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Salty Southeast
Cruisers' Net
Cruisers Helping Cruisers

A Distrubing Message about Anchoring in St. Petersburg, Florida (Tampa)

Captain Burnham’s message below is somewhat cryptic, but if I read it rightly, the city of St. Petersburg, Florida is attempting to limit anchorage in their corporate waters to 3-days in a particular spot, and 9 days total, within any 30 day period. As such, these are possibly the most Draconian proposals put forward by any of the five municipalities/counties which are part of the Florida Pilot Mooring Field Program. Fortunately, there is still a LOT of public comment to be registered, and the FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission) must agree to all restrictions before they can be passed and enforced. As St. Augustine learned last fall, the FWC is very reluctant to approve such short term anchorage limits.
Notice that Captain Burhnham points out that the real bugaboo in all of this is derelict vessels. Can I say it just one more time. This IS a real problem in Florida, BUT this problem can be solved by enforcement of EXISTING marina salvage laws and MSD regulations. Why try and limit anchorage for everyone, when the very real derelict problem is being caused by a tiny minority of boat owners?

I attended the meeting and received a draft copy of the proposed changes to the City Code.
As written, it allows me to do things on a three day weekend that would really annoy most boaters and marina operators. It allows me to anchor within 200 feet of any marina or boat ramp and stay there for 3 days as long as I am not an obstruction or a “hazard to navigation”. It would seem to me that any anchored vessel is an obstruction to be avoided…
Within any 30 day period, I can anchor consecutively in the Central Yacht Basin, the South Yacht Basin, or Bayboro Harbor for 3 days each, allowing me a 9 day stay without mooring fees. There is no beginning time or ending time for my 72 hour stay at each location so if I drop anchor in the Basin after sundown and no one notices until the next morning, the first night is not counted in the 72 hours?
Last night’s public forum was a good meeting for the boating public to ask the city to clearify the intent of their proposal.
What St. Petersburg apparently wants is to prevent vessels from being abandoned by the few irresponsible owners who neglect vessel maintenance. As drafted, their proposal does not address this except to state that “hazardous” vessels are prohibited from anchoring in the waterways of St. Petersburg; which is not in agreement with Florida State Law in regards to navigation. “Hazardous” vessels means a vessel in danger of becoming a derelict for various subjective reasons listed.
If the proposal begins constructive dialog between the boating public who visit St. Pete and the city managers, then last night was a successful beginning.
David Burnham

After reading the above, we asked Captain Charmaine Smith Ladd, founder of BARR (Boater’s Anchoring Responsibility and Rights), to comment on the proposed St. Pete regulations. Her response appears below.

January 26th, 2012
by Charmaine Smith Ladd
csmithladd@marinersbarr.org
For your perusal and comments, the proposed ordinance draft for St. Petersburg: [DOCUMENT NO LONGER AVAILABLE] http://marinersbarr.org/fpp/docs/st_petersburg/draftanchorrdinance-2012-01-26.pdf
Things to note: LIVEABOARDS will not be able to anchor anywhere within the City Limits of St. Petersburg, they MUST either take a mooring or a marina slip; NON-LIVEABOARDS (cruisers) effectively will be under a 72-hour limit for anchoring. The ordinance also reads: “No vessel shall anchor in the Port of St. Petersburg.” Very broad and very disturbing.

St. Petersburg – Scheduled Public Meetings:
February 16th at 3:00 pm – St. Petersburg City Council Meeting, 1st Reading
March 1st at 8:30 am – St. Petersburg City Council Meeting, Public Hearing
Location: Karen A. Steidinger Auditorium Fish & Wildlife Research Institute
100 Eighth Avenue SE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Click Here To Read an Imporant and Much Lengthier Article by Captain Charmaine Smith Ladd Concerning the Developing St. Petersburg Anchoring Issue

The postings so far had me very concerned until I carefully read the proposed ordinance. While it prohibits anchoring of liveaboard vessels anywhere in the city limits, the 72 hour rule only applies within 200 feet of marinas and boat ramps and in the three basins and the Port basin downtown. It does not apply for cruisers (non-liveaboard vessels) in other anchorages in St. Pete like Coffeepot, the two bayous, or Maximo Point (a favorite of ours). The 72 hour limit does not apply to the entire peninsula or city limits!
If it passes approval by the FWC with the 72 hour limit intact, we will simply NEVER visit or spend our money in downtown St. Pete again. We will vote with our anchor and go to more cruiser friendly places! In it’s effort to deal with abandoned and derelict boats the City of St. Petersburg is telling cruisers that they are not welcome except for a short stay. They don’t treat tourists that way who arrive by car or plane instead of by boat.
There is no “safe harbor” provision in the proposed ordinance so the police can kick you out into a storm if they want. My guess is that the FWC will require a “safe harbor” provision be added.
Larry Sherman

And now, more from Captain Burnham on this issue. Many, many thanks for his fine reporting of this critical cruising issue:

My first comments were truly cryptic as they closely follow the draft proposal from the St. Petersburg City Code which in itself I found it to be cryptic in its intent.
The stated intent of Article 6 in Chapter 7 is to encourage the use of the new mooring field in the North Basin. Presently, only one of the 13 new moorings is occupied. Six boats are anchored behind the seawall in the South Basin, and 5 sailboats are at anchor in the Bayboro Basin south of the Port of St Petersburg.
These 11 sailboats are all in good condition and within their rights under Florida State Laws of Navigation even though they appear to be within the “City Limits”. I have not found how far the St. Petersburg city limits extend into Tampa Bay, but they do go from the Clearwater/St. Petersburg Airport all the way around the Pinellas peninsula to Boca Ciega Bay with the exception of the City of Gulfport!
If all 11 sailboats moved to the mooring field, their daily rate would be 14 dollars if under 41 feet in length and 17 dollars if 41 feet to 60 feet. This is significantly less than the average 80 dollar daily rate for a 40 foot vessel at the Transient Dock. If any of these cruisers rent a vehicle while on a mooring and wish to park it at the marina overnight, the daily fee is $2.80.
During the peak winter season, 2 months is the maximum length of stay on the moorings but you can return after 15 days if there is a mooring still available.
The proposed 72 hour time limit for anchoring in any Basin in the city limits will only serve to push the cruisers over to Gulfport which does not yet have an established mooring field in Boca Ciega Bay or other more curtious anchorages in the Tampa Bay area.
The FWC officers are more concerned with abandoned boats, not the well kept cruiser, and preventing boats from becoming derelicts with the associated hazards.
The term “live aboard” is used differently in the boating community and causes confusion. Until the boaters accept the term “live aboard” to mean a vessel that is NOT used for navigation (think boat house instead of houseboat) and has no means of propulsion, cruisers staying on their boats will be unsure of the proposed rule’s intent.
The Port of St. Petersburg, south of the city airport, where all the U.S. Coast Guard and commercial ships are berthed is not a suitable anchorage for smaller cruising boats.
David Burnham

While I am not familiar with the local geography of the S. Pete waters I am a cruiser-resident of nearby Plant City, Hillsborough County, Florida, and have occupied and cruised continuously aboard my vessel for 8-1/2 years. Our vessel is currently in a mooring field in San Blas Islands of Panama.
Like the City of St. Pete, we “full-time” cruisers are also unhappy with derelict vessels. They are a hazard to navigation, safety and the environment. In inclement weather conditions they can, and have, drifted loose from their “anchored” position and damaged other vessels. If not maintained in a reasonably clean and preserved condition, they negatively impact our enjoyment of the waters in which we choose to anchor.
I believe there should be a distinction between 1) derelict vessels, 2) vessels that are “stored” on the water, i.e., not capable of safe navigation, and 3) vessels that are anchored/moored and capable of safe navigation. And I would argue that an unoccupied vessel is not capable of safe navigation.
Boat ownership is a responsibility that includes being a safe and considerate “neighbor” to nearby vessels and property, and to their owners and occupants.
There is no reason to penalize a responsible owner-occupant of a cruising vessel who chooses to anchor safely for extended periods in an urban waterway.
On the other hand, I also believe that nearby vessels and property should have protection from “derelict” and/or “stored” vessels when they present hazards to their neighbors. The longer a non-navigable, or unoccupied vessel remains at anchor, the greater hazard it represents. Storms create a great danger that such vessels will come loose and damage other vessels or property. Ill-kept, non-maintained vessels are a public hazard and nuisance. I realize that “nuisance” is hard to define, but city codes have addressed this with respect to real estate, so there is precedent in regulating such matters in a community-acceptable manner.
I think the City of St. Petersburg should consider the above discussion in its regulation and re-write the proposed ordinance to allow for responsible, long-term anchoring for occupied vessels.
Carl Gaines

I have spent many enjoyable hours anchored in St. Pete’s Vinoy Basin, the North Harbour, when I first started cruising south. While there, I met cruisers from as far north as Nova Scotia and as far south as the eastern Caribbean. Not a derelict vessel in sight. Never a problem.
Now, because the city would not enforce laws available to it to deal with a half dozen near-derelict vessels in the Basin, I’m forbidden to ever again anchor there, because they’ve put moorings in?
Let me be blunt, because I’m fed up with this crap from the state of FL.
I’ve just spent three very pleasant weeks in Brunswick Ga., 35 miles north of Florida. It was nice to feel welcomed.
When I leave here tomorrow, the goal is to remain offshore as much and as long as I can, until I can get to the Bahamas, and to hell with Florida.
All of it, every bit of it. I don’t need their attitude towards me, my boat and my needs, because Florida officials cannot deal with their drunks and druggies living on derelict boats in a manner responsible to those who would visit, spend money and respect their state.
Since I singlehand, I’ll have to come inshore to rest. But I intend to buy enough fuel and food here in Brunswick, GA so that I don’t spend a cent in their damned state.
Wally Moran

Well, I don’t visit cities where boaters are not welcome, nor do my MANY boating friends – AND WE DON”T SPEND OUR CONSIDERABLE MONEY THERE! WAKE UP MERCHANTS!!!!!
August Trometer

The money spent by anchored cruisers is quite small in the grand scheme of things. And from the ordinance writers perspective, if you won’t even spend money on a mooring ball, let alone dockage, how much money will you spend ashore? Comparing cruisers to motorists doesn’t work, you can’t camp out in the rest stops or along the side of the road. You’ll need a better angle.
Livaboards are not the issue in St. Petes either. The Harborage marina openly welcomes livaboards, they have the city permits to allow it and have many amenities geared specifically to livaboards.
I think it is the derelict boats that is the heart of the matter. Can Cruisers Net or other organizations come up with a plan & assistance with facilitating the removal of the derelicts.
The other issue is “bum boats”. Those boats that are not ‘derelicts’ but do not look good at all. They are eyesores that do no good for the cause. Many (but not all) would love to see a beautiful boat at anchor in the harbor, but seeing an eyesore exacerbates this sort of issue. Hard to say what could be done. Personal responsibility can’t be legislated but it is contributing to the problem. The solution…kick em all out.
Ted

Editor’s Response – Ted, if you will look at my earlier editorial, “Whence Come the Anchorage Regulations” at http://cruisersnet.net/?p=4958, you will see that we have come up with a scheme to get rid of derelicts, and it requires no new laws, nor does it harass the cruising community. Of course, many others have noted these same solutions. It’s not just the SSECN!

As a resident of St Petersburg and its environs (now Treasure Island) since 1986, and before that at Stetson Law School in the late 50′s, I have always thought of our city as a boater friendly town, certainly a very prominent sailing city with a world renown yacht club. I applaud the decision to install moorings in the Vinoy Basin where the holding has always been poor, but to link that to a limit on anchoring, whether deemed a reasonable period or not, is unreasonable – clearly the elephant getting its nose in the door as a precursor for more regulations. Address the problem of derelict boats, but keep St Pete boater friendly.
Charles (Chuck) Waygood

A 72-hour limit in a 30-day period is ridiculously short. It would mean that someone couldn’t visit two weekends in a row, unless they anchored in one of the other locations. It would mean someone couldn’t anchor there during the entire boat show. A prohibition of “liveaboards” anchoring at all is simple prejudice, and I suspect would instantly be ruled against in a court of law. Even though the Florida definition of “liveaboard” is narrow that doesn’t mean they suddenly become second-class citizens. This ordinance severely impacts legitimate transient cruisers, will do little to deal with the truly hazardous boats, and painst St. Petersburg as an unfriendly place that does not want boaters to visit.
John Kettlewell

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