Mooring Buoys - a problem
Date: Thursday 6th March 2014
Whilst in Manchineel Bay I swam under the boat to check the hull for barnacle growth. All was clear but I was rather unsettled to see that around the bow section and at various points along the waterline the antifouling on the hull had been completely rubbed away. Everything had been OK before we arrived in The Virgin Islands, so the problem must have occurred in the last couple of weeks since we got here. The cause, almost certainly, is the mooring buoys we have been using since sailing in the BVI.
These are set up so that the buoy has a long pick up line, maybe 4 or 5 metres long with a smooth eye spliced into the end. You are expected to then thread your mooring warp through the eye and tie this off to each side of your bow. I have been using two separate lines, each tied to the eye and then lead to alternate sides of the bow, an arrangement that is more resilient. Under normal conditions the trade winds will blow pretty consistently but during the last few days there have been very light winds, and there is often a current running around the islands. We have had several nights when the boat has moved forwards such that the mooring buoy is on one side of the hull and the pickup line is on the other. The tension in this line has then caused it to run along the hull and rub off the antifouling paint.
This paint is very expensive, particularly in the Caribbean (around twice what I used to pay for it in Europe). Without it marine growth will soon cover the hull and severely reduce the sailing performance of the boat. I was expecting the antifouling paint to last me for at least a year, but now I could have a problem over the next few months. The problem will be a direct consequence of the Virgin Islands policy of forcing boats to use mooring buoys rather than allowing them to use their anchors.
In many of the bays we have visited it has been illegal to use an anchor. The National Park Authority has provided mooring buoys and these must be used. In most of the other bays private concerns have laid numerous mooring buoys to the extend there is no space left to use an anchor. They charge $30 per night to use these moorings so it is a lucrative business for somebody.
One thing is clear, from now on we will go out of our way to avoid using mooring buoys, particularly when the winds are light. If that means that we have to miss out on some picturesque bays then that is just unfortunate.