The Virgin Islands National Park and V.I. Coral Reef National Monument are installing new ‘big boat’ moorings in the park and monument, the park service announced Friday.
The existing boat moorings in the park and monument are rated for vessels up to 60 feet in length. The new, big-boat moorings are rated for boats between 61and 100 feet, and 14 big-boat moorings are being installed the first two weeks in December, according to the news release.
Four moorings each are planned for the Lind Point and Francis Bay areas, two each in Leinster Bay and Great Lameshur Bay, and one mooring in Hawksnest Bay. All are for day or overnight use and will cost $15 per night, the same price as the existing moorings.
All mooring-use regulations for the existing 200 park moorings apply to the new big boat moorings.
One big-boat mooring is planned for the south-east entrance of Princess Bay in V.I. Coral Reef National Monument. The enabling proclamation prohibits overnight use of the monument. The guidelines for the new big-boat moorings are identical to those for the existing 11 day-use-only moorings in the monument. The moorings in the monument are currently free of charge.
The mooring system uses twin helical anchors and a custom beam that carries the load along a horizontal plane and connects nylon line to a surface mooring, the park service said in its announcement. They are designed for a minimum breaking strength of 32,000 pounds.
Six years after Virgin Islands National Park was established in 1956, its enabling legislation allowed the addition of 5,650 acres of submerged lands in order to “preserve for the benefit of the public significant coral gardens, marine life, and seascapes.” Ever since, park managers have struggled to protect the fragile marine resources from human impacts while providing access. The Park has lost several thousand square meters of coral reef and seagrass habitat from major vessel groundings and improper or illegal anchoring.
One of the most important objectives for the goal to achieve long range protection of marine resources is to establish an anchorless park. With the installation of the big boat moorings the Park will become almost completely anchorless.
The Friends of VINP, with its president Joe Kessler at its helm, have raised $70,000 to install the big-boat moorings. VINP funded $40,000 from the grounding settlement of the vessel Stray Dogs and other in-kind services for this project. The Friends have made it possible for the Park to make great strides in the goal to become anchorless, the park service news release said.
Vessels as long as 100 feet must use moorings; if none are available they may only anchor in the designated areas of Lind Point and Francis Bay. Private vessels as long as 125 feet can anchor in the designated area of Lind Point. Private vessels between 125 and 210 feet may anchor in Francis Bay in the designated area west of the line between Mary’s Point and America Hill.
A fee for all vessels anchoring overnight is $15 per night. 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, St. John, USVI.
Lloyd Morris, VINP Chief Ranger, can be reached at 1-340-776-6201 ext. 254, and Thomas Kelley, VINP natural resource manager, can be reached at 1-340-693-8950 ext 225 for more information on the mooring program.