Editorial January 2008 Issue

Anchoring Rights Revisited

I donít know David Dumas, the owner of a lovely Kadey Krogen trawler named Kinship, but I like his style. Fighting against draconian anchoring restrictions on Marco Island, Fla., Dumas recently had his day in court, and the world is a saner place because of it.  Dumas, his pro bono lawyer Donald Day, and local boating activists  deserve credit for their perseverance. Thanks is also due to the National Marine Manufacturing Association (www.nmma.org), the Seven Seas Cruising

Sailboat Anchorage Area
Sadly, Practical Sailorís home-port of Sarasota, Fla., has been exploring ways to push boats out of its public anchorage area.
Association (www.ssca.org), and members of BoatU.S. (www.boatus.org) whose lobbying efforts last year resulted in a new Florida law that clarifies anchoring rights in the state.

Dumas anchored his boat in Marco Islandís Smokehouse Bay last January with the intention of toppling a Marco Island ordinance that restricted boats from anchoring within 300 feet of a seawall for more than 12 hours. Similar ordinances, with equally shaky legal footing, are in place in many communities across the nation.

In late November of last year, Collier County Judge Rob Crown ruled that the Marco Island ordinance clearly violated Florida laws governing public waterways. The Marco Island City Council seems intent on appealing Crownís ruling, but without a change of state laws, the chances of winning seem slim.

As early as the 1970s, communities throughout the nation have used arbitrary local ordinances to muscle anchored boats out of public waters. Since few cruisers want a legal battle, they simply move on when the local sheriff starts handing out tickets.

Having lived aboard my own sailboat for more than a decade, I take anti-anchoring laws personally. This has admittedly blinded me to the opposing view, which I can only summarize as follows: Derelict boats are an eyesore and a threat to property; boaters poop in the water; boaters invade othersí privacy; anchors hurt the sea bottom; weirdos are living on those boats. Of course, these ideas are usually expressed in euphemisms, although I find them no less silly.

Except for an ordinance against weirdos on boats (which would generally apply to all my friends and relations), all of these complaints are addressed by existing local, state, or federal laws. I donít particularly agree with these laws either, but at least they donít run roughshod over our rights to safely navigate.

Part of the problem is perception. For reasons I canít fathom, a sparkling, seldom-used boat is generally regarded as lovely, while a battle-scarred cruiser is a blight. Suburban zoning codes, having scrubbed clean the wilderness, have apparently set their sights on new horizons. Over my dead body.

What irks me most is how quickly some communities have forgotten their historical connection with harbors, boats, and sailors. Itís a shame that people like David Dumas have to fight to remind us of this legacy.

-Darrell Nicholson, Editor

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