Trouble May Be Brewing in the Boca Grande – Gasparilla Island Basin Anchorage (Western Florida ICW, Statute Mile 28.5)
OK, the little note below heralds some real, POTENTIAL trouble!
Let’s first acknowledge that a collection of semi-permanently anchored vessels in Boca Grande Bayou are a REAL problem, not only for island residents, but also for legitimate cruisers who find much of the space in this wonderfully sheltered anchorage occupied by these, as I call them, “live aboard hulks.” For several years, I’ve been encouraging the local authorities in Boca Grande to solve this problem by enforcing existing MSD regulations and marina salvage laws.
Now, it sounds from the short note below as if something Draconian MAY be in the works, which will prohibit anchorage by all vessels in the basin anchorage. And, if I may be allowed an editorial comment here, the local lawyers can say they are “finished with the paperword,” but I can tell you unquestionably from my own involvement with the Florida anchoring rights struggle, if Boca Grande attempts to prohibit all anchorage in Boca Grande Bayou, or even put a time limit on such anchorage, they will be in clear violation of Florida state law!
Stay tuned, we are trying to get more clarification in this situation.
Subject: Boca Grande Bayou
I just received this from a friend of mine.
Frank and Chuck,
We just spent several nice days at the Boca Bayou. But Saturday afternoon we were in the dinghy when the sheriff’s deputy came motoring in. He called to us and asked if we were from the sailboats. When we said yes, he responded that they were coming to give trespassing tickets “soon”. We had to ask for more info. He said that the lawyers had finally finished with all the paperwork and were now ready to issue tickets as all the land belongs to the Gasparilla Inn. He said the marine patrol and the FWC would be out to give the tickets. We asked what he meant by “soon” and he said, “not today”.
And, we have received the following comment from Captain Chuck Baier, editor of the “Waterway Guide.” Chuck is quite right in what he says, IF AND ONLY IF Gasparilla Inn actually owns or leases the bottom land in the “basin anchorage.”
Claiborne, You comments about Gasparilla being in violation of Florida law, may or may not be correct. As a former marina manager in south Florida, I know that there are certain situations where an individual or commercial entity holds title to a part of the waterway including the bay bottom. This is identical to holding a deed for a piece of land. If Gasparilla Inn does indeed hold title to the bay bottom, they can restrict use of the area and someone anchoring can be charged with trespassing. There is a formal procedure in Florida for issuing a trespass citation. Perhaps the authorities are trying to sort out the actual title to the bay bottom, and perhaps it is a bluff to keep folks moving. I suppose time will tell.
Captain Nicole’s remarks below mirror my own view almost exactly on the basin/Boca Grande Bayou anchorage. It would be a crime if cruising vessels were barred from anchoring on these waters, AND there is indeed a problem in this basin with derelicts and “live aboard hulks.” Once again, local authorities should use MSD regulations and marine salvage laws to solve this latter problem!
As someone who anchored here twice north and south bound, this would be a sad anchorage to lose as it is so protected and in a really lovely town. I can tell you from experience there that I know of at least one boat where the owner moved back to California and pretty much abandoned his vessel anchored there. We know that just from the 3 days we spent there and based on the state of disrepair of some of the other vessels, I would guess that their owners are not returning anytime soon.
And, more from Captain Chuck at Waterway Guide:
Just more hijinks in Florida. I know that some homeowners in Boot Key Harbor found out their deeds included the bay bottom in front of their homes and began calling the Sheriff whenever someone anchored there. The Sheriff made the boater move but could not write a citation or do anything official unless they refused to move. The area must be posted with a no trespassing sign for the Sheriff to act or write a citation. A little hard to do on the water although not impossible. It may be that new owners of the Inn or someone searched the title and found they own the bay bottom. Or as I said, it may be a ruse to keep any other boats out long term. I managed Bonefish Marina in Marathon, and we owned the entire basin including the bay bottom. The slips are condo and when you buy one you get a deeded piece of property, even though it is under water. It will be interesting to see how it turns out. Florida is always a fun place.
I’m not a lawyer. But, my admittedly limited understanding is that there are two types of submerged lands in Florida ‘“ Privately Owned, and State Owned. Originally, all was State Owned ‘“ but provisions were made to grant title to private entities at some point. However, my understanding is that any conveyance of submerged lands that are under navigable water to a private party includes provisions for public access and use for navigation and commerce. Anchoring is part of `navigation’. In other words, there should be language in the privately held title that states use of the overlying waters by the public can not be forbidden. Therefore, it would seem a private owner of submerged lands would not be able to preclude navigation ‘“ and navigation necessarily includes anchoring. Regardless, Florida sure is an interesting place to live! I hope someone gets lawyered-up and challenges this.
Tom Scott, Punta Gorda FL.