I moved to the US from the UK a few years ago and up until last year sailed in the chesepeake and was able to anchor just about anywhere this year I moved up to the New york area and am sailing southern new england waters.
In the UK one can pick up privet moorings if vacant knowing that you may need to leave at a moments notice should the owner return. naturally the ettiquette is always fiercly debated but i'll keep it simple. If they are not yacht club privat or run by a marina can one pick one up?
I recently found myself in the thimble islands off Con. and was nervous about anchoring due to cable areas on the charts and the area was full of vacant moorings that were numbered there was a coast guard mooring availble which I had read was aviable for the public if free but I ended up taking one that was better protected?
Good question, and one you'll get different answers for.
I agree, with you, and will hook up to vacant moorings if I'm staying on it(not leaving the boat), and prepared to leave at a moments notice. (all caveats of mooring size, inspection, etc., as mentioned)
We do this in Maine waters ocassionally if it makes more sense, for any number of reason, than anchoring.
I own a mooring and have at least once returned to someone using it, that did exactly above. I'm glad they did use it, I see no reason to hold huge harbor areas hostage when we're off, when boats need moorage or anchoring space.
Plus, we have many "destination moorings" in our area of Maine. These are set for the purpose of giving boats an easy overnight in prime anchoring areas, even though there is no shore access involved and there is no regulation.
These moorings take up prime anchoring space and I know of many in my sailing grounds, and use them anytime, with no reservations. They're privately owned but I have the same equal privilege to anchor as well.
You sound like a courteous sailor, welcome to the US. Come to Maine, and please use my mooring if I'm gone.