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‘I’m willing to go to jail’ over anchor light

Vincent Sibilla is the Robin Hood of the Stuart, Fla., anchorage where he keeps his boat.

Five years ago, Sibilla, who had been arrested four times, convicted once and given a jail sentence for anchoring in the St. Lucie River more than 10 days, achieved a settlement of his federal civil rights lawsuit that opened Stuart’s waters to boaters who wish to anchor outside its mooring field. (Click here for Soundings’ 2008 report.)

Now the scrappy boat owner is appealing three $95 tickets for failing to display an approved anchor light.

The retired 73-year-old construction worker, who anchors his 1971 Concord 31 cabin cruiser across the St. Lucie River from Shepard Park, says he is confident that he is fully compliant with the law. “I have everything I’m supposed to have on my boat. I’m legal,” he says.

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“I’m willing to go to jail [again] because I’m going to win,” he says. “It may take me four years, but I’m going to win.”

Sibilla — and others in the anchorage — use solar-powered garden lights that switch on automatically at dusk and turn off at dawn. Sibilla backs up the light’s batteries with a boat battery, which powers the light in cloudy weather.

Sibilla says the garden light meets all state and federal requirements, yet police cited him for violating Florida statute 327.50, which says, “The owner and operator of every vessel on the waters of this state shall carry, store, maintain and use safety equipment in accordance with current United States Coast Guard safety equipment requirements as specified in the Code of Federal Regulations …”

Sibilla says those regulations note, “Non-electric lights (such as his solar light) shall so far as practicable comply with the minimum intensities, as specified …” for standard lights.

He says his solar light stays lit through the night and is at least as bright as any anchorage light he has seen. A friend calculated from the light’s known intensity that it is visible just a tad short of two miles away and there is no place on the river within the line of sight of his boat that is two miles away.

Nonetheless, Sibilla says, a marine patrol deputy told him he was violating the law and had to display a Coast Guard-approved light. Sibilla has hired a lawyer to appeal the tickets.

Look for a more in-depth report about Sibilla in the July issue of Soundings.