Anchoring issue is a weighty one
~ By MARK ERCOLIN
Waterfront News: http://waterfront-news.com
Let’s face it: almost anyone who owns a boat for personal pleasure has a romantic side to their soul. After all, who among the ranks of pleasure boaters doesn’t dream of setting off on open water
, free to travel wherever they please? But it’s that very freedom that tends to get in the way of the dream. Those who actually attempt to sail whenever and wherever they want face challenges, for even boats are subject to public and private restrictions on their comings and goings, except possibly on the high seas.
The right of where to moor or anchor
once reaching a desired location is increasingly being debated as cities with ocean access try to manage their waterfront and sub-surface bottoms. Such cities are citing concerns about sanitation, environment
, economics and aesthetics, leading many to begin regulating offshore
anchorage within their jurisdictions.
Many recreational boaters don’t believe municipalities have the authority to regulate a boater’s right to anchor
. As romantic as this notion may be, it is not totally accurate.
In the case law I’ve reviewed, the courts recognize that within the limits of their territories, states generally have concurrent jurisdiction with the federal government
on the waterways. Does this mean that municipalities can control anchorage in offshore
areas under their jurisdiction? Well, first we’d have to look at what state statutes have to say on the matter.
, the statutory chapter that governs navigation
in the state, Section 327.60(2), states:
”Nothing contained in the provisions of this section shall be construed to prohibit local governmental authorities from the enactment or enforcement of regulations which prohibit or restrict the mooring or anchoring of floating structures or live-aboard vessels within their jurisdictions. However, local governmental authorities are prohibited from regulating the anchorage of non-live-aboard vessels engaged in the exercise of rights of navigation.”
A-ha!!! the adventurous boater might exclaim, So, who exactly fits within the description of “floating structures” and “liveaboards”? Well, the state is referring to structures that basically stay in one place and have no means of propulsion
. And, under the statute, a liveaboard
vessel is any vessel used solely as a residence, or any vessel represented as a place of business, a professional or other commercial
enterprise, or a legal
A-ha!!! that same adventurous boater might exclaim, “So if I bring my boat down to an offshore basin, anchor there, and don’t use it as a place of business; and if I sail away every few months or years, and have a legal
residence somewhere else, a city shouldn’t be able to tell me where to anchor, and I should be able to stay there for a good, long time, right”?
Well, romantic friends, this observation may or may not be the eventual interpretation. It may be premature to view these state statutes as a slam-dunk for the right to anchor. As one evaluates the statute, it should not be overlooked that local authorities cannot regulate non-livaboards engaged in the exercise of rights of navigation.? This brings about the question, how long can you stay in one place before someone realizes you’re not navigating anywhere?
Not to mention that if a vessel stays in one place for a rather long time, might it not be taking up room and infringing on the rights of another vessel that actually is in transit? A vessel that just requires anchorage for a few days as it takes on provisions for the next leg of its voyage?
So far, case law does not seem to be very informative on the anchorage issue. However, in light of the recent Supreme Court’s ruling on eminent domain, which puts the economic needs of the community ahead of the individual’s property rights, I would not be too certain to safely say when or where anyone might have the right to anchor in the future.
Indeed, if that is the situation, then the romance of boat ownership
and free anchorage may prove less romantic in South Florida
as time goes on.
> End Quote
Mark Ercolin is a maritime attorney with the firm Maltzman Foreman, PA, in Miami.
The information offered in this column is summary in nature and should not be applied to specific cases or situations.