Sign prohibiting overnight mooring placed illegally

Residents say anchored boats causing neighborhood problem

FORT LAUDERDALE — When Bob Desjean’s neighbor asked him where to take his new boat to dock and dine, Desjean didn’t hesitate to suggest Lake Sylvan, more commonly known as Lake Sylvia.

The serene inlet located near Pier 66 off the Intracoastal, within easy reach by dingy to popular eateries and shopping, is a favorite overnight waypoint when Desjean takes his 52-foot Ocean Alexander motor yacht to Miami or the Keys. The lake’s 360-degree protection is a plus for boats waiting out bad weather.

“I like to anchor out there the first night out to get into the mode of being on the boat again,” he said. Taking his advice, Desjean’s neighbor sailed the 10 miles to Lake Sylvan, which is surrounded by Harbor Beach, only to find a sign at the entrance stating “No Overnight Anchoring of Vessels.”

So the neighbor headed home.

“I think the thing that infuriated me the most is that they put the sign up and take more rights away from boaters,” said Desjean, 66, a Lighthouse Point resident who had believed the sign was the city’s doing.

But the erroneous warning was put there illegally by someone without the authority to install signage, according to Fort Lauderdale city officials.

Only the state Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission can authorize instructional or regulatory signage on waterways. Municipalities can make requests for signage by applying for state permits.

“We don’t know who put the sign up,” said Jon Luscomb, supervisor of Marine Facilities for the City of Fort Lauderdale. He said he has asked the state for direction on removal.

“Police are aware but are not taking it down until directed on who is responsible for taking it down,” Luscomb said.

The sign has been up for at least a year, said Annette Ross, president of the Harbor Beach Property Homeowners Association, whose members include residents with multi-million dollar mansions framing Lake Sylvan. Neighbors have had numerous run-ins with anchored craft, she said.

Native Fort Lauderdale resident Mitch Milesi, 65, has had to tow two boats off his dock that came loose from their moorings, but not before his fenders and dolphin piling were damaged by wayward craft during a storm.

He calls the mix of boats anchored there a “free-for-all” that includes a couple being used as Airbnbs and a boat for sale whose owner directs interested buyers on social media to visit “when you please.”

Even the lake’s name is contentious for residents who complain that the official name of Lake Sylvan has been highjacked by transient boaters who prefer calling it Lake Sylvia.

Milesi is especially angered by hearing water-skiers being yelled at by anchoring boaters to get out of their way because the lake has long been enjoyed for recreation. “I learned how to waterski in that freaking lake,” he said.

Residents also believe that boaters are emptying their holding tanks directly into the lake, said Ross who complained that the practice keeps residents from swimming there.

“If you have 20 to 30 boats in a small, contained area and they’re dumping sewage, would you go in that water?” she said.

In Fort Lauderdale police monitor boats in Lake Sylvan by getting names of boaters anchoring there, sometimes re-anchoring boats having issues and boarding boats to flush dye tablets that highlight waste not being properly disposed of, city officials said.

Meanwhile, the lake’s “No Overnight Anchoring” sign is positioned directly under a legal marker giving a no wake warning. It appears to look professional except for missing a state-required permit number.

The state of Florida does not prohibit boats from anchoring in public waters aside from not being permitted within 150 feet of docks, boat ramps, marinas and boat yards.

A Broward County law passed last November allows anchoring for up to 45 days within a six month period, with a time extension in case of hazardous weather conditions. But the ordinance only applies in Hollywood in response to an issue at North Lake and South Lake where the number of derelict vessels had dramatically increased.

Desjean speculates that some of those craft may have moved north to Lake Sylvan. He says on a typical weeknight he has counted 14 craft including derelict vessels.

“People get boats, put them at anchor and they slowly become derelict,” said Luscomb who said police have removed abandoned vessels from Lake Sylvan. “It’s not a cruiser who’s coming to spend the night, reprovision and go to the Bahamas,” who’s garnering complaints from nearby homeowners.

“The bottom line is that whichever resident put that sign up is tired of it,” he said.