Miami Vice


Sonny Crockett was his name, and making the world a miserable place for low-life dope dealers was his game. He was a handsome devil, if a tad fey (not everyone can pull off the T-shirt-and-linen-sportcoat combo), a former football star at the University of Florida, and a Vietnam vet who ultimately found his calling on the vice squad of the Miami police department. And, oh yes, Sonny was most likely a devotee of Cruising World, for he was also a liveaboard sailor who kept his Endeavour 42, St. Vitus' Dance, tied up at a Miami Beach marina with his pet alligator, Elvis, for company (a choice which surely endeared him no end to his dockmates).

Readers of a certain age who share my state of arrested development will quickly recognize Sonny (portrayed by actor Don Johnson) as the fictional protagonist of the mid-80s television program Miami Vice, that bizarre cross between cop show and endless MTV video. The Miami Boat Show used to be great fun back then, for it seemed they were always shutting down traffic along South Beach to film late-night chase scenes, and I recall the lights and sounds and energy to all be very cool.

But for cruising sailors in the present, the latest news from Miami Beach is no fun and decidedly uncool. Even Sonny must be scratching his stubbly chin.

For last May, in the latest example of municipal policies that appear to be running amok from one end of Florida to the other (see "Anchors . . . Away!" July 2004), the mayor and city commissioners of Miami Beach enacted an ordinance that limits anchoring there to seven days. Only a month before, that same august body passed a bill prohibiting anchoring within city limits for periods longer than 72 hours. According to a press release from the Seven Seas Cruising Association (, the extension, to seven days, "was due in large part to letters and e-mails condemning the ordinance sent by hundreds of SSCA and BoatU.S. members, representatives of the Marine Industry Association of South Florida and the National Marine Manufacturers Association, local boaters, and residents."

So thanks a ton for the extension, Mayor. But it still stinks.

Granted, the issue is complicated, and we'll take a closer look at the Miami situation in an upcoming issue. But apparently, as is the case in many urban waterways, the problem the ordinance is meant to primarily address relates to derelict or unattended vessels whose hooks have been more or less permanently dropped and which constitute genuine safety and environmental concerns. But placing restrictions on the countless responsible, seamanlike cruising sailors who use Miami as a base from which to stage voyages to the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and beyond is like prescribing cough syrup for a hangnail. Real problem. Wrong remedy.

And there's more than a little irony at play here, too. The city of Miami Beach welcomes with open arms the thousands of potential boat buyers who flock there each winter to stay in its hotels, to eat in its restaurants, and to purchase shiny new vessels at its gargantuan boat show. But the ultimate message the city is sending with the seven-day anchoring ordinance is fairly harsh. Spend your money, it says. Then get the hell out of here.
Personally, I'm not currently in the market for a new boat. But in light of the city fathers' actions, if I were, I'd think long and hard about heading to South Florida next winter to buy one. There are plenty of friendlier venues.

Sonny, of course, probably split from Miami a long time ago, driven from his marina after it was converted to condos or by the skyrocketing costs of slips there. (The one is directly related to the other.) But even though city ordinances are probably beyond their jurisdiction, I thought about placing a call to the Miami vice squad to see if maybe they'd look into all of this. For from a sailor's point of view, what's happening in Miami Beach-and, in fact, in much of Florida these days-is pretty easy to summarize: It's a crime.