I am going to try and get some of the rhetoric out of the way. Most of the SN community has not sailed in Florida for an entire season. I have been living and cruising here in Florida since 2004 and living on my boat since 2008. First and foremost, this bill stinks. In my opinion, it is illegal and the politicians should be hanged and quartered. Now, having said that, what is the reality? As some here have said, the impact is minuscule to the economies of the surrounding areas from West Palm to Miami-Dade County where the current restrictions are set to go in affect. This is about 68 miles of the east Florida coastline, a one day trip for most sailboats. Keep this in mind later. Communities, politicians and business owners only care about economic impact. One also has to remember that there are the motorboats, in particular trawlers, which cruise here as well. I would guess trawlers and/or motor boats make up almost 40% of the cruising community down here now.
There are about 3 types of cruisers that visit the South Florida coastline. The “snowbirds” that come down just for the winter; they live in marinas, mooring balls and private docks. A few anchor out (maybe 5%) with the biggest group I believe in Key West area. This group makes up for well over 90% of the roughly 2,500 cruisers here all winter long. They spend money! Lots of it!! The restrictions don’t affect them at all. The next cruiser I call, the “vacation cruisers", who visit Florida, the Florida Keys and Dry Tortuga's. Sometimes they anchor; sometimes they get a slip for a day to a week. They visit for a while then leave. They spend some money. The last group of cruisers is what I call, "traveling through cruisers". They come from the great white north on their way to somewhere besides Florida. They usually go to the Bahamas, Cuba (now), Caribbean, and lastly to the Mexico and/or beyond. These cruisers spend very little overall. The impact for each county is minimal except maybe down in the Florida Keys. Anchoring restrictions are few, north and south of the regulation zone.
Marathon is overcrowded. It is a nice place and the community reaches out to the cruisers. Key West is nice but expensive. North of the restriction zone, Jupiter to St Augustine loves us for the most part. I spent this winter in Stuart due to a major boat break down. This cruising crowd from Vero Beach to Jupiter is huge (think a 1000 or so). The communities cater to us and love us. There are just minor pockets of discontented land owners here.
Now let’s chat about the impact of the new regulations and who it is going to hurt the most, the “traveling through cruisers” and liveaboards. I will start with the liveaboards who live on their boats and rarely move them. The regulations are the toughest on this group. I don't have an answer to this. These are folks who run the gamut of the economic scale, that believe in the beauty, independence and freedom of living on the water. Then there is the derelict boat problem. It is a county problem that politicians and sheriffs have turned a blind eye to for far too long. Last month the state legislature passed a bill to fund to the counties to take care of the derelict boat problem. We will see if the counties use these funds. The transient cruisers are another matter. There are figures of around 1-2 thousand a year (I once saw a figure of 3 thousand) of these wonderful folks who fit this profile. Imagine for a second of the RV’ers coming to your neighborhood and hanging out and then leaving during the winter season. How would you feel about that? Just saying! Look at it from another point of view is all I am saying here. In your opinion they create a nuisance and then don’t even spend money except at the grocery store. Oh, and you are rich in most people’s eyes. While the restrictions in these areas are great anchorages to jump out on the rose compass, they are just that, jumping off points (rest areas for the RV comparison).
So what is the bottom line here? At most a few thousand folks the State of Florida is looking at inconveniencing for a night or two. That is how they see it, with no economic impact to the state or communities. Not a big deal in all three counties where the population is in the millions. For the liveaboards, I would venture to guess maybe 60 people at the most that live in the restricted areas. Can the counties accommodate them in other areas of the waterway county? You bet they can. Will they? Probably not. NOT IN MY BACKYARD (NIMBA) mentality that is not only in the waterway communities but land base as well. One cannot just pull up an RV in any community street corner and camp out. How would you like if an RV camped out in front of your house? This is the view of communities that are impacting landowners and politicians. It is not my opinion, because I believe in the rights of boats navigating the waterway.
So what is the compromise solution to all this? First, I would avoid Southern Florida. I would jump out at Ft Pierce or West Palm Beach inlet (class A inlet) to the Bahamas or down to Biscayne Bay inlet about 68 miles on the outside. It is doable to all boaters in one day. But having watched the cruising community for over a decade now, I would venture to guess 98% of the cruisers going to the South Florida, Bahamas, and beyond do not do overnights and if they do, only one day at most. Avoiding Georgia’s ICW comes to mind. I would further say 60-75% don’t travel outside the ICW on their way south. There are a few areas where they might venture out like Ft Lauderdale to Miami. Alarming statistics to most I would imagine. This is one reason there is a huge outcry from our community. Those that do go outside regularly, do so only because they have a keel depth problem, mast height bridge problem or are salty sailors. Most sailors talk the talk but don’t do the walk down here. Second, support your favorite boating PAC: Boat US, Seven Seas Cruising Association, and other boating associations that you feel kin too. Write letters to the Florida legislature and governments, grassroots efforts sometimes do work. Thirdly, avoid all boating commercial activities like boat shows. If no one goes to Strictly Sail Miami or the West Palm Beach or Ft Lauderdale shows, the boat manufacture’s PAC will hopefully listen to the crickets at the cash register. Also, don’t buy a boat here, buy it somewhere else. If there is a boat you love and have to buy it, have the owner/broker take it to another state for sale. This is a hard one, I know. Thirdly, the communities themselves look at anchoring havens that are protected and available to the boating community.
These are just the observations of a crazy woman boat owner. Your mileage will vary.