Home Ask the Law!

Boat Navigation

FS JimFS Jim Posts: 475 Moderator
May a person travel in a boat on water which is posted no trespassing, like say in a private neighborhoods harbor?


  • GreyRiderGreyRider Posts: 61 Deckhand
    If it is a natural waterbody the short answer is no. If it is manmade (canal's, waterbottom lease, etc.) then yes. I have seen some manmade canals cabled off.
  • FS JimFS Jim Posts: 475 Moderator
    It is a marina that belongs to a neighborhood that's connected to the intercoastal.
  • Gary S. ColecchioGary S. Colecchio Posts: 24,922 AG
    You need to ask Mannn123. It is his area of practice in law and much more complex than a law enforcement officer is qualified to answer.

    No offence to Officer Rider.
    "If I can't win, I won't play." - Doris Colecchio.

    "Well Gary, the easiest way to look tall is to stand in a room full of short people." - Curtis Bostick

    "All these forums, with barely any activity, are like a neglected old cemetery that no one visits anymore."- anonymouse
  • mannn123mannn123 Posts: 137 Deckhand
    As Gary said, this is really complex and, as with anything, there are exceptions to all general rules. I think Officer Rider was intending to say they can't stop you in a natural waterbody, but they possibly can in a man-made waterbody, which as a general rule isn't that far off the mark. However, the term "natural" is not necessarily determinative. Essentially, waterbodies that were "navigable" at the time Florida became a state are sovereign submerged lands held in trust for the people and for the purpose of this thread are "public" unless properly disposed of by the State (which is a whole different topic for older conveyances by the state). You also have this argument about leases from the state and whether they give exclusive possession to the water column, but that is another subject as well.

    Next you have man-made waterbodies which can definitely be private. If the waterbody then connects up to a state and/or currently navigable water body it gets more complicated. Some people advance the notion that you own the bottomland but not the water....I am not aware of anything directly supporting that. Some people also advance the notion that the water is now subject to the Federal Navigational Servitude. The navigational servitude is basically the privilege of the government to appropriate (which then goes to control and regulate) navigable waters without compensation (and these are waters that are currently navigable as opposed to navigability at the time Florida became a state) in the interest of commerce. This argument might be correct if asserted by the government, however, your average "joe fisherman" doesn't really get to assert this. Further, if the government asserts this right, it could require them to compensate the owner (the cases go all over on when the imposition of the navigational servitude requires compensation and when it doesnt).

    For what its worth, there is an older case where a pond was dredged that provided a marina in the basin access to navigable waters. In this case, the US Supreme Court indicated that, if the government wanted to force the owner to allow access to the public, they had to pay the owner.

    In any event, after all that rambling, if the marina in question lies on a man-made waterbody, it is possible that they could keep you out even if it does connect to the intracoastal waterway. However, the ultimate answer depends on the specific facts of each situation.

    I hope that helps somewhat...this question comes up a lot.
  • FS JimFS Jim Posts: 475 Moderator
    Good info... My guess is that info like this would cost a guy a few buck if sitting across the desk. Not sure a few snook is worth the hassle. Thank you.
  • GreyRiderGreyRider Posts: 61 Deckhand
    Thanks for the assistance mannn123 and Gary is correct. It is an extremely difficult issue based on the variables & I have been at this for over 25yrs. I wish a permanent sticky clould be on this forums page covering the MANY forum Q & A's on this issue.
Sign In or Register to comment.