June 15, 2004 Boaters seeking a safe harbor when a storm with winds above 40 mph or 35 knots is predicted may use Hurricane Hole. However, boats should not anchor there earlier than 96 hours before the storm is predicted to hit the territory, said Rafe Boulon, the national park's chief of resource management.
Tuesday the park sent out its guidelines for using Hurricane Hole during hurricane season. Boulon said when a storm approaches; the park will issue press releases notifying boaters it's time to move into Hurricane Hole.
Boaters must leave within 72 hours after the threat or the storm has passed. They may leave their ground tackle in place for the season, but it must be marked with a buoy. They must also get a permit from the park to do so.
"People will know they have a spot when a storm comes," he said.
No lines may be tied up to shoreline vegetation. Additionally, boaters must use anchors or sandscrews that are oriented either parallel or perpendicular to the shoreline. The direction depends on the bay's orientation.
Boulon said that plans to install a hurricane mooring system similar to the one used in Tortola are on hold because the marine engineer hasn't finished designing it. Once the engineer finishes the work, the public will be invited to comment on the plan.
Boulon said the regulations are aimed at protecting Hurricane Hole's fragile environment. "It's an extremely pristine nursery habitat, and we're trying to minimize potential damage," he said.
Hurricane Hole sits within Coral Reef National Monument. Anchoring is not allowed except in emergencies or in the case of a tropical storm or hurricane.
Boulon said that in a typical hurricane about 100 boaters take refuge in Hurricane Hole. It's taken a few years to iron the wrinkles out of this system, but Boulon expects smooth sailing this year. "We're trying to make it as clear and fair as possible," he said.
Boulon said, if boaters arrive prematurely, rangers will confiscate their ground tackle. He said park rangers will patrol the area throughout the season to make sure ground tackle is put down in a safe, consistent and efficient manner.
To get a free permit once ground tackle is in place for the first storm threat, the boater should send a letter with the name and registration or documentation number to Superintendent, V.I. Coral Reef National Monument, 1300 Cruz Bay Creek, St. John, VI 00830. If a self-addressed-stamped envelope is enclosed the park will send a receipt. Boaters may also fax their request to 693-9301 or e-mail to email@example.com. Boulon will fax or e-mail a receipt.
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