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Old 01-03-2007, 08:42   #1
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anchoring vs mooring

As I approach the crowded harbors of the eastern Caribbean this spring, I have been wondering more and more about the rules and customs of mooring and anchoring. Specifically, in a harbor full of mooring buoys of private ownership and unknown maintenance history, I might prefer to anchor. If I anchor near unoccupied mooring buoy(s), is it appropriate for me to assert my prior claim to the location if another boat subsequently picks up the mooring. I know the arguments regarding local custom and adapting to current harbor use patterns (i.e. if a local boater is relying on the mooring being vacant, a visitor will not prevail - if everyone is swinging on one anchor, do not upset the apple cart by setting two - etc.). I envision wedging into a crowded harbor, anchoring, and then having a debate with a later arrival...
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Old 01-03-2007, 09:33   #2
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Is there a maritime attorney?

At the Bitter End "YC" there were moorings all over the place with an associated price tag for picking one up. They had put down moorings everywhere it was possible to anchor. Nonetheless, because of what is believed to be maritime law regarding a first-come-to-anchor claim several of us anchored amongst the moorings and came to no grief because of it later. I guess that the real problem is that if others come later and are not aware that they cannot encroach on your swinging space without negative consequences then one has an argument on one's hands.

Any maritime attorney out there who can add to this?
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Old 01-03-2007, 10:22   #3
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One of the best anchorages in the BVI is nearby the Bitter End, just west of Saba Rock. Lots of room to anchor; have spent many, many days & nights there at anchor over the past three decades.

Moorings have become ubiquitous in the BVI for several reasons:

(1) to protect the coral reefs, which have been badly damaged over the years;

(2) to protect boats from sailors who have little experience, and often little interest, in anchoring. Winds in the BVI can be quite strong, and improperly anchored boats are a menace to others. Moorings have cut down on the "anchoring follies" mightily; and

(3) as a source of revenue for the "owners" and the companies who maintain the moorings.

As to anchoring in a mooring field, to my mind this is just a matter of knowledge, courtesy and common sense. It doesn't require a maritime attorney.

An anchored vessel should NEVER interfere either with an existing mooring or any boat which picks up that mooring.

In many cases, it is possible to position your boat in a mooring field in such a way that you will NOT interfere with the moorings or boats on them. This is particularly true if you are using an all chain rode AND if the wind is blowing continuously from one quadrant (as it very often is in the BVI). I've done it successfully many, many times with no issues.

Success depends on planting your anchor rather precisely. If you approach the chosen spot upwind and position your anchor midway between two mooring balls, and back down with the wind to lie with your bow at least 60' from the nearest ball, you'll probably be OK. Not a great solution, but a workable one if you're careful. And, obviously, it depends on the proximity of mooring balls in the mooring field.

Bill
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Old 01-03-2007, 11:25   #4
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btrayfors/Bill says "An anchored vessel should NEVER interfere either with an existing mooring or any boat which picks up that mooring." - This sounds like the pronouncement of a mooring owner!

I have never seen so many moorings as I have been running into lately on the south coast of Puerto Rico (Ponce, Salinas) and other cruisers have said it is only the beginning as I move east then south. I surely would not want to interfere with someone's use of a mooring - particularly a local vessel, nor would I want the hassle of debating with a later arrival - but is it truly a common opinion as Bill says: "NEVER interfere"?
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Old 01-03-2007, 11:34   #5
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Yes. Moorings can generally be assumed to take precedence over newcomers wishing to anchor, on the basis of “first come - first serve”. The mooring was there first. Think of it as “calling dibs”.

Moorings (hopefully) stay where they are placed, whereas anchors are more easily relocatable.

Finally, we might assume that an existing permanent mooring complies with local regulations (and/or custom).
This “squatter’s right” may, or may not, not carry the force of law - but failing definative local knowledge otherwise, I think that the prudent and decent thing to assume, is that it does.
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Old 01-03-2007, 11:48   #6
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Here in NZ, you pay for the area of seabed your boat takes up, So you effectively are leasing the seabed area that your boat will swing over, thus having right to it.
Using anothers mooring is often done, but it is considered rude to do so, unless you have the owners permission. Using a mooring without knowing what it is is purely foolhardy. there are many unregistered moorings around the country. If the mooring is registered, then chances are it has been two yearly inspected and the block is of a known weight. Unregistered could mean the block below is totaly unsafe. I know of two moorings close by one another. We get to use one of them. The other is nothing more than a tractor tire. Both have the same yellow bouy. You would never know the other is not safe. It is for the owner of the other moorings PWC. I have already warned one large boat that was about to grab it one night. Someone will come to grief on it eventually.
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Old 01-03-2007, 11:59   #7
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The mooring was there first. Think of it as “calling dibs”. ...contrariwise, I have heard it proposed that a mooring is a convenience to its owner, but of itself it does not convey ownership to the bottom. Certainly, an unoccupied mooring does not have navigational "rights". From this standpoint, the vessel that anchors among unoccupied moorings is the first to come.

This brings to mind a situation that prevailed in Cartagena a couple of years ago. A commercial vessel - a pirate-ship/party-barge would habitually anchor in a particular location. The vessel had a surprisingly short anchor rode and there were few places in the harbor it could anchor. It would leave the anchorage for up to two or three days at a time and then return.

In the months of October through December, about four or five sailboats arrive at Cartagena every good-weather day. Naturally some of these boats would anchor where the pirate boat preferred. The pirate boat operator did not concern himself with the presence of such boats and anchored in his accustomed place regardless - creating much consernation and confusion. Did the local boat have the right to anchor there? Would placing a mooring have changed the circumstances (academic since the Port Captain there does not permit moorings)?

I wonder if anchoring and mooring rights in many locations may boil down to a question of bottomland ownership: if the bottomland owner/government permits the mooring, then maybe an anchoring boat may have less "right" to the overlying waters? I am also still a bit uncertain about the concept of getting dibs on a spot one does not occupy: how long does "dibs" last?
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Old 01-03-2007, 12:42   #8
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This isn't rocket science. You're either respectful of other people, or you're not.

Someone got there before you and planted a mooring. Assume they had the right to do so.

Someone may come to pick up that mooring while you're anchored nearby. Assume they are the owner of the mooring or someone having the owner's permission.

You're on a boat capable of navigating (moving), and anchoring in many different places.

Choose one which doesn't infringe on the rights or intentions of others.

Who gives a damn about "legal rights"? We live in a country which is far too litigious, which has IMHO turned us all into a bunch of know-nothing, irresponsible, A-Holes.

My rant for the day :-)

Bill
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Old 01-03-2007, 14:43   #9
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Thanks Bill.
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Old 02-03-2007, 04:16   #10
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It is great to find out this is a black and white issue: It is a gift of the wise (and the simpleminded) to be able to clarify matters so succinctly as Bill has done. But though Bill's opinion is clear, I hope others will still be willing to offer theirs.

As for his rant on his neighbors and their proclivities, he has my sympathies but I am not clear what set him off - I am not contemplating legal action and I am not going to be cruising in the United States. I am looking for opinions on what is traditional good seamanship in crowded harbors (anywhere) with abundant vacant moorings of (at times) unknown quality.

Is it common wisdom that a mooring owner has primacy over an anchored boat? None of my meager references on coastal piloting address this matter at all. Thanks for your replies.
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Old 02-03-2007, 04:42   #11
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I think that the ďblack & whiteĒ issue is:
When you donít know - do nothing that might transgress the locally prevailing customs, policies, rules, or laws.
Hence, if you have to ask:
Itís NOT acceptable to take up a mooring thatís not yours.
Itís NOT acceptable to crowd a mooring thatís not yours.
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Old 02-03-2007, 06:23   #12
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Hi Sand Dollor,

Yes, IMHO it is common practice for an anchoring vessel to presume another will return to adjacent moorings and anchor so as to not prevent that happening.

This view is comes from experience in Australia and Europe where a majority of moorings are offically authorised.

I think its best to leave the lawyers to argue the legalities, but lets hope sailors of all kinds can continue to sort out parking issues that may arise politely - and leave the lawyers out.

Cheers
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Old 02-03-2007, 06:36   #13
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I have been concerned about who owns the bottom re moorings in harbors in NE. The region is very crowded with recreational vessels and there are tens of thousands of moorings set both by a boat own and a commercial interest who then rents them on a daily, weekly, monthly or seasonal basis.

So who gets to set down a mooring? What happens when a harbor is completely filled with moorings leaving no play to drop an anchor? Huntington Harbor in LI is one such place.

What law(s) gives a local jurisdiction control of the harbor such that they can sell/rent moorings to people based on some "created" criteria? Can they enforce quality/maintenance standards? How DO they enforce practically enforce them?

Of course, the practical impact is that the harbor real estate has become very valuable and anchoring boats are kept well off giving priority to the moorings.

So you might find a situation where early or late in the season, with few moored boats in the mooring field... a visiting yatchsman... say in transit cannot use the mooring "area" for anchoring, despite the fact that there are no moored vessels... and if he picks up a mooring there, is usually expected to pay exhorbitant fees.

On top of this these mooring interests usually establish a private dinghy landing which is not available to anchored vessels. Yacht clubs, I have found are especially "hostile" to anchored vessels dinghies using their dinghy docks. It's the whole private property thing... No Tresspassing.

On the other hand... there are places in Maine where several free moorings are provided because someone(s) like to have visiting yachtsmen and over the convenience the way they might to a vehicle who can park along a street.

NIMBY seems to be the theme re moorings.
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Old 02-03-2007, 07:23   #14
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Mooring can be profitable as well as benefical

We cruised through the BVI's on our way north and saw the amazing number of moorings everywhere. We spent some time anchored off the bitter end (where a powerfull dinghy is valuable) and a lot of time at Marina Cay, along with other places.

While wiling the evening away we counted 50 moorings at Marina Cay @ $25 USD a night. We estimated that over a year the moorings proabably generated revenue 50% of the time. This works out to ~$228,000/yr.

So not only do you get reef protection, but quick and easy landings gives most vacationers a reason for the easy tie up thus giving them incentive for visiting the local shops rather than bypassing for easier places and the owners get ~ $228K of revenue!

While we were there in April the Moorings were full with boats cruising by to look for one by lunch time every day for the 10 days we hung out there. Of course as cruisers we anchored because we could justify that expense.
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Old 02-03-2007, 07:53   #15
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This is a very vexing question. I have been in anchorages where the entire space is filled with moorings. So much so, that it was not safe to take some of the moorings because they were too close to other moored boats.

I know the analogy is something of a stretch, but it seems like a mooring in a public anchorage is like painting a reserved spot on a public street. No one else gets to park there but you! Now it make great sense to me if you purchased the rights to that spot, but what about a public, shared space. hmmm....

I absolutely agree that you own the rights to the mooring. i.e. only you, or your assigns should be able to tie off to it. But, does it really give you perputual rights to the anchoring space?

The heck with purchasing a slip! I think I'll just start planting mooring balls and selling them. Great business oppurtunity.
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