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Anchorages can be desirable to cruisers, or undesirable, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the factors that draw us to a spot are naturally occurring, like reefs that can block an uncomfortable ocean swell, or a sandy beach to play on. Man-made things, like convenient stores, or fun restaurants and bars, may also attract us. The same natural and man-made categories could also be used to describe what makes an anchorage unsuitable to us. A lack of natural protection is most often a deal breaker, especially for long-term stay. Frequent petty crime, noisy development, and smelly factories will also cause us to stay away. Change is a fact of life, of course. Sometimes places improve over time. Conversely, certain spots that were once on our go-to list have slid down the desirability scale. Sadly, Hog Island, here in Grenada, is one such example.

Hog Island – our favorite Grenadian anchorage

Long-time readers might be aware that we spent almost our entire first season in Grenada anchored in virtually the same spot, just off Hog Island. At the time, the Hog Island anchorage was considered by many to be THE spot. The reefs surrounding the bay make it comfortable when many of the other anchorages are near untenable, and the atmosphere of having so many cruisers nearby was great. Almost daily, friends would meet on the beach to cool off in the water, discuss boats and current events, and share an end-of-the day beverage at Roger’s famous barefoot beach bar. Why then is it that since we purchased Frost, we have yet to anchor there even once?

kids

Kids playing in the Hog Island anchorage. 2011.

Even though we still visit Hog Island periodically by dinghy, most often to visit Roger’s, the bay has lost much of the cruiser appeal, to us at least. When we look around the bay, we note that better than half of the boats there are unattended (a lack of sails and dinghies stored on deck are a dead giveaway). The phrase “parking lot” comes to mind. Hand in hand with this, mooring balls that are taking up prime anchoring spots seem to have multiplied like un-neutered bunnies. Perhaps these balls are good for people storing their boats long term, but they’re not good for cruisers who are budget-minded, or simply prefer to trust their own ground tackle. We fit into both of those categories, and because of that, we have simply stayed away.

park

Grenada’s underwater sculpture park: a great place for mooring balls!

Legal mooring balls can be added for a couple of legitimate reasons. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) restrict anchoring and require the use of mooring balls in order to protect coral and/or sea-grass beds. Additionally, sometimes a business will install a mooring field in a nearby area where the water is too deep for easy anchoring, or there is bad holding. Aside from those two decent motives, other moorings are simply added as a money-making venture, often haphazard, and it’s these that frustrate cruisers the most.

A mooring at Norman Island, BVI.
And people wonder why many cruisers prefer to trust their own ground tackle?

Contrary to what some might believe, cruisers do have a limited income. Rebecca and I, for example, have only so much money to spend each month, and we would much rather spread it around at local businesses than be forced to buy/rent a product, a mooring ball, that we really don’t need or want. I kind of feel like filling a bay with mooring balls, intentionally taking up all the perfectly good anchoring spots, is akin to the guys who register all the good domain names, in effect, hijacking them and holding them for ransom, forcing those who have a legitimate use for them to pay. The ultimate truth is though, we’re not locals here, and thus we really have little say in the matter. The only thing we do have going for us is the ability to vote with our sails. In other words, if we don’t like something, we can just move to avoid it, right?

Apparently both Hog Island, and the anchorage area outside St. Georges, have been designated as MPAs. As such, there has been talk of establishing a mooring field in those spots, and limiting/restricting anchoring. At least with respect to the St. Georges area, this talk is more than rumors.

*The cover photo, Roger’s Beach Bar on a Sunday afternoon, was taken by our friend Carlton Grooms. 

14 Comments

  1. I agree that they need to clean house with all the unattended, rotten, and run down boats that take up the better spots. However; advantages to mooring balls are that you can fit more boats in a smaller area because they are spaced with less swing that random anchored boats. And more secure if properly sized, placed, and maintained. Less risk of a boat dragging down on you who thought their anchor was set. And easy to pick up and tie too. Which is good for bareboat charter boats.

    • Who is asking for those perceived benefits? Not any cruiser that I know. And to be clear to all those reading this, you and I both know that they are pretty much never maintained properly. If I have to dive on a ball to be certain that it is OK, then it is of no more value to me than my own anchor.

  2. Oh, freakin’ mooring balls! A pox upon those who festoon the waters with them!

    It wouldn’t be so bad if they were (a) reasonably priced, and (b) safely built. But, usually, they are neither. The average $10-a-day ball is on a 1- to 3-tonne concrete block (even the high end of that scale is only 1/3 of what it takes to safely moor a 40-footer), the chains are undersized and rusting…. I just have a really, really hard time trusting them.

    • Not sure where you’ve been sailing Matt but $10.00 US is not the average cost, it is the minimum. The park balls here are 10 US, and the balls in the BVI are 30.00 US. And to be clear, the broken one in the video was one of those 30 dollar per night balls.

  3. It is sad that Hog Island is not what it used to be. When we came the first time in 2008 it was much different. When we anchored in Mount Hartman there were less then 5 boats and almost no moorings. We, like you, prefer to use our own ground-tackle.
    I guess that Ivan, that struck in 2004, might have played a role.

    • Certainly the threat of hurricanes is one thing that draws boaters here (Grenada). My guess is that there’s also just more and more cruisers on the water these days, and they have to park their boats somewhere. This is why the removal of free anchoring spots troubles me. I know that I will not pay a fee to remain on a mooring long term, and I suspect most cruisers feel similarly. Time will tell.

  4. We are cruising in Indonesia at the moment and the same thing here. At the Komodo National Park there are a number of areas where they don’t want you to anchor, but only provide one or two mooring buoys. In August approx 50 or more sail boats come to the park, and of course, all the day tripping boats as well. Also at one of the “marinas” they have mooring buoys (for $10 a day), but are they ever checked? only when they break. This year they put down new moorings, and the first boat, with the first wind over 15 knots dragged the mooring. If in Australia, the insurance companies want a mooring to be checked and certified each year, otherwise they can refuse your claim, so I guess they will do that also if you claim in Indonesia.

    • We noted some mooring in the BVI that advertised that they were insured. I’d like to read the policy, or see evidence of someone collecting on a claim. Or perhaps those are the moorings that are actually maintained properly, and there are no claims?

      As for undersized mooring balls, we saw exactly the same thing at Guana Island in the BVI. 20 or so new balls at the beginning of the season and only 2 remaining at the end. And we should trust that with our home?

  5. Also,when on a ball, invariably the boat swings at night resulting in the most annoying banging against the hull. If,as we do,you sleep in the forward end, you have no option but to try and haul the ball up close to the bow roller. You also end up with damage or scuffing to your precious hull. Hate them!

  6. In Roseau where the water is very deep we took a ball from one of the boat boys. We asked him about the ground tackle and he assured us it was a concrete block. On snokeling it we found it attached to an old engine block and very close to a huge rock outcrop. Always check to be safe.

  7. Totally agree with you Mike. I am currently fighting the establishment who view waterfront development as progress. Their last boondoggle was 80 mooring balls past a bridge that most cruisers can’t get under. Prime anchor spots are all over with free dinghy docks in multiple locations. 10 boats use it at most. Now they want more (of my) money to maintain the field because income is a fraction of their projections.

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