View From the Pilot House

By admin ~ October 4th, 2011. Filed under: Current Issue.

Over the years I’ve written many times about the way it was back in the day when there weren’t as many boats, say, anchored in and around Biscayne Bay, and you could get away with things that today would attract the wrong kind of attention. So it happens that I was reading a story recently about a guy down in Miami Beach who has been abusing visiting yachts who have the misfortune of dropping a hook in front of his property. His backyard—Sunset Lake—just happens to be well known as a great little anchorage.

The ocean and

her treasures

are the common

property of

all men.

— John Adams

Cruisers are forever searching for convenient places to stop for a day or two, those perfect spots to rest or to have access to all the local chandleries, restaurant and other marine businesses.
I raised my family on the Sunset Islands and spent many years looking out over the lake. Never once did I think, “I sure wish these people would move their boats somewhere else!” In fact, they were more than welcome to anchor in my “backyard.” I enjoyed seeing anchored boats, as long as they didn’t run generators every night, make too much noise, or toss garbage overboard.
But now it seems that homeowners are all riled up and taking matters into their own hands when it comes to what they erroneously view as nautical “squatters.” One even blasted the visitors with loud music and a searchlight in the middle of the night! I wonder what his land-based neighbors thought of that.
Florida’s new anchorage law seems to be on the right heading. I for one, think that they should stay the course.  Anyone who’s cruised through Florida knows how wonderful it is to be out of the snow and enjoying the sun and sea. Cruisers can find all kinds of places to tie up, including some great marinas where you can usually walk to a nearby grocery store rather than having to dinghy in from the anchorage.
Right now the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is working diligently to come up with plans to distribute strategically-positioned mooring fields to better accommodate visiting cruisers. Mooring fields consist of rows of robust moorings that are maintained by the local municipality. The Commission has selected five local government jurisdictions for inclusion in a statewide pilot program that includes St. Petersburg and Sarasota on the west coast of Florida, and St. Augustine and Stuart on the east coast. The law also designates Monroe County, which already has mooring fields at Key West and Marathon. These five jurisdictions are expected to draft ordinances to cover anchoring outside the mooring fields, but only after seeking input from the boating public. The goal of the program is to make cruising Florida more enjoyable and to try to neutralize conflicts between cruisers and waterfront homeowners.
St. Augustine has already placed 163 moorings in 3 fields and is prepared to adopt a 10-day anchoring limit outside of the mooring fields. These mooring fields also serve to preserve our fragile marine environment, protecting sea grasses or corals and providing other amenities to cruisers like dinghy docks or pump-outs.
Certainly there are more and more boats on the water heading south this time of year. Some are in transit, readying for a jump to the Bahamas or the Caribbean, while others are enjoying the Keys. These mooring fields seem like the perfect answer to a tough question: just where can visiting cruisers stop? In the meantime, can’t we all just get along?

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