St. John Tradewinds News

Boaters Find Not-so-smooth Sailing on Hurricane Hole Registration Day

The V.I. National Park’s fifth year of registering boaters for the Hurricane Hole storm chain proved to be the most daunting yet.

 

Registration was scheduled for Saturday, June 9, at 8 a.m. at the VINP’s maintenance building, but boaters started showing up on Thursday morning, June 7, almost 48 hours early.

 

With about 30 people camping out near the Caneel Bay Apartments across from Mongoose Junction on Thursday night, VINP officials knew they had a problem on their hands.

“By mid-day on Friday (June 8) we had 25 or 30 people camping out by Caneel Bay Apartments and someone over there called the police,” said Rafe Boulon, VINP’s chief of resource management. “They couldn’t stay on Caneel property and they can’t camp on Park land and they couldn’t stay at Mongoose Junction all night, so that left only the road and it was raining.”

 

VINP officials were forced to make a decision, Boulon explained.


Park Decides on Sign-up Sheet

“We had to make a decision and while it wasn’t the best decision, our other choice was to tell people to leave — and some of them had been there since Thursday night and didn’t want to leave,” he said. “We couldn’t have told them just to leave. So the park decided to start a sign up sheet and we made arrangements with a bunch of boaters to be there all night long to sign people up when they came in.”

 

Boaters still had to be present to register their vessels on Saturday morning when VINP officials signed up 116 boats on the first day of registration. That figure is more than double last year’s when the first day of registration only saw 60 vessel owners sign up, according to Boulon.

 

“We signed up 30 more boats than we had spaces on the chain for, but that is not uncommon,” he said. “There are a lot of places we put people in Hurricane Hole where there is no chain.”

 

No One Turned Away

VINP officials will not turn anyone away who wishes to register their vessels, Boulon explained.

 

“How many people is too many — we just don’t know,” he said. “At this point I’m just signing people up for a bay and we’ll squeeze them in.”

 

Neither the boating community nor Park officials were pleased with the registration situation this year.

 

“Some people who hadn’t heard about the list were understandably upset,” said the VINP chief of resource management. “We weren’t happy with what happened either. We tried to make the best of a bad situation.”

 

Some vessel owners even showed up on Saturday morning to stand in line and still didn’t know about the sign up list, explained one local boater.

 

“The list wasn’t really fair because it happened 24 hours before registration day,” said the boater. “Even though I’m not angry and most people aren’t angry, still it wasn’t fair to the people who didn’t hear about the list.”


Some Boaters Still In the Dark

“The people who got really screwed were the ones who never heard about the list and came in the morning and were standing in line in front of people who had a number already,” the local vessel owner said.

 

Things eventually worked smoothly, Boulon pointed out.

 

“Once we got people lined up and talked to everyone and told them we recognized it wasn’t the best solution to come up with but was the best we could do, it went smoothly,” he said. 

 

Park officials are hoping to collaborate with the boating community to devise a better plan for next year’s Hurricane Hole storm chain registration.

 

“It’s just not going to work like this if people show up 48 or 36 hours early,” said the VINP chief of resource management. “There is just no place for them to be. We want to work with the boating community to come up with a better idea next year.”


Calling for More Storms

Increased predictions for storms this year — with experts calling for seven to 10 hurricanes — in the area might be one reason for the surge in registration.

 

“This is the fifth year we’ve done this and it’s worked pretty well until this year,” said Boulon. “I think people got antsy and the hurricane advisory is a bit worse. I think people were just getting nervous and it’s shown us we need to figure something out.”

 

What happened on Hurricane Hole storm chain registration day is no surprise, at least to one local boater.

 

“I’m not angry and I do understand the situation although we’ve known for a long time that this would happen,” said the boater. “It’s been getting worse every year and it’s not a surprise to me that this year was worse than last year. We knew that people would stand on line all night or do whatever it took to get a storm spot.”


Everyone’s Input

Before the chain was installed, VINP officials worked with the boating community to devise the current registration system.

 

“I was involved with the boaters decision groups with the Park and the Friends (of the VINP) for three years before they put in the chain and pretty much every one said the first come first served system would be the best because no one wanted a lottery,” said one boater.

 

Now, however, some boaters think a lottery system would be more effective.


Possible Lottery System

“Now I think a lottery system might be the best way to go,” said the boater. “People can’t stand out there all night. We need a better alternative.”

 

Park officials are still wary of the idea, according to Boulon.

 

“Many people said we should do a lottery but the last time I brought that up I had my head bitten off,” he said.

 

The VINP should assign boats to adequate spaces on the chain, with deeper keeled boats in deeper water, according to the local sailing vessel owner.

 

“A great suggestion that I heard is for the Park to assign spaces so that everyone would see what kind of boat it is and assign an appropriate place,” said the boater.

 

Still many boaters expressed gratitude for the storm chain, Boulon explained.


Hoping To Not Use Chain

“I would have to say that while there were some very vocal people during the registration, I still had  the majority of people thanking us for what we do out there,” he said.

 

While the day was far from perfect, everyone agreed on one thing — the hope of not having to use the chain at all.

 

“Hopefully no one will have to use their spots this year anyway — that is what I said to every single person and they agreed,” said Boulon.

 

“Some people who hadn’t heard about the list were understandably upset,” said the VINP chief of resource management. “We weren’t happy with what happened either. We tried to make the best of a bad situation.”

 

Some vessel owners even showed up on Saturday morning to stand in line and still didn’t know about the sign up list, explained one local boater.

 

“The list wasn’t really fair because it happened 24 hours before registration day,” said the boater. “Even though I’m not angry and most people aren’t angry, still it wasn’t fair to the people who didn’t hear about the list.”


Some Boaters Still in the Dark

“The people who got really screwed were the ones who never heard about the list and came in the morning and were standing in line in front of people who had a number already,” the local vessel owner said.

 

Things eventually worked smoothly, Boulon pointed out.

 

“Once we got people lined up and talked to everyone and told them we recognized it wasn’t the best solution to come up with but was the best we could do, it went smoothly,” he said. 

 

Park officials are hoping to collaborate with the boating community to devise a better plan for next year’s Hurricane Hole storm chain registration.

 

“It’s just not going to work like this if people show up 48 or 36 hours early,” said the VINP chief of resource management. “There is just no place for them to be. We want to work with the boating community to come up with a better idea next year.”


Calling for More Storms

Increased predictions for storms this year — with experts calling for seven to 10 hurricanes — in the area might be one reason for the surge in registration.

 

“This is the fifth year we’ve done this and it’s worked pretty well until this year,” said Boulon. “I think people got antsy and the hurricane advisory is a bit worse. I think people were just getting nervous and it’s shown us we need to figure something out.”

 

What happened on Hurricane Hole storm chain registration day is no surprise, at least to one local boater.

 

“I’m not angry and I do understand the situation although we’ve known for a long time that this would happen,” said the boater. “It’s been getting worse every year and it’s not a surprise to me that this year was worse than last year. We knew that people would stand on line all night or do whatever it took to get a storm spot.”


Everyone’s Input

Before the chain was installed, VINP officials worked with the boating community to devise the current registration system.

 

“I was involved with the boaters decision groups with the Park and the Friends (of the VINP) for three years before they put in the chain and pretty much every one said the first come first served system would be the best because no one wanted a lottery,” said one boater.

 

Now, however, some boaters think a lottery system would be more effective.


Possible Lottery System

“Now I think a lottery system might be the best way to go,” said the boater. “People can’t stand out there all night. We need a better alternative.”

 

Park officials are still wary of the idea, according to Boulon.

 

“Many people said we should do a lottery but the last time I brought that up I had my head bitten off,” he said.

 

The VINP should assign boats to adequate spaces on the chain, with deeper keeled boats in deeper water, according to the local sailing vessel owner.

 

“A great suggestion that I heard is for the Park to assign spaces so that everyone would see what kind of boat it is and assign an appropriate place,” said the boater.

 

Still many boaters expressed gratitude for the storm chain, Boulon explained.


Hoping Not To Use Chain

“I would have to say that while there were some very vocal people during the registration, I still had the majority of people thanking us for what we do out there,” he said.

 

While the day was far from perfect, everyone agreed on one thing — the hope of not having to use the chain at all.

 

“Hopefully no one will have to use their spots this year anyway — that is what I said to every single person and they agreed,” said Boulon.