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As Florida takes aim at derelict vessels in the Keys, some worry about losing an affordable way to live

A photograph of sailboats in Key West harbor
Mark Hedden
The city of Key West estimates 250 to 300 boats are "on the hook," anchored around the island. The biggest community is in Key West Harbor.

All state waters in Monroe County are now an anchoring limitation area. That means boats that are anchored out "on the hook" must move every three months.

But the law can't be enforced until there are 300 new moorings near Key West. The state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently held a public roundtable to get input on any changes the law might need.

"Our focus is really on the environmental issues and the ever growing problem of the number of derelict vessel issues we face in the Florida Keys," said Florida FWC Commissioner Robert Spottswood, who lives in Key West.

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According to the FWC, the Keys have the most derelict vessels in the state. FWC Major Rob Beaton said 176 boats are currently designated derelict. The state and county usually remove about 60 of them a year, at a cost of $240,000.

But boats are also one of the last ways to live affordably in the Keys. Susanne Kynast said her houseboat won't fit in a mooring field and she doesn't want to leave the anchorage off Marathon where she knows her neighbors.

"I depend on staying in my place so I can go to work," she said. "I have a massive set of anchors out so my 38-foot houseboat doesn't drift into other vessels during storms."

The state Legislature will likely address the issue of anchoring off the Keys again at its session scheduled to start in January.

Want to keep up with the latest stories out of the Florida Keys like this one? Sign up for The Tieline, our newsletter focused on all things Keys and Monroe County. The newsletter will arrive in your inbox every two weeks and is written and curated by WLRN’s southernmost reporter Nancy Klingener. She shares her reporting, the latest news out of the Keys and much more. Head here to sign up.

Nancy Klingener was WLRN's Florida Keys reporter until July 2022.
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