As time progresses, this issue will continue to rear its head. More and more harbors in New England are becoming completely filled with moorings. Each state considers its underwater property rights differently. In Mass. for example, the bottom that your mooring is set on is owned by the residents of the state of Massachusetts. Management of the state's property rights are delegated to the individual towns. Each administer its harbor differently and commonly violate Mass. law in how they do this. For example, believe or not, it is against the law for towns to charge differential rates for residents vs. non-residents. Many harbors have regulation, in print, which clearly violate this. When there was more room in the harbors, there was less analysis of all this. If small harbors effectively close off their harbors to anchoring (violating fed regs, if they receive fed harbor benefits), they may have to grant with their private moorings with the caveat that mooring holders have to share with people who find the mooring empty. Either that, or the harbors need to be cleared of half their moorings to allow for required anchoring. The interesting thing about the moorings, is that people properly argue that the tackle is theirs, but the radius around the mooring is not, but sort of goes along with the mooring. That is an awful lot that the mooring tackle owner receives for what in NE is usually a fee of less than $100.00. Contrary to one of the posters above, I don't think being on someone's mooring is a trespass. If I find your lawnmower on land not owned by you and use it and return it, it is not trespass. It is something, but not trespass. Probably a form of theft. It is clear that mooring holders have rights to their personal property (the tackle), but have acquired no real property rights (that is to the surface their tackle is on, or the surrounding water). Perhaps naive, but we should all probably encourage mooring holders and harbormasters to encourage a system where private mooring holders could clearly mark that they are off their mooring and someone is welcome to use it. The squeeze is very real and getting worse and if everyone puts their hands on their hips and insists upon their rights, we'll end up with less moorings or more expensive moorings and ham handed attempts by authorities to satisfy citizens.
I have a private mooring and I understand the private property issue, but it is a little different. There are not a lot of analogies I can think of. We're going to start getting people who don't use our tackle, but anchor in radius. What will we have accomplished then? It is getting tight out there.
Sail New Bedford