April 14, 2006 – With the official start of the 2006 hurricane season just over a month away, V.I. National Park is gearing up by announcing registration for boaters who want to use Hurricane Hole as a safe haven when a storm threatens.
Rafe Boulon, the park's chief of resource management, said that last year about 100 boaters signed up to use Hurricane Hole as a hurricane shelter.
Boaters must register to use the area. The registration date is June 3, and registration will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the park's maintenance facility conference room, located just past Mongoose Junction Shopping Center in Cruz Bay. Parking is available on either side of the lot just after the entrance.
Boat owners will be processed on a first-come, first-serve basis starting at 9 a.m.
"They'll get first pick of the spots," Boulon said.
Bring the vessel's name, length, beam, draft, and vessel registration or documentation number. Application forms may be filled out while waiting to be called.
If boat owners cannot attend, they can send someone else. That person must bring written permission that specifies the owner, vessel and the name of the person doing the registration. Those people will be processed after all the boat owners are registered.
Boaters who can't make the June 3 registration and have no one to send, may register by with Boulon. Boat owners may also have someone else register their boats with Boulon. Call 693-8950, extension 224.
For 2006, storm refuge permits are free.
Boulon said the park hasn't determined if or when it will charge a fee to use the hurricane chain system.
Last year, the park's long-awaited hurricane chain system went into use.
"I feel like it's untested," boater Lee Stanciauskas said.
She said that since no storms threatened last hurricane season, she and her husband, Larry Best, had no reason to move their boat, Osprey, to Hurricane Hole.
The couple did sign up for a spot in Hurricane Hole, but Stanciauskas said that the hurricane chain is located too far out in the bay. She would prefer it closer to shore so they would get some protection from the mangroves.
Only about half the system is in place. Therefore, it can only accommodate about 40 boats. Boulon said funding is in place for another chain system to hold a similar amount of boats, but the park will wait until hurricane season is over to begin work.
"It would be too disruptive," he said.
The system, designed for boats up to 60 feet, provides a place to attach boats that's at least as secure as the mangroves previously used, Boulon said.
"The goal of the whole system is to enable continued use of Hurricane Hole as a shelter while protecting mangroves," Boulon said.
Boaters with vessels larger than 60 feet, those who do not plan to use the system, or those who did not get space on the system may also register on June 3.
The park will mark all the assigned sites during the week of June 5. After park staff is finished, boaters may place their tackle at their assigned location.
Boaters may move to their assigned locations in Hurricane Hole 96 hours before the anticipated landfall of a tropical storm or hurricane. They must be out 72 hours after hurricane warnings for the northern Virgin Islands are lifted or by the evening of the following Sunday, whichever is later.
An exception may be made if an active system could affect the territory within five days.
Boulon said that with input from boaters, the park has fine-tuned the system. He said if any more glitches develop, the park will work them out with the boaters.
"We've been very pleased at how cooperative the boating community has been," he said.
Tying up to mangroves is prohibited.
"Hurricane Hole is probably one of the last remaining pristine mangrove habitats in the Virgin Islands," Boulon said.
He said that the mangroves serve as nurseries for reef fish and as a home for nesting birds.
The park updated its Hurricane Mooring Use and Management Guidelines for 2006. Copies of the guidelines are available in advance. For a copy or for other information, call Thomas Kelley at 693-8950, extension 225.
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