Editorial July 2009 Issue

The Crime of Owning a Small Boat

From shore, you can see the bright-green violation notice stuck to the hull of the San Juan 21. Several other boats in the soon-to-be "public" mooring field in Practical Sailor’s home port of Sarasota, Fla., bear similar stickers. The letter that the city mailed to the owner of the San Juan spells out the terms: Move the boat by Aug. 1, or it will be impounded and possibly destroyed. It’s a familiar story. Burdened by a variety of "boat problems"—some real, some imagined—city officials move to further regulate the local harbor. Responsible boaters who’ve historically used the anchorage for free plead their case, but they are no match for the landlubber majority. A common solution is the one Sarasota has chosen: Install a fee-based mooring field and force boaters to use it. Many such mooring fields around the country are fairly priced, often administered by a government agency. In Sarasota’s case, the mooring enterprise is supposed to be run as a not-for-profit enterprise. The contractor, Jack Graham Inc., also has a controversial long-term lease to run the adjacent marina, Marina Jack. The proposed mooring rates are above the norm, making it hard to dismiss the accusation that the fees are inflated to "keep the riff-raff out."

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