Letter: Article on mooring misleading

Jay Bliss, USCG Licensed Captain
St. Augustine Port Commissioner Seat 5

Dear Editor:

The minor furor in today’s St. Augustine paper is a bit misleading: I would like Historic City News readers to know that our mooring fields provide a good service to cruisers and residents of St. Augustine and St. Johns County alike.

The issues related to mooring fields are separate from the issues related to the pilot program now being promoted by the city’s General Services Director, Jim Piggott.

Some boaters will choose to drop their own anchor; however, having the mooring fields does not require us to adopt the pilot program. A push for more revenue from the mooring fields seems to be driving the pilot program.

The city has never consulted with the Port regarding the anchoring laws it would impose through the pilot program. At our last Port meeting, Piggott asked the Port Commission to vote for the pilot program — when the Port board had never been presented the laws. The Port Commission has never discussed the pilot program proposal.

The city chose to put in 163 mooring balls. That is a lot. Miami has 225. Not a big difference — if you consider the giant leap in population.

There are costs to putting in mooring balls. There will be costs to maintaining them as they age.

However, the laws envisioned under the pilot program, if enacted sometime in December of this year, will require all of our “on-the-water” law enforcement officers to activate their record books and their measuring tapes.

Those boaters who do drop their own anchor will get ten days in city waters and then they will be told to move. Law enforcement officers will be tied up trying to enforce that chase; all the while time limits on anchoring have already been shot down in Federal courts in Stuart and Naples.

Under the Pilot program, law enforcement officers would have to measure that no boat anchors within fifty feet of a buoy, or a piling, or a dock. They would have to measure 100 feet from mooring field boundaries. They get to measure if you are 50 feet from the edge of the San Sebastian. They get to write tickets based on certifiable measurements on the water; taken from their boat to some other point.

Can we honestly ask our law enforcement officers to engage in those activities? Then, why?

At our last Port meeting, I asked FWC Lt. Zukowsky how that measuring game would play out. He said he would leave that part up to City officers; except that Piggott said from the lectern that these laws were to be enforced by everyone — FWC included.

Right now, on the books, is Florida law 327.44: No vessel shall anchor … in a manner which shall unreasonably or unnecessarily constitute a Navigational hazard.

That seems simple enough. No having to establish in court that your measuring device was properly calibrated, etc. No need to have markers saying, “no anchoring within 50 feet of this dock” (and that buoy, and that seawall, etc).

The proposed laws under the pilot program make a further demand on law enforcement. I would rather see us enforce the laws we already have.

The St. Augustine pilot program laws would reduce anchoring opportunities. Boaters prize their freedom to navigate, and navigating includes anchoring.

We need a “welcome” mat, not a “keep-moving” mat.

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News archive photograph

Share your thoughts with our readers >>