Monday, November 7, 2011

Nautical class warfare

One of the really attractive things about living on a sailboat is the possibility of doing it on very little money. There are individuals living on boats for as little as $300/month -couples doing it for $500. In most places that won’t get you a fleabag apartment.

Now to live on so little, certain adjustments have to be made. One key component is the ability to anchor out. Living on your own hook is free. Moorings and marinas cost money. They also require things like insurance. Those added expenses can change the whole dynamic.

There seems to be a trend against poor boaters. Police are doing dark of night raids in many places. Some anchorages in Florida are getting a bad reputation. I’ve heard of crackdowns in a half dozen places, the last one being in Key West. More than anything else, they appear to be harassment raids. They never seem to board the new 5 million dollar yacht. No, it’s the folks in the 30 foot, 40 year old fiberglass production boat who gets it. I’ve yet to hear of these raids discovering anything of significance.

It’s definitely class warfare. The people with the 10 million dollar waterfront homes don’t like the fact that the guy anchored off their beach in a funky boat has a better view than they do. Then there’s the money that can be squeezed out of boaters by charging mooring and dockage fees. If they can’t afford to pay to stay, then they are harassed until they move.

Florida sticks out, but it’s not the only place making it harder on the little guys. Even my state of New Hampshire has made it illegal to stay overnight on a boat. The rich cottage owners on the big lake Winnipesaukee didn’t like poor folk anchoring off their beaches. They seemed to be having too much fun.

I’m wondering if this won’t eventually backfire on those communities. Boats will move to friendlier waters. Communities who make them welcome benefit. Even the most frugal boater has to buy supplies, equipment, and materials.

This winter, as I sail around Florida in my tiny cheap sailboat, I’ll see what’s really going on. Being who and what I am, I’ll be checking for ways around the system. My lovely wife and I plan to someday live part of the year on a sailboat -a slightly bigger sailboat maybe, but we won’t be mistaken for the 1%. (or maybe even the top 75%)

I’ve chosen to look upon these assaults on freedom as a game to be won. I never could resist a new and interesting game. If the rich want to get all official and high and mighty, it just might be time to hoist the colors and break rules with a zest only a pirate could appreciate.



  1. When we first came to Florida in 97, it was still relatively boater friendly here in Melbourne. Not so much these days...For exactly the reasons you state. Don't be discouraged though. When you get to Melbourne there are still places that one can anchor without being hassled. Unlike Vero, where anchoring is outright banned.
    The further south ya get, the more uppity the local residents.
    There is an anchoring guide for cruisers available which is sold for a reasonable price. A must have for Intracoastal cruising.
    Forget what it's called at the moment, but I'll look it up before you sail.

  2. Spud: They do get uppity down south. I was able to pick up a current Maptech Embassy Cruising guide. It has anchoring info. Also use Active Captain for current updates.

  3. I'm sorry, but much of Florida is not the South. I grew up in the Memphis area. I also lived in Naples, Fl for 5.5 years. It was the most miserable period of my life.

    People would come up to me and ask me where I was from after hearing me speak. I told them I was from the south.... which was actually north of there.

  4. Matt: It's the southern part of FL along the coast where I've run into uppity people. You are right that FL in general is a different animal than most of the south. Of course, FL is so big, that there's a huge cultural difference between the north central area and Miami. The Panhandle is a different than the Keys.

  5. I'm really sorry to hear that the Authoritahs are hitting the less affluent boaters with more attention, you think they'd have better things to do like hit meth labs or drug dealers, but thats just old hat for them I guess. I hope you and the wife have a great time boating in Florida.

  6. Well that's one good thing about the souh Texas coast I guess. There are plenty of ramshackle fishing cabins up and down the intracoastal (and some pretty damn fancy ones too) as well as "floaters". Floaters can be anything from a cabin on foam blocks to an old houseboat. You can anchor almost anywhere you want to. Almost anywhere between here and South Padre Island, you'll have the water virtually to yourself during the weekdays. It's all ranch on the mainland, and National Seashore from here to the Mansfield jetties on the island.