Friday, September 30, 2011

Anchoring in Florida - the law.

In 2009, Florida changed the laws about anchoring so that no local government could instigate ordinances about boats anchoring other than in a permitted mooring field. The relevant section, 327.60 of the statute reads as follows:
Boat anchored in Miami - will this sight soon disappear?
   local governmental 
   authorities are prohibited
   from regulating the 
   anchoring outside of such 
   mooring fields of vessels 
   other than live-aboard 
   vessels as defined in 
Liveaboard vessels in Florida are defined as follows under section 327.02:
“Live-aboard vessel” means:
  a) Any vessel used solely as 
     a residence and not for 
  b) Any vessel represented as 
     a place of business, or a 
     professional or other 
     commercial enterprise; or
  c) Any vessel for which a 
     declaration of domicile 
     has been filed pursuant
     to s. 222.17.

So just what does this mean to you, a cruiser, full time traveler or casual boater? First of all, regardless of whether you live in Florida or not, you may anchor anywhere in Florida as long as it's outside of a properly designated mooring field.


...that city or county is part of the FWC Pilot Program. The FWC Pilot Program permits those communities to enact anchoring ordinances on all vessels in all of the waters they control.  That means that you could be subject to anchoring time limits, prohibited from anchoring in certain areas and, if one Florida community gets its way, you won't be able to anchor within five miles of their mooring field. That's right - five miles.

The History of the Pilot Program...

Prior to the enactment of 327.6 and the redefinition of 'liveaboard' in Florida, there was a patchwork quilt of regulations. Many communities would order you to leave after three days at anchor, or not permit you to anchor in certain areas.  The state stepped in and removed the right of municipalities to legislate anchoring. But - and this is a big one - they introduced the Pilot Program, ostensibly to test various anchoring regimes in the state. These Pilot Programs would be enacted in five Florida municipalities that had mooring fields. The ordinances would be subject to approval by the Florida Fish and Conservation, remain in effect until 2014, at which time they would either be rescinded, or adopted statewide by the Florida legislature.
For more on the Pilot Program, let me direct you to here - and my next post will discuss how and where the Pilot Program is being implemented, and what impact this will have on you. 


  1. I agree that St. Augustine is being absurdly hard or middle and working class boaters with their increasing anchoring regulations andshould therefore be boycotted by cruisers, but there is no particular need to boycott the entire area as anchoring is still permitted on either side of the city, I suggest anchoring either near the Usina county boat ramp about 3 miles North of the city on the East side of the waterway, or nearanother boat ramp about 2 miles South of the city on the West side of the waterway, near the hospital. Usina has few shops or sevices in the immediate area so the ramp on the South side might be better for shopping. I think that when the City Council sees the cruising activity pick up just outside the city line and patronize the businesses that are just outside the city, that they will get the message in a hurry.
    -Alan Ditmore

  2. I am a long term live-aboard cruiser, 17+ years. I have transited St Augustine, FL many, many times over my years cruising and actually live part time (summers) in St Augustine now at a private marina. It is a great community in which to live, which is why I chose it. I also have attended at least 3 of the Boaters meetings held by the City of St Augustine and voiced my opinions to their proposed rules on each occasion, including the 10 day anchoring rule, with the eye of a cruising sailor.

    Like many Florida communities St Augustine had a serious derelict boat problem and I feel looked at one purpose of their proposed mooring field, as a way to solve this problem. Like it or not in their mind it worked. I also feel as a live-aboard/cruising sailor that unfortunately the attitude of some of my fellow sailors that all rules and regulations being imposed on them are unconstitutional and that if they choose should be exempt from any restrictions is really a bogus argument. Florida offers about the only acceptable year around climate for live-aboards on the East Coast, so it is only natural that the state attracts boaters of every kind, basically those that can afford the lifestyle and those that really can't but do it anyway. In the end those that can't afford attempt to live-aboard barely floating boats, often with inadequate ground tackle and minimum or no maintenance required to keep them seaworthy. Unfortunately it gives all boaters a black eye as the cities attempt to deal with the problem and the one way costs to do so. You see them all over Florida, sunk boats, with absentee owners, in the anchorages that the cities end up ponying up the money to remove them. Mooring fields, to some extent, do allow them control over the boating community and provides some return to cover the costs of maintaining the waterfront at other than taxpayers expense. In a way it is asking boaters to help pay their way. Like it or not the country is broke and that is reality. Living on land was never free and living on a boat is not a lot different. It is just a different way to live.

    I have used mooring fields in other locations on a regular basis, Vero Beach and Marathon specifically and have never had a problem with paying to stay in either. Thus the argument that the $20 per night in St Augustine is a "Hostile Action" or keeps you from having any money to spend downtown is somewhat bogus. For your $20 a night you get access to the dinghy dock ( I believe $10 a night when anchored), pump out access, drinking water, showers, rest rooms, garbage and oil disposal. Based on my experience the best thing the mooring gets you is "SAFE" anchorage. Anchoring your boat in St Augustine has always been a toss up due to strong currents, dragging or wildly swinging boats and limited space during the cruising season.

    Finally most cruisers traditionally do not spend more than 10 days in St. Augustine on their pass through to the south. Thus the 10 day anchoring restriction will not affect them should they choose to anchor rather than take a mooring ball. In addition none of these proposed rules have yet been approved, as part of the pilot program. So the supposed Boycott for cruisers is a lot of hot air by some disgruntled boaters who unfortunately see their boat as a way to make someone else pay for their chosen way to live.
    Jonathan Bickel
    St Augustine, FL

  3. Jonathan: I have been visiting St. Augustine by boat for approximately 26 years, and have anchored there too many times to count, through gales, etc. Yes, it was not the best anchorage at times, but it was convenient and the town was pleasant to visit. I prefer using the thousands of dollars of top-quality anchoring gear that I carry onboard. I inspect my gear every time I use it. I know that it can hold me in hurricanes, and it has. Why should I be forced to rent a mooring ball if I don't want to? I have no idea how strong it is, when it was last inspected, what its construction is, etc. Plus, I must sign a two-page legal document that absolves the city of all liability if the mooring should fail and probably also negates my insurance if anything should happen. I have nothing against moorings, but I prefer to anchor. Remember, this is a "Pilot Program," to test out laws that may then be applied to the entire state. Sure, many of us can live with a 10-day limit in St. Augustine, but what if there were a 10-day limit everywhere in Florida?