OUR WATERWAYS Anchoring Case Between Boater & City of Stuart, FL, has Far-Reaching Implications By Steve Morrell
Last June, we reported on a court case in Stuart, FL, where the city had to settle with a boater, paying him $2000 along with giving him a letter of apology. This was in exchange for him dropping his federal lawsuit against the city for a citation he received for “improperly” anchoring his boat within the city limits. The city also paid some of his attorney fees and agreed to change a city ordinance on non-liveaboard boats. The ordinance the city agreed to change brought the definition of ”in navigation” to conform to established state and federal maritime law. The old ordinance essentially stated that non-liveaboard boats are no longer in navigation if they are anchored for more than 10 days.
With the settlement of a lawsuit in Stuart, FL, chances are better that non-liveaboard boaters can anchor in more waters without fear of breaking the law—at least in Stuart, anyway. Photo by Steve Morrell.
This settlement has far-reaching implications for cruisers, not just in Stuart, but in Florida and the rest of the country as well. This is because the settlement was reached as a result of a federal lawsuit. Although the federal lawsuit was never decided in court, the threat of it has implications that will affect all communities in the United States, in more ways than just those that deal with waterways. Since that agreement between the boater and the city, which was settled on May 16, I have had a chance to communicate with the attorney representing the boater and review some of the documents that were part of the final agreement. The Origins of the Anchoring Lawsuit The anchoring controversy started back in 2003 when the city of Stuart began enforcing an anchoring ordinance that prohibited non-liveaboard vessels from anchoring within the city limits for more than 10 days. Many felt this law was illegal at the time, but it had not yet been contested, so it remained in doubt for some time, while the city enforced it. Vincent Sibilla, the boater, had previous run-ins with the city on the anchoring law. In this instance, Sibilla was cited for anchoring his vessel, the Katie J, for more than 10 days in the Okeechobee Waterway within the city limits. The Stuart law provided that, “It shall be unlawful for any person to anchor or leave at anchor in the navigable waters of the city a nonliveaboard vessel that is no longer exercising the