About living aboard in NSW….
Until I began a cruise
to the Whitsundays and beyond I was living aboard in and around the areas mentioned for four years so I hope the following might be useful.
The relevant legislation is simply draconian. It is illegal to live aboard any vessel in NSW (I last checked April 2008) as it is an offence to spend more than 21 nights per year aboard. The regulations
have been slowly tightened since about the 1970’s when a fear developed that Sydney was at risk of being ‘Hong Konged” by derelict and disreputable yachties. (We’re bad
…. Apparently we spoil the view, pollute outrageously, steal everything not locked down and bring an otherwise undesirable ‘element’ to the locales we inhabit.)
The two official loopholes available are either
1/ obtaining written permission from the relevant authority to do so. (I know of nobody who has done so, if there is anyone, please let me know!)
2/ being ‘in transit’ as you undertake an extended cruise
Unofficially, it is extremely difficult for the relevant authority (NSW Maritime aka NSW Waterways Authority) to make a successful prosecution stick unless the yachty concerned admits to living aboard.
Because of this, most authorities will be slow to prosecute, but their powers extend to the ability to confiscate a vessel if it remains in an area after directions to move on.
Because it is so difficult to prosecute someone for living aboard, numerous legislative traps have been created to place the live-aboard yachty at automatic default of breaking some rule
. These include:
Every boat must be registered.
Every registered (non trailerable) boat must be registered to a mooring/marina.
Every registered yacht/mooring requires a street mailing address not
a post office box.
Every boat with a toilet is required to have onboard storage
for sewage and either pump
out at an approved location or discharge more than two nautical miles out to sea.
Reflecting this, in Sydney Harbour, the official question cascade will be something like this:-
-how long are you staying?
-where is your boat kept/moored?
-do you have a toilet onboard?
-do you have sewage tanks
-is your toilet plumbed to the tanks
-are your valves set to pump
to the tanks and not overboard
-where do you empty your tanks?
-do you have current registration
-what safety equipment
do you carry?
To avoid prosecution,
-never admit to being a live aboard.
-You just visit the yacht regularly.
-You are in transit on an extended cruise.
- Fulfil all legal
requirements regarding vessel registration
, pollution, safety
etc and if you have a mooring find a friend or family member
who will allow you to register to their address. (Once registered, you can visit a Waterways Office in person when your rego is due and pay it over the counter as long as you are ‘in transit’.
To avoid harassment:
-always be pleasant and never defensive (let alone offensive) with Maritime Officers. A friendly wave and welcoming smile goes a long way to defusing tensions.
-have a ready spiel
-keep your vessel fully compliant with local safety
and pollution regulations
-keep your yacht as tidy as those that are used only for weekends.
-avoid being caught working on your boat by choosing times/places where surveillance is unlikely. I once had a waterways official gleefully relate his successful prosecution of a yacht that had allowed sanded paint
to fall into the water
. The pollutions regulations in NSW are particularly harsh (unless it is a government
utility doing the polluting:- in their logic, a million tonnes of sewage from a leaking government
pipe will be effortlessly absorbed by the environment
while a single
toilet flush from a yacht is cause for prosecution.)
-if choosing a mooring, find somewhere that has no waterfront houses directly facing you, choose an outer mooring so that you are out of sight, keep your yacht as tidy as those that are used only on weekends and avoid confrontations/admissions to local land owners. (This can be more difficult if you have a car.)
-do not underestimate the potential vindictiveness of locals. I once had a visit from the water police when the locals saw me as a threat to their yachts and decided (without ever approaching me) that I was the cause of thefts from their vessels. (Do I need to say that the thought of theft is abhorrent to me?) On another occasion a complaint was rung in that I had launched a series of distress
flares on a dark and stormy night (I was asleep at the time and awoke to loudhailer, spotlights and inquisition).
-if at anchor
, choose out of the way locations and move regularly not just from bay to bay, but from jurisdiction to jurisdiction (this latter keeps the ‘in transit’ story safe. With practice, you can find a number of ‘back-space’ areas that are rarely or lackadaisically patrolled. Oddly enough, you can be almost invisible by choosing the most popular areas for weekend sailors and moving between these regularly.
And keep smiling! Let’s face it, we have floating homes with beautiful waterfrontage and the ability to move away from irritable or irritating people.