East Coast Alerts

By Mel Neale

Miami Beach Anchorage Restriction Close to Becoming Law:

This is how some Miami Beach waterfront property owners and officials view anchored boaters, in the words of a proposed ordinance:

The City Commission finds and declares that the proliferation of watercraft in use for residential purposes or otherwise stored in the waters of Biscayne Bay within the boundaries of the City have had and have a deleterious effect upon the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the City in that they potentially serve as a source for pollution and contamination though discharge of human waste as well as garbage, refuse, debris, oil and other obnoxious products; constitute aesthetic pollution, being unsightly and interfering with views and enjoyment by the public of the beautiful vistas of Biscayne Bay; constitute nuisance and invasions of the privacy of homeowners and other residents of property adjacent or proximate to the Bay; constitute a threat to the safety, health and welfare of residents of the City through unregulated activity upon and aboard such watercraft; and numerous other problems and disadvantages which adversely affect the quality of life of the residents and visitors to the City….

The City of Miami Beach, Florida, is close to passing a law that will restrict anchoring of vessels used for “residential purposes” (or “not in navigation”) within the city waters. There are some listed exceptions such as during hurricane watches and warnings, when the vessel operator is sick or injured, when the vessel is mechanically non-operational, or when there is bad weather at the vessel’s intended destination.

The current proposed ordinance says that a vessel is assumed to be “not in navigation” or a liveaboard vessel if it is anchored for 7 days consecutively in city waters. On April 20, 2005 at its first public reading, the Mayor and City Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance that limited anchoring to 72 hours. Since then, the ordinance has been modified and the time period has been changed from 72 hours to 7 days. If a vessel is assumed to fall within the statute’s definition of non navigational or liveaboard but the emergency or weather exception applies, the owner is supposed to report to the city’s marine patrol that he’s there and give other information.

A second reading has been scheduled for May 18, 2005 at the Commission Chambers at Miami Beach City Hall. The law would make it a civil infraction to anchor for more than 7 consecutive days, or 7 days within a 30-day period in Miami Beach waters, as per their definition of vessels “not in navigation”. After notice, vessels could be removed and impounded by law enforcement officers. The price tag for enforcement over the next two years is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $1.75 million dollars, for two officers, impoundment, removal (towing), storage and related expenses.

Miami Beach is a popular destination and a critical place for transient boaters to anchor to provision and wait for a good weather window to cross the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas or head south to the keys. In the winter, when northerly winds during cold fronts make the Gulf Stream dangerously rough, boaters sometimes must wait a month or more for weather that is safe to go across.

Alternatives provided in the ordinance for the future include designated anchoring areas and the installation of mooring fields.

While anti-anchoring laws have been enacted in other areas of the country and numerous times in Florida, they have often failed to withstand legal challenges. Given that those supporting this action have huge economic clout (as inferred from many multi-million dollar waterfront residences) and that most transient boaters will not be around to speak up for themselves, it is possible that, come next winter, a lot of boaters might be in for a surprise when they wait for weather in Miami Beach.


The vast majority of boaters who anchor in Miami Beach’s waters are transient boaters—most move on when the weather is good to go. They dispose of their trash in receptacles ashore, use approved Marine Sanitation Devices, spend money locally on entertainment and services, provision for their intended cruise, and spend quiet time aboard with their friends. They are good, responsible citizens, visiting the area from their home states.

It may be true that a few people have taken up permanent residence on boats anchored in Miami Beach waters. Some of their vessels might be unkempt or unsightly. Some boats have been abandoned and some stored to avoid marina fees. A Miami Herald article by Casey Woods on May 1, 2005 put the number of “out of use” boats moored in city waters at 65. He reports that he got this figure from a city marine patrol count.

Hopefully in our country we still don’t legislate against an entire class of people because there are a few “bad eggs” in the class. If these are the targeted vessels, then the Miami Beach Commissioners and Mayor should enforce laws already on the books to take care of the problem. Enacting this proposed ordinance will discriminate against a large group of boaters who are not breaking any laws, who are responsible citizens, caring visitors, and good customers, and who are engaged in legal navigation.

ICW Blocked: Causton Bluff Bridge, Mile 579.9, Remains Closed:

We continue to be in contact with the USCG Savannah Marine Safety Office, the USCG 7th District Bridge Branch and now, a Chatham County official involved with restoring the bridge to service. The consensus is that repairs to the Causton Bluff Bridge will probably take between four and six weeks, and it will likely be closed to vessel traffic during that period. The bids for repair work were to be opened in the late after noon of May 4, as we write this. (The damage occurred April 18.)

We have suggested that they attempt to open the bridge for short daily periods to let waiting traffic pass. For repairs to be made, the bridge will have to be open for periods of time anyway, but the county official says that barges will probably be in place that will block vessel traffic. Now, most sailboats and many larger powerboats, as well as commercial maritime traffic, face the possible dangers involved with going in and out of unimproved river mouths and sounds with strong reversing currents and into the ocean for trips ranging from 33 to 76 nautical miles (See East Coast Alerts, April 22 and 29, 2005). While this diversion may not be a problem in good weather with good visibility and calm seas, it can become quite dangerous with onshore sea or swell or poor visibility or bad weather. These sounds are generally recommended for use with local knowledge only and have many shoals.

We asked a Coast Guard official if there is a recommended alternative route (in other words, the best sound to use to the south) but he said there was none, that this was up to the individual mariner, and that the matter of bridge repair and whether there would be any openings during the period was up to the county. We asked the county official if any assessment had been made as to the adverse impact on the safety of mariners during the time that the bridge is not opening and he said that he had no knowledge of such. We asked if there had been assessment as to the appropriate sounds to use south of the Savannah River, and he said that there had been none. We asked if the county had asked the contractor to allow vessel passage, if only on a once a day basis, during repair. He said that this had not been done but that he would consider this. We’ll continue to keep you posted.

Change—Morehead City Railroad Bridge Closure, Mile 203.9:

I spoke this week with OS1 Myres at Coast Guard Group Fort Macon, NC. He confirmed that the Railroad Bridge adjacent to the Route 70 High Level Bridge at Morehead City (Mile 203.9) on the ICW has a revised closure schedule until May 16, 2005: On weekends it remains in the open position; Mon-Fri, it is closed from 7 p.m. through 6 a.m. (at night), and is in the open position the remainder of the time. At the end of the planned routine maintenance on May 16, 2005, it will resume its “normally open” position. OS1 Myres also said that it is possible that there could be further variations in the schedule. Seek local knowledge and listen for USCG Local Broadcasts to Mariners.

This information is not to be used for navigation. Consult the latest charts and Local Notices to Mariners and use prudent seamanship. Any person or entity that uses this information in any way, as a condition of that use, agrees to waive and does waive any and all claims which may arise from that use.

Copyright 2004-2005 Tom Neale