Before calling at Florida ports mariners might wish to consider recent changes in Florida boating laws that resulted in a frustrating nine weeks for at least one unsuspecting mariner.
Frank Lambert, his wife, and a few friends were on their way south to spend the winter in the islands when the clutch cable on Lambert’s 55-foot Morgan parted while he was maneuvering into a berth at a Florida marina. Making bare steerageway, according to the accident report, Lambert’s vessel was blown away from the slip, bounced off a piling, and gored a berthed motoryacht. Insurance negotiations were proceeding in a friendly manner, Lambert explained, but he made the mistake of admitting his guilt to a Florida Marine Patrol officer. By paying a $55 fine for failing to have docking lines ready to throw to a dock attendant, he was automatically admitting guilt, according to FMP officials in Jacksonville. He then was ordered to enroll in a nine-week Power Squadron course on boater safety as is required by a recent Florida law. Included in the ruling is a law that bars anyone convicted of such a marine violation from moving the offending vessel. In other words, instead of continuing south to the islands for cruising adventures, Lambert was required to stay in St. Augustine for more than two months brushing up on basic boater safety. Although Lambert claims he has nothing against the Power Squadron organization (“They’re the best sort of people,” he said), he felt a bit overqualified to be attending such a course as he has held an ocean tug and unlimited third mate’s license since 1944. FMP officials insisted that Lambert’s case was an isolated incident and that the law has since been modified to accommodate offenders who have already received similar training.
“I just wanted to pay the fine and be done with it,” said Lambert, not knowing he was admitting guilt by doing so. “He could have appeared before a judge and explained his case,” added Capt. Stratmann of the FMP. “No one else has had their boat confiscated.”