In the grand tradition of the online booking giants Airbnb, Uber and the myriad on-line airfare booking systems, the relatively mundane task of tying up to a mooring ball in the British Virgin Islands has now gone on-line too.
How it works
You download an App to your mobile device. You can download the app here. Using the app, you reserve a mooring ball at your chosen location, pay online and you’re given a confirmation number that matches the number on the mooring ball and ball will be held for you until you arrive and tie up. You pick the ball you want; it is shown on a map or diagram on the app. You click on the location and it will show you the available balls. Select the one you want and click on it. Pay on-line through the app.
When to make the Reservation?
Currently the reservations are for same day arrival only. In other words, you make a reservation in the morning, and you pick it up same day in the afternoon or evening. Again, plans are afoot to upgrade the software and make it possible to book multiple nights and to book a mooring ball further in advance of your expected arrival.
Where are the Boatyballs?
Currently the Boatyball system is available in only three anchorages: Cooper Island resort, Leverick Bay, and the Settlement at Anegada. Plans are in place to extend the system to Cane Garden Bay, Great Bay on JVD, and Diamond Cay in the Summer of 2019.
Rules of the Road
You pull into the anchorage and look for the orange ball with the unique modern design and the Boatyball logo. Identify the number on the ball that you reserved and tie up.
The local sea floor and mooring ball owners have committed to policing the correct usage of the balls and “squatters” will be asked to leave.
First Come First Serve (FCFS) mooring balls are coming later in 2019.
These mooring balls will be white with the boatyball orange logo. FCFS moorings are exactly that – If you tie up to the mooring first, it is your mooring for as long as you wish to stay on it. This is the traditional method used throughout the BVI’s. The only difference is you can pay for each night’s stay via the App. No need to carry cash or wait on a tender to arrive to collect money for the mooring.
Not sure yet if this is a solution looking for a problem or vice-versa. Yes, you pay more, currently $40 per night vs. $30 for non-boatyball moorings. But, assuming there is a ball available in your chosen location, you have the peace of mind that it will be reserved for you and you won’t have any nasty surprises (like no quality moorings available) when you arrive at your destination, tired after a long day’s sail.
As an active bare boater, I would venture to say that despite the high price, I would probably use boatyball. I hate having to be somewhere at a certain time in order to find an open mooring ball, it puts me on a schedule that does not encourage stopping off somewhere and having a leisurely lunch and a nice snorkel or dive and then moving on quickly for fear of not finding an open ball at your destination for that night. I have not used the system yet, but the concept is sound and the benefits palpable. If you are prepared to shell out the extra current $10 per night, there’s added value and it works for me.
I do have reservations about the number of mooring balls available overall in the BVI and how the boatyball system will play into that scenario. Currently boatyball moorings are not incremental – they are existing moorings converted to boatyball moorings by the simple expedient of changing the shape and color of the actual ball plus software to link it all together.
Since there is an overall deficit of mooring balls, across the BVI anchorages, especially during peak periods, I would have been happier if the balls had been incremental, but then nothing is perfect, and this is a start to making the mooring experience more user-friendly.
In the words of BoatyBall management: “Currently all of the BoatyBall moorings have been converted from the standard FCFS Moorings. But we are hoping that by allowing the mooring company and bay owners to track the occupancy rates of their moorings it will prompt them to install additional moorings in the future. “