Boaters and Department of Planning and Natural Resources officials are once again butting heads over mooring issues.
This time Great Cruz Bay is the area of heightened interest for DPNR enforcement personnel who have been busy cutting illegal mooring lines and confiscating unregistered dinghies.
Boaters are not supposed to leave their dinghies on the shoreline or on a makeshift mooring at the Great Cruz Bay legal mooring field, according to DPNR marine enforcement officer Dean Martin.
“We removed a chain of buoys that was behind the dinghies that people were staying on long-term,” said Martin. “That was not a designated mooring, so it was cut and whatever dinghies were attached to it were confiscated. If we don’t clean this up, people will leave stuff there for years to come.”
“Getting Out of Hand”
“It is getting out of hand and we have to stop it one way or another,” Martin added.
The mooring in question consisted of two sand screws with a line between them and was used for years in an effort to keep the area tidy, according to a live-aboard boater in Great Cruz Bay.
“People who use their dinghies infrequently would tie up onto the tether to keep the frequently-used area from being congested,” said the boater, who wished to not be identified. “Because we didn’t register the sand screws, it was considered an illegal mooring.”
There were recently two waves of DPNR enforcement personnel in Great Cruz Bay, according to live-aboard boaters in the mooring field.
Stickers were placed on a number of unregistered dinghies which were moored, anchored and beached on the eastern side of Great Cruz Bay. Many boaters heeded the warning and DPNR’s St. Thomas office reportedly dealt with an influx of Love City sailors registering their dinghies.
A second wave of enforcement officers, however, were seen confiscating dinghies without issuing notices to the owners, according to vessel owners in Great Cruz Bay.
Although sticker notices of impending confiscation were not placed on the dinghies, a notice was placed on a nearby bulletin board.
“I put a notice on the information board by the beach,” said Martin. “The notice stated that all dinghies must be registered and display those registration numbers on both sides of the bow. That is the law.”
“There should be no complaints,” Martin added.
Two boaters, however, whose dinghies were confiscated during the second wave of heightened enforcement, say they did not see the notice on the board.
Also, since officials never placed any notice on their dinghies, the boaters contend their vessels were taken unfairly.
Bow and Stern Anchors Recommended
Instead of pulling their dinghies up on the shoreline, boaters should use two anchors, according to Martin.
“What people should do is come in and out on the east side and use both a bow and stern anchor,” said the DPNR marine enforcement officer. “We are trying to avoid dinghies being left there over night or being left there for long periods of time. If people are going away, they should pull their dinghies out of the water and put them on the top of their cars or at their homes.”
Although DPNR officials contend the regulations are in place to protect the beach, some boaters don’t agree with the logic.
“Anchoring and re-anchoring over and over again is worse for the environment as far as I can tell,” said a boat owner whose vessel is moored in Great Cruz Bay. “I think it’s going to be worse for the beach than using the line that was there.”
The double anchor practice, however, is the only alternative for Great Cruz Bay boaters, unless they dinghy into Cruz Bay, which presents problems as well.
Not Many Other Options
In addition to the often rough ride between Cruz Bay and Great Cruz Bay, the V.I. National Park dock in Cruz Bay only has several cleats to tie up to and the Cruz Bay ferry dock is already over-crowded.
With about 80 legal moorings in Great Cruz Bay and the only public boat landing on the west side of St. John, boaters in the area are hoping to work with DPNR officials to ensure public access.
“If DPNR makes it very restrictive to access your vessel on your legal mooring, it would be a real shame,” said a boat owner.
Confiscated dinghies were taken to DPNR’s Crown Bay floating dock. Anyone who wishes to retrieve their dinghies should call 774-3320, extension 5106. Dinghy owners will be charged a storage fee and be expected to register their vessels.