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Old 18-08-2009, 17:59   #1
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Washington DC Anchoring Laws

Where would I look to find the laws pertaining to anchoring out along the Potomac? The reason I ask is because there has been a Barge anchored out just below the Woodrow Wilson bridge for two years with people living aboard and currently another fella on a 33 foot sailboat been there for a week with no problems. When I asked the fella he said it was allowed but I've also heard that there are no places arount that area where it's legal to anchor out. Hell, if it's legal it would save me a whole lotta rent!
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Old 18-08-2009, 18:17   #2
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The barge anchored out is part of the bridge construction effort. There's been a tug, too, and other vessels.

It is legal to anchor almost anywhere along the Potomac, so long as you're out of the navigable channel.

What did you have in mind?
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Old 18-08-2009, 18:29   #3
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Above the New Wilson Bridge, I don't know why you would want to anchor there...unless you love the sound of Jets taking off and landing and the 24/7 Helos to and from the Pentagon
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Old 18-08-2009, 18:37   #4
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I don't know why you would want to anchor there...unless you love the sound of Jets taking off and landing and the 24/7 Helos to and from the Pentagon
Bird watching?
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Old 18-08-2009, 19:44   #5
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Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post

It is legal to anchor almost anywhere along the Potomac, so long as you're out of the navigable channel.

What did you have in mind?
The rents in this area are crazy high and I am scheming for ways to save money. When I buy my boat i'm going to need a place for her and most of the marinas around here don't allow liveaboards or they are prohibitively expensive (1000 dollars a month for a mid thirties LOA) I'm singling out this area particularly because My 11 year old son and 12 year old daughter live nearby with their mother.
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Old 18-08-2009, 19:48   #6
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Yeah there are an awful lot of helicopters flying by but I'm used to them.

Birdwatching LOL!
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Old 19-08-2009, 05:03   #7
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Originally Posted by btrayfors View Post

It is legal to anchor almost anywhere along the Potomac, so long as you're out of the navigable channel.

What did you have in mind?
I don't wish to belabour the topic; but, if it's legal why aren't there live aboards up and down the river? Too shallow? Tides? Eric
If anyone knows of a source where I can find the answer to similar legal questions relating to potomac please let me know. Thanks, Eric
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Old 19-08-2009, 06:05   #8
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I learned to sail at the Washington Sailing Marina, right near National airport, albeit ten years ago. The main hazard to navigation that I recall in that area is this annoying plant called hydrilla, which will foul a keeled boat or prop. There are also many spots where the depth is very shallow at low tide that it would be easy to go aground on. Further south, I note the water near Alexandria that is not in the channel is labelled as foul on the chart (NOAA 12289)

I also have a sneaking suspicion that any boat than anchored in that vicinity for an extended period would probably have to give a tour to some Homeland Security folks. While it's legal to anchor there, it's also legal for them to board you for "reasons of national security."
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Old 19-08-2009, 06:08   #9
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Eric,

There are two kinds of things you must think about: (1) legal; and (2) practical.

Legal. A non-liveaboard vessel in navigation has the right to anchor in navigable waterways of the United States so long as it does not unreasonably restrict navigation. The keywords here are in bold. You need to research their meaning (generally, unless the boat is the sole residence and/or is represented as being a business, then it's not a liveaboard vessel). A vessel in navigation can be "removed from navigation", and that's where it gets tricky, and many local jurisdictions will try to impose timelimits.

Some of the time limits are arbitrary, and some are "fungible". For example, although the DC marine police allow anchoring in the Washington Channel for 1 week, very often they ignore the length of time a vessel is there. Many vessels are there for a month or more.

I'd say if you were to move your boat every week or two, you'd not have a problem anchoring in most places along the DC, Maryland, or Virginia shores.

Practical. This is much more problematic. Washington can be intolerably hot in summer and intolerably cold in winter. Heating is an absolute must, while A/C is highly desirable. Neither of these are practical for long periods of time at anchor, because they eat up power and/or fuel.

There are no-discharge zones which are strictly enforced as well. You'd need a holding tank and would have to have a means of emptying it (meaning at a marina or fuel dock).

You'd need a way to get to shore and back, and a place to tie your dingy. You can't just tie it anywhere.

The Potomac often freezes in winter, making navigation by dingies or by big yachts impossible. Even skim ice can be VERY dangerous to both types of vessels.

Your best bet is to rethink your options for liveaboard, if that is what you intend. There are less expensive places to liveaboard in the Chesapeake area, but you'd need a car to get there and back. The cheapest marinas are in the Northern Neck of Virginia, but these are 2 hours or more by car. Additionally, there are the taxes to think about. If you keep your boat in Virginia you need to pay personal property tax on it each year. In Maryland, if it's there for over a month or two you need to pay sales tax. In DC, you need to prove you've paid sales tax in another state. etc., etc.

Bottom line: there's no free lunch. Low cost, carefree liveaboard and anchoring for extended periods, alas, is just a pipedream.

Bill
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Old 19-08-2009, 07:40   #10
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Bill hit it right on the nose. I would also add that it is extremely difficult to find a spot to anchor out of the channel if your boat has any kind of draft, especially above the Wilson bridge. My boat only draws 2' with the centerboard up and I still have a difficult time getting from Washington sailing marina to the main channel at low tide except by following the channel markers.

The other big concern for me would be finding a place to keep my dingy while ashore. Some of the marinas might let you tie up occasionally but if it got to be a regular occurrence I'd imagine people might get upset. You can pay to tie up at Alexandria City marina but it is $11 for 4 hours and you have to clear out before 5 pm. Even if you found a marina that would let you regularly use its dingy dock for free you would still have to find a place for your car. Most of the marinas in the area that I am familiar with are already pretty tight on parking so I'd be surprised if any would let you keep a car on site if your not a slip renter. Of course, if you don't need / use a car that wouldn't be an issue.

Best of Luck,
Forrest
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