a wooden fence next to a body of water

Monroe County is moving ahead with plans to install a new managed mooring field for 40 liveaboard vessels in Boca Chica Basin, just off Maloney Avenue on Stock Island. An additional 100 moorings are planned for the waters around Wisteria Island, a small island across the harbor from downtown Key West. Both areas are currently home to dozens of maintained and functioning liveaboard boats whose owners do not pay for their anchorage, as well as derelict vessels that pose safety and environmental hazards, and are expensive for the government to remove. 

County Commissioner Craig Cates is working on the new mooring fields with Brittany Burtner, the county’s marine resources administrator. The two of them hosted a town hall meeting on March 13 at Bernstein Park on Stock Island to update the community about the Boca Chica Mooring Field and reassure some concerned residents who live next door or close to the upland property on Maloney Avenue that will house the shoreside facilities.

The county bought the vacant lot at 6633 Maloney Ave. in 2021 for $500,000 and plans to install a dinghy dock, showers and restrooms for mooring field tenants, a dockmaster’s office and apartment and laundry facilities. But those plans first require a zoning change for the parcel — a change some neighbors were reluctant to support at the March 13 meeting, citing concerns about adding 40 or more people to the mooring field in a neighborhood where parking is already a problem on Maloney Avenue.

Burtner assured the residents that the shoreside property for the mooring field will accommodate as many bikes and scooters as possible, but acknowledged that cars would park on the street. 

Longtime fishing Capt. Don Jonas, owner of High Stakes Charters, lives next door to the shoreside lot, where he also owns several trailers that he rents to long-term tenants. He and Cates have butted heads about the mooring field and its potential impact on the neighborhood and residents. Jonas said the mooring field tenants will be coming in and out of the facilities “24 hours a day,” and using a navigable channel that runs right in front of his property. 

Cates assured the neighbors the county will do whatever it can to alleviate parking concerns and he emphasized that a managed mooring field will be a significant improvement to the current situation in Boca Chica Basin, where about 60 boats are currently anchored, most of them derelict, or uninhabited, Cates said.

“Our priority for the mooring field will be for liveaboard residents, not for boat storage,” Cates said, “Tenants have to pump out their sewage once a week and the boat has to be operational.”

He added that the installed moorings and restriction on vessel size and draft (how deep its hull sits in the water) ensure that the boats aren’t sitting on the bottom at low tide and destroying seagrass and other marine resources. Weekly sewage pumpout is also required.

Cates told the Keys Weekly last week that a contractor can begin installing the actual anchorages for both the Wisteria Island and Boca Chica mooring fields in the coming months, but the Boca Chica Mooring Field won’t open until the zoning change is approved for the upland property, and the shoreside facilities are completed. 

The details of the mooring field are available at

Mandy Miles
Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.