Florida already has the FWC Derelict Vessel program. However, what about boats newly arrived in an area that might become derelict?
My suggestion involves several parts. First is that any law officer may ask that a boat demonstrate its ability to move under its own power within three days* of being requested to do so. If the boatowner is not available, the boat is tagged and the owner must respond within a reasonable time - say, three weeks, at which point the three day window begins. If the boat cannot move, (and that would mean movement capable of taking the boat a considerable distance, not struggle for a distance of ten or twenty feet), then either the owner removes it from the water or it is removed from the water by the police at the owner's expense.
Next thought - homeowners who junk up their yards can be forced by the municipality to either clean up the yard, or have the city do it and the cost gets added to their taxes. There is no reason that the state of Florida cannot enact a similar law to deal with junky boats. There will have to be some reasonable standard to define what is not acceptable, but this shouldn't be particularly difficult. The ordinance could either have the boat cleaned up, or tow the boat away, both at the owner's expense.
No rafting up of any sort other than a vessel and its tender will be permitted for a period of more than 24 hours.Illegal Pumping Out
any vessel being used on the waters of Florida must maintain a pumpout log or have a receipt for a pumpout dated within a reasonable time - two weeks perhaps? As much as I despise this requirement, the alternatives - police boardings, etc., are less attractive. For their part, the various municipalities should establish low cost pumpout boats, and for those on food stamps or other assistance., the pumpout is free.
Prevention of Derelict Boats
Any boat in long term wet storage must have clearly posted on it the owner's name and contact information. Alternatively, that of a approved local agent. Each boat must be boarded by the owner or his agent a minimum of once a month, and a report filed on the condition of the boat. Items to be included include an inspection of the bilge for water incursion/retention, inspection of the anchor line (no requirement to pull the anchor), and an overall condition report, including digital photographs of the boat front, both sides, and back. These reports can be used by law enforcement to determine if a boat is likely to become a problem.
In my opinion, these four rules cover nearly 100% of the problem vessels in Florida, without infringing on the rights of any other boater. Granted, there will be exceptions required - for example, for boats that have composting heads and don't need pumpout services, or vessels that are at anchor and actively under repair, but these exceptions can be accommodated.
My point is, with these basics as a starting point, we can craft regulations that resolve the problems yet have no impact on the vast majority of boaters who are responsible.
Someone noted that I have not included time limits for liveaboards here. That's correct, and it does need to be addressed. Florida has a lot of liveaboards - boat housing is affordable housing for many. It's a particularly thorny issue and I'm not about to attempt it here, other than to say that boats not registered in the state should be permitted fairly lengthy stays and that specific rules need to be developed that address the particular problems facing Florida liveaboards. Provided the vessel is neat and tidy, and not in danger of sinking and the owners respectful of their shoreside neighbours, I don't see why anchoring and living aboard should be a problem.
That won't satisfy the NIMBY folks, but then again, nothing ever does.
* Additional information- the following quote was found on Claiborne Young's Salty Southeast Cruisers' Net - and is where my suggestion above comes from. I believe in giving credit where credit is due.
A couple of years ago we were in the Virgin Islands where they have the same derelict boat issue.
In “the lagoon” on the SE shore of St. Thomas there had been similar problems, and the authorities
(federal I think, rather than local) came through a few years back with the litmus test that boats had
to be able to get underway in 3 hours. Those that didn’t meet the standard were removed, I think
using a one time grant from Uncle Sam. There were still a lot of boats there that many of us might
consider derelict but at least it’s a way to define “navigable”. Our impression is the lagoon is where
folks ended up that didn’t have enough money to make it to Coral Bay.
Jim Kevern, S/V Ubiquitous