Mooring etiquette

Discussion in 'All Things Boats & Boating' started by missinginaction, Nov 12, 2020.

  1. missinginaction
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    missinginaction Senior Member

    So, I'm on the phone this afternoon with a friend. He and his wife are holed up in the Chesapeake waiting for the seemingly unrelenting weather to clear. They're heading south for the winter on a 36' Monk trawler.

    This guy is telling me about his trip and he mentions that most of the nice secluded coves he found in the Long Island Sound area were full of mooring balls. Most if not all of them unattended. He complained that there were so many balls that he found it impossible to anchor in some of these coves.

    "Well, why didn't you just pick up a pennant off of one of the unattended moorings and just stay there for the night?" I said.

    He told me that would be terrible etiquette. He also made the observation that he wouldn't know anything about the quality of the mooring. I understand the point about the quality but not about the etiquette.

    If the mooring were part of a marina or in a controlled harbor I can certainly understand getting permission. How could you ask for permission if there was no one around?

    What about moorings placed in a cove out in the middle of nowhere? If it were me and I had placed a mooring and didn't want anyone on it I would paint "Private Mooring" and the name of my boat on it. According to my friend these moorings were unmarked.

    So what is the unwritten rule regarding this? I can find all kinds of information about how to tie up to a mooring but nothing about whether I should.

    MIA
     
  2. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    How would you feel about finding someone sleeping in your car? He could justify it by saying you didn't post a "No Sleeping" sign.
     
  3. Will Gilmore
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    Will Gilmore Senior Member

    There are basically three types of moorings to worry about. Research into local knowledge is necessary.

    The three types are: one, private moorings. These are either placed by a private owner in the waters just off their waterfront property or they are part of a YC's mooring field, but the member owns the ball.

    The second type are commercial moorings owned and rented by a local marina or even a business such as an Inn or restaurant.

    The last type are public moorings intended for short term use in public areas such as state or national parks. They may also be maintained by the town as a place to moore while snorkeling on the local reef or such.

    I have never known an overnight mooring to be free and I would be unhappy to come back from sailing to find my private mooring occupied. However, I would mark the mooring as private.

    Your friend's problem could probably have been solved by calling the local marina and finding that those fields were rentable.

    -Will (Dragonfly)
     
  4. Ike
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    Ike Senior Member

    This. Also some marinas have transient docks. Sure you have to pay, but it's better than picking up a mooring that is private or rented (without paying). Your friend should acquire a Marina Guide Book. Most of the information he needs are in the guidebook.
     
  5. missinginaction
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    missinginaction Senior Member

    Thanks for the replies....

    I understand what all of you are saying. However the way it was described to me was this: The cove was secluded, there were no houses around, there was no marina, there were no docks. There were, however so many mooring balls that my friend was afraid to drop anchor because he was worried about his anchor line and ground tackle.

    Based on the conversation, it seemed that some boaters took it on themselves to fill this cove with private moorings which, as a practical matter turned it into a private area. This doesn't seem morally right to me. It also wouldn't be legal based on my understanding of property law.

    I didn't have eyes on this and I'm getting the information second hand. However I'll post the question again.

    If I pull into a secluded cove and there are no houses, no docks, no marina and no signs, yet the cove is crowded with unmarked mooring balls that preclude me from anchoring safely......what should I do?
     
  6. Ike
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    Ike Senior Member

    If it didn't look safe, I would leave unless leaving was less safe than staying.
     
  7. missinginaction
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    missinginaction Senior Member

    Why? The cove was safe, there were just so many mooring balls that it was not safe to anchor.

    I'm still not getting an answer. In the situation I described above (and I realize that Long Island Sound is a long way from Washington State) it seems to me that a public waterway, for all practical purposes had been turned into a private cove. Since this is the ocean, who has the authority to allow (or not allow) these moorings to be placed? Is it the Coast Guard or some municipality?

    For some years in the 1980's I lived on the water and had a mooring in my backyard. I wouldn't expect and never found a boat tied to my mooring. But most of the time MY boat was on it. What I referenced in my initial question occurred in the Northeast in early November. With no boats around, no houses, no marina, no docks, nothing but a cove and a group of lonely mooring balls.

    If I decide to place a mooring out in Long Island Sound somewhere does that mean that I own that little piece of water?

    Regards,

    MIA
     
  8. Blueknarr
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    Blueknarr Senior Member

    Cut them all free.

    My father was an avid Four wheeler. When he came to a chain across a trail on public land, he cut one lock and put a drop of super glue in the key slot of the others

    Thought me to use public space without infringing on others using it as well
     
  9. Ike
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    Ike Senior Member

    Its not that simple. It depends on who has jurisdiction over that waterway. If its a Federal waterway then its most likely the Coast Guard. However if it's within a township or city it could be the local government. Private
    moorings are allowed but they don’t entitle you to the waterway.
     
  10. jehardiman
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    jehardiman Senior Member

    If you don't know, find out before you use.
    Many years ago there was a tirade (in Latitude 38 IIRC), where a yachtsman picked up a mooring off the northern California coast in a dog hole. He described the mooring as inadequate because the line was too light to hold the boat overnight and it parted. He was outraged that someone would put down a mooring like that where people could need it. The next month a commercial fisherman wrote in about the incident and stated if the damme SOB had hauled in the painter he would have found the 3/4 chain that went to the mooring.
    When I chartered in the Whitsundays (Aus), the public buoys were were color coded for use and vessel size and I always thought this was good idea.
     
  11. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    I own a mooring in Milwaukee. It is in a mooring field that is clearly marked in the navigation charts and in CFR 13. It is up to you, as a mariner, to have the information at hand. The mooring area is full of buoys, and they are all private. However, the issue is really simple. If you didn't put in the mooring, or bought it from someone, then you don't own it or have any rights to use it. The fact that a cove is protected does not mean it is available to the public. Your friend should have done his homework and research anchorages before leaving.
     
  12. missinginaction
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    missinginaction Senior Member

    I agree with you Gonzo but you are a law abiding citizen. My buddy isn't an amateur. He's based out of eastern New York and has traveled as far as Lake Superior, up to Maine and now down south. He knows what a mooring field is and has charts.

    Well, I suppose that the best solution (for me anyway) is to call the local police department if I ever run into a situation like this. I did some research and found that generally a municipality will have jurisdiction. The problem is enforcement. Some folks will place illegal moorings with the idea that it's "easier to beg forgiveness than it is to ask permission". I don't know if that is the case here, but being a life long New Yorker it wouldn't surprise me at all.

    I'd be tempted to tie up in the situation I mentioned, but if I ever run into this I'll make a call first. I'll probably get a laugh out of the reaction from the desk sergeant.

    Thanks again for all the replies and stay safe out there,

    MIA
     
  13. Will Gilmore
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    Will Gilmore Senior Member

    Exactly.

    That's how it's done in the States too.

    That makes it hard. So you have faith enough in your friend's expertise to be sure he wasn't in a field of crab pots?

    Unmarked moorings where there was no alternative and no sign of private ownership? Especially late in the evening when those who might own them are still not there, I would pick one up and get on the radio or the cell phone and call the nearest marina and ask about them.

    The locals would know about the field and direct you to the right answer. If no answer were fourth coming, I would be prepared to vacate the mooring upon request.

    Unless it's certain that the cove was public and the mooring field was privately maintained, most of the time, the full situation can't be known.

    Rockland Maine has a large mooring field that is charged for by the municipal marina. Across the bay, off Hurricane Island is a private mooring field owned by Outward Bound. The coves around there have lots of mooring fields that are private, but there are always places to anchor nearby.

    The answer is, be respectful, do the research and use the Golden Rule. What if it belonged to you and it was another mariner looking for a safe night?

    Also, how big is the boat and how sound is the mooring? That also has to be considered.

    -Will (Dragonfly)
     
  14. Ike
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    Ike Senior Member

    The following link is to the USCG rules on Private Aids To Navigation (PATON) It is published by the 13th Coast Guard District here in the Pacific NW but the rules are the same throughout the US, with maybe some slight variations for local conditions. (for instance we don't have to deal with icing here) Waterways Management https://www.pacificarea.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/District-13/District-Staff/-dpw/-paton/
    a quote from that page:
    "Non-commercial, single-boat, mooring buoys normally do not require a Coast Guard permit, provided they do not cause more than a minimal adverse effect on navigation and display the standard markings. The same is true of most information and regulatory marks, such as swim buoys, no-wake buoys, and race course buoys. For these the Coast Guard issues a letter of no objection. Owners contemplating establishing such buoys should also contact the Army Corps of Engineers, their State Authority, usually the Department of Natural Resources, to determine what additional state and local requirements may exist."

    The point is, persons establishing a private mooring buoy can't just willy-nilly plunk down a mooring where ever they feel like it. It may be obstructing a navigable waterway, it may be interfering with other items such as water outfalls pipes, underwater cables, etc. As has been said, locals should know. Typically land ownership doesn't extend underwater especially in coastal areas, although it may go out to mean low low water (the lowest tides). Depends on local and state laws.

    For instance, on another forum a person posed a question about someone having pretty much taken over a canal with buoys for racing, but they weren't temporary. Turns out the person who did it had not gotten a permit from the local authorities, which they were required to do, and if permitted would have only been for the duration of the event. They ended up having to remove the buoys, cancel the event and pay a fine. Not a happy outcome.
     

  15. missinginaction
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    missinginaction Senior Member

    I guess the take away is that there is a huge gray area, especially as it pertains to private moorings placed in places where there is no obvious connection to an adjacent business, marina or private home. Ike, you state that people can't just plunk down a mooring anywhere they feel like it. You and I might not flout the law but ask any police officer and you'll find that being a scofflaw is more common than you think.

    I'll play devils advocate. Suppose I tie up for one night on a mooring out in the middle of nowhere. There are no other boats around and no way to determine who owns the mooring, no signs, no land based structures nearby. Early the next day some boat comes into the cove and the skipper says "Hey, why are you tied up to my mooring?"

    Well, I'm happy to pay him for the privilege, but how do I even know that he's telling the truth and it is, in fact his mooring? Now of course if he had his name on it, I'd easily know. On the other hand, if it were an illegal mooring so would the local authorities.

    This is a pretty unlikely scenario but serves to illustrate how vague some of these rules and laws are.

    I spend a lot of time in Gloucester, Massachusetts. There is a beautiful public beach there called Good Harbor Beach. At the northern end of the beach a private home owner placed no trespassing signs. A local police officer told me that the sign could be ignored as long as I stayed "below the high tide line" on the beach. I got the sense that the town politicians didn't want to make an issue of the sign but when asked the police would simply tell the truth, you cannot trespass on the beach below the tide line because it is considered a public right of way. Or something like that anyway. I'm not a lawyer so I'm just going by what I was told.

    Note to Will Gilmore, all excellent points. Well written and thought out. Thanks to you and to Ike.

    Regards,

    MIA
     
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