The British Virgin Islands have a great system to protect our reefs and make it easier on boats to stay put while enjoying the aquatic world. They use a mooring system!
The amazing thing about this system is that you don’t have to drop anchor, which protects the underwater marine environment from physical damage and helps maintain it. The BVI National Parks Trust is responsible for this great system and wast implemented in 1991. Since then they have installed more than 200 moorings for day time us on the dive sites in the BVI. The BVI National Park Trust was founded in 1961 and is responsible to safeguard the BVI’s natural assets. They manage 21 protected areas such as of course the Wreck of the Rhone, but also the Baths and historical sites like Mt Healthy Windmill and the Botanical Gardens in Road Town. The National Park Trust also tries to help out others who are trying to make a difference; they sponsor the Reef Guardians.
What is a mooring? A mooring is a surface buoy which in this case is attached to a stainless steel pin which gets drilled into the ocean bed. These moorings can hold vessels up to about 55 ft or 35 tons. In some locations you will find larger yellow moorings to hold bigger boats. Even though they should be secure it is recommended to always check the painter and downline when you pick a mooring up to check the integrity. As far as we are concerned, we always set a safety line when we go diving. One of our guides will enter the water first and take a line down which will get connected to the bottom of the mooring. Like this, if the mooring line was to break, we have a second line attached to the bottom, just in case… These moorings have a 90-minute time limit, to give everyone the possibility to enjoy these beautiful locations and they work on a first come first serve basis. You are only allowed to use them during the day as they are often located in areas which are unpredictable and sometimes rough seas, in areas where it is shallow or they are close to rocks and reefs.
A small fee is charged to everyone in order to be able to maintain these moorings. All charter boats should obtain a permit and as far as we are concerned, we pay an additional fee for each diver we take out. Because of this additional fee we get preference on the yellow moorings. As far as we are concerned, everyone can pick up the yellow moorings and if can we will go somewhere else if the mooring is taken. However, if that really is the dive site we have to do, because our divers have been everywhere else, or the other sites are not suitable for the divers onboard, then we might have to ask you to leave.
The buoys are color coded; The red buoys are non-commercial moorings for day use only and can get picked up by anyone. Like mentioned earlier the yellow buoys are for commercial dive vessels only, so when we come along, you might have to move…Larger yellow buoys are for the larger vessels. Blue buoys, are for dinghies only, often because they are in shallow water or not on such a secure mooring.
Overnight moorings are found throughout the British Virgin Islands. You will find them in protected anchorages such as at the Bitter End Yacht Club in the North Sound of Virgin Gorda or Machioneel Bay at the Cooper Island Beach Club. These overnight moorings are normally white and marked by a sticker or a number. In most of these places run a shuttle and will come by to collect the mooring fee. Mooring fees range from $30 to $35 and can come with free ice or water, depending on the location.
The main advantage of the moorings is that they eliminate reef damage. Sadly not everyone uses the moorings or on heavier visited sites all of the moorings are often occupied and then sadly people still anchor on the reef.