The territory is more than doubling the number of moorings available for recreational and commercial boaters in a public-private partnership expected to bolster the charter boat industry and protect the marine environment at the same time.
Installation started in March and is ongoing, according to Oriel Blake, executive director of the Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association, which is taking the lead on the project.
She declined to say how many moorings have been installed so far and are ready for use.
A total of 200 moorings will be installed, according to a Government House press release, which also said about half of them are in place now.
Before the 2017 hurricanes, the non-profit group Reef Ecology maintained 77 moorings. Blake estimated only about 25 of those survived the storms. (VIPCA assumed the Reef Ecology’s permit, according to the Department of Planning and Natural Resources).
In announcing the project, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. touted it as part of his support for the boating industry.
“When I first took office, I initiated a groundbreaking public-private partnership with representatives from the marine industry. I am thrilled to share that this collaboration has produced exceptional results,” he said.
The project “will substantially reduce potential damage to our coral reefs, offering a safer and more convenient alternative to anchoring for both our residents and visitors,” Bryan said in the release.
“(W)e can now extend a warm welcome to a diverse range of vessels, including monohulls, multihulls, and mega yachts, in our beloved bays with utmost ease,” he said.
Most of the moorings will accommodate vessels of 65 feet or less, according to DPNR Commissioner Jean-Pierre Oriol. A few will be for mega yachts, and those will require a different type of anchoring system because of their size.
During the COVID pandemic, when vessels were turned away from most other Caribbean ports, Byran welcomed boaters to V.I. waters. The move was met with mixed reviews from island residents. Some hoped it signaled a resurgence of the territory’s once-thriving charter boat industry. Others complained of aesthetic and environmental concerns.
Blake told the Source she believes the moorings will improve but not expand the industry in the territory.
“No, I don’t think it’ll increase the industry,” she said. It will make for “a better cruising experience” and protect the marine environment.
The user fees are $10 for a day-use and $35 a night for overnight use of a mooring. Day-use moorings are marked with yellow, and the overnight moorings are blue-banded. According to the VIPCA release, they can be used for up to 14 days at a time.
“Fees collected fund each mooring’s third-party liability insurance and year-round maintenance,” the release states. There are also special rates for frequent users and “VIPCA is offering privileges, including free mooring use as compensation, to anyone who nominates themselves as a ‘bay host’ to assist in frequent and routine reporting of the moorings in any bay in which they reside or visit daily.”
Users can pay through an online service called BoatyBall, email@example.com.
The mooring project was funded through a $562,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Authority, according to Government House.
There is also support through the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, the charter association release notes. “This includes a $100,000 grant from the Fund for the Virgin Islands and a $75,000 grant for St. John moorings from the Friends and Family Fund for USVI Renewal.”
“After obtaining the necessary permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the V.I. Coastal Zone Management, we meticulously handpicked a range of sites for the moorings,” Bryan said in the Government House release.
The mooring sites are:
St. Thomas: Barges; Benner Bay; Brewers Bay; Buck Island – Buck Island; Buck Island Andre’s; Buck Island; Barracuda; Buck Island Bills’; Calf Rock; Capella Island N; Capella Island NE; Capella Island NW; Capella Island; Carvel Rock; Coki Bay; Congo Cay NW; Congo Cay SW; Cow Rock; Dog Island; Flat Cay; French Cap; Frenchman’s Bay; Grass Cay SE; Great Bay; Hans Lollick; Inner Brass; Lindberg Bay; Lindquist; Little Hans; Little Hans Lollick; Little St. James; Long Bay; Lovango; Lovongo Cay; Magens Bay; Mermaid’s Chair; Mingo Cay S; Outer Brass; Packet; Saba Island; Sandy Bay; Sapphire; Secret Harbor; St. James / Stragglers; Thatch Cay NW; Turtle Cove Vessup Bay; Wreck Cove.
Water Island: Druif Bay; Sprat Bay; Water Island; Water Island; Sprat Point.
St. John: Coral Bay Harbor; Cruz Bay; Great Cruz Bay; Round Bay; Steven’s Cay.
St. Croix: Altona Lagoon; Christiansted; Cramer’s Park; Fort Frederik Beach; Frederiksted; Sandcastle; Rainbow Beach; Salt River.