Ordinance limits time boats can anchor in Miami Beach, a popular jumping-off point to the Bahamas
By Melanie Neale
Miami long has been a jumping-off point for cruisers bound for the Bahamas and the Caribbean, and each cruising season the anchorages in Miami Beach fill with boats waiting for weather to cross the Gulf Stream. This spring, however, an ordinance went into effect that limits the amount of time boats can anchor in the waters of Miami Beach.
Under the ordinance, boats are only allowed to anchor for seven days within a 30-day period. If a boat is anchored for more than seven days, whether consecutive or not, it is considered retired from navigation. The marine patrol will be authorized to tow and store the boat, a lien will be placed on it for the cost of towing and storage, and the owner will be required to pay to retrieve the vessel.
Approved May 18 upon its second reading, the ordinance states that boats anchored in the waters of Miami Beach “have had and have a deleterious effect upon the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the city.” It lists discharge of waste, aesthetic pollution and invasion of homeowners’ privacy as reasons for this, and states that the boats anchored in this area adversely affect the quality of life of the residents of Miami Beach.
Richard Blackford, vice president of the Seven Seas Cruising Association (www.ssca.org), says his group views Miami Beach and Miami as the most important anchorage areas in Florida for boats crossing to the Bahamas and farther. “It’s at the end of the line,” says the former Coast Guardsman and longtime cruiser. “Where else can people wait safely for weather and prepare for the crossing?”
The area affected is the stretch of water within the Miami Beach jurisdiction, including the anchorages around Palm, Hibiscus and Star islands, the Venetian Islands, and the anchorages on both sides of the East Venetian Causeway. The popular anchorage off the Miami Yacht Club is just west of the line and won’t be regulated, but it was quickly filling up as people moved away from Miami Beach.
Many boats can’t anchor north of Miami or Miami Beach due to the Julia Tuttle Causeway, which has a vertical clearance of 56 feet, making the anchorages around Miami Beach the only option for boats with taller masts.
A possible compromise would be for the city to put in a mooring field similar to the one in Vero Beach, with dinghy docks and facilities ashore for cruisers.
Some waterfront residents see the boaters as a threat to their privacy and their pocketbooks. Mark Gold of Rivo Alto Island stated in a letter to Miami Beach mayor David Dermer that liveaboards “obtain the benefits of living in our fine city without paying a cent in taxes, while the waterfront residents, whose tax base is millions, have a transient campground in their back yard.”
Cruisers Peter and Linda Young have anchored their 44-foot sailboat off the Venetian Islands on and off this winter and spring, and use Miami Beach as a jumping-off point for the Bahamas. “We go ashore about every other day and spend money in the city,” says Peter Young. “We recently spent over $6,500 rerigging the boat.”
They, as well as other cruisers, use the dinghy docking facilities along the canal just south of the East Venetian Causeway and at the public ramp by the Sunset Harbor Marina. This area is close to Publix, where many cruisers provision for long passages.
The city estimates that the project will cost $1.128 million in the first year and $617,250 in the second to implement, which includes the cost of two new marine patrol boats, two new full-time city employees, signs, and maintenance costs. A fiscal impact report generated by the city states that approximately 70 boats would need to be impounded and stored within the first year of the program to recoup costs.