Monday, January 20, 2014
Staying free on the water
There are a lot of live aboards here in Florida's waters. On the surface it doesn't look all that hard. Get a boat, find a nice anchorage, and settle in. Get a place with access to fresh water and some basic supplies and there you go.
There are some traps to watch out for. The land folk will hate you for your freedom. They worked hard for their place on the water. The sight of dilapidated old boats cluttering up their view is an affront to tender sensibilities.
Local police, both land and water based, know who pays their salaries. It's not the sea hobos. I've heard tales of plenty of police harassment. Federal maritime law may trump local ordnances, but the local cop does not care about that. It doesn't help to be right if your boat is seized on some trumped up charge. It'll be hauled to the crusher and you'll be homeless. If you are living on an old boat to begin with, you probably don't have the money to fight the local establishment.
There are some defenses. Freedom might be a right, but it's not free. At a minimum, the boat's papers should be up to date. It's pretty basic, but it's surprising how many boats are completely unregistered. Have all the basic safety gear required by the Coast Guard. That's only good sense if you are going to be on the water.
Keep your boat as a boat. Make sure it has a set of usable sails and/or a motor in good condition. I've seen local crackdowns on that. Probably wouldn't hurt to not have a foot of bottom growth on your hull either. That's all part of your best defense -move. Maybe the local anchorage was great at one time, but things change. I've seen changes in towns in the few weeks since I've last been through this area.. One in particular has suddenly gone from very friendly to a whole lot less friendly. When the nice public restrooms on the docks are suddenly closed, that's a message.
Boat life can be incredibly free, but that freedom can't be taken for granted. On the bright side, there are still plenty of places who actually celebrate their water based neighbors. It's all part of the local color to entertain the tourists.
I'm still figuring this stuff out. Plenty of people made it work.