Is Florida on the path to balance anchoring rights for cruising boaters?

Derelict and Damaged Vessels

Mar 6, 2023

Derelict and damaged vessels contaminate the waters of North Lake in Hollywood, Florida (credit: Rick Legow).

BoatUS says that a Broward County, Fla., ordinance is a win for responsible boaters and communities.

Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) is applauding a recently passed Broward County, Florida, ordinance that, according to the recreational boating advocacy, services and safety group, could lead to a successful path ahead in fairly balancing the needs of both local communities and responsible cruising-boat owner’s rights when it comes to anchoring.

The ordinance revolves around two small manmade lakes in Hollywood, Florida, North and South lakes, each connected to the Intracoastal Waterway. Locals have long shared the waters – North Lake was designated an idle-only area, drawing sailors and paddlers, while South Lake was used for powered-vessel water activities. For years, responsible long-distance cruisers were welcome in both anchorages.

A dramatic increase in abandoned derelict vessels (ADVs), at-risk or improperly long-term anchored boats over the past few years have changed that equation, however, crowding out all other activities with some vessel owners anchoring for months and even years. These vessels are often poorly maintained and their anchoring gear is prone to failure. Each storm only increases the number of safety hazards in the water and ashore. Many anchored boats don’t meet U.S. Coast Guard safety regulations on required night time lighting or sanitation equipment. Irresponsible boaters have simply been squeezing out locals and responsible cruisers alike.

Local Law EnforcementLocal law enforcement responds to an at-risk vessel situation on North Lake in Hollywood, Florida. (credit: Rick Legow).

Approved last November, Broward County’s ordinance tackles the issue directly, allowing for up to 45-days of anchoring for any vessel within any six-month period. It also adds an exemption for imminent or existing hazardous weather – increasing boater safety by not requiring crews to haul anchor and head out into potentially unsafe weather conditions.

“We believe 45 days is a reasonable time frame for a vessel to remain in a particular area and will allow all active, responsible cruising and recreational boaters to use, anchor, rest, repair, visit, re-provision, and enjoy these bodies of water,” said BoatUS Government Affairs manager David Kennedy.

Kennedy notes, however, that efforts to educate the public, including installation of local signage, updating of navigation aids as well as online cruising resources, and ultimately any enforcement activity could take some time before significant results are seen. “We’ll be monitoring the situation closely,” he said.

Since 2009, the Sunshine State has been at the center of the nation’s stormy challenge in trying to balance the rights of responsible boaters and local communities when it enacted a state-wide bill to limit local governments from regulating anchoring. For a bigger look into Florida’s anchoring story and recent success, go to the February/March 2023 issue of BoatUS Magazine, Big Win for Responsible Cruising Boaters.

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