Anchoring Incident in Miami Beach
Captain Wally Moran, author of the “open letter” below, sent to the mayor of Miami Beach, is a reporter and writer for “Sail” magazine. Thanks to Captain Moran for sharing this very interesting, if a bit lengthy, note with the Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net.
After reading Wally’s missive below, you may want to refer to my earlier anchoring editorial, “Whence Come the Anchorage Regulations” (/florida-anchoring-editorial-1-whence-come-the-anchorage-regulations). In particular, check out my “#2” reason behind such regulations.
An open letter to Miami Beach Mayor Bower:
I know that running for office can be expensive, and that politicians often seek financing from those with the money to contribute, but at what price to the politician? And just what is the price to the people represented by that politician?
The balance of this letter, Mayor Bower, is intended to put the onus on you to stop the abuse of rights in Miami Beach that wealthy political contributors think they have purchased when they finance a politician’s campaign, not only in the specific circumstances outlined in my letter.
My sailing students and I had only just anchored at Sunset Lake in Miami Beach, behind the house at 2344 N. Bay Road, when the police boat came up to us. The officers aboard politely requested that we move the boat a couple of hundred yards south. They very carefully explained that we didn’t have to do this, that they had no right in law to make the request, but that they would appreciate our doing so.
The reason for their request? We had anchored in front of the home of a man with considerable political clout, apparently purchased with substantial donations to various politicians, although the police didn’t give specifics. The man had phoned the police, probably before our anchor had finished sinking to the bottom. The officers had been ordered to respond, and did so in less than ten minutes. I’m quite certain that there are victims of crime in Miami Beach who would be astonished by the speed of this response, but as we were discovering, wealth does have its advantages.
We and the officers had an entertaining fifteen minutes discussing the merits – or lack thereof – of the situation we found ourselves in. The officers were clearly disgusted at having to do the bidding of the man who had complained, but since they were acting on a superior’s orders, they really had no choice.
After the officers left us, we sat for a half hour and enjoyed watching the instigator of this situation surreptitiously watching us as he pretended to clean his boat. We left after a half hour at anchor, not because of this man but out of respect for the officers, who were only doing their job – no, belay that, they were doing what they had been told to do – which was most decidedly not their job.
My question here is this: are the politicians of Miami Beach, and the senior police officers giving the orders and who appear to leap at the politicians beck and call, so craven, so spineless, so hungry for political largesse that they will order their front line officers to break the law? Because that is exactly what happened here – with their request, these officers were violating our rights. They knew it, and clearly didn’t like being ordered to do it.
It’s not like these officers didn’t have more important things to do, it was a busy weekend on the water. No, they were ordered to break the law, to go after us, to get us to move on, all because one man has money and the politicians of Miami Beach (who are in his pocket) don’t have the backbone or integrity to tell him that his money doesn’t buy him that privilege. Quite frankly, if I were a voter in Miami Beach, I’d be asking some very difficult questions of the mayor and the Chief of Police.
For those who would like to ask those questions, Mayor Bower’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org. The Chief’s email apparently isn’t publicly available.
There is something else that we can do about this as free citizens. I’d like to invite all Miami Beach and area boaters to an ‘˜Anchor Fest’, to be held on July 4th, starting at 2 p.m. The Anchor Fest will be a celebration of American freedom, particularly the freedom Americans have to see all legal rights respected by our politicians.
I’d like to see several hundred boats anchor in view of this man’s home, to help bring home to him the fact that, while he may be able to buy politicians, the Miami Beach Police do not answer to him through them, they do not violate the rights of others because he is displeased.
I’d also like to see the politicians of Miami Beach get the message that someone with money doesn’t have the right to force police officers to break the law through political patronage. I’d like Miami Beach’s politicians to remember and understand that they answer to the voters of the city – all of them, not just ones with lots of money and attitude.
I’d like to thank the officers for their courtesy and for the job they do for us. I know you’ll be with us at Anchor Fest in spirit.
I’d like to see everyone have a great time at this man’s expense, for him to see that his money doesn’t buy him the right to abuse the rights of others.
And I have a suggestion for this man: if you don’t like boats anchored where you can see them, buy a home inland. I’d suggest New Mexico or Arizona.
I hope to see everyone at Anchor Fest. You can get more details on Facebook, just search for Anchor Fest or Anchor Fest Miami Beach.
W. J. Moran
I just sent off the following email to the Mayor and encourage others to do the same’¦.
`Mayor Bower, Would you be so kind as to respond to the reports that a wealthy land owner and political contributor is using the Miami Beach Police Department for personal use to harass boaters that anchor near his home in Sunset Lake. This is a complete abuse of power, since the order either comes from the Chief of Police or his superior. And we all know who his superior is. With tight budget constraints in almost every city today, how do you justify the cost to the citizens of Miami Beach for the Officers time and use of a boat to coddle to this one individual and ask your police officer to harass innocent boaters in clear violation of Florida State law. It is the hopes of all of the boating public that an investigation by higher authorities will provide answers if you will not. But I did feel it necessary to voice my opinion in this matter and give you the chance to respond. I await your answers.
Ah, the man often referred to in blogs and discussions of anyone who has anchored in or near Sunset Lake. The man who also abuses his (land) neighbors rights by blasting loud, obnoxious music to try to drive cruisers away, and shines spotlights on the boats as well.
This man has to be the single biggest waste of time for the Miami Beach Marine Unit’s officers. Anchor Fest should be a weekly event.
I wish I could be at your anchor fest. Thank you for speaking out. I suggest you put the notice out on utube or twitter. That will get a lot of young ones involved. They need to be aware of their future. Once again boaters are being a target. The politicians should have their benefits and salaries cut like many of the locals are having major cuts in their every day common life. Maybe they would not be able to afford the extras in life. Like a police force.
Thank you for doing this Wally Moran! I have experienced this citizen first hand and know that he can be nasty when he wants to be! We will be further north for the 4th of July but we will be there in spirit!! Please post photos, we would love love love to the see them!!
This is the email I sent today to the mayor of Miami Beach as well as the Miami Herald. I changed the citizen’s name in this posting to not put Cruiser’s Net in an awkward position of posting his name but I did not call him Citizen X in my letter to the mayor. I encourage ALL boaters who care about anchoring rights to email the mayor and to other cruisers who have first hand experience with this citizen, SPEAK UP!
Dear Mayor Bower,
As a cruising sailor that has enjoyed Miami Beach on several occasions on my sailboat over the past few years, I have to ask do you not understand what visiting boaters contribute to your community? By allowing your city’s police officers to essentially politely harass visiting boats anchored legally in Sunset Lake in Miami Beach you are discouraging boaters from visiting your city. Do you not realize in a recession how important tourist dollars are to your town? Do you think just because a visiting boat does not stay in a marina, we do not have money to spend? Boating is not a cheap lifestyle. Miami Beach is a great city full of interesting things to do, great places to eat, and wonderful places to shop. Trust me, when one visits Miami Beach, one spends money!
Citizen X has repeatedly called the police about boats anchored LEGALLY in the PUBLIC waters behind his house and he should be considered a nuisance to the city’s police force. He is trying to harass private citizens (tourists mind you!) engaging in LEGAL activities and the Miami Beach PD is doing his bidding!
I know from personal experience on two separate occasions how citizen x can be. A year ago we were anchored in front of his house as we were transiting the ICW south and he came up to our boat in his power boat and politely asked us if we would consider anchoring in front of the vacant lot instead of in front of his house. It really made no difference to us and he was polite so we moved.
This past winter he called the police on our friends and when the police boat came out they were extremely apologetic and specifically told our friends that they had a legal right to be there and the Police visit was pretty much for show to appease `a certain neighbor’.
That is an utterly appalling waste of police resources!! As the mayor you’d think that you would be concerned about that, not condoning it! It would be an entirely different story if these boats were doing something illegal or something to bother Mr. Karlton but boats using public waters legally is really none of citizen x’s concern is it? You would think after the first couple of phone calls the police would tell him they are not going to respond to it anymore but I am guessing someone higher up the political food chain is putting a little pressure on the police force’¦
If you Google Anchor Fest Miami Beach, bully on the waterway in Miami Beach, or `citizen x’s name you will see the negative attention this story is getting on the major cruising boards across the internet. Trust me, people will stop visiting Miami Beach on a matter of principle, anchoring boaters as well as the boaters who utilize the dock space in Miami Beach, because us cruisers, we stick together.
Hope `citizen X’s’ political contributions were worth it for you.
This is one incident that is becoming the norm here in Florida and will become law by way of ordinances if we don’t get busy and let our voices be heard.
What we’re talking about here are CRUISERS. Cruisers (called `non-liveaboards’ even though cruisers may indeed live aboard) and includes the recreational boater who navigates the waters cannot by regulated with regard to anchoring, according to FL Statute 327(60). The People of Florida demanded that Statute stay intact. IT DID.
But a 13th hour FWC Pilot Program goes around that and is exempt from adhering to the Statute. As FWC posted on their site `Due to pressures from homeowners and some others’¦.’ [they added the Pilot Program and submitted it along with what the PUBLIC agreed would be revisions to the Statutes]. This was AFTER it was submitted to the Legislature: done without Public input or knowledge’¦a back door loophole for those who have political pull to continue to try to override the majority of what Floridians wanted. THIS is what is so scandalous about the Pilot Program.
Five sites were to be named yet Sarasota immediately jumped the gun and put up a 72-hour anchoring limit. It was challenged and they dropped it, but everyone who knew anything knew that Sarasota would definitely be one of the five sites to participate in the Pilot Program. It is a self-serving program for a few to get what they want despite what the people have used due process to show as their choice: NO ORDINANCES ON ANCHORING for Florida cruisers! When they named the five sites, it was incredulous that one site is ALL OF MONROE COUNTY! This is what happens when people are confused and don’t know what is going on. The Pilot Program is nothing more than a way to ignore the majority and quell the whining of a few powerful minority to take away the freedom of boats in navigation, and use our tax dollars to do it! Misuse of government resources is blatant here.
The Pilot Program is not focused on derelict boats or hulks as those vessels are already subject to regulation and have been since 2006. Cruisers and recreational boaters are the ONLY ones outside of being regulated, based on our right to navigation as per Maritime Law. We need choices and options ‘” not anchoring ordinances! By confusing people and making them think the Pilot Program was needed to help rid harbors of derelicts and sewage is exactly what they want you to think. They can already do that! I fought from day one the Pilot Program and saw it for exactly what it was’¦but so many others could not see that there are people this powerful and this brazenly arrogant that they couldn’t see the forest for the trees. `How can they do that?’ Well, this Miami Beach incident is a perfect example and they are and will do it unless we stand up and expose it. The Pilot Program will eventually make it legal for them to do it by way of ordinances.
The FWC will be holding more workshops on the issue of anchoring rights for NON-LIVEABOARD VESSELS (that is all cruisers and recreational boaters whether you liveabord or not). See how confusing this is?! It is meant to be. This is so important, my good people. Get involved or lose your freedom.
There is a Workshop at the Government Center in Marathon, FL on June 8th at 6 pm. If you cannot attend, let your voice be heard by writing. We cannot let this happen. Public trust is being manipulated and we can help our local authorities fight back against those misusing that trust with our voices saying or pens writing that we won’t stand for our rights and wants being ignored.
Our authorities are essentially being forced to represent a few rather than the majority and the actual LAW. Just imagine what will happen if ordinances are allowed and cruisers and other recreational boaters are subject to anchoring restrictions by law. No thanks!
One ordinance outside of mooring fields will lead to another ordinance outside of beaches, then another, etc. There is no end to anchoring ordinances for cruisers and recreational boaters if we allow them to BEGIN.
The People of Florida said NO to them the first time and kept the Statute intact that protects our rights to anchor. This back door called the Pilot Program has got to be exposed for what it really is and SLAMMED SHUT. It is not about derelict vessels, or liveaboard hulks, it’s about YOU the boater, the cruiser, the person who navigates the waters of Florida, and enjoys dropping the hook without a visit from authorities telling you how long you can stay.
Captain Charmaine Smith Ladd
Well written, Capt. CSL. Yes, the Pilot Program seems to be a carte blanche for 5 sites to screw with regs between now and July 2014. After that the Legislature supposedly writes into FL law whatever has been effective. OR dumps the kitnkaboodle.
Continued appreciation to Claiborne Y who traveled to StAugustine to specifically address StAugustine’s Pilot proposed ordinance ideas. Claiborne got his three minutes in, and then in typical small town `we’d rather hear ourselves talk’ the mike got passed on. Not to be forgotten: a few years back we put MLKing behind bars. We’re more suave now, but City still gets to do things as City sees fit.
Captain Jay Bliss
St. Augustine Port Commissioner
I wrote the mayor with my protests, and if we were not many miles north, we would most certainly participate in the Anchor Fest.
I am a 66 year old cruiser, now in the Chesapeake for the summer and early fall, and a retired attorney having practiced privately in Miami for almost 25 years. Before that I was a trial atorney with the US Dept of Justice in Washington, DC. During the winter my wife and I often go out for overnighters and weekends and I’ll be damned if I will obey the illegal order of any officer, no matter how courteous, concerning moving from a legal anchorage. While anchored, we cause no disturbance or neuisance whatsoever. If I am arrested I will make sure that the source of the illegal order, presumably the mayor, will be prosecuted. The same is true for any homeowner causing the arrest.
As a long time member of the USpower Squadron , Key west aand now North Carolina, I feel its my duty to inform the resident at 2344 N Bay Rorad, Miami Beach, Sunset Lake Area that I will make a point at our next regular meeting to encourage all our members to locate and utilize that location when in the area as a palce to anchor and party. If you are at all familar with the Key west Squadron that can be a very noisy group of sailors.
This string is getting so lengthy, that I ‘m placing a link below for the continuing input received from 6/11/11, onward. If you are interested in this topic, don’t fail to follow this link, as you will read some very interesting correspondence between Captain Wally and the Miami Beach Chief of Police:
Click Here To Read Input Received Concerning the “Anchoring Incident in Miami Beach” after 6/11/11