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Old 03-07-2008, 08:27   #1
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More Floriduh antics

So what more can our "friends" and officials do for the boating public in the Sunshine State? Well read this post on Claiborne Young's site,

Cruisers' Net - Eastern Florida


IMPORTANT - MSD "Raid" at Sanford, FL Marina
Published: July 3, 2008
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OK, before getting negative, I actually do know why we all go cruising on Floridian waters. All I have to do is call to mind the beautiful, newly rebuilt marina at Fernandina Beach, lying snug at anchor on a "lost loop" of the upper St. Johns River, enjoying a warm January breeze in Key West Bight while the rest of the USA is shivering, or strolling around downtown Boca Grande, and I can't wait to get back to the Sunshine State.
BUT, when I read a report like the one below, it does cause me to question whether the Florida state government really wants the cruiisng community on its waters. I dont' want to repeat all that Captain Frank has to say below. He does an ADMIRABLE job of reporting on this disturbing incident. However, just to summarize a bit, it would seem that the Florida Fish and Wildlife folks may be intent on ticketing all vessels in Florida waters which have Type I and Type II MSD devices aboard. And, that ticketing is based on a rather blatant mis-interpretation of Florida state law in defining a "houseboat." At least, all this seems to be true in Sanford, Florida.
What I find really, truly disturbing about Captain Frank's IMPORTANT report below is that state of Florida Fish and Wildlife officers actually conducted a "raid" on a marina, and ticketed vesels with USCG approved Type I and Type II MSD deveices aboard.
I find this whole incident particularly unfortunate, as the Florida Fish and Wildlife people in Talahassee have clearly been friends of the cruising community in regards to the ongoing fight to set up fair, uniform, statewide anchorage regulations. Perhaps the "raid" described below originated at some regional or local level. If that is true, let's hope word of this incident percolates up the chain to Talahassee in a hurry.
FOR THE MOMENT THOUGH, ALL OF US WHO HAVE VESSELS DOCKED IN FLORIDA NEED TO BE AWARE OF WHAT HAS ALREADY HAPPENED IN SANFORD, AND BE PREPARED IF A FLORIDA FISH AND WILDLIFE INSPECTION TEAM APPEARS AT YOUR MARINA OR ANCHORAGE. I would suggest RESPECTFULLY quoting Florida state law as noted by Captain Frank below. If that does no good, you will just have to take the ticket, and decide whether to fight it in court. Remember, it almost never does any good to antagonize on-the-scene law enforcement personnel.
IF ANY OF YOU HAVE HAD SIMILAR EXPERIENCES REGARDING THIS "HOUSEBOAT - MSD ISSUE" PLEASE MAKE A POSTING TO THE CRUISERS' NET by sending e-mail to
CruisingWriter@CruisersNet.net, or click the "Contribute Cruising News" link at the top of this and most Net pages.

On Saturday the 28th of June, 12 Fish and Wildlife officers accompanied by a county sheriff deputy converged on our Sanford Florida marina and boarded all boats that had people living on them. They were looking for compliance with Florida Statutes 327.53 1-7. These officers sited a couple of people for dumping raw sewage. $250.00 fine, well deserved, disgusting !
The problem came when they cited vessel owners with approved Type I or II MSDs. The catch 22 is they classified these boats as Houseboats under Statute 327.53(2). There reasoning for this classification was that, " any vessel used primarily as a residence for a minimum of 21 out of 30 days is a houseboat and regardless of the MSD Type it must be directed and locked to a type III holding tank only. At this point some of you may say " and the problem is "?
Let me quote 327.53(2) " Every houseboat shall be equipped with at least one permanently installed toilet which shall be properly connected to a United States Coast Guard certified or labeled Type III marine sanitation device. If the toilet is simultaneously connected to both a Type III sanitation device and to another approved marine sanitation device, the valve or other mechanism selecting between the two marine sanitation devices shall be set to direct all sewage to the Type III marine sanitation device *(and while the vessel is on the waters of the state)*, shall be locked or otherwise secured by the boat operator, so as to prevent resetting.
Notice the words I bracketed. Once classified as a houseboat you cannot use your Type I or II Approved MSD on any intracoastal or coastal waters in Florida irregardless of the Code of Federal Regulation Title 40 140.3(2). These Wildlife Officers stated that boats are being checked across the state including boats passing through.
I don"t know if it was their training or ignorance of the Statutes but Florida Statute 327.02 Definitions paragraph (13) states: "Houseboat" means any vessel which is used primarily as a residence for a minimum of 21 days during any 30-day period in a county of this state, AND this residential use of the vessel is to the preclusion of the use of the vessel as a means of transportation."
On the Florida Department of Environmental Protection web site under Clean Vessel Act FAQ a houseboat is "defined as a vessel used primarily as a residence and NOT moved for 21 out of 30 days in a county of this state."
Finally on the Florida Fish and Wildlife site Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on a news release dated February 8, 2008 in which they talk about Operation Overflow, the increased inspections and citations, they themselves define a houseboat as a "vessel used primarily as a residence for a minimum of 21 out of 30 days in a county of this state, AND this residential use prevents it from being used as a means of transportation.
While I was not on board during this inspection, my neighbors Motor Yacht was classified as a "houseboat" even though he regularly cruises. He is planning on fighting. What could be the motive for the increased poop patrols besides environmental? On the Florida Department of Environmental Protection web site under Clean Vessel Act- Spotlight- the agency brags about receiving $3.5 Million in CVA funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than the other 27 states received. But if you research the qualifications to receive and be able to keep these funds you will see that the State of Florida has to prove and document enforcement and improvement to the Florida waters.
If you are on the hook in Florida and the FWC cruises up and ask you if you live aboard you will know what is coming.
Frank
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Old 03-07-2008, 08:48   #2
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Yeah, for the first time in 18 years we saw FL Fish and Wildlife boarding sailboats underway in the ICW last fall. They have always checked out anchored boats occasionally but this is the first time I've seen them boarding sailboats underway.
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Old 03-07-2008, 13:00   #3
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I know that the USCG has the right to board a boat w/o a warrant but I don't think the F&W would have thright to do so. am I wrong on this? I would tell them to get stuffed and produce a warrant. Doing that sure would screw up a vacation but why allow them onboard.
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Old 03-07-2008, 13:52   #4
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Sorry Charlie but they do have the right and I for one would never tell a man with a badge and a gun to stuff it. They can make your life more miserable than you can imagine. It is easier to comply and then take it to the people that can change the situation, but in Floriduh not much will change. If anything the situation is going to get worse in the future. Which is why we are moving through the state as quickly as weather will allow and spend our off season in South Carolina before heading to the Bahamas.
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Old 03-07-2008, 13:54   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlie View Post
I know that the USCG has the right to board a boat w/o a warrant but I don't think the F&W would have thright to do so. am I wrong on this? I would tell them to get stuffed and produce a warrant. Doing that sure would screw up a vacation but why allow them onboard.
That changed a couple of years back, it used to be only the uscg could board a federally registered vessel, but no longer the case with our new homeland security rules and regs.
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Old 03-07-2008, 14:26   #6
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Frank, remember that even the USCG got this one badly wrong for a long time and it took a new Commandant to clean their act up. Federal code required the same "secured" and boarding parties made the national news for writing up boat owners who did not physically disconnect or PADLOCK their y-valves. The last 2 (3?) Commandants have had more sense, and a zip-tie, locked door, or even baling wire have all been accepted as "secured".

"a houseboat is "defined as a vessel used primarily as a residence and NOT moved for 21 out of 30 days in a county of this state." " That code would seem subject to attack and might get thrown out in the courts, for the simple reason that "21 days" is unclear as to whether that means "21 contiguous days" or simply any 21 days in the 30-day period. That "contiguous" bit is key in many laws, local, state and federal, so beyond the incorrect interpretation (which should become a black mark to some local fascist's career in his agency) there's a larger issue to raise.

Damn shame that FloriDUH doesn't have better schools, maybe they could have written "more clear" laws.
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Old 03-07-2008, 16:23   #7
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Thank god I live in Canada. Here they all need a warrant.
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Old 03-07-2008, 16:46   #8
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I never realized there was a legal difference between a 'houseboat' and a boat. I knew that Fish and Wildlife can board my boat and search & pillage looking for undersized fish, but does being a 'houseboat' afford any more rights, like requiring a search warrant since it's not a boat? My hunch is that they will stay away from boarding the megayacht gin palaces that might be owned by lawyers, or people who can afford lawyers, and stick to the low rent marinas.

As much as it sucks for us, it's got to also suck for the grouper troopers. These folks are all educated college graduates, most of them biologists and career law enforcement people who took the job because they thought they would be saving dolphins, rescuing injured manatees, and having gunfights on the water with drug dealers. They've got to be more than a little disappointed spending their time at the yacht clubs busting old retirees for pissing in the water. Of course, it is a lot safer than confronting actual criminals, so I'm sure their families appreciate it.

When my time comes, and the fish cop is knocking on my hull to check my plumbing, I'm going to let him know how much I pity him.
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Old 02-08-2008, 22:39   #9
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In matters pertaining to discharge of waste and discharge into fisheries waters the Fish and Game has broad authority. This predates Homeland Security. They snuck some laws in in the early eighties.

As to issuing citations to live-aboards, probably they are assuming every live-aboard is not a transportaion vessel and you will have to demonstrate otherwise to the magistrate. So keep your logs current.
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