By: Bill Jennings
When boating away from our home moorage, we often have the need to dock -- either temporarily or overnight. Recently, several people have asked me about “mooring buoys” for this purpose. This option is not one that is readily available, but where it is, a mooring buoy can provide an inexpensive alternative to marina dockage and an easier parking job than anchoring. They are also more private than staying in a busy marina.
Every floating mooring ball is securely anchored to the bottom. They have a ring on top for you to tie your bow line and secure your boat on that spot for a specified time. It is the only buoy that you may legally tie your vessel to, and they are usually found in designated anchorage areas. These white buoys are typically identifiable by their blue horizontal stripe, although sometimes white and orange can be found.
Mooring buoys may be a welcome alternative for your stay, but unless your boat carries floating transportation to shore, or you don't intend to leave the buoy, they are not for you. For this reason they are most popular with cruisers and sailing yachts.
If you do have water transportation from a mooring buoy to a dock on land, the recommended procedure for use is to call the number on the buoy to obtain permission for you to use it. They may assign you a specific buoy by providing you the number for that buoy. Then, with an assistant on the bow holding a boat hook in hand, slowly approach the buoy from downwind. Once within reach, use the boat hook to retrieve the pick-up line attached to the top ring of the ball. Be careful not to overrun the buoy. Tie securely and you are set. Where there is a fee for using the buoy a representative will motor by your boat to collect it.
Some marinas use mooring buoys for overflow parking while others use them as preferred parking. You will find mooring balls offered at popular nature destinations and some government parks , or you may just spot them in your travels. They are most commonly found at offshore island locations, such as the Virgin Islands, where boats are generally larger and many vessels can be moored without the need for a land based marina.
Nothing like spending a couple of quiet days floating at sea in the cockpit of your boat with a good book and a great companion.