A dinghy dock serves as a landing point for boaters anchored off the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach. Officials say the number of boats at the anchorage has doubled in the past two years. Islander Photo: Merab-Michal Favorite
In Bradenton Beach, a certain derelict sailboat without a mast doesn’t want to stay put.
The boat is now tied up to the public dock on 12th Street South, but broke away from its anchorage, got tied up to the dock, then broke away again.
There seems to be no way of keeping the vessel in place as the dock lines are rotted.
“I get complaints all the time about this boat,” commissioner Jan Vosburgh said during a work session April 15. “People are saying it’s ruining the dock and fear it could be dangerous if it breaks away again.”
The boat on 12th Street is just one of a number of a rising number of vessels anchored off the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Sarasota Bay that are creating concerns for law enforcement.
Mayor Bill Shearon said the Bradenton Beach Police Department now will work with the U.S. Coast Guard at Station Cortez and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission law enforcement arm to make sure all the boats anchored offshore are registered with the state.
“Instead of waiting until the thing sinks, or breaks loose and floats into a dock we are trying to be proactive instead of reactive on this,” he said. “That way we reduce the expense of recovering submerged vessels or repairing damages.”
All boats in Florida for 90 days or more require registration from the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles, according to dmv.org. The only boats exempt are those used strictly as lifeboats or cruisers traveling through who do not plan to stay more than three months.
Boats must be registered with the tax collector’s office within 30 days of purchase and require a sized-based registration fee ranging from $12-$200.
The U.S. Coast Guard and Florid Fish and Wildlife routinely inspect the boats anchored offshore to make sure they are in compliance with environmental laws regarding sewers and greywater, or wastewater generated from washbasins and baths.
However, Police Chief Sam Speciale said most of boaters are good about the environmental regulations, registration often gets overlooked.
“The problem with the boats here, is that many of them have been here for years,” he said. “When one person decides they don’t want to be a liveaboard anymore, they simply give the boat to someone else to live on.”
Speciale says that while original owners usually hand over the title, they often forget to register the vessel to the new owner. The exchange tends to create confusion in the event of a boat breaking loose from it’s holding.
“When the boat is adrift, (the BBPD) is left solving the mystery as to who owns the boat,” he said.
Boats that look dilapidated are considered “at risk” and are tagged by law enforcement authorities, entered into a database and tracked, according to the FWC website myfwc.org. A letter to the owner asks that he or she take action. If no one responds to the letter or tag, the vessel is considered derelict and may be removed by law enforcement at the owner’s expense. However, before this occurs, citizens have the right to claim the vessel as found property. As long as the person goes through the required steps to legally own the vessel, he or she can become the skipper.
Speciale said a vessel considered at risk will now be deemed a derelict vessel and posted, regardless of whether there is someone living aboard.
“What this is going to do is force the people living on the boat to have it registered,” he said. “They will have to claim it as found property and go through the required steps to keep it there.”
Speciale said there has been an influx of livaboards over the past two years as a result of the city of Sarasota operations at its mooring field in Sarasota Bay just outside of Marina Jack, 2 Marina Plaza.
The field allows for 35 vessels at a time and requires a fee of $250 a month or $25 a day for the use of the anchorage and amenities. Features include showers and laundry, Wi-Fi, a pumping vessel, a trash and recycling service and more.
Speciale said that many of the people who used to live on boats near Marina Jack relocated in the anchorage near the Historic Bridge Street Pier because they had access to many of the same amenities minus the price.
He also said the city of Bradenton Beach planned to create and operate its own mooring field 10 years ago, adding space on the pier for a harbormaster office, laundry and showers, however the plan never came to fruition.
“We decided that we would be spending more than we could take in,” he said. “So the effort was abandoned.”
Today the showers and restrooms still exist, but are closed after business hours of the restaurants located on the pier.
The number of boats that call the harbor home has doubled.
“We think focusing on the registration is going to solve a lot of issues,” Speciale said.