Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:49AM - Comments: (4)
While the Florida Senate approved House Bill 1051 prohibiting anchoring in parts of Miami-Dade County, over on Florida’s west coast, a live-aboard sailor in Sarasota, Fla., was still working to have his 36-foot Hunter hauled off the beach. Although the two events would at first seem unrelated, any sailor would likely see a clear connection.
The bill, which now awaits Gov. Rick Scott’s signature, would prohibit anchoring from one-half hour after sunset until one-half hour before sunrise in a few choice nooks in South Florida—on the Middle River between N.E. 21st Court and the Intracoastal Waterway in Broward County, Sunset Lake in Miami-Dade County, and among a cluster of exclusive islands near Miami Beach known for their celebrity homes. The bill is meant to solve an ongoing conflict between liveaboard sailors and the waterfront homeowners who regard the boats (and, apparently, the people aboard them) as eyesores.
The boating advocacy group BoatUS has strongly opposed the bill, which exempts the anchorages from a 2009 state law that prohibits localities from preventing anchoring. The bill also pre-empts a statewide test of mooring fields in five municipalities. The trial program that was supposed to end in 2014 but was extended to 2017. The pilot program was enacted as the first step toward consistent statewide rules and to prevent exactly what the new bill encourages—a complicated patchwork of local ordinances restricting anchoring.
What happened to the Sarasota liveaboard (who asked that his name not be published), who narrowly escaped injury when a fast-moving front packing tornados and winds gusting to 70 knots drove him and his boat ashore, is a harbinger of things to come as more Florida anchorages are closed to anchoring or turned into fee-based mooring fields.
The Sarasota sailor is familiar face in the local sailing community and is among several liveaboards who at one time kept their boat in the historic anchorage near what is now Marina Jacks in downtown Sarasota. He’s been on the water “all his life” as he put it, first in New England and now in Florida. When the fee-based pilot mooring program (rates starting at $250 per month) moved in, he, like other liveaboards, moved out. Many re-anchored just slightly south in an improvised anchorage just outside the mooring field. The Hunter owner eventually settled on a spot with deeper water near the Ringling Bridge.
I should be clear that the Hunter owner himself does not see a strong link between Sarasota’s relatively new mooring field and the sad fate of his boat. He pointed out that if he had picked up one of the new moorings, his boat would be intact today. But his boat would also be fine had he been allowed to stay in the anchorage where he’d anchored for free for years. None of the boats in the mooring field or the nearby improvised anchorage suffered harm in the storm that tossed the Hunter boat on the beach.
The alternative site near the bridge that the Hunter owner and a couple other local boaters settled on after being shooed out of the mooring field a few years ago is slightly more exposed than the improvised site. It was exposed enough to prompt the skipper to want to move to the north side of the bridge to be protected from the strong south-southwesterlies as the front passed. His mistake was trying to move the boat back to the south side of the bridge as the winds clocked during a passing front; he blames inaccurate weather forecasts that led to his decision to move.
While the weather forecasts may have played a role, it's obvious that the liveaboard would not have been forced to face these decisions had he not been booted from the anchorage in the first place. Keep in mind that sailboats have been using the area now taken up by the new mooring field as an anchorage for decades. The Miami-Dade anchorages being exempted under the proposed bill have a similar historic precedant; some were used as anchorages long before the adjacent properties were even developed. Complaining about anchored boats in these areas is like buying a home next to a turnpike rest stop and then demanding to have the rest stop moved.
What is even more frustrating about the Sarasota situation is that local cruising couple Erica and Akim Ginsberg-Klemmt have been fighting for years to establish a friendly, safe harbor and marina for cruising sailors in Bickels Bayou not far from where the Hunter went ashore. The two have purchased a couple islands and submerged properties still on the county tax-rolls, but their every attempt to establish a more affordable, cruiser-friendly mooring area, cruisers hub, or micro-marina has met with local opposition. Although the county officials have continued to thwart their plans, they have invited cruising sailors to use their anchorage, which is well protected from Northerlies.
Given the strong votes support that both the Florida House and Senate gave the new anchoring bill, it seems likely that the governor will sign the bill. “Even after hearing from thousands of Florida boaters requesting they not approve this legislation, the Florida Senate has just decided to treat a few areas differently than the rest of the state when it comes to public access to the waterways,” said BoatUS President Margaret Bonds Podlich.
Eight years and goodness knows how many public dollars and public hearings later, it appears we’re back to to 2008 again.
As for the Hunter owner, last weekend, I drove by the site near the Ringling Bridge where his holed boat had been listing for weeks. It was patched and floating—and not a moment too soon. Another front was on its way.