The derelict issue, problem, controversy, whatever one chooses to call it, has loomed large and will continue to be hashed about in political and economic circles all along the Eastern Seaboard until a feasible plan is found to address abandoned vessels. We are grateful to Chris Waln for sharing his research with us. To access the Derelict Vessel map features, click Queries at lower right, select a county, then Search.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (http://myfwc.com/) as an excellent (not yet fully implemented) online tool (https://public.myfwc.com/LE/ArrestNet/DerelictVessel/VesselMap.aspx) for tracking location and essential information on derelict boats. For the Florida East Coast, when the underlying data is parsed it reveals:
66% of derelict recreational boats are Florida registered, and this percentage is slightly understated because the “Registration NA” boats probably contain some number of Florida registered boats.
Of the derelict boats for which length data is available (87%), the median boat size (all types) is 26 feet and the mean is 27 feet (discounting an outlier). Two thirds are between 22 and 32 feet.
Across both registration categories sailboats account for 40%, cabin-power for 19%.
75% of the 170+ derelicts are in Monroe, Miami-Dade, Brevard and Broward Counties, but…
In Broward County 68% of the boats identified as derelict are in slips.
Most of the pictures of “Registration NA” boats and many of the “FL Registered” depict hulls so old that removal would entail little legal effort.
The few commercial hulks, barges, etc were not counted.
The boat registration and length data is extracted from graphics files in the FWC tool by hand; there may have been a few errors.
What can we draw from this?
The registration data doesn’t support derelict boats being driven by out of state/foreign cruisers.
The size data doesn’t support derelict boats being driven by cruisers, period. Yes, we have taken over 500 and 1000 mile trips in a 23 footer (1976) and a 29 footer (1980), but what we see on the waters today is 35-45 footers. Although to be balanced, 18% of the measured derelicts are 35 feet or greater — the same percentage as boats 21 feet or less.
From the FWC photos, the sailboats, with few exceptions, are not equipped as long range cruisers, they look to be local boats that were either uninsured or insured and totaled, and the local owners just walked away.
Broward County’s slipped derelicts should be discounted when talking about anchoring issues.
Money for removal is more of an issue than authority for removal.
Finally (well, that apparently never happens in this debate), we don’t like looking at or being anchored near derelicts or imminent derelicts any more than any other Floridian. We don’t like them clogging up our few and far between safe anchorages. We don’t like them driving municipalities to create maritime ghettos that wipe out those few and far between safe anchorages.
We believe the data above is a reason for the latest shift to attempting to ban anchoring on the basis of defamatory accusations rather than data. It’s pretty clear from the data, cruisers don’t come to Florida to abandon their boats.
Derelict boats are completely different than cruising boats. It’s the difference between a car driving down the freeway, or parked at a rest stop, and one jacked up on blocks on the side of the road. I don’t for one minute believe that the people behind the anchoring restrictions can’t make this distinction, and I still believe the derelict boat problem, while a real problem, is being used as a smokescreen/false flag operation, for getting rid of non-derelict cruising boats that are messing up the views from waterfront condos of people who are used to getting their way on everything.
Interesting analysis. I would add that another important factor in anchorage bans is financial. There are interests that think boaters anchoring for free are getting away with something and they should be forced to pay for the privilege. The funny thing in Florida is that this often involves creating a mooring field at huge expense that is paid for by taxpayers that then forces boaters to pay for moorings and marina space that even then is not self-supporting. The Marathon mooring field and marina only survive due to hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funds. These fields are not self supporting in Florida. I have yet to figure out why Florida mooring fields are so hugely expensive to construct, but the per-mooring cost is often four or five times what it would cost for an individual to put in the finest mooring set up. You would think that purchasing in bulk, etc. would save money. Someone is making money off of that aspect of this too.