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Key West finds most of those living 'on the hook' are part of the local workforce

Rows of dinghies at the docks of the Key West seaport.
Nancy Klingener
/
WLRN
The city of Key West surveyed people who live anchored out on boats and use the city's dinghy docks and found the vast majority are part of the local workforce.

A state law approved last year says boats anchored offshore in the Keys must move every 90 days. But it doesn't take effect until 250 new moorings are added within a mile of the Key West seaport.

Many liveaboard boaters object to the law, saying it would cause unnecessary risk and environmental damage if they have to haul up secure anchors and move every three months.

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Now there's a bill in the state Legislature that could make the new rules take effect sooner, by reducing the number of new moorings required from 250 to 100.

The county had originally estimated there were 95 liveaboard boats in the Key West Harbor area.

"With the dockmasters that are there every day, they knew that number was low," said Doug Bradshaw, the city's port director. "I've actually got a couple dockmasters that live in the mooring field or anchored off. They're living it, they're seeing it. So they know there's more."

Bradshaw said the number fluctuates around 200. In January there were 225. He says out of the 225 liveaboard vessels, people on 178 of them said they had jobs in town.

"So obviously there's a large workforce population living out on the hook," he said.

City Commissioner Sam Kaufman says that's evidence that the proposed amendment to the anchoring law won't work.

"With 100 new mooring balls being constructed, there will not be enough for every liveaboard and visitor who would want one," he said.

The city's current mooring field is full, with about 150 moorings and a waiting list, Bradshaw said. The city does expect to clear up about 20 spaces through a new policy that doesn't allow the mooring field to be used to store a boat.

But he said, "there's a lot of folks out there that will never want to go to a mooring. Because there's a cost associated with the mooring. Is 100 enough? Is 200 enough? I'm not sure," he said. "I think 100's probably low. I think 200's probably a little much so I can't answer that until we actually put them out and see who truly wants to go to a mooring."

Monroe County and the state say the limits on anchoring would prevent derelict vessels. Abandoned boats cause environmental damage and are expensive to remove. Last year, the county spent almost $500,000 removing 80 derelict vessels.

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