is working on a new law that may come out of committee in the next few days. Even if you are not a Florida
resident, help us by contacting the lawmakers at the end of the article below.
February 26, 2009
Centuries of International Maritime Law and traditional vessel rights are being set aside in Florida so that municipalities and counties may impose anchoring
restrictions on visiting and local boats. Several Miami
boaters (some at anchor
and others cruising out of marinas) recently formed the Florida Open Water
Society (FOWS) in response to proposed anchoring
restrictions in Florida.
Richard Blackford of the Seven Seas Cruising Association has long recognized that the actions of local authorities are often illegal regarding anchoring. His efforts have paved the way for boaters to preserve their rights around the country. To continue the fight against measures that restrict anchoring and cruising, FOWS is focusing specifically on Florida.
FOWS President Eric Dybing and Harbor Master John Smith have made several trips to Tallahassee urging lawmakers to amend the current
proposition. As of now, three versions have been amended with input by FOWS. (Go to For the protection of the rights of the boater in Florida
and click on Legislation to view Version 7). FOWS has identified several loopholes in the language that could lead to anchoring restrictions. A bill could be formed in committee in the coming days. Boaters, marine
businesses and all concerned with preserving the public’s access to Florida’s waterways should contact their representatives in Tallahassee. (See list of representatives at end of article.)
The Most Glaring Problem is that once a mooring
field is in place, a municipality or county may then restrict other anchoring in that region. Sarasota
and other areas have “jumped the gun” before a bill has even passed by seeking to restrict boats to docks or mooring
fields when not underway. (See Southwinds, February 2009 article by Steve Morrell.)
Many Boaters Have Been Illegally Harassed At Anchor
. There are numerous reports to the Seven Seas Cruising Association and David Dickerson of the National Marine
Manufacturer’s Association (NMMA) that tell a story of local enforcement officers knowingly breaking the law by telling boaters to “move along.” A Florida law was enacted in 2006 to protect boaters’ rights, (See Southwinds Sailing - Serving the Southern Cruising & Racing Sailor since 1993
Past Issues-November 2006) but boaters are still being hassled. Visit FOWS website to report any past or present illegal actions by local authorities. Details like the officer’s badge number, date and place of “infraction” will be particularly helpful. FOWS seeks to formalize the collection of as many occurrences as possible.
The “Shun-Slime” State is how a New England
cruising couple recently referred to boating
in Florida. They described unfriendly encounters with local marine patrollers during their trip down the Intracoastal Waterway. They felt “slimed” when regularly charged $20.00 just to dock
– an amount that would have covered a transient mooring (including access to facilities) and a few shore side beverages back home. During their ten day stay, these cruisers joined me on a few shopping
trips and spent roughly $4,000.00 on spare parts
while in the Miami
area. When discussing their plans for next year, they vowed to spend as little time and money
as possible in Florida. “We will hang a left for the Bahamas
at the first opportunity to cross the Gulfstream.”
Many Local Boaters and Marine Business Owners Cringe when similar sentiments are heard from visiting cruisers. Reports of declining cruising, tourism and marine business revenues are alarming. FOWS collected hundreds of signatures on a petition to preserve anchoring rights at this year’s Miami International Boat Show
. The exorbitant slip fees
that Florida marinas
stems from their short supply; developers have converted dozens to condos. On the water storage
of vessels at anchor or on moorings is an inescapable consequence of Florida development.
The Florida Open Water Society is dedicated to ensuring continuous access by our citizens and visitors to the diverse waterways of the State of Florida. Our mission is to protect and maintain their rights to responsible anchoring, mooring and various recreational water sports. We endeavor to work with the state and local governments to promote proper legislation that will maintain our rights and privileges to these activities.
Florida Needs to Carefully Manage Its Waterways so that public access is preserved and policies benefit all Floridians as equally as possible.
Richard Blackford Writes: “The pressures that Florida’s waters are being subjected to are only 1-3 decades old and are hardly unique. In other parts
of the world these same pressures have existed for centuries. Multiple solutions have evolved over time and include space to accommodate local boats as well as visiting boats (with their tourist crews) and they support broad rather than narrow economic interests. It is time to change the zero sum game
where a developer’s win is every other stakeholder’s loss. (See Concerned Cruiser’s Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org
Varying Municipal and County Regulations
will discourage visiting boaters. FOWS is advocating a uniform statewide policy for anchoring and mooring vessels. Our proposed Harbor Masters could assist authorities to implement and run a “Tag and Go” program that would tackle the problem of abandoned or derelict vessels. These problem boats paint
boaters who maintain and anchor their vessels responsibly with the wrong brush. A sail or power boat
typical to our members represents a significant asset (for some their largest). We spend thousands of dollars a year to keep them functional and safe. Hazardous boats threaten all vessels in their vicinity and during storms may do harm to shoreline interests. FOWS encourages on-the-water storage
of vessels that is safe and sustainable.
Local Businesses Are Using Public Land when obtaining ocean floor leases to install mooring fields. FOWS recognizes this as a positive step that provides secure moorings for local and transient vessels. However, we are concerned that for-profit mooring fields will extinguish a way of life for boaters that has existed for centuries. The ability to anchor with reasonable restrictions in many states includes the option for residents to obtain state mooring permits (one per resident with a state registered vessel). These measures ensure residents and visitors affordable, well-managed access to state waters. The revenues from mooring permits would provide millions of dollars the state could use for fish
and wildlife staff to safeguard marine habitats. We can’t allow monopolizing business practices by mooring field interests to supercede traditional boating rights.
Will Poorly Regulated Businesses Over-Inflate Their Positions For Profit? Most boating service
costs are trending upward which will lead to boating becoming something only the wealthy may pursue. We can’t remain on the sidelines while a bubble forms that excludes average boaters from enjoying Florida’s waterways. Many states and regions actively preserve their maritime heritage, not as something quaint, but as a vital element which perpetuates boating for all citizens and visitors. As one author recently stated: “When afloat we can imagine the water below us connecting all coasts. If done well, waterways management will do the same.”
Floridians are at a crossroad where we must decide if our recent economic woes will extend further into the marine sector, a cycle which if repeated will certainly generate more public losses. With the proper checks and balances, steady and sustainable boating growth in our state can ensure our waters remain open and accessible for generations to come.
Florida Open Water Society
To learn more: visit For the protection of the rights of the boater in Florida
Here is a list of legislators you may contact to insist anchoring rights be preserved:
Senators on Community Affairs: Bennett 850-487-5078, Siplin 850-487-5190,
Altman 850-487-5053, Deutch 850-487-5091, Garcia 850-487-5106, Gardiner 850-487-5047, Hill 850-487-5024, Ring 850-487-5024, Storms 850-487-5072, and Wise 850-487-5027.
Senators on Environment
: Constantine 850-487-5050, Sobel 850-487-5097,
Detert 850-487-5081, Dockery 850-487-5040, Jones 850-487-5065 and Rich 850-487-5103.
Senators on Judiciary: Constantine 850-487-5050, Joyner 850-487-5059, Baker 850-487-5014, Fasano 850-487-5062, Gelber 850-487-5121, Haridopolos 850-487-5056, Peadon 850-487-5000, Richter 850-487-5124 and Ring 850-487-5024.
Senators on Commerce: Garcia 850-487-5106, Gelber 850-487-5121, Crist 850-487-5068, Detert 850-487-5081, Justice 850-487-5075, Lynn 850-487-5033, Oelrich 850-487-5020,
Prutt 850-487-5088, Richter 850-487-5124 and Smith 850-487-5112.
Representatives on Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee: Williams 850-488-2047, Poppell 850-488-3006, Brandenburg 850-488-0260, Bembry 850-488-7870,
Boyd 850-488-9835, Bullard 850-488-5480, Burgin 850-488-9910, Crisafulli 850-488-4669, Culp 850-488-2770, Drake 850-488-4726, Evers 850-488-8188, Glorioso 850-488-0807,
Jones 850-488-6897, Mayfield 850-488-0952, Pafford 850-488-0175, Patronis 850-488-9696, Renuart 850-488-0001 and Schultz 850-488-0805.
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