Score One for the Anchoring Activists

Judge rules in favor of boaters in Florida anchoring dispute.


Herman Diebler (left), Lee Oldershaw, Dave Dumas, and Carl Henning make up the core of Sailing Association of Marco Island (SAMI), a group opposing the anchoring ordinance imposed by the city of Marco Island, Florida.Dave Dumas

The long, drawn-out Marco Island, Florida, anchoring ordinance has finally come to an end -- maybe. County Collier Judge Rob Crown recently ruled that in the case of Marco Island versus Dave Dumas, the city has no legal authority to enforce a restrictive law that prohibited vessels from being anchored for more than 12 hours within 300 feet of a seawall, or for being anchored in the waters of Marco Island for more than three days.

Dumas is the Marco Island resident who staged a civil act of disobedience last January when he dropped the hook off Kinship, his 42-foot trawler, within 300 feet of a seawall and waited to get a citation, which he did. According to Dumas, just one or two people caused this whole brouhaha. "These big-buck people buy property on the waterway and consider it their back yard," he says. "These are private citizens who think they can control public waterways."

Judge Crown agrees. In his ruling, he stated the ordinance was "an unlawful regulation of publicly owned sovereign waterways in violation of Florida law." The law Crown refers to is Florida State Statute 327.60, which states, "Local governmental authorities are prohibited from regulating the anchoring outside of such mooring fields of nonliveaboard vessels in navigation."

Seems like a done deal -- but not quite.

The Marco Island City Council held a special closed-door meeting on November 5, and it's decided to appeal the ruling. It has less than 30 days to submit court records, and if the Appeals Court throws out the case, that would be it -- unless the city appeals to the Florida Sate Supreme Court.

Dumas says that would be futile. "The city had its day in court," he says. "It couldn't come up with any documentation that there were any problems with noise or sewage. How can it produce any new evidence? They didn't have a case! Even we laymen in court understood that."