News & Events for Chesapeake Bay

What Georgia Stands to Lose

Date Posted: 2019-07-17
Source: Ed Tillett, Editor-In-Chief


Editor's Note: This is part of an ongoing series of timely updates and insights on an issue critical to both cruisers and Georgia residents that is being researched and covered by Waterway Guide Editor-In-Chief, Ed Tillett. We will continue to keep readers informed via our news website, newsletter and on Facebook. 

The public comment period has ended for some provisions of Georgia’s new laws related to anchoring and securing a permit to stay overnight on boats in its coastal waters. The state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is tallying the results. What impact the comments, emails and phone calls to DNR will have on the state’s handling of this issue remains to be seen.

When House Bill 201 (HB201) was signed into law on May 7, 2020, resident and visiting boaters, and boating interest groups,  realized that they had been left out of the conversation about problems the state was attempting to correct. By the time the legislature passed HB201 it was too late to adjust. Now there is focused interest on revising some of the provisions of the new law. Conversations are ongoing and meetings are being held to refine everyone’s understanding of the regulations. Regardless, the law is in effect and becomes enforceable on January 1, 2020.

This is a complicated issue to unravel due to the language and intent of HB201, what the law requires of DNR, and the history of how Georgia has defined and dealt with “live-aboard” vessels. From the analysis conducted by boating interests since the new law’s passage, there appears to be a misunderstanding on the state’s part of how extended and weekend cruising vessels should be classified, and what the state stands to lose if those boaters are reluctant to visit.

Georgia has one of the most scenic stretches of coastline in America. The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW) that runs along the coast of Georgia is a marine highway used by thousands of vessels each year. An overarching concern by many marinas and coastal communities is that the new laws will discourage boating activity due to unreasonable oversight, additional costs and heightened enforcement aimed at residents and visitors.

Short of a dedicated and expensive survey, there are no substantive numbers available to define the economic impact of boaters who transit the state or visit their vessels for weekend pleasure or extended vacations. There are published estimates and overall figures associated with boating in the state from industry groups that may put into perspective the value of vessels on the water.

  • The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) reports that $4.3 billion in economic activity, 638 businesses and 15,000 jobs are tied to boating. There are 322,000 registered vessels in Georgia and the state’s residents spent $632 million on new boats, trailers, engines and accessories in 2018.
  • There are 30 marinas, 17 service facilities, 43 identified anchorages and 15 fuel docks along the AICW of Georgia. Many local economies such as Savannah, Thunderbolt, Wilmington Island, Sunbury, Darien, St. Simon’s Island, Brunswick, Jekyll Island, and St. Mary’s cater to transiting and weekend boaters. (WG Explorer)
  • An unconfirmed survey indicates that the average transiting vessel spends $85 per stopover. With 76% spending $25-$100, 96% spending $25-$200, and 4% spending in excess of $200. These numbers appear reasonable to anyone who has spent time cruising the AICW.

Whether boats will bypass Georgia on their way north or south due to concern or outrage over the new regulations remains to be seen. Weekend trips by residents and locals will be affected only by their reluctance to deal with new laws. Either way, the recent passage of the regulations has disappointed residents, visitors and business owners alike who were surprised by the state’s handling of what it says are too many derelict and abandoned vessels, and irresponsible full-time residents living on boats.

Extended cruisers and local residents who spend weeks throughout the year on their boats exploring America’s waterways value their lifestyle and independence. Georgia’s new laws will add another layer of requirements and oversight on to responsible boaters who will now be required to show no harm with several of the provisions. The cost of this action by the state may not be readily measured in economic terms, but the price of negative public relations appears to be mounting for Georgia.

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  • Comment submitted by Tom Konopka - Wed, Jul 17th

    We are liveaboard boaters who had our first ICW transit exerience in 2017/18.  Some call us "hybrids" - dividing our overnight stays between anchoring and staying at marinas.  The ability to find anchorages translates into us being able to stay in one location for several days and enjoy the tourist experience in interesting ports of call.  In essence each night anchoring allows us to support local non-marine business such as restaurants, tourist attractions, public and private transportation services and cultural activities in a more robust manner.  

    In late September/early October we plan to be in the Southern Chesapeake Bay and begin our journey south through the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida.  We sure hope Georgia will welcome us in a way that will again encourage us to linger in this fine attractive state.

  • Comment submitted by Wally Moran - Wed, Jul 17th

    In order to even live aboard in Georgia you must apply to and get permission from the state, and it is currently restricted to only a few approved marinas. Thus, there is no live aboard problem in Georgia as has been claimed by some.

     The DNR indicated that it was unable to give accurate figures as to how many vessels are derelict in the state of Georgia. However what data there is indicates approximately 140 to 160 derelict vessels, the majority of which are commercial vessels such as abandoned shrimpers. 

     HP 201 is a poorly constructed law that will cause considerable damage to boaters and to boating interests in Georgia, while failing to accomplish anything. 

  • Comment submitted by Frank - Fri, Jul 19th

    This new law in one word is unacceptable, and we will pass from Charleston directly to Jacksonville, FL with Georgia remaining off to starboard.  It’s going to be sad to miss Thanksgiving in St. Marys, but until this law is repealed we won’t be spending time in Georgia.

  • Comment submitted by Martin - Fri, Jul 19th

    Seems iike the state is just introducing bad laws one after another... Just like the new abortion law... Just avoid the whole state together.... We'll just have to sail from South Carolina to Florida non stop... Sad......

  • Comment submitted by Fred Read - Fri, Jul 19th

    I have to agree with Frank and Martin,  I will give Georgia a miss on my travels north and south.  In business, you vote with your feet by going elsewhere when dissatisfied, in boating you vote with your anchor and dock lines. I will miss my several days in Hilton head, renting a car and enjoying the area. Same with Savanna. And yes, St Marys.  Oh well. Your loss as I have many other areas to cruise and spend my time and money. 

  • Comment submitted by Mark Morrow - Fri, Jul 19th

    As an avid cruiser, I must agree with the other comments. As a result of the new laws, I bypassed Georgia on my way north. And I will bypass Georgia again on my trek south. There are plenty of other welcoming communities along the Intercoastal to spend my money at. Punish the Cruising community for a few derelict mostly commercial vessels. Shame on you Georgia...

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