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Man sues St. Augustine over anchoring rights

6:43 PM, Dec 16, 2013   |    comments
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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- "You can't argue with the constitution," Michael 'Wolfy' MacDougall said Monday.

He's been on the water 50 of his 62 years. MacDougall lives on a sailboat currently anchored in the San Sebastian River in St. Augustine.

MacDougall has filed a federal lawsuit against individual St. Augustine city officials and the state regarding the city's mooring system.

The mooring program was put in place with a city ordinance a few years ago. It allows boaters to connect to buoys strategically placed in St. Augustine's waterways. It's a way to regulating where boats can stay on the water. The city of St. Augustine's website promotes the mooring fields provide security, safety and environmental benefits.

"This is totally unconstitutional. The constitution states anchoring is an act of navigation," MacDougall said.

He argues that captains have the right to anchor where they want "within the guidelines of admiralty law which means I cannot in any way impede navigation." He adds that boaters have to maintain their boats properly, which he says he does.

St. Augustine city attorney Ron Brown is one of the defendants.

Brown told First Coast News the city is fighting the lawsuit. He added that "courts have recognized the authority to regulate anchorage" - not necessarily navigation - and so that enables the city to keep its mooring program.

MacDougall disagrees, "It's one more overreach by a government entity."

There are places in St. Augustine where captains can legally anchor, if they are a certain distance from the channel and marina facilities.

While MacDougall said he is legally anchored now, the city did cite him for not moving his boat when the mooring program started. He lost in court.

"Being cited by the city and losing was totally expected," he said.

He told First Coast News that his federal lawsuit has nothing to do with the citation, but rather with the rights of all boaters."My goal has been from the first to overturn an unconstitutional law. That is my goal. Period."

First Coast News

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