Florida: The Most Cruiser Unfriendly State?

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Florida may well be the most cruiser unfriendly state on the East Coast, if not the entire United States—boater friendly maybe, cruiser friendly not. The cruising environment dramatically improved in 2009, however, when state lawmakers made it illegal for local cities and towns to ban or otherwise limit anchoring. Four years later, 2013, may mark the last time we will ever enjoy the freedom to the extent granted by that legislation. Next year may well begin a new phase of re-regulation.

The Great 2009 Anchoring Emancipation was accompanied by a pilot program that encouraged cities to establish mooring fields, which if approved by Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Commission, also allowed local governments to further restrict anchoring outside of their mooring fields. Fish and Wildlife has approved all five proposed ordinances—that of St. Augustine, Stuart (Martin County), St. Petersburg, Sarasota, and Monroe County including Marathon and Key West. All are a bit different, purposely so. Outside the select five jurisdictions, anchoring is still permitted without local interference—for now.

“The goal of the anchoring and mooring pilot program is to explore potential options for regulating the anchoring or mooring of non-liveaboard vessels outside the boundaries of public mooring fields,” says Maj. Jack Daugherty, leader of the Boating and Waterways Section of Fish and Wildlife. (It’s complicated but “liveaboard” in Florida law does not include cruisers, not even full-time cruisers.)

Although many of the displaced boaters disagree, the fees to rent moorings in these formerly open anchorages are reasonable by East Coast standards. For example, liveaboards may rent a mooring in front of downtown St. Augustine for $360 a month, $216 if they reside in St. Johns County. The daily rates for a transient boat is $14.

Obviously, anchoring within a mooring field is prohibited. And within these mooring field communities, ordinances generally impose time limits on anchoring anywhere, coupled by a requirement for boaters to prove (and reprove) they can get under way and have been availing themselves of local sewage pump-out services.

Daugherty says the ordinances are intended to provide the basis for possible statewide re-regulation of anchoring, beginning on July 1, 2014. That’s the date the mooring pilot program will become “inoperable and unenforceable” unless reenacted by the legislature. Lawmakers have three choices: Do nothing and let the local anchoring regs expire, reenact the program, and let the five ordinances stand, or expand the program either piecemeal or on a statewide basis.

Prior to 2009, many jurisdictions enacted individual time limits or outright bans on anchoring, and set their local marine police to confront cruisers who violated this hodgepodge of arbitrary regulations. Nearly always, these bans and limits had been established at the urging of waterfront property owners. Once the 2009 legislation struck down these laws, many of the landowners continued to seethe, but none rose to the level of Miami Beach mogul Fredric Karlton.

Karlton, with a mansion on Sunset Lake, has repeatedly shone spotlights on anchored cruising boats and bombarded them with loud music. Last year, Karlton purchased 20 new Laser sailboat hulls, which he attached to 20 moorings spread out in front of his home, thus denying the anchorage to visitors. Karlton may be an extreme example, but he is far from alone.

Landowners cite Florida’s very real problem with derelict watercraft as the source of opposition toward anchoring. But free-anchoring advocates such as Canadian Wally Moran have long noted that the root cause of derelict boats is that the people living aboard them are poor, suffer drug and alcohol problems, or a combination thereof. In public hearings, Fish and Wildlife officials have agreed that the problem with derelict boats has little to do with the kinds of cruisers reading this article.

Despite the temporary and partial thaw in the anchoring war between governments and cruisers, another unpleasant aspect of Florida waterways has continued unabated. As anyone who follows cruisers forums or reads the Florida sailing magazine Southwinds, will testify, there has been a steady drumbeat of police boarding controversies, all in the name of holding tank enforcement. These include boardings of boats while under way with guns drawn (Volusia County) and even at night while their owners were asleep down below (Florida Keys).

Violations—failure to lock the overboard discharge valve to holding—cost boaters a $250 fine. Without debating the merits of no-discharge zones and treatment systems, the SWAT team response to minor civil infractions would appear to an outsider as disproportionate. This given that Florida municipalities have been in chronic violation of the Federal Clean Water Act with millions of gallons of untreated and undertreated sewerage dumped into the same waterways every year.
Now as the countdown begins to July 2014—with a very real likelihood of expanded anchoring restrictions—it may behoove cruisers to make hay while the sun of freedom still shines over the Sunshine State’s anchorages.
Executive Editor Peter Swanson, formerly of Massachusetts, has lived in Florida since 2002.

Aussie Restores Ill-Fated Nordhavn Motorsailer

A “crazy” Australian is launching a new Nordhavn 56 Motorsailer after rescuing her from a Southern California scrap heap. Stephen Martyn, a builder by profession and a “sailor by desire,” bought hull number 5 after she was dropped from a ship, sunk, and declared a total loss for insurance.
The saga began in July 2009, when the vessel was being unloaded from the deck of a freighter to be delivered to her new owners.

According to the Nordhavn’s builder, the 56 was being lifted from the ship to the water in a conventional “two-crane pick” using the ship’s cranes, but operated by San Diego-based longshoremen. As the operators began their synchronized swing over the water, the operator at the bow inexplicably continued lifting. When the angle of yacht and cradle reached about 45 degrees, the vessel fell off, crashed onto steel-beams protruding from the ship’s deck, and plunged into the water—a fall of more than 40 feet.

The 90,000-lb. boat hit the water upside down. She came up again and righted herself, windshield, port lights, and superstructure intact, only to sink as water poured into her punctured hull. Soon after, salvors raised her from the bottom and towed her to a nearby boatyard, where she was hauled and eventually taken to an inland salvage yard. The bilges were filled with diesel fuel to “pickle” the engine. Originally valued at $1.8 million, the broken boat was offered for sale with a reserve price of $125,000.

(In an interesting side note, even though Pacific Asian Enterprises, builder of the Nordhavn line, was not legally responsible for the accident, it helped out the original buyers of hull number 5 by, in effect, providing a loaner—the same boat with a different configuration. Meanwhile PAE began work on an exact duplicate of hull number 5 at its Taiwan factory. The owners have taken delivery of N56 v2, and the loaner is up for sale.)

Martyn says the damaged 56 was first purchased by a European, who then sold it to him in February 2012. He admits the project turned out to be a little more than he bargained for.

“The eventuality has been complete replacement of all wiring, electrical components, mechanical components, fittings and electronics, removal of repairs commenced by others, engagement of engineer as to structural repair, and nine months full-time of a talented, enthusiastic repair crew,” Martyn says.
“There is still finishing to be done, but she is basically ready to go back in the water, one year into an original two-year schedule. The only ‘win’ in the whole project was the timber work. The long storage in apparently favorable conditions have left the original timber work restorable without major removal, a testament to Nordhavn quality as much as anything else, I think.”

Martyn’s plan was to launch the boat in February and spend some time in the San Diego area for commissioning, including installation of a new sailing rig, which had not been included in the purchase. After that he says he will cruise south, transit the Panama Canal, and explore the Caribbean before setting course for Europe.

Martyn declines to say how much the project has cost him so far, but he’s willing to hint. “All the experts told me I was a crazy Australian, and that it would take me two years and a million dollars to get where I wanted to be. What I can say is that it has taken about half that.”

What’s Martyn calling his new vessel? “I have registered her in the British Virgin Islands, official name is Adworld, but thinking about renaming her Crikey Dan with reference to Dan Streech, tagged with the Steve Irwin’s Australian exclamation,” he says, referring to PAE’s president, Streech not Irwin.—Peter Swanson
(Stand by for an in-depth look at Stephen Martyn’s remarkable restoration efforts in a future issue.)

37-foot Weekender From Back Cove

Back Cove Yachts of Rockland, Maine, is introducing two new models that advance the Back Cove’s 21st-century interpretation of a classic Jonesport lobsterboat. Coming this summer is the Downeast 37, followed by the Back Cove 41 in early 2014. These announcements came as the company was celebrating the construction of its 500th boat since it began building in 2003.

“This is an opportunity for us to take all our thoughts and ideas about what makes day boats such great platforms and grow those ideas to a scale which allows the proportions to be elegant and balanced,” says Kevin Burns, vice president of design and product development, referring to the 37.
The Downeast 37 shares its hull design with the Back Cove 37, the difference being the designers have opened up the cockpit, thus integrating exterior and interior spaces. Accommodations down below are simple and elegant—a compact galley and queen berth and a head with a separate shower. Seeing the renderings, one can easily imagine entertaining guests for an afternoon on the water or a couple taking weekend trips on the Penobscot.

The Downeast 37 is powered by a single Cummins 480 diesel. According to Back Cove, that gives the boat a cruise speed of 20 knots and a top speed of 25. It carries 300 gallons of fuel and 120 gallons of water. She draws 43 inches, good for gunkholing. Base price is $425,000. Visit www.backcoveyachts.com.—Peter Swanson