enjoy boating.

  • Comment submitted by Frank Ruark - Thu, Mar 24th

    I guess I'll just leave my fishing pole out with a line and hook attached whenever I want to anchor somewhere. Ridiculous. Every few years this happens and it is always shot down on appeal. What a waste of taxpayer money.

  • Comment submitted by Scott Hendrickson - Thu, Mar 24th

    Perhaps all of us cruisers ought to not only avoid Florida, but boycott all products produced in Florida, and ask our friends to do the same. Anyone think of a good alternative to Florida orange juice?

  • Comment submitted by Sandy Fisher - Thu, Mar 24th

    As a cruiser and a person who is about to become a registered voter in Florida, I will make sure that my future votes in the state of Florida are against the legislators that voted for this ban.

  • Comment submitted by Rich Nowak - Thu, Mar 24th

    There are many states who welcome us cruisers .... I for one will spend my time and money in North Carolina when traveling to an from the Bahamas and Caribbean..... Too bad for all those folks in Florida whose livelihood is negatively impacted by this unfortunate idiotic legislation.

  • Comment submitted by George Adamczyk - Thu, Mar 24th

    Vote against these legislators from office as they come up for office. Clearly they are after their own interest and are insuring that they get money for their campaigns. It is unconscionable and irresponsible that public waters are taken away from the public by Governor Scott and the Florida Legislators.

  • Comment submitted by Ray Perez - Thu, Mar 24th

    I agree with Sandy, I 'am' a voter and will vote accordingly for those who can see the fuller economic factors involved. I also plan to get a list of the role call vote on this bill. Who are the narrow thinkers and who are those that need the support of the community.

  • Comment submitted by Dale Morgan - Fri, Mar 25th

    What were these few homeowners expecting when they purchased their property on the water? No boats? That's like buying a house on a golf course and banning golfers. If boaters are making excessive noise at all hours of the night, they should be warned and then sited for disturbing the peace if the noise continues - but to ban anchoring for all is ridiculous and, as with most political actions, makes no sense at all.

  • Comment submitted by Joe Cain - Fri, Mar 25th

    I support this ban. I cruise often and this is not unusual. Go to Massachusetts...the state allows each each City to govern it's own waters-just like it's own streets. If it's important to go to these places...go to a marina-there plenty. The economic impact of a handful is unimportant. There are 11,460,540 registered voters in Florida. So do you think that the handful of people who oppose this are a majority ? This is democracy at work.

  • Comment submitted by Nancy Vineyard - Fri, Mar 25th

    This is a horrible decision. It will mark the beginning of limiting boating everywhere for the benefit of a few rich people who think they own everything in this country. This is a sad day for boaters, for the boating industry and all of the businesses that boaters use in their travels. I have been following this issue from the beginning and hoped this would not happen. It is wrong and unfair to all real boaters. I have been boating for over 40 years and this really makes me mad and scared for future boaters.

  • Comment submitted by Fred Brillo - Fri, Mar 25th

    I would suggest that all the cruisers just by pass Ft. Lauderdale... The marinas are too expensive and only wish to cater to mega yachts. As the owner of a small boat and a resident of Ft Lauderdale for 24 years, I can tell you that I sometimes feel very unwelcome in the waters of my own city. There are plenty of anchorages in the Keys... by pass Miami and Ft Lauderdale.

  • Comment submitted by Gaz - Fri, Mar 25th

    Anchoring bans are typical government overreach but not without merit driven in part by the boating community. Yes there are two sides to every point and while I could write an entire article on this topic this will be brief while attempting to present the middle ground. The landlubbers have a valid argument about disrespectful boaters. How many of us have voiced this same argument when some idiot barges in and anchors on top of us. Same premise just from a different perspective. Additionally, how many times have you sailed into a new anchorage only to find it is chocked to death by abandoned and derelict scowls or if a spot is available the boat next door is scary enough to have you pulling guard duty all day? I have experienced both sides of this issue, often anchoring out and living in a Florida waterfront community and it sickens me. In the past few years my property tax dollars have gone to removing four sunk boats and that is in just the few miles of my canal. Even before the sinking they polluted with sewer, garbage, oil, noise, and not one ever moved all the while returning little to the community they eagerly took from. In general the majority of boaters are respectful but unfortunately we all pay for the spoilers so be careful pointing fingers because there is blame to go around. Unfortunately, while government has the ability to solve this issue they attack the symptom and not the disease. I blame litigation for most of this. I have reported dozens of sinking derelicts only to be told there is little that can be legally done about them. Law enforcement is limited when a crime hasn't been perpetrated and apparently a sinking boat is not yet a crime scene. Our legislators set their sights on immediate gratification but miss the target which is disrespectful, and irresponsible boaters. The knee jerk reaction of banning anchoring is far simpler than going after the true criminals. Sort of like banning cars because of drunk drivers but then these are some of the same morons who passed the luxury tax a few years back nearly ending boat manufacturers completely. Who votes for these guys anyway? Once Florida communities welcomed tourists but now they discriminate. You either fit their mold of what they deem a proper visitor or hit the road. I think this is a mistake. Boaters are an important part of Florida culture but that doesn't mean they should not meet a minimal requirement for rights of navigation and anchoring. In my opinion all boats on Florida waters should have a valid registration, carry insurance, maintain a pump out and garbage disposal log, and be seaworthy. Law enforcement should have the authority to request these documents without the need of just cause or for those civil libertarians reading a cruising permit should be required much like any foreign nation requires. After all Southeast Florida is a foreign country. On a personal note, I started bypassing the Miami to West Palm area years ago upon sensing these communities dislike of diversity.

  • Comment submitted by B. Smith - Fri, Mar 25th

    I spent quite a substantial amount of money cruising in Florida this winter. I will not be back.

  • Comment submitted by Jacqueline kern - Fri, Mar 25th

    Absolutely absurd!! I will also not vote for anyone supporting this ridiculous infraction of boaters rights in our PUBLIC waterways.

  • Comment submitted by TG - Tue, Mar 29th

    Do I understand this correctly? Anchoring is banned an hour after sunset so that waterskiers will not be inconvenienced? Irrational, undemocratic rules like can only pass in third world oligarchies- Florida?

  • Comment submitted by PG - Mon, Apr 25th

    Saddest part is we drop about 5 grand on provisions and restaurants etc in Lauderdale before crossing to the Bahamas. Not going south of Ft Pierce again. We're just not.

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