The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has an excellent (not yet fully implemented) online tool for tracking location and essential information on derelict boats. For the Florida East Coast, when the underlying data is parsed it reveals:
- 66% of derelict recreational boats are Florida registered, and this percentage is slightly understated because the “Registration NA” boats probably contain some number of Florida registered boats.
- Of the derelict boats for which length data is available (87%), the median boat size (all types) is 26 feet and the mean is 27 feet (discounting an outlier). Two thirds are between 22 and 32 feet.
- Across both registration categories sailboats account for 40%, cabin-power for 19%.
- 75% of the 170+ derelicts are in Monroe, Miami-Dade, Brevard and Broward Counties, but…
- In Broward County 68% of the boats identified as derelict are in slips.
- Most of the pictures of “Registration NA” boats and many of the “FL Registered” depict hulls so old that removal would entail little legal effort.
- The few commercial hulks, barges, etc were not counted.
- The boat registration and length data is extracted from graphics files in the FWC tool by hand; there may have been a few errors.
What can we draw from this?
- The registration data doesn’t support derelict boats being driven by out of state/foreign cruisers.
- The size data doesn’t support derelict boats being driven by cruisers, period. Yes, we have taken over 500 and 1000 mile trips in a 23 footer (1976) and a 29 footer (1980), but what we see on the waters today is 35-45 footers. Although to be balanced, 18% of the measured derelicts are 35 feet or greater — the same percentage as boats 21 feet or less.
- From the FWC photos, the sailboats, with few exceptions, are not equipped as long range cruisers, they look to be local boats that were either uninsured or insured and totaled, and the local owners just walked away.
- Broward County’s slipped derelicts should be discounted when talking about anchoring issues.
- Money for removal is more of an issue than authority for removal.
Finally (well, that apparently never happens in this debate), we don’t like looking at or being anchored near derelicts or imminent derelicts any more than any other Floridian. We don’t like them clogging up our few and far between safe anchorages. We don’t like them driving municipalities to create maritime ghettos that wipe out those few and far between safe anchorages.
We believe the data above is a reason for the latest shift to attempting to ban anchoring on the basis of defamatory accusations rather than data. It’s pretty clear from the data, cruisers don’t come to Florida to abandon their boats.