Anchoring in the Bays of Italy: Can I Leave the Boat Unattended? Better Not…
Anchoring in the Bay: The Essence of a Cruise
Anchoring in the bay is often the essence of a cruise for many boaters who spend their holidays on boats. The very planning of the route involves searching for bays, coves, or inlets along the coast where you can drop anchor and indulge in relaxation, sunbathing, swimming, and enjoying dinners and aperitifs in the cockpit. Not to mention the onshore excursions.
The Debate: Can I Leave the Boat Unattended in the Bay?
The issue of leaving the boat unattended in the bay, even temporarily, is a highly debated topic among cruisers. Newcomers often ask questions such as: Is it allowed? Is it prohibited by law? Can there be penalties and fines?
The Prudent Choice: Someone on Board at All Times
First and foremost, a general seafaring consideration: it is always prudent and sensible to never leave the boat unattended in the bay, regardless of how well you know the bays or the favorable weather conditions. Even if the skipper and crew have successfully anchored the boat with the correct scope, the chain properly biting the seabed, marked references, and a risk-free boat rotation, the situation at sea can change rapidly. What may seem like an excellent condition at first glance can turn into a nightmare moments later.
There’s also the issue of other boats present or those arriving in the hours following our anchorage. How can we ensure that those same crews don’t get too close to our boat? Can we be certain they have properly secured their anchor? Have they chosen the correct scope of the chain based on the depth and nature of the seabed? Lastly, there’s always the risk that someone with malicious intent might see a completely unattended boat and board it, appropriating personal belongings or equipment.
In general, the advice is to always leave someone on board, if possible. It’s even better if that person is experienced and capable of maneuvering the boat, as well as alerting us and raising an alarm if necessary.
What Does Maritime Law Say in Italy?
That being said, let’s consider the regulations governing this matter according to maritime law. In reality, at least in Italy, the law does not expressly forbid leaving the boat unattended at anchor. However, there are numerous ordinances issued by local Harbor Offices that regulate the presence of boats at anchor in specific water areas or under certain weather conditions.
One of the most well-known ordinances is the one issued by the Portoferraio Harbor Office on the Island of Elba, a location familiar to boaters due to its inclusion in the nautical license exam. The ordinance, which has been updated several times, states that: “In the bay in front of the port, it is not possible to moor in certain areas or near access channels to specific infrastructures.” It further adds that: “In the event of adverse weather conditions, pleasure craft must promptly find suitable shelter with a complete crew, unless they are moored at a pier where it is allowed and/or designated for the said craft.” In essence, if there is inclement weather, someone must be on board; otherwise, the vessel must be moored at a pier.
In addition to Elba Island, other locations with direct and rather strict restrictions include the island of Ponza (with the exception of the Bay of Frontone) and Porto Azzurro in case of bad weather.
The Insurance Matter: It’s Wise to Inquire
There is one final issue regarding insurance to consider. Generally, in the basic “yacht hull” insurance contract, coverage during anchoring in the bay without any crew on board is not included. In essence, insurance companies typically exclude coverage if the boat remains anchored without anyone on board. Therefore, for those who enjoy going to restaurants for dinner while leaving the boat at anchor or simply taking an evening stroll in town, it is important to ensure that the charter contract’s insurance policy includes coverage even when the boat is left unattended after sunset and without any crew.
In conclusion, for a peaceful cruise, it is advisable to anchor the rented boat securely. However, before leaving the boat unattended, even for a short period, it is important to check if local ordinances prohibit it, both in Italy and in other countries. Additionally, carefully assess the current and forecasted weather conditions, and make sure you have insurance coverage that aligns wi
th your intended activities.