Decision on Anchoring Ordinance Still Unresolved

"At Sea" from our April 12, 2007, CW Reckonings

AtSeaMarco

In January, police in Marco Island, Florida, cited boating activist Dave Dumas for anchoring within 300 feet of a seawall.Herman Diebler

Slip-fee increases are not the only woes plaguing Florida cruisers. Coastal cities across the state have enacted their own set of anchoring ordinances that intend to limit how long a vessel can anchor in a particular area.

While legislators continue to wrestle with this issue, at least one pending court case stemming from an act of civil disobedience in Marco Island could clarify matters. Cruisers, though, will have to wait a bit longer as a Florida judge has given attorneys more time to get their arguments in order before going to trial.

Opponents of the local anchoring laws say they violate Florida State Statute 327.60, which in essence says local governmental authorities are prohibited from regulating anchoring in waters outside of mooring fields.

Marco Island, a resort community in southwest Florida, began enforcing a law in May 2006 that prohibits vessels from being anchored more than 12 hours within 300 feet of a seawall, and for being anchored in the waters of Marco Island for more than three days.

Herman Diebler, a member of the Sailing Association of Marco Island, said he feels like cruisers are being "taken advantage of."

"To have a council come out with an ordinance that's hostile to boaters doesn't seem like a smart thing to do," he said.

Roger Reinke, police chief on Marco Island, counters that the ordinance was created to prevent the accumulation of "derelict vessels."

"The vast majority of the people in our city wanted to restrict anchoring-it was only a minority that wanted no regulation or less regulation," Reinke said.

In an effort to force a decision, some members of SAMI decided to stage an act of civil disobedience. In January 2007, Dave Dumas, owner of the 42-foot trawler Kinship, anchored within 300 feet of a seawall with the intention of getting a citation.

As he waited to be approached by a police officer, Dumas said he was very anxious. "I wasn't out there in a heated fervor of patriotism," he said. "I was out there with a big knot in my stomach."

A judge at the Collier County Courthouse in Naples, Florida, heard the case on March 23. However, the prosecutor requested a continuance and the defense attorney agreed. A pretrial hearing has been set for April 18, and the next hearing of the case is expected to take place in late April or early May.

Dumas said he hopes his case will set a legal precedent for the entire state. "Obviously there needs to be rules," he said. "But they need to be consistent across the whole coastline-not a new set of rules every time you move 10 feet."