Derelict Vessels in Cocoa, FL AICW Statute Mile 897
Our thanks to Wally Moran, a long time advocate for boaters’ rights, for sharing this article he wrote recently about the anchorages in Cocoa. See Question Regarding Cocoa Anchorages.
I sailed into Cocoa, FL, this afternoon – it’s one of the most cruiser friendly cities on Florida’s east coast and one of my favorite stops. As I came up to where I usually anchor, I saw a boat that has been wet stored here for two years. Well, to be more precise, I saw the spreaders and the top of the mast. The rest of it was on the bottom. About 75 yards over, a second sailboat was on the bottom. Neither of these boats were on the bottom when I was last here, in February.
One was a really pretty Ranger 26, in good shape – but the owner simply anchored it and walked away. As you can see from the photos, it’s got a coat of barnacles and was tagged by the FWC. It had nearly sunk several times previous to its ignominious ending because it had no dewatering capacity – i.e. no working bilge pump – and no owner who cared enough to look after it.
The other sailboat was struck by lightning – no controlling that sort of thing.
Fortunately, the City of Cocoa has moved with commendable speed to remove these boats. I watched the Ranger get taken out today to be crushed.
As we all know, in some parts of southern Florida, there are boats on the bottom that have been there for years, slowly turning into reef systems. You know, the places where we get the most grief as cruisers – Miami, Lauderdale, the Keys.
There are also several scruffy looking boats here that weren’t here a few months ago, and it’s clear that more than a few of them are being wet stored. Several more are liveaboards – with the usual tarp as sunshade, the beaten up canoe as tender, and trash all over the decks with fenders hanging outboard.
Why did this happen in Cocoa? I wrote a story about this a while back about what was coming, and it now appears I was right about what has happened.
Briefly, the scruffy, rough looking boats were in Harbor Square in the Canaveral Canal about three miles north of here. Harbor Square is not a ‘yachtie’ marina. It’s rough, redneck and, best of all, cheap. Really cheap, like the mom and pop marinas that once dotted Florida’s shores before ‘highest and best use’ taxation destroyed their viability. They weren’t pretty, but they served a purpose. They were a place were a boat could be kept, cheaply – affordably.
Getting back to Harbor Square, it is an amazing hurricane hole, probably the best in Florida. I stayed there during Irma, which went right overhead, and there probably wasn’t 40 knots of wind in the basin. I mentioned it in a Cruising World article – https://www.cruisingworld.com/prep-for-hurricane/
The marina lease has now been sold – and several of the boats have come to Cocoa anchorage in all their ‘glory’. I have no doubt that another half dozen will sink, unless another hurricane beaches the growing fleet, due to the fact that the law doesn’t permit anything to be done about them beforehand.
Actually, that’s not true although many believe it. The FWC can designate these vessels as being in danger of becoming derelicts and deal with them that way. But they won’t, they never do. That’s why that Ranger 26 is on the bottom. The FWC didn’t act.
And when the condo owners start to complain, when another couple of boats sink, or another hurricane wipes them out and leaves them on the shore – how friendly will Cocoa be to we transient boaters?
Yea, you got it – we’ll get lumped in with the trash.
My point is this. If we are to protect our anchorages, especially in Florida, we need to demand that the FWC enforce the laws regarding derelict boats.
If a boat is in danger of becoming derelict, it can be removed by the FWC. General Order 21 of the FWC empowers law enforcement officers “to remove any derelict vessel … from public waters when that vessel is a hazard to navigation or a threat to the environment.” This also covers at-risk vessels, i.e. “a vessel exhibiting conditions known to precede a derelict.”
So what’s the problem? The FWC isn’t enforcing this order. To my knowledge, it never has, not since this came into being in 2011.
It’s time we demand that the FWC fulfil its obligations. These boats are a problem and they need to be dealt with.
Write to your senator, your House Representative, and to your local politicians. Tell them that the FWC is shirking their responsibility to the detriment of all. Demand that the FWC live up to their responsibilities and start dealing with these boats.
It’s what everyone wants – the question here is, why isn’t it being done? Let’s get some answers to that.
I will have more to say about this in future articles. It’s time that we as boaters were listened to. The organizations in place that are dealing with anchoring issues are reacting to events, they are not working to prevent these problems. While they may be effective at this, we are slowly losing our rights to anchor because we, as a community, have not demanded the changes that we know will benefit all of us, shoreside and on the hook.
Stay tuned. I’ll have some solutions in my next article. They’re controversial, but as the saying goes, desperate times need desperate measures.
Author of The Un-Adult A-Rated Wally – get your copy at https://www.seaworthy.com/