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Crackdown on anchoring rules chafes visiting sailors

Some say it gives the "Gateway to the Gulf" town a not so boater-friendly image.

By NICK JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer
Published October 21, 2007


Chris Kodger, 40, stands on a Gulfport dock on Thursday with his boat behind him. Gulfport police have begun ticketing sailors who anchor there beyond 72 hours or do not display proper anchor lights.
photo
[Edmund D. Fountain | Times]
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Located directly on Boca Ciega Bay, complete with public dock access, downtown Gulfport seems like an ideal place for the sailing lifestyle.

But some sailors think the town that calls itself the "Gateway to the Gulf" is not so boater friendly.

Chris Kodger, a sailor out of Alaska who has been anchored in Boca Ciega Bay for a pit stop, said that he had never seen sailors treated so poorly.

Kodger was having a beer at H.T. Kane's on Shore Boulevard last week when he saw a man getting arrested across the street.

According to the incident report, that man had a warrant for failing to appear in court after being ticketed for not having an anchor light on his boat at night.

Kodger said when he got in his dinghy and headed for his sailboat that same night, the police stopped him.

He says they stopped him for not having a light on his dinghy and told him he had to move his boat after 72 hours.

"I've never seen a city send a boat out there and harass sailors like that," Kodger said. "They treat you like a wharf rat."

He said when the Gulfport police ticket a sailor, they send it to the address where the boat is registered. If they gave him a citation, the ticket would end up in Alaska, he wouldn't know about it, and he would end up getting arrested.

"That could certainly happen," said police Chief Curt Willocks.

When a citation is given, like one for not having an anchor light on at night, it comes with a notice to appear in court. If there is nobody on the boat, the ticket goes to the address where the boat is registered.

Gulfport also has a live-aboard ordinance that limits the amount of time a boat can be anchored in one place to 72 hours.

Willocks said they will ticket boaters for ordinance violations, but usually they warn them first and that the anchoring limit only applies in Gulfport's waters.

Helga Kane, owner of H.T. Kane's, said she frequently hears complaints from boaters that come into the restaurant.

"I just had two guys in here talking about how this city is so not boater friendly," Kane said. "It's been an ongoing problem for years."

Willocks said the Gulfport police do not go out of their way to harass boaters and are simply enforcing the laws.

But Kodger still feels like the police are targeting sailors.

"They're arresting people and throwing them in jail for nothing," he said. "This is an issue for everyone who's into the sailing lifestyle."

Nick Johnson can be reached at nickjohnson@sptimes.com or 893-8361.

[Last modified October 20, 2007, 22:16:54]


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