Once again Florida boaters and cruisers from all over are fighting an ill-conceived anti-anchoring bill (SB 1548) that purports to be about “safety,” but in reality would limit the number of safe harbors to a handful in much of the state. The main thrust of the bill prohibits overnight anchoring within 200 feet of most developed parts of Florida. As has been discussed here and in many places online (see the Salty Southeast Cruisers' Net), this measure would essentially outlaw all overnight anchoring in many popular places such as Manatee Pocket, anywhere in Ft. Lauderdale, most of Miami, Marathon, and most of North Lake Worth.
All of these locations, and many more, are where cruisers routinely
anchor safely while waiting for a weather window to cross to the
Bahamas, or just to ride out a stretch of bad weather. I have done so in
all of these places. During the peak winter season it is highly likely
that there would be no marina berths available in these same locations,
mooring fields would be full, and there would be no alternative but to
keep moving night and day despite the weather. Even with the current
availability of anchorages it is very difficult to find a marina berth
or a mooring in high season.
Sure, there are safety exceptions in the proposed law, for
“mechanical breakdown or when imminent or existing extreme weather
conditions impose an unreasonable risk of harm.” Who is to judge whether
or not the weather is “extreme,” and whether or not it poses an
“unreasonable risk of harm?” Am I supposed to move on in a gale because
it isn’t “extreme?”
Even in good weather what would an ordinary cruiser do? It is
impractical and dangerous to run the ICW 24/7, and sometimes even if the
weather isn’t “extreme” it is very difficult and uncomfortable to
proceed outside down the coast while fighting the Gulf Stream. In short,
this bill makes safe and comfortable cruising all but impossible in
south Florida, and makes it very difficult in the entire state.
Cruising boaters are above all else safety conscious. We spend
thousands of dollars on safety equipment far in excess of any Coast
Guard or other regulations. We do so to protect our lives and property,
often valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
At the same time, we enjoy visiting new places where we can anchor
safely, go ashore, enjoy restaurants and shopping, re-provision our
vessels, and purchase marine equipment. On various trips to Florida I
have spent many thousands of dollars specifically on safety equipment:
liferafts, epirbs, radios, safety harnesses, anchoring gear, satellite
phones, etc. etc. Most cruisers will not go where they would be forced
to operate their boats in an unsafe manner, which is what this law would
To anyone who has cruised Florida it is obvious that this bill would
“impose an unreasonable risk of harm” to boaters on a regular basis.
This is more than an anti-anchoring bill–it is anti-safety and
This guest editorial was first published on the Salty Southeast Cruisers' Net.