Category Archives: Transportation history

Boarding up Celery at Sanford, Florida, on the St. Johns River

It seems that celery has always been the staple crop of Sanford, Florida. One of my African-American friends, W. George Allen, just retired from the practice of law at 70 years old, a veteran of the civil rights movement.  George grew up in Sanford. As a child, George picked celery every day during the dark days of segregation.  One day in the courthouse in Fort Lauderdale George showed me the palms of his hands. Long, thin lines scarred his palms from pulling celery stalks out of the ground during childhood.  He left Sanford, graduated from Howard University, and was the first Black to graduate from the University of Florida Law School.

Located strategically on Lake Monroe, near Orlando, on the southern stretch of the St. Johns River, at the turn of the 19th century steamboat traffic between Sanford and Jacksonville had always been heavy and profitable.  However, in the early 1920s, a threat to Sanford’s agriculture and trade business appeared imminent. The threat was the privately owned Florida East Coast Canal, now a completed tollway between Jacksonville, Fla., and Miami.

The Corps of Engineers could not make up its mind. Should it recommend to Congress the taking over of the old Florida East Coast Canal?    Or recommend a change in course and the larger and deeper St. Johns River south, near Titusville, thence a short connecting Canal to the southern part of the old East Coast Canal?  If the Army recommended the old East Coast Canal, it would spell the death knell for Sanford and Central Florida. If the Corps decided upon the St. Johns River route, Daytona Beach and its thriving tourist business would be cut out of the picture. The Corps held four hearings in 1922 throughout the east coast to decide the question.

Dubai Police Department’s fastest cars in the world

While the average 1890’s sternwheel steamboat paddled along at approximately 10 miles per hour (16 kph) on the old Florida East Coast Canal, some of Dubai’s (UAE) fleet of police cars like its Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and Porsches can chase down almost any but the fastest automobiles in the world.

… Dubai doesn’t appear to be interested in fuel efficiency.

May an indefinitely moored houseboat be subject to federal maritime jurisdiction?

Lozman houseboat in transit.

Lozman houseboat in transit.

Several years ago, the City of Riviera Beach (“the City”) straddling the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) in Florida, arrested a houseboat under federal maritime law and demolished it. The homeowner, Mr. Lozman had lived on his houseboat for more than a dozen years under a lease with the City. The City had sent Lozman several eviction notices for deficiencies in the houseboat and failure to make certain payments.

The District Court of the Southern District of Florida found that the houseboat was a “vessel” for purposes of admiralty jurisdiction, that the vessel was delinquent in payments, put the vessel up for auction, the City bought it for the amount of its judgment and demolished it.

The court held that the houseboat met the definition of a “vessel”within the meaning of 1 U.S.C. s. 3; accordingly, federal maritime law applied despite the fact that the houseboat had been an “indefinitely moored” structure. It was still “capable” of transportation.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the District Court’s holding that Lozman’s houseboat constituted a “vessel” for purposes of maritime jurisdiction and that Lozman’s houseboat “trespassed” upon city property.

On January 15, 2013, the Supreme Court reversed. The Court held that Lozman’s houseboat was not a “vessel” for purposes of invoking maritime jurisdiction. Except for the fact that it floated upon the water, Lozman’s houseboat had no means of self-propulsion, no steering mechanism, an unraked hull, no means of storing or generating electricity, and no realistic means of transporting passengers or cargo.

Onlookers observe Lozman houseboat moored at Riviera Beach docks.

Onlookers observe Lozman houseboat moored at Riviera Beach docks.

Federal courts therefore have no jurisdiction over “houseboats” similarly configured and indefinitely moored. In general, federal courts have exclusive maritime jurisdiction over “vessels” like boats in navigable waters such as the Intracoastal Waterway. Although federal jurisdiction protects those who improve and work on boats by affording workers the right to arrest a vessel for unpaid work and enforce a lien for such charges as well as the right to seek damages for trespass on private property, asserting federal jurisdiction also brings into play the regulatory powers of the Coast Guard to insure public safety as well as other agencies working to protect the environment and other public interests.

St. Augustine’s anchoring and mooring pilot program tested | StAugustine.com

St. Augustine’s anchoring and mooring pilot program tested | StAugustine.com.

Under a state pilot program, St. Augustine enacted an ordinance requiring boats to moor at least fifty feet from the navigable channel of the Intracoastal Waterway. One man who has lived aboard his sailboat for eleven years filed suit challenging the law in federal court.

Under federal maritime law, the federal government has the right to establish mooring rights within the Intracoastal Waterway and its tributaries. The federal supremacy clause makes federal law the supreme law of the land.

Generally, regulation of the use of the Intracoastal Waterway depends upon whether or not the federal government has preempted state and local law by enacting federal law over various uses of the waterway. However, the State of Florida owns the bottom lands of the Waterway by right of sovereignty under federalism. Unless the federal government intervenes in various uses, local governments may set speed limits for marine vessels, for example, transiting the waterway.

Court watchers await the final decision of the United States Supreme Court if the matter reaches that level of judicial authority. The author of this blog believes the federal government will prevail. In the absence of a uniform federal law on mooring, the author envisions scores of municipalities each with a confusing mishmash of differing mooring laws along the waterway.

Commodore Avylen Harcourt Brook (1866-1946)

Commodore Avylen Harcourt Brook


Commodore Avylen Harcourt Brook was born in Sheffield, England, in 1866 into a family of silver and bronze electroplaters. His early education was in England. Brook studied art under the famous English artist and critic John Ruskin. It was said that one of his ‘parlor tricks’ was to paint two paintings simultaneously, one with his right hand, the second with his left hand.

He migrated in his early teens to Brooklyn, New York, where he soon became president of the Thomas Cusack Outdoor Advertising Agency. There, Brook created the famous Maxwell House “Good ’til the last drop” neon sign and turned Broadway into the ‘Great White Way’, with advertising signs everywhere in neon lights. As president, Brook was earning $25,000 a year, a princely sum in those days.

In 1919, at the age of 53, Brook retired. He sailed his 22-foot sloop ‘Klyo’ down the Atlantic coast to Fort Lauderdale where he lived in a modest residence named ‘Brookside’ on the New River; his sloop ‘Klyo’ docked in the back on the River. Brook had acquired the title Commodore from his leadership of at least two yacht clubs on the Long Island Sound. Brook had been a member of various groups that promoted the construction of a continuous inland waterway inside the Atlantic coast. In Fort Lauderdale, Brook represented Broward County as a member of the Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND), tasked with the duty of acquiring the old Florida East Coast Canal tollway and turning it over to the federal government for enlargement and perpetual maintenance.  When Brook died, downtown retailers closed for half a day in respect for Brook’s contributions to the community.

Corthell’s 1889 Estimate of the Cost to Complete the Florida East Coast Canal

image

In 1888, Florida canal company general manager George F. Miles engaged acclaimed Chicago waterway and railway engineer Elmer Corthell to survey the soil, rock, sand, and other material the Company dredges would likely encounter in completing the waterway and to estimate the cost of completion.

In turn, Corthell employed a former Army engineer, Artur [sic] Wrotnowski, to perform the actual on-the-ground measurements between bodies of water, their depths, and distances, with calculations of how much material the Florida canal company would have to move to comply with state requirements. Corthell reviewed Wrotnowski’s survey in detail and reported to the directors of the Florida canal company the amount of material to be moved and the cost to complete the waterway.

Corthell also considered mounting marine vessels on railway cars to transit difficult-to-dredge dry land between waterways but rejected the railway alternative as too expensive to maintain. In conclusion, Corthell endorsed the project on a ‘pay as you go’ basis, starting with minimum depths now, using the waterway to generate revenue to dredge a deeper and wider waterway later.  Withal, Corthell thought the Florida East Coast economy robust, more than enough to justify his estimated cost to complete of a little over $1 million in  1889 ($26 million in historic standard-of-living dollars today, 2014). Courtesy, Brown University, Hay Library, Providence, Rhode Island.

Unlike Florida, states like South Carolina must rely on federal funds

Sunset at Hilton Head Island Overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway

Sunset at Hilton Head Island Overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway

Taken at sunset from the Lighthouse Marina at Sea Pines Plantation, one of the largest plantations on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, with several yachts docked awaiting the arrival of more marine vessels for Memorial Day festivities.

Beyond the marina, Calibogue Sound is one link in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and the second largest sound on the Atlantic seaboard. Because no state on the Atlantic seaboard except the State of Florida funds a governmental entity to maintain the Waterway through its state, states like South Carolina must rely on federal funds and the Army Corps of Engineers for dredging and other operational maintenance.

For at least two decades, there has been a shortage in federal funds to maintain the Waterway. Fortunately, the State of Florida has the Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND) to pick up the slack.  The rest of the states experience low water and damaged boats from a lack of  dredging, particularly in stretches in and around Hilton Head.