The Cost of Running Aground on Biscayne Bay

Reprinted from Seaworthy magazine


Three years after he ran aground near Pigeon Key in the Florida Keys, the skipper of a 44' Sea Ray got a bill from the State of Florida for $49,867 to cover the cost of replanting sea grass in an area that was roughly the size of his boat. A misprint? Another skipper, an attorney, ran aground in the Cross-Bank area of Everglades National Park. Instead of powering off, which would have done further damage to the bottom, the skipper dutifully notified the Park Rangers. He was fined several hundred dollars for not posting a proper lookout and then, several months later, he was handed a bill for $20,721 for cleaning up the site and planting sea grass.  The skipper of a $36' trawler got a similar bill--$25, 515--after his boat dug a 20' x 15' "hole" in the sea grass in Biscayne Bay. And just when it looked like the bills were at least becoming more reasonable, the skipper who damaged some sea grass with his 28' center console's prop (he never grounded hard) got a bill for $63,000!

For that kind of money, you might wonder what kind of grass is being grown in South Florida. The answer is mostly Turtle grass and Manatee grass, red algae, green algae, Halimeda, with a little Porites finger coral thrown in. But the cost of the grass itself is negligible. Consider that when the Sea Ray ran aground the bill also included the cost of resurveying the site both from the water and from the air, hiring a professional consultant to determine what types of grasses had been at the site, surrounding the damaged area with a turbidity screen, renting a barge and push boat for two days to dump gravel and sand,  filling the hole, and finally planting whatever grasses had been growing there. Then, for the next three years, the skipper involved were responsible for paying for a crew to monitor the site.

A Message from BoatU.S. Marine Insurance: Please don't run aground in the Florida Keys or Biscayne Bay. For one thing, it's bad for the environment.  It's also hard on your boat. And, when you consider the cost of fines-typically, several hundred dollars--plus your deductible and no-loss credit, it would be a considerable jolt to your finances.