The first of four permanent moorings for mega-yachts was installed this morning (20 February) in the waters of West Bay.
The Department of Environment says with a 30,000 pound anchor, the mooring can hold almost any size vessel, and will hopefully safeguard our coral reefs against anchor damage.
Before we go any further, let’s flash back to January 14th, 2016. The 303-foot Tatoosh, at the time, the 43rd largest mega-yacht in the world, was anchored in the west bay replenishment zone.
A divemaster noticed the damaged reef under the vessel and alerted the DOE, who after an investigation, concluded the Tatoosh was responsible for the nearly 14,000 square feet of damage. The vessel’s owner, billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and his company Vulcan, Inc, denied responsibility for the damage but eventually paid for an outside firm to repair the reef, and also coughed up an undisclosed amount of settlement money. However, that
undisclosed settlement did not include an admission of fault.
You’ve heard the saying ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?’ The DOE is hoping by using the Tatoosh settlement money to fund the permanent moorings, future coral damage incidents can be prevented.
“We think it’s quite appropriate that the result of some coral damage is now being used to prevent future damage,” said DOE Deputy Director Scott Slaybaugh.
The 30,000 pound anchor took just seconds to drop from the deck of West Indian Marine’s Sand Cay tug to a sandy patch some 40 feet below the water’s surface, right on target.
“It’s a massive anchor, it is as big as what cruise ships would use, so it is pretty much going to handle any mega yacht that comes to Cayman,” said Mr. Slaybaugh.
Commercial divers entered the water, inspecting the freshly-laid anchor. A signal was given, and crew members up top gave the heavy chain another pull to make it lay flat in the sand.
Mr. Slaybaugh told Cayman 27 the new mega-yacht mooring can help safeguard coral reefs from the destruction seen in the Tatoosh anchor incident.
“We’ve been installing moorings around the island for the last 30 years to avoid any kind of vessel having to anchor, we have put in 375 dive mornings and we have 10 for visiting yachts,” explained Mr. Slaybaugh.
Mr. Slaybaugh told Cayman 27 the DOE managed the project to maximise its budget. In fact, the anchor itself was salvaged from another infamous reef damage incident.
“It was actually left over from the 80’s when the Rhapsody cruise ship went aground,” he explained. “It was part of the salvage anchors that we left behind from the project, it was the property of the Port Authority and we were able to clean it up and use it again for this.”
The DOE says it hopes to install similar moorings on Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, plus a second mooring for Grand Cayman’s west side in the near future, but as of yet there’s no clear timeline on those projects.
He told Cayman 27 the first mooring, largely due to the re-purposed anchor, cost just $40,000.
A bargain, he said, especially when you consider the last two major reef restoration projects have each cost in the neighborhood of $300,000.
Cayman 27 reached out to Vulcan, Inc. for comment on the installation, but as of press time have not heard back.