... or sailing etiquette for the uninitiated
I asked David Moir of Moor Seacure Limited in Tortola
, who owns a large majority of the moorings in the BVI
, to clarify their policy for me. After he finished letting out a loud and sorrowful groan, he said he wasn't up to the task of rewriting maritime law! He then cited many instances where "one policy to suit all situations" simply isn't feasible ... and I wholeheartedly agree.
It is Mr. Moir's feeling that once a mooring ball has a dinghy tied on, that mooring is effectively "in use
" ... regardless of the size of the vessel. The presence of a dinghy is a clear indicator that the dinghy owner or lessor intends to return. By design, the moorings system is offered on a first come, first served basis. A dinghy is a boat and subject to the same fees
as any other boat, regardless of its size.
David has had situations where people have become so irate to find a dinghy tied to a mooring ball that they have actually untied the dinghy and set it adrift! Of course, this is a criminal act and the owner or lessor of the dinghy has every right to press criminal charges against such offenders.
In some cases, Moor Seacure has had customers who have stayed on the same mooring for several nights in a row and have used a specific mooring as their home base; tying off their dinghy to the mooring during the day and returning each night. This too is perfectly acceptable as far as Mr. Moir is concerned. Whether or not this practice is acceptable to the charter company or owner of the yacht that also owns the dinghy ... is another question.
If you want to stay at a particular spot and don't want to sail there only to find there are no mooring balls available ... use your radio and call ahead! Should you find that no spots are available and If the anchorage is unsuitable for anchoring, then get out your Cruising Guide and opt for plan "B"! Most sailors understand that if you don't have a plan B, you don't have a plan at all!
There are no hard and fast rules and regulations regarding mooring ball etiquette. One can only hope that the yachting community will respect the property of others and will understand that the mooring system was designed to operate on a "first come, first served" basis.
It might also be wise to keep in mind that to board, untie or release a line from a boat (regardless of size) is unlawful! Those who advocate untying a dinghy from a mooring, tying their yacht to the mooring and then securing the dinghy to their yacht so the owner or lessor may retrieve it upon their return, may want to think twice before doing so. That too is illegal!