05 February 2008

did we forget to tell you about Buck Island?

Dear Mr. Tutein,

I am writing concerning the conduct of M/Y Shalimar and to complain about the absence of action by the National Park Service during the weekend of January 25-27, 2008 at Buck Island National Park. Over the course of the weekend the captain and crew of the boat paid no regard to the other boats using the anchorage and as such violated two stated regulations of the National Park Service for Buck Island and put the safety of other boats in jeopardy.

We arrived in our 27' sailboat at Buck Island around noon on Friday, the 25th and anchored about 100 feet away from a catamaran. A few hours later, Shalimar arrived and proceeded to, in a sense, parallel park in between our 27' sailboat and the catamaran. They set their bow anchor and then backed up to shore in between our boats where they set a stern anchor to the beach. The anchoring guidelines set out by the National Park Service for Buck Island allow this type of "stern to the beach" anchoring only for small boats under 20 feet. At 118 feet, M/Y Shalimar definitely does not fit into the "small boat" category.

The wind was blowing from the NE so their boat was receiving the wind on it's beam, making us and the catamaran quite nervous. All other boats in the anchorage were anchored with a bow anchor and pointing into the wind. My husband went over to Shalimar to enquire as to how long they planned on remaining anchored like that and also pointed out how close their boat was to ours. Without any sort of acknowledgment to the situation they had put us in, they stated that they would be there until Monday and the owner demanded they anchor in this fashion or the crew would lose their jobs. The wind shifted and it became apparent that unless we took action, the stern of M/Y Shalimar would swing into our sailboat. We pulled up our anchor and moved as far away from Shalimar as we could. In over a year of sailing from Maryland to the Virgin Islands, this is the first time we have ever had to move anchor because another boat came too close and also refused to move when a dangerous situation developed. The captain and his crew acted very negligently, dangerously and irresponsibly putting both our boat and their boat in danger.

In addition, Shalimar ran their generators all night long disturbing both the atmosphere for the other boaters and breaking park policy. The anchoring guidelines clearly state that generator use should be kept to a minimum since Buck Island is a National Park and nesting ground for endangered brown pelicans and sea turtles.

On Saturday night we were enjoying dinner on a friend's boat when the crew of Shalimar repositioned their stern anchor and consequently placed the stern of their boat a mere 25 yards from our friend's boat. Not only did this ruin the ambience by filling our friend's cockpit with diesel fumes and floodlighting, it was just plain unsafe for a boat the size of Shalimar to be anchored so close to another boat. We tried hailing them on the VHF repeatedly and when we did not receive an answer, we had to resort to using the air horn to get their attention. Needless to say, that worked. I went over to Shalimar and pointed out the proximity of the two boats and requested that they take action to change their position. The crew treated me rather rudely and stated that they moved the boat so the owner could receive a better satellite reception for his TV. Nonetheless, they did finally move the boat.

Apparently, the crew of Shalimar receives complaints every weekend at Buck Island from other boaters. We were told the National Park Service already has a file of complaints on the conduct of Shalimar and that the owner simply places a call to the Governor's office and the National Park Service turns a blind eye to this type of conduct.

In light of this, I would ask that the National Park Service place stronger anchoring restrictions for Buck Island, similar to those on St. John. The south side of St. John has mooring buoys that are only available to boats of 60 feet or less and the north side has specific mooring buoys for large motor yachts. The owner, captain and crew of M/Y Shalimar ruined the weekend for a number of boats that went to Buck Island to enjoy the nature and scenery of this National Park. After that weekend, I am reluctant to return to Buck Island and I am discouraging other boaters to visit the island on a weekend.

I look forward to your response and to hear what the National Park Service plans on doing to prevent this type of situation from happening again.


Kristen Miller
s/v Whisper