Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


In recent times, there has been a proliferation of laws enacted by individual states and townships which restrict the ability of mariners to anchor within navigable waters of the United States. These laws have been enacted in many of the coastal states, but are most prevalent in California, Florida and Hawaii. Uncertainty as to whether anchoring is an act of navigation, thereby being a constitutional right, has resulted in confusion among boaters, legal authorities and policy makers. In an attempt to clarify the uncertainty surrounding this issue, a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of anchoring laws within the State of Hawaii has come before the public eye. Although the Hawaiian lawsuit is focused solely upon anchoring laws which affect that state, the ultimate outcome of the case could set precedent for this issue on a national basis. As case history has been unhelpfully silent in the resolution of the anchoring issue, primary legal doctrines, such as the United States Constitution, the public trust doctrine and legal traditions practiced since the Institutes of Justinian law must provide some of the essential guidelines. Also of importance are the opinions of federal agencies, such as the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers. The following study addresses the current state of the anchoring conflict, explains the importance of a solution, examines the documents which affect the issue, and proposes conclusions based on logic, history, and the guidelines set forth in the surveyed primary data. The conclusions support the proposals that anchoring can be proven to be an act of navigation, laws which restrict anchoring likewise restrict constitutional rights, and that anchoring laws may be deemed to be unconstitutional.