Florida Anchoring and Mooring Law

A new law is being considered in Florida that could have a huge impact on transient boaters who like to anchor out. I am opposed to this law, as it currently stands, for the following reasons:

1. The law allows cities to create mooring fields (the so-called "pilot" program) that drastically reduce, and quite possibly eliminate, anchoring opportunities in these communities. These mooring fields will probably take up all of the best anchoring room, and the law allows cities to enact ordinances prohibiting anchoring outside the mooring fields. Note that the mooring fields in Ft. Myers Beach and Marathon have essentially eliminated all anchoring except for the shallowest draft boats. This law does not protect access for the public, and in particular transient boaters.
2. The law does say that the laws limiting anchoring around mooring fields must be approved by the FWC with proper input, but that is an awfully vague standard. No limits are placed on these laws. This is a huge loophole through which very onerous laws could be enacted. There should be clear-cut criteria on limiting anchoring: not within so many feet of the moorings might make some sense. But to allow communities to dream up any laws, subject only to the approval or disapproval of the FWC, puts total trust in our lawmakers, and provides no protection for boaters.
In any case, this may be a moot point in many harbors (like Ft. Myers Beach and Marathon). If the mooring fields cover all of the good anchoring area, there won't be anyplace to anchor.
3. There are miscellaneous disasters in the law waiting to happen. One that jumped out at me is that counties will be allowed to charge boaters up to half of the regular Florida registration fee for the privilege of being in the county. Every county will look at this as a way to pick up revenue by hounding boaters for their fees and probably requiring some sort of sticker to prove that you've paid.
In short, this law does nothing for transient boaters, and probably will also negatively impact Floridians who wish to cruise the state.

The Recession and Cruising

What does the recession mean to cruisers? I've heard tales of cruisers having to return to the U.S. due to dramatic drops in their retirement funds. I suspect that a lot of these folks will stick out the recession outside of the U.S., but they will probably be flocking in greater numbers to the really cheap areas like Mexico or South America. 

Strangely, in the U.S. I have yet to see much impact on prices for boating equipment or dockage. Marinas seem to be mostly full up, but possibly some folks on waiting lists are finally getting their chance for a space. I did detect many fewer cruisers out in New England waters at the beginning of the summer, but things seemed to pick up towards the fall. 

To compensate for somewhat fewer boaters marine businesses seem to be raising prices to keep profits up. The hardcore, dedicated boaters will still stick with the sport as long as feasible, so maybe prices can be jacked up to compensate for reduced demand, but eventually I think we should begin to see some price drops on dockage and moorings. For example, I noticed mid-week specials in some marinas last summer, something I don't ever recall seeing before in July. 

The current drop in fuel prices may delay some folks getting rid of their gas guzzling powerboats, but obviously there will be another dramatic rise in price if the economy ever picks up again. If you've got some free cash, this might be an ideal time to look for that more fuel-efficient boat, or that sailboat of your dreams. Published prices haven't come down that much, but anecdotal evidence indicates owners are willing to deal. Today I saw a craigslist.com (the best free classifieds for smaller local boats) ad that was begging someone to buy his boat, "Please!" 

My read of the economic tea leaves is that the economy is only going to get worse before it gets better, so I suspect it will be a buyers market right through 2009. The best bargain in cruising right now might just be the U.S. With fuel prices relatively low, the possibility of economic stagnation keeping prices on marinas and food low for awhile, and less crowding on the water will all mean good cruising times. Couple that with the relative safety and lack of crime in the U.S., and we've got it pretty good right here. A U.S. cruise could easily be spiced up with a trip to Canada, the Bahamas, or Alaska without leaving behind most of the advantages of a domestic trip.