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Even though, when on charter, we do take mooring balls on occasion, we really prefer to secure our boat using our own ground tackle. When would we opt to use a ball?

  1. When the water is too deep to anchor (this is obviously subjective and depends on the amount of rode that you carry).
  2. We know from experience that the sea floor is bad for holding.
  3. The bay is full of mooring balls and thus, if we did anchor, we’d end up swinging into the boats on adjacent mooring balls.
  4. We are only stopping for a short period of time and will not be spending the night, or leaving the boat unattended.

On those occasions that we secure the boat to a mooring ball, we always rig our mooring lines to minimize chafe. If we’ll be spending the night, we also like to dive on the mooring ball, assuming that the water is clean enough and not too deep. Even if it is too deep to see the bottom, we still like to check out the mooring tackle that we can see. Think that perhaps all this is overkill?


  1. Very interesting…if this is the BVI, they charge a lot for mooring and our expectations rise due to this. having said that, never, never, never assume anything!?!

  2. We can second that idea of checking the mooring ball and its chain. Upon the recommendation of a person in Esperanza, Vieques Puerto Rico we picked up a mooring ball installed by the Dept of Nat Resources. (DRN) That evening/morning about 2 AM while www were sleeping, we felt a bump and we both knew we were grounded. Rushing up to the cock pit Don hit the starter and the diesel roared to life. I ran forward to look as we were right on the beach of Esperanza. Not very far away a police car with lights flashing was directed at us. We were lucky, as we have a solid full keel boat and a couple of bumps to the bottom is not a life threatening thing. Backing off the beach, we motored away, not too far and dropped our own hook down with the mooring ball still attached to the boat. We decided to sort it out in the morning in the daylight. In the end we saw hat the chain had parted where the links were worn thin. Waves had come in in the night and with the up and down motion of the bow yanking on the mooring chain it finally parted. So bottom line, check your moorings. Make sure you do not attach to them oozing ball in a way that will slide back and forth and cause fault due to heat (of the sliding back and forth) or chafe. An additional line to the mooring ball in case one of the lines parts is also a nice idea.

  3. There must be more to the story. Clearly it has drifted into shallow water since failure.
    * Did someone drag ashore?
    * Is it the same style as other moorings in the area, or could it have come some distance?
    * Did someone cut it loose, who was too lazy to clean up their mess (if the chain failed at the anchor, the tail would be longer)?

    The commercial moorings around here tend to be inspected frequently; many are either removed or winter floats installed (moving ice will remove anything). But are we even sure of that? Each time I struggle with an over-set new style anchor I curse for a moment, and then remember that a deep set is a good thing! So is using my own chain.


    • In looking at the ball we were on, it appears to me that the chain you saw was, at one time, attached to an eye on a length of rode that was ultimately secured to a sand screw. My guess is the pin on the shackle connecting the two came out. It then drifted to the position we found it in on a lee side of the bay.

  4. How common is this problem? Every other one or one in a thousand?


  5. Mooring balls have failed me twice.
    First time was in the BVI’s, luckily I’d stayed on the boat while the rest of the party went snorkeling.
    Second time was at the Bora Bora yacht club. Went for a night dive, came back to no boat. Luckily the boat went aground on sand, and with the help of a couple local fishing guys we got the boat off with minimal damage.

  6. Agree this is very scary. We prefer to hang off our own ground tackle, too. But on the other hand, we see more turtles now because sea grass beds are recovering in some areas. When you think of all the boats visiting the BVI, each anchoring 3 and 4 times a day, each time in a different place and each time gouging and scouring the sea floor, it’s easy to see how having well-secured and maintained moorings available and using them can be good for these beautiful bays. So if good moorings are available AND we dive them, we often use them. Think St. John. In the Spanish Virgins, however, we use those moorings only in light wind and with two anchor alarms set.

    • You’re no doubt correct. In St. John, as it is a park, we always take a ball. We also use balls for convenience in other areas. In fact, we are swinging on one right now. I do still trust our own ground tackle more though.

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