"Not only is the universe stranger than what we imagine,
it is stranger than what we can imagine."
Sir Arthur Eddington

Freedom of Navigation


Anchored in the Grenadines
Anchored in the Grenadines


A frequent question asked by our non-boating, non-cruising friends is where do we go each night to sleep on the boat? What they assume is that we go to a marina each night. That becomes very expensive. When we tell them we anchor out, they are surprised that we can do that at will and at no cost! From the standpoint of a non-boater that is surprising. Whenever they go away, the cost of hotel, motel or even a camp ground is not free. Even if they don’t go away, they have a mortgage or rent or real estate taxes to pay for their housing. From our perspective anchoring is part of the right to freedom of navigation and innocent passage, a recognized international right with a long and legal tradition. But like everything else, it is subject to increased scrutiny due to world-wide population growth, environmental awareness, monetary prerogatives, the competitive imperative of economics and territorial sovereignty. Ultimately the view is that cruisers are getting away with murder. (Note: landing in any country requires Customs, Immigration and Port clearances and fees). Three recent news articles highlight the problem: recreational boaters getting places to live or anchor their boat for free.

Anchored in Florida
Anchored in Florida


In Florida, landlubbers have been trying to outlaw the practice of overnight anchoring for years. The Seven Seas Cruising Association has been fighting the battle to protect anchoring rights there but it may be just a matter of time before more restrictive laws and regulations limit where you can anchor. Ostensibly, the argument is that derelict boats are clogging the waterways, boat pollution is destroying the environment and the boaters are draining the public treasury. There is, of course, a grain of truth in these arguments but they obscure the fact that all human activity, including exclusive residential enclaves, can be so accused. The major proponents of these laws are, not surprisingly, the property owners whose pristine waterfront view is marred by the sight of anchored boats. I have written about this before and complained that the pristine view of shoreline from our boat is marred by the man-made structures littering the shoreline. In any case the battle continues.

In Newport RI, recent information informed boaters that a regulation that at all times at least one person must be on a boat while at anchor. Presumably to discourage long term anchoring and the problem of floating homesteads. They have since amended the regulation to requiring a person aboard after midnight. Let’s see how that works!

Finally, an article in All at Sea by Fatty Goodlander reports on the anchoring situation in Tonga in the Pacific Ocean. Eighteen years ago he sailed to Tonga (He and his wife are on their fourth circumnavigation around the world) where it cost $4.00 to stay six months. A few years later it was $40. A few years later $380. He is there now and “The cost of official fees while cruising Tonga are now almost limitless [including anchoring and mooring fees]…” Seem the locals have the authority to demand unlimited payments. Have they discovered a vein of gold sailing to their islands?

On a mooring in the BVI's
On a mooring in the BVI's


I understand and agree that participants in any society have a responsibility to contribute to the greater good of that society. More often than not, that takes the form of monetary transactions or laws of conduct. After all, that is why money and regulations were invented. And yes, boaters or cruisers are part of a society, even if just visiting. But monetary transactions, payments, or fees and laws of conduct can, and are, manipulated to serve purposes other than what its stated purposes are. And I guess that is what concerns me and other boaters. I find that “Paying Dues” for the privilege of being part of a society is something most everyone agrees with. Living aboard is far from living free (at least monetarily and without restrictions). The problem comes when non-boaters see a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow where it happens that a boat is sailing by.

Anchored in Bequia
Anchored in Bequia



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