Opinion: State of moorings affects Saba tourism – Updated

Dear Editor,

We have sent the following email to  Dozlyn Pouchie a Saba Bank National Park Officer and to your local Chamber of Commerce. We are concerned cruising sailors and do not want to see Saba hurt by something that can be easily fixed.

We discussed the decrease in tourism and resulting decrease in tourist dollars to your beautiful island due to the condition of your mooring balls with numerous of your residents. We stated we did not feel safe leaving our vessel on a mooring ball and were inquiring as to what the story was.

Our taxi driver’s flagged down Mr. Pouchie and I spoke to him about my concerns. There were 2 other taxi drivers who also accompanied me when I spole to Mr. Pouchie as they wanted to know what was happening to the mooring balls as they had noted a sharp decrease in cruiser activity which was affecting their income.

 

Dear Mr. Pouchie

I am the gentleman that spoke to you last Wednesday by the side of the road near Hell’s Gate.  I just wanted to follow up our conversation with an e-mail stating my concerns about the maintenance of the mooring balls in the Saba National Marine Park. As you indicated that you would be dealing with this concern, I thought it timely to open correspondence with you.  Saba is one my favorite spots to visit and I state this to anyone who asks what my favorite island is in the Caribbean.

A lot of cruisers would like to visit Saba because your island is so unique. The following is a common thread as to why people are not coming to your island. Currently in St Martin the cruisers net is warning people not to visit because of the mooring quality. It is also on the Coconut Telegraph that it is not an  island to visit for the same reason. The charter companies in St Martin advise their charters that they can go to any island except Saba.

As tourism is an integral part of your economy it may  be a thought to remedy this problem. Taxi  drivers, tour guides, museum personnel  and restaurants all indicated that tourism is down and they are not seeing cruisers. It is no wonder why given the mooring conditions.

The first time we heard about one of your moorings breaking was about 3 or 4 years ago.  We were in a boatyard in the BVI and the boat beside us was having repairs done after going on the rocks on Saba because the mooring broke.  This story was further confirmed to us by the Captain of our ferry who was the one who pulled the vessel off the rocks.

The second time I heard of one of your moorings breaking was last December when I spoke to a lady who said that they had tied to one of your mooring balls and gone ashore for the day.  When they returned, their boat was 3 miles offshore and the mooring line was still attached.  They were very fortunate that it was calm and they were able to get to! the boa t with their dinghy. 

For cruisers, any chance that their boat will be lost or damaged is too much and so both myself and wife have warned people against going to Saba with their boat.  On Wednesday there were 38 cruisers who came to Saba on the ferry and there would have been more, but the ferry was full.  This group was organized by one announcement on the St. Martin radio net and shows that many cruisers want to visit Saba.  If the mooring balls were reliable, then most of these people would have come on their own boats instead of paying for the ferry.  Then they could stay a couple days and have more time to spend money in Saba. A lot of cruisers are divers and you have one of the premium dive sites in the Caribbean.

On your website, it is stated that the harbor fee covers the maintenance of park resources.  It seems that does not include checking and maintaining mooring balls.  I think it would be in the best interest of all Saba businesses to maintain these moorings.  If the park supplied the gear, maybe the dive companies would provide the labor?

My wife and I first came to Saba on our boat in 2008 when the moorings were new.  We did 2 days of diving and had lunch at the restaurant.  We returned the next year and did a full day tour.  We love Saba as it it one of the few islands unspoiled by the cruise ship hoards and it has so much to offer.  We wish we could recommend it to our friends. We would definitely be back as it is an easier sail from the BVI to St Martin with a stop in Saba due to the easterly winds.

Please feel free to email me with any  questions as well as to advise me when the mooring balls are up to standard and how often they are inspected. I will ensure to let cruisers know by publishing your response. In the event I do not hear back from you within 1 month I may provide a copy of this email to The Compass (a free newspaper for cruisers).

Paul LaFrance

Update:

Read the reply from the Saba Parks Manager here.

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2 comments

  1. Why is this letter not addressed to the marine park manager instead of an employee of the Saba Banks Unit?
    This is nothing new this has been out there for years.

  2. Perhaps LaFrance did not know who/which department this should have been addressed to, and therefore it was sent to Pouchie.
    However, I think our island and that specific sector is small enough that they should be able to share such important information…

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