The Law in Florida: Clarity for Anchoring Rights

Finally, there's an anchoring regulation in the United States that cruisers will like-and of all places, it's been enacted in Florida.

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Florida anchoring rights are clearer now.Mark Pillsbury

After years of public feuding between sailors and municipalities, officials have declared that anchoring is legal in any city or town in Florida, for any amount of time, provided your boat isn't a live-aboard vessel. It's been legal for decades for vessels to anchor in any city for as long as one likes, yet the laws failed to clarify a vessel's status. As of October 1, 2009, liveaboard is defined as "any vessel used solely as a residence and not for navigation."

That's good news to many, including Captain Alan Richards of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "This bill is one of the best things that could possibly happen to boaters," he says. "Unless you're in a permitted mooring field, local governments can't touch transient vessels."

Until the new law passed, some municipalities in the state of Florida enacted ordinances that restricted boaters from anchoring within city limits to short periods of time, in some cases, as brief as 24 hours. Municipalities have had the right to restrict live-aboard vessels anchored outside of permitted, managed mooring fields since 1984, but since there was no clear definition for the term liveaboard, each town or city defined it individually.

In some cases, cruisers accused local authorities of intimidation and harassment that lasted until they departed. At times, fines for breaking local anchoring ordinances were imposed. The new law nullifies all prior municipal ordinances, making it illegal for cities to create new ordinances or enforce old ones.

"People tend to forget that transient boaters spend money," Richards says. "We made the law clear so that local governments can't misunderstand what they're prohibited from doing."

Groups credited for the success of the bill include the Florida state conservation commission, the Seven Seas Cruising Association, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, BoatU.S., and the Florida Open Water Society. Read the text of the law at the website of the Florida state archives (/files/pdf/201011/Ch_2009-086.pdf).

Curtis Tucker