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Docking in Cocoa FL Going Through Changes By Roy Laughlin Docking is limited to three hours at Cocoa’s waterfront. While the three-hour limit is loosely enforced during the day, overnight docking is restricted more vigorously.


owntown Cocoa started along the Indian River waterfront, and its public waterfront still sprawls for hundreds of feet north and south of the State Road 520 causeway. It has always been a stopping point for local sailors and those in transit between the Caribbean and points north on the ICW. In the last couple of decades, a redevelopment project has made Cocoa not only a place where people could stop, it made it a place sailors wanted to stop. When so many did stop, Brevard County and Cocoa officials made some missteps managing the waterfront dockage and mooring. Many of the county’s and city’s policies have now been clarified and coordinated to make use of waterfront facilities a little bit easier and a whole lot more understandable. Here is a synopsis of the rules as of summer 2008: Docking: Boaters may tie up to finger piers near the boat ramps and to the T-pier facing south from Lee Winner Park for up to three hours. This rule is enforced by Cocoa’s “volunteer cops.” The three-hour rule is loosely enforced during the day. The city is attempting to vigorously enforce a “no overnight docking” policy. (More on this below). Anchoring: Anchoring is concentrated south of the power lines running parallel to and south of the SR 520 causeway. Until last year, people were anchoring between the power lines and the causeway. The areas where people are anchoring are both north and south of the Oleander Point condominiums. Rockledge, whose city limit is just south of Oleander Point, does not allow liveaboard yachters and restricts anchoring to two days. The city has not routinely enforced this rule in the absence of problems. Brevard County has jurisdiction on the east side of the ICW off Cocoa and Rockledge. Anchoring there is permitted with fewer restrictions. Whether a “no-anchoring” rule between the power lines and the SR 520 causeway is a regulation promulgated by any authority is not clear. But it is a good practice, providing safe access to the docks and boating ramps in the park.

indefinitely tying up to the piers, including the finger piers in Cocoa’s more recently constructed Riverfront Park. In addition, there were complaints that people were bringing their boats to those piers for servicing by mechanics and canvas-makers. In those cases, the boats might be there for hours or perhaps several days. The county responded by stopping all docking at the T-pier. Docking continued at the finger piers near the boat ramps. Space at the finger piers was clearly inadequate. Additional confusion arose when the county posted signs on the T-pier. They were worded as “No Mooring,” when the intention was to stop “docking.” That created a confusion-engendered controversy because boaters anchored thought that they were being targeted. In the meantime, people who were tying to the dock did not think it affected them because they were docking, not mooring. Early in 2008, Brevard County reopened the T-pier to docking for periods no longer than three hours, and the city of Cocoa coordinated with county policy. City docks adopted the three-hour policy as well. According to Wendy Widman, Cocoa’s assistant city manager, the city will continue to follow the county’s lead on time limits in both Riverfront Park and Lee Winner Park. Jack Masson mentioned one important consideration for boaters tying up to the T-pier: It was never intended for and is not now structurally strong enough to hold large boats. At one point, a party boat tied to it, and that resulted in some structural damage. The T-pier will certainly hold sailboats under 30 feet and motorboats of approximately that length as well. Sailors should not rely on it to hold boats safely under strong winds from the southeast. It is not suitable for hurricane docking. In spite of the recent past, the riverfront in Cocoa is again as accessible to the public as it ever was. If the public could only afford gas to get there.

Docking and mooring regulations have a long and confused recent history along the waterfront in Cocoa. Brevard County built the first park there, Lee Winner Park, in the 1970s. The park included boat ramps, and the large T-pier facing south into the Indian River. According to Jack Masson, operations director of the central district, Brevard County Parks and Recreation, that pier was built with funding from the Florida Boating Improvement Program, so it certainly was intended for use by boaters. As time went on, swimmers and fishermen complained that docked boats were interfering with their activities. The biggest problem however, was that some boat owners were News & Views for Southern Sailors

SOUTHWINDS September 2008