Well, you may want to rethink your cunning plan before dropping anchor any old place. For you landlubbers out there living on the hook means living on a boat and anchored someplace that isn’t attached to firm land or bottom. Meaning no docks, piers, mooring balls, or other permanent type structures. Living on the hook has been popular for years for many liveaboards mainly for one particular reason…it’s free. No rent, no dock fees, just you, your boat, and a lot of faith in a few dozen yards of rope with a heavy weight attached to the end of it. Living on the hook has been very popular in the Keys, as you may well have surmised. The high rents and lack of affordable housing means for many it’s either go someplace else or find an alternative, and cheaper way to live. So, with all that water laying around here, for a lot of people it made sense to go find a boat, sail to a nice little spot offshore, drop anchor, and that’s it. Instant cheap housing. But, as you may have guessed by the tone of this post, living on the hook may soon become yet another Keys tradition to go off into the lore and history of the islands. Yes, there are forces out there who don’t like the idea of people living on boats and just plopping a big ole’ anchor down where ever they please. And they are trying to do something about it.
A pilot program is being proposed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife folks along with the Dept. of Environmental Resources to limit and ban in some cases anchoring in certain areas for long periods of time, namely liveaboards living on the hook. Monroe County, which covers the Keys is one of the places looking to enact such an ordinance. Those who are currently living on the hook are up in arms over the whole deal because if it passes, (and it will), those who are living for free out on the water will be forced to hook up to a mooring field and pay rent. The ordinance is due for a vote soon and the FWC and the county are taking feedback on the new law, both for and against.
This is one of those situations where everyone involved has a legitimate side to present:
Those who are currently living off shore and on the hook just want to be left the hell alone. They don’t want or can’t afford to hook up to a rent paying mooring or dock. They enjoy the solitude of life on the water away from land and there is a certain camaraderie that exists among liveaboards.
Those who live aboard and do use the mooring fields and few live aboard slips that are available will be squeezed to find a suitable place to tie up if a bunch more boats are thrown into the mix. Especially during the winter when all the snowbird boats head south. Finding good, affordable live aboard dockage is pretty tough as it is.
The FWC and DER have a sound argument for wanting to pass such an ordinance. Many of the boats out on the hook are in disrepair. They pump waste into the water and on a windy day their anchors will drag over sensitive grass and coral heads. Many are anchored in bays, harbors, and channels and don’t have working lights. So they present a hazard to navigation.
City and county governments, as with all governments, look at it from the money side. Many of these boats become derelict and are abandoned meaning the governments have to foot the bill to remove them. As for the mooring fields, they do bring in some sizable income from rents and other charges.
And there are the wealthy who live along the water front and like to bitch because some boats are blocking their view of the ocean. (Ok, so not all the arguments are legitimate).
In the end, after all the sides have been heard, it is the guess of this land locked captain that the ordinance will pass. Living on the hook will become a crime and eventually this law will cover the entire state of Florida. The deck is stacked against the liveaboards. There have been too many problems with dumping sewage, poorly kept boats, and other issues to stop this sort of thing. And to be honest, they have brought this on themselves. Had they kept their boats in better shape, obeyed pump out regulations, and all that, this ordinance may never have happened.
And of course you have the local governments who can’t stand the thought of people living around here for free, or almost free. As I mentioned earlier, those mooring fees bring in some nice income.
So in the end, the whole idea of just anchoring anyplace you want and living for free is about to come to an end. It’s kind of a shame but I can see everyones point of view…except for the wealthy who think they shouldn’t have to look at the great unwashed masses polluting their precious views. If you are planning on coming down here and living on a boat, start looking for suitable arrangements to tie up someplace, a mooring field, a marina, or dock. It looks like it will be your only option.