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Southpoint: Service with a Smile

A look at Stuart, Florida's Southpoint Anchorage Mooring Field

by Lupe Tucker

     Boaters around the United States have had to accept the reality that free anchorages are slowly becoming extinct. There are many reasons that this trend is occurring, ranging from issues of politics to socio-economics, as well as  environmental. Currently in South Florida anchorages are a hot topic as many areas are passing laws & ordinances that make it more difficult for people to anchor freely. 
     In this series of articles, boaters can get the scoop on mooring fields that have been installed around Florida, as well as endangered free anchorages and prospective managed anchorages. This month's focus is on the City of Stuart's Southpoint Anchorage and the changes that it has brought to this area.

Map depicting Stuart and the Roosevelt Bridge, which crosses the St. Lucie River.

      Southpoint Anchorage is conveniently located at the "Crossroads," where the Intracoastal Waterway meets the Okeechobee Waterway in Stuart, Florida. Accessible by the Ocean via the St. Lucie inlet, this area has long been a stopping point for boaters to rest and provision before or after a trip to Florida's west coast and the Gulf of Mexico via the Okeechobee Waterway. The anchorage lies at the southwest corner of the Roosevelt Bridge, northeast of day marker 23A on the Okeechobee Waterway. It is situated close to the heart of quaint, historic downtown Stuart and within walking distance of supermarkets, pharmacies, restaurants, banks and other necessary services.

     In Mid-May 2001 Stuart officially opened the 69 moorings and the Harbormaster facility, which houses showers, a coin laundry room, and a boaters lounge with TV, Internet connections and a book exchange.  

     There is also a dock where boats can tie up to provision and dinghies can land, as well as ample parking for cars. All of the facilities, as well as pump out at the dock, are included in the $10 a night fee.

The Southpoint Anchorage has always been known as a traditional anchoring area, not just because of its convenient geographical location, but also because it is well protected during storms. The mooring field that the City of Stuart has installed contributes to the overall protection for boaters. The moorings themselves are helical screw anchors embedded into the river bottom which can withstand high winds, and downlines of 25000 pounds of breaking strength Polydine line encased in foam filled PVC casing attached to 18 inch Baker buoys.

     Boaters walk or ride their bicycles to most places in Stuart. Stuart's Riverwalk begins at the Harbormaster facility, and takes joggers, tourists and locals along a short, scenic route that runs beneath the Roosevelt bridge and into downtown Stuart. There is a bicycle lane along the main highway, US1, and although there is no public transportation in Stuart, there is a Community Coach. Its nearest stop is at Publix a half mile south of the anchorage on US1.

     Nowadays Southpoint Anchorage has many fans. "It's the best thing that could have happened to this area," said Ken, an anchorage tenant who cruises every six months to and from Georgetown, Exumas, Bahamas on his sailboat. "I've been coming through here since 1990, and until this year you wouldn't dare leave your boat here for more than an hour."

     Harbormaster M.J. "Buzz" Billue agreed, "In 1996 the area down here was not an area that you wanted to come into." It was home to both derelict vessels and people, and theft, assaults, drug dealing and other criminal activity were frequent occurrences. "Now people come in and leave their boats unlocked to go in town during the day, and they come back knowing full well that their boat is going to be safe."

     Apart from the cost, Billue says that there are very good reasons why a boater would prefer to anchor rather than go to a marina. "Most people that anchor prefer the privacy. Its quiet, its peaceful, and it gives them basically a sense of being outdoors. When they are on a mooring, they never have one side of the boat always to the sun or one side always to the shade. It always faces into the wind so you always have a breeze going through the boat."

     Only a couple of months after its official opening, the anchorage is 50% occupied. "Right now [all the tenants] I've got are here for over a month. Most of the customers that we wind up with are here for more than a month. They rent cars, they go to dinner, they buy provisions, and they are no different than anybody who actually lives in the county or in the city, said Billue."

     There are several requirements that a boat must have in order to be allowed to anchor at Southpoint. First of all, it's got to run to begin with, it can't be towed in. It's got to have insurance, 100% liability coverage on the boat, for everybody's protection, not just the City's. Boats also must have a holding tank; they cannot have direct overboard discharge of the heads.

      "[A vessel] can either come into the dock directly, and pump out the boat immediately, which is a requirement of the mooring field, which is handed down to us through the Department of Environmental Protection. Then we can fill out the paperwork and assign them a berth, and if they need help I can go out and help them get attached to the mooring," explained Billue. Or, a vessel can arrive, take a mooring, and go to the dock the next morning to pump out the boat and take care of the paper work.

     "Within twelve hours they have to register the boat and they have to have the boat pumped out. Once a week they have to come to the dock, and have it pumped out, which doesn't cost them any money.  Or they can call the Martin County pump out boat, which is really wonderful; they come right to your boat and do it," added Billue. A vessel can stay up to six months on the same mooring, after which they must leave for a week. When they return they are assigned to a different mooring and must register their boat again at the Harbormaster's office.

     In a year's time he expects the anchorage to be operating at 80% occupancy. Future plans for the mooring field include installing additional moorings at the southern end of the anchorage, as well as beginning a recycling program, putting in picnic tables, a bicycle rack, a small ship's store and Anchorage Cafe, and building a bigger dock. "We'll have up to 60 feet for the boaters, so we'll actually have wet slips in addition to the mooring fields," said Billue.  

    The Southpoint anchorage undoubtedly sets a high standard for mooring fields that other cities should try to achieve. "There's been a tremendous positive response for having this building put here, and the City's gotten a tremendous amount of respect for taking care of a lot of the problems that used to be here." Billue said. Kudos to Stuart for taking care of the city's, residents' and boaters' needs with such an impressive facility.

Editor's note: In 2005 Southpoint Anchorage increased its moorings to 86 and rates are $10 per night or $240 per month.
In 2006 it added Wireless Internet for boaters with laptops. For information on reserving a mooring or directions by land or sea, visit the City of Stuart website.


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