Georgia Boaters Weigh In on Anchoring Ban

Post written by Becky Pineo, published on 26 Feb 2020
Categories: Industry-News

As discussed in this post: Georgia quickly passed a new bill into action limiting anchoring throughout the state. Boaters and marina owner/operators are making their voices heard by supporting the grassroots boater organization Save Georgia’s Anchorages and signing BoatUS’s petition. We shared a survey to get more comments from boaters and marinas on how this rule impacts their decision-making as they travel by boat throughout the state of Georgia. Thank you to all of the boaters who have participated thus far! We will continue to update as more comments come in.

Q: How does/would the anchoring restrictions outlined in House Bill 201 change impact your marina business or boating choices?

The answers range from navigating Georgia’s coast and waterways more quickly, to not only skipping all of Georgia but moving all of their boating activities out of state.

  • “Keeps me out of GA. Just will not go until they correct this travesty.”
  • “Will minimize any time or dollars spent in Georgia.”
  • “Will pass though quickly.”
  • “I would adjust my overnight choices cruising thru GA.”
  • “I would take fewer trips to Georgia.”
  • “An annoyance. Means any trip north I will make no stops until SC.”
  • “I will do everything I can possibly do to avoid stopping in Georgia as I transit the ICW each year.”
  • “I have the ability to run straight through Georgia and will do so on my trips north and south. Love to stop in certain towns but if cannot offset marina costs with nights at anchor then we will just not stop.”
  • “I will not stop in Georgia. Since I have a blue water sailing catamaran, I can easily bypass Georgia water to assure I don’t have to worry about a criminal offense on my record for anchorage too near a piling.”
  • “Will be skipping Georgia by going outside on our extended cruises south (& return north)”
  • “Too complicated to stop in Georgia. Will skip and go off shore.”
  • “Anchoring regulations are way too restrictive. We are a sailboat, and cannot travel from Brunswick area to Isle of Hope area in one day - so we need to anchor somewhere in between for a night. Absent this, we will simply travel outside from Fernandina to Port Royal.”
  • “Homeowners do not own the waterways or the land under the waterways. There should be no setback anchoring laws. That Georgia law violates federal law. I regularly stay at Brunswick, St Simons, Jekyll, Isle Of Hope, Sunbury marinas. I also occasionally anchor out in the Wahoo River and other locations. My boat is capable and I will start bypassing the Georgia waterways until this anchoring restriction is removed. MTOA 4107 Liquid Therapy.”

When enacting laws limiting boating, it’s worth noting that many boaters “vote with their feet” in other ways as well:

  • “I will avoid GA at all costs. I am going to go out of my way to eliminate GA from any travel plans. This included by car.”
  • “When cruising the ICW, I will bypass Georgia via the Atlantic spending no money in Georgia at all. When on land driving on I95 I will also not stop in Georgia.”

The law itself as well as the way in which is was enacted, has made boaters rightfully skeptical of the future of boating in Georgia, even for long-time Georgia cruisers–

  • “As a weekend sailor based in Georgia, this law eliminates many of the anchorages that I normally use. If HB 201 is allowed to stand in its current form, I will encourage cruising friends to bypass Georgia. I will also consider moving my boat to North Florida.”
  • “We travel between Washington, NC, and Florida/Bahamas every year via the ICW and have always stopped to anchor or take a mooring when passing thru Georgia but moorings are few and far between as the are almost always taken by locals so we anchor out. We have enjoyed Georgia every year on our travels south and have nothing but good things to say for the people in all of the places we have stayed but this lack of ability to anchor out on our travels will make it harder for us to make the passage thru Georgia in the ICW and force us to wait for a weather window to by-pass Georgia on our next trip. I am sooty that it has come to this but this ban on anchoring forces us to this decision.”

– To the point of impacting boaters’ long-time love of boating in Georgia:

  • “We are considering avoiding GA altogether and cancelling our slip at Brunswick because if we can’t anchor overnight in any of our go-to spots, there’s no point in going there at all. We seldom see any other boats where we anchor (the only exception being when snowbirds are moving one way or the other when the occasional boat ventures out of the ICW, but in general our only companions are dolphins and the occasional day fisherman). We do no harm and leave no waste, and this law seems both punitive and unnecessary. Our sanctuary is being taken away for no reason.”
  • “I will move my boat from Georgia and stop boating in Georgia.”
  • “I may move my boat to Florida because of this.”
  • “I am strongly considering moving my boat out of Georgia and no longer anchoring off of the Georgia coast.”
  • “I grew up on colonels island, raced savannah yacht club, crewed for Ted Turner, lived along GA coast sailing, fishing, camping for 30 years, then moved away. was ready to come back and buy some coastal property to continue that lifestyle until these ridiculous provisions were enacted that restricted boating activities without cause or benefit. i am not going back under such heinous oppression.”

As some boaters point out, this is not merely a matter of convenience, preference, or boater-marina relationships – it also pertains to safety:

  • “Restricting anchor sites is dangerous for boaters. Do I really have to cross that sound that is riled by a storm to get to my anchor site?”

And for at least one boater, this boating regulation may be the final straw

  • “Extremely negatively to the point of selling my boat!”

Q: How would you change anchoring restrictions outlined in House Bill 201?

Completely scrap it:

  • “Get rid of it completely. Rules are already in place to deal with anchoring, pump outs, and abandoned vessels.”
  • “Revert to rules when ICW was strictly under federal pervue with sensible “abandoned boat” definition”
  • “Eliminate it in full”
  • “Eliminate it.”
  • “Remove it entirely from the record.”
  • “I wouldn’t have expected anything like this from the Great State of Georgia. VERY disappointing……how would I change it? Easy…………rescind it.”
  • “Remove the anchoring restrictions. Take away the authority of the DNR to impart laws that impact long standing rights! Restore transparency in the state of Georgia’s legislative process!”

Update in accordance with newly-proposed legislation–

  • “Remove the set back from 1000 ft to 150 ft”
  • “HB 833 will establish 150 ft setback”
  • “Repeal the law that came into effect on 01/01/2020 regarding anchoring within 1000 feet of structures, oyster harvesting bed leases etc. I would be happy with HB 833 sponsored by Rep Ron Stephens of Savannah introduced this year in the state legislature.”

–or legislation that takes boating ecosystem into consideration:

  • “Simply consider the safety and needs of boaters whose lives are at risk.”
  • “Focus on addressing legitimate issues of dangerous or derelict boats.”
  • “Designate anchorages about every 75 miles on the ICW.”
  • “Don’t penalize the entire boating community for the transgressions of the few who create derelict and squatter problems. Remove the establishment of designated anchoring areas. Make owners liable for abandoned boat disposition along with a penalty. Limit transient anchoring in any one location to 2 weeks. Ban only non treated sewage discharge. Current regulations are like swatting a fly with a shot gun.”

Take boaters into consideration to update:

  • “Listen to boaters who traverse GA waters and spend money at facilities doing so.”

Thank you to boaters who shared more context/perspective on this bill’s impact:

  • “We wouldn’t make it impossible to spend the night around Cumberland Island where hardly anyone spends the night anyway, there are no oyster beds at present that would be at risk, and our waste is managed while off shore more than 3 miles when we are in transit. We do no harm, and we don’t appreciate no longer having the option of spending the night in a harmless location where we do no damage. I would change the law to allow for conscientious boaters to enjoy their investment and only impose stricter fines for those who do not manage their waste properly. By the way, the day fishermen don’t have heads at all! Being out all day, are they not a risk simply because they don’t have a head, much less macerators? The current law is punishing law-abiding, sea-respecting sailors for no reason. I realize we can still anchor near where the ferry drops people off at Cumberland from St. Marys but that is not the kind of anchorage (trafficky) we are interested in. It’s an absurdly unfriendly and ineffective law which will result in a decrease in Georgia tourism. We provision at GA grocery stores while there, see movies at GA theaters, and dine and shop in GA towns, which all will cease when we stop going to this boater-averse state.”
  • “The problem isn’t anchoring at night, it is the discharge of waste, but the regulation doesn’t do anything to impede the discharge of waste from small fishing vessels that don’t have bathrooms - by far the greatest users of these bodies of water. Very few boats anchor in these locations overnight, and the ones that do seldom discharge waste - most GA pump outs are free, and most large boat owners have holding tanks and are responsible - either pumping out, or discharging 3+ miles offshore. The best way to cure the waste discharge problem is to have surprise on the water inspections to make sure that holding tanks are secure, and significant fines for those caught discharging waste. What happens to the human waste from small fishing vessels that are out on the water all day? That is a much more significant problem. Preventing boats from anchoring out at night doesn’t do anything to solve this problem as boats can just as easily release holding tank contents during the day. I’ve also never seen anyone harvesting oysters in the inland waterways of Georgia, and I think that recreational use of these waters is more important and generates more revenue for Georgia. This law is going to empty out Georgia marinas and cause loss of revenue - why would we stay in Georgia if we can’t anchor out at night in Georgia?”
  • “One other way to accomplish the same goal: Have the DNR - or designated marina representative - visit specific GA marinas on predetermined / announced days. They should ask for proof of a pump out within the last 6 months, and inspect vessels to make sure that Y valves are closed and locked. Upon completion of the inspection they should sell the boater an annual anchoring pass for $50 that allows them to anchor in Georgia’s inland waters. The cost of the pass would easily pay for the cost of the inspections and issuance of the passes. To be clear: not allowing boats to anchor at night doesn’t prevent boats from discharging their waste when anchored, it only inconveniences boaters and deprives them of enjoying the natural beauty and shelter of Georgia’s inland waters. When people like me move my boat from Georgia it will also have a negative effect on Georgia’s economy because I spend over $20,000 per year in Georgia between marina fees, maintenance, restaurants, food purchases, etc. - and my marina has over 300 slips, so over 300 boaters just like me who may soon move their boats to other states.”
  • “Change the regs to achieve widespread freedom to anchor with only well reasoned and limited restrictions. not anchoring within 1000 feet of a piling is so absurd it proves that the impetus is on the few and wealthy who have captured the regulators who have abandoned their mission of public service, or to be plain, the system has been corrupted with the willing compliance or perhaps the instigation of the DNR.”
  • “The stated goal of HB201 is to reduce sewage discharge from boats. However, it is pretty clear that this was just an excuse. There is no evidence of water quality problems caused by discharges from vessels in the state of Georgia. Compared to any other state on the East Coast, Georgia has very few boats on the water. The real goal of HB 201 is to prevent anchoring near waterfront homes. I would get rid of HB 201 and start some meaningful enforcement of the existing rules under the Clean Water Act and other environmental regulations. Waterways are owned by the public. By having exclusive rights to parts of waterways, marina owners benefit from publicly-owned resources. As such, it is is not unreasonable to place some responsibility on the marina owners to make sure their customers are not discharging sewage into the water while using their marina facilities. Use of the pumpout facility at our marina is surprisingly low, given the number of liveaboard vessels docked there. The marina owner obviously knows this and is, therefore, tacitly endorsing the illegal discharge of sewage by his customers. The marina should require all newly-arrived boats to pumpout immediately and they should provide a weekly pumpout for liveaboard boats at their slips. If marina owners aren’t willing to take on this responsibility on their own, then the State can create regulations to make sure that they do. I would also like to see Georgia make pumping out easier and cheaper by increasing the number of pumpout stations along the coast, having mobile pumpout boats at a few key anchorages, and developing policies to reduce the fees charged for pumping out. If the state wants to encourage boaters to pumpout, they should subsidize the cost and make it free.”

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