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Anchoring/Mooring Field Editorial From Captain Jay Bliss, St. Augustine Port Commissioner

The following article is reproduced by special permission from both Captain Jay Bliss and StAugustine.com.

Letter to the Editor
St. Johns County and Vilano homeowners have reached an accord, DEP and Army Corps of Engineers have permits in place, and significant dredging will take place this winter in the StAugustine channel entrance and off Porpoise Point. Massive federal funds, $20M plus or minus, will pay for dredging and renourishing StAugustine Beach sands. The inlet channel will be twice its width and as deep as 30 feet. Turtles have nested and before they return to lay eggs in Spring 2012 the dredging should be done.
Boaters will be able to access the inlet in relative safety. An onshore wind and an outgoing tide will still create a rollercoaster ride. Once inside, StAugustine’s unique waterworld offers scenic wonders whatever your course. Boaters can look for a new floating dock off the Vilano fishing pier by Spring 2012, providing free short-term docking and ready access to Publix’ new supermarket at Vilano Beach. B&B guests downtown might embark by water taxi at the City dock to shop the Vilano Publix. Certainly boaters at anchor or on moorings will enjoy the convenience of a market close to the water.
City Commissioners and staff are intent upon maximizing revenue from the mooring fields. There are bills to pay, debts to amortize. Their Pilot Program ordinances increase “no anchoring” zones. Moorings are convenient, and at $20 a night, not a bad deal. Anchoring does enjoy a following, however. Picky boaters place their trust in their own equipment. Boaters who read fine print might not sign off on the liability release on the mooring contract. One proposed ordinance limits time at anchor. Similar time limit laws have been declared invalid in Federal courts in Stuart and Naples. Navigation laws, anchoring precedents, predate even StAugustine’s history.
More importantly, we (County, Port, City, residents) need to ask: what has the placement of mooring fields done, and what can we project with the Pilot Program ordinances?
Putting the mooring fields in place required energizing enforcement: we discovered that about ten boats had been long abandoned. The mooring fields then displaced some 28 boaters/boats from the downtown area and from Salt Run, and they’re part of the anchored fleet S of the 312 and N of the Vilano bridge, beyond City limits. Google “StAugustine city limits” for a map.
Imposing the Pilot Program ordinances will further displace about 15 boats beyond City limits. Those boaters will join others who cannot afford to be part of the mooring system. The ordinances will demand more time from City and County and FWC law enforcement. Increasing their duties, adding to the laws, will not improve enforcement of laws already on the books. Overboard dumping, derelicts, are already covered by laws on the books. (Call FWC 407 275 4150 to report on-the-water problems). Those very real challenges do not justify further Pilot Program ordinances. The challenge is enforcing what we have. Will revenues increase significantly?
Every motorist expects to be duly notified with a yellow line, or “ no parking from here to corner” sign. It’s difficult to imagine how we will legally notify our boating guests of all these prohibited anchoring zones, and still generate goodwill.
Our image with the boating public is at risk. We disregard the effects and consequences of anchoring sprawl, and add more fine print, more laws. We court failure in Federal court. We need to make mooring fields more appealing, affordable, rather than make anchoring more prohibitive. When boaters cruise in the StAugustine inlet, they should be greeted with hospitality and choices.

Fantastic even handed commentary from a government official. Yes indeed there are already laws against dumping sewage and against derelicts. Yes you will drive anchorers away including me. I know what my anchor will hold and what condition my rode is in. I sleep better on my own tackle. Looking forward to trying the free dock to shop at publix in the spring of 2012.
Bill Dixon

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