Overnight moorings in VINP waters cost $15 per night, paid at floating pay stations, below, located throughout the park. Just after being installed, a vessel ties to a big boat mooring in the Lind Point area of VINP, above.
V.I. National Park took another step closer to becoming a completely anchor-less park last week.
Thanks to $70,000 from Friends of V.I. National Park and another $40,000 from VINP funds, Moor Seacure last week began installing the first “big boat” moorings — capable of safely accommodating vessels between 61 and 100 feet in length — in park waters.
There will be a total of 14 big boat moorings installed throughout VINP, 13 of which are designated for over-night use. Installation of the new moorings began on Monday, December 3, and is expected to last two weeks.
There will be four new moorings installed in the Honeymoon and Solomon Bay area, one in Hawksnest Bay, four in the Francis and Maho Bay area, two in Leinster Bay and two in Great Lameshur Bay. One day-use only, big boat mooring will be installed at the entrance to Princess Bay in the Hurricane Hole area of the Coral Reef National Monument.
The overnight moorings, like the rest of the existing 200 VINP moorings capable of accommodating boats up to 60 feet in length, cost $15 per night. The day-use only Princess Bay mooring is free of charge.
With a current moratorium on fees within VINP, those fees will remain the same, at least for now.
Moor Secure installing “big boat” moorings near Caneel Bay Resort.
“It is Friends’ position that the over-night mooring fees should be raised to the rates charged in the British Virgin Islands which is $25,” said Friends of VINP President Joe Kessler. “The fees for larger moorings should be expotentially more and there should be a fee for use of the Hurricane Hole day-use moorings.”
VINP officials plan to conduct a comparability study and then develop a plan for the entire mooring field, including the new big boat moorings, explained Thomas Kelley, VINP Natural Resource Manager.
Using massive twin helical anchors and a custom-designed beam created to carry a vessel’s load along a horizontal plane at all times, the new big boat moorings are capable of holding more than 32,000 pounds, according to VINP officials.
The moorings are being installed by American Underwater Contractors and their local contractor Moor Seacure, based out of Tortola. Moor Seacure has been working with Friends of VINP and VINP on moorings since the first ones were installed more than a decade ago.
“We started the project to make VINP anchor-less in 1999 when they started putting in the first of the 200 over-night moorings,” said Kessler. “We have absolutely seen a difference. If you snorkel around the mooring field at Maho and Francis, for example, it is like a rich carpet of seagrass now.”
The moorings are also safer for the many boaters not familiar with anchoring, Kessler added.
“You see a lot of vacationers who are used to going in and out of marinas and not used to anchoring their vessels in the breeze and open water,” he said. “We used to see a lot of people just put their hook down and then drag back and forth. The moorings are much safer for boaters and much easier to use and you don’t have to stay up all night making sure you’re not dragging.”
Realizing this final phase of the mooring field is the result of a months-long process of applications and permits. Once the approval came down, Kessler was able to secure $70,000 in donations Friends of VINP members and supporters for the project.
VINP officials were able to use $40,000 from a grounding incident on Johnson Reef which occurred about six years ago, explained Acting VINP Superintendent Mike Anderson.
“The vessel Stray Dog was involved in a grounding in VINP waters about five or six years ago and they were assessed damages,” said Anderson. “One of the uses of that money is to monitor the damage at the site and also to restore the area and for purposes like this to prevent future groundings.”
These new big boat moorings make the park almost completely anchor-less, which goes a long way toward protecting valuable natural resources, VINP officials explained.
VINP officials estimate that the park has lost several thousand square meters of coral reef and seagrass habitat from major vessel groundings and improper or illegal anchoring over the years.
Vessels up to 100 feet length on deck must use moorings in VINP water. If none are available they may only anchor in the designated areas of Lind Point and Francis Bay, according to information provided by VINP.
Private vessels up to 125 feet in length may anchor in the designated area of Lind Point. Private vessels between 125 and 210 feet length on deck may anchor in Francis Bay in the designated area east of the line between Mary’s Point and America Hill, according to information from VINP.
The GPS coordinates for the designated anchorages at Lind Point and Francis Bay are available in many marine cruising guides and at the VINP Visitor Center in Cruz Bay.
For more information on VINP’s mooring program, call VINP Chief Ranger Lloyd Morris at 776-6201 ext. 254, or Thomas Kelley, VINP Natural Resource Manager, 693-8950 ext. 225.