Wheels, in the US underwater lands can be owned--and often are owned--privately. In the case of Florida
the State of Florida owns most of it and delegates right down to municipalities in some areas, which is probably why the town of Fort Meyers lays claim to their mooring field. There's nothing on the USCG charts
to indicate any public anchorage in that area. (In other places, you will find USCG designated "general anchorage" or "special anchorage" areas.)
Sometimes the bottom land (underwater real estate, yes) ownership
goes back to Crown Patent from the English
Crown but as these parts
of Florida go back to Spanish ownership...that will be different from the rest of the Eastern US. (Our laws are still a bit of a quilt, i.e. Louisiana still takes precedent from the Napoleanic Code and has Parishes instead of Counties.)
The right of passage--of navigation--in "navigable waters" is open to all. But as many folks refuse to understand, "navigation" here has been held repeatedly by the courts to mean PASSING THROUGH and not dropping the hook to stay at your leisure. Anyone can sail through that area, you just can't drop the hook and stay without either a pressing need (i.e. you are storm damaged and cannot safely proceed) or by using the mooring in conformance with local codes. If that sounds unreasonable, consider that we are also allowed to walk, and sometimes drive, anywhere anytime on a public right of way. But, we are not allowed to make camp on it. AFAIK that's the norm worldwide, you can pass over a right of way--but you can't pitch
your tend and "sojourn" on it.
That's the marina's page about their situation as harbormaster for the town mooring fields. Seems like they are being up front about setting a high standard including holding tank
compliance. This entire area (Sanibel Island, Ft. Meyers, etc.) used to be Florida's laid back west coast
but for the past 20-30 years it has become a very typical Florida war, between the locals and the rich tourists and immigrants coming in and buying
out the locals and the way of life.
Sounds like this is just another chapter in the same war, if you don't have serious money, a lot of Florida doesn't want you. Except, to haul the trash.
On the other hand the RATES seem very reasonable:
"$13/day, $260.00 a month [up to 58' OAL] Rates include holding tank
pump out, dinghy
and bathroom facilities, and use of garbage and recycling bins. Pump out is typically provided by a pump out vessel and all other services/amenities can be found at Salty Sam's upland facilities"
Dunno if you've heard of these on that side of the world...An author named John D. McDonald (MacDonald?) happened to write a "detective" series which are now considered the start of a subgenre of "Florida novels". About a character named Travis McGee who lived on a houseboat he won in a poker game
, therefore named "Busted Flush", in Fort Lauderdale
. (He's written some more famous individual works as well.) Along the length of the series, the character mourns the changes and the passing of the Florida he knew. Well...anyone who sails
, reads mysteries, and knows the area, probably has read them. And can appreciate that it HAS changed down there.
Florida has always had a reputation as a state where money bought whatever it wanted and the rest of the little folk just had to deal with it. Nothing new here. A semi-broke PI couldn't afford to tie up a DINGHY
at the Bahia
Mar Marina now, much less a houseboat.
FWIW the charts
of the Fort Meyers area show a lot of pilings, submerged pilings, spoil areas...the kind of things that indicate there's been a lot of "private" ownership of the water
there, for a long time. And a lot of abandonment and deterioration. I guess the moneyed class ran out of better beaches to take over.