Reef recovery boat damaged as rough seas hit George Town

A boat used by reef restoration volunteers was damaged Tuesday morning when rough weather conditions caused it to break from its moorings and land on the ironshore. 

The vessel, called the Honey Badger, is used by volunteers with the Magic Reef Recovery project who have been working to restore a large patch of reef that was destroyed by a cruise ship anchor in August 2014. 

Anticipating the rough weather, volunteer Joe Avary was headed to move the boat out of the way when he received word that it had already capsized. More waves righted the boat, taking it onto the ironshore in front of Don Foster’s Dive. 

“One of the good things that saved this from being worse was that the anchor had fallen off the boat when she capsized, and the anchor caught onto the ground and kept the boat from going any further,” Mr. Avary said.  

“We’re really lucky that we had a boat in one piece,” he added. 

The Magic Reef Recovery volunteers bought the boat with cash from a fundraiser and a $100,000 donation from Carnival Cruise Lines, which owns the Carnival Magic cruise ship that dropped its anchor and chain at the site. The Honey Badger has been in operation since June last year. 

Moxam Industries supplied a crane to help reef volunteers hoist the boat into the air and onto a trailer so it could be taken away for repairs.  

Mr. Avary said it is “a major setback” to the recovery effort, but that the project has overcome many challenges in the past, from rising sea temperatures, to finding volunteers. 

Volunteers had thought they would be close to finishing the restoration process by the end of 2015, but as water temperatures rose and corals were bleached, the group decided not to stress the corals any more.  

But Mr. Avary said volunteers are getting close to a point where they can shift their focus to monitoring the reef’s progress. 

“We’re soldiering on, we’ll get the reef done,” he said. 

Looking at the “bigger picture,” he said the storm was actually good for the reef by washing away damaging algae that was clogging the coral.  

“When the water temperature gets high, algae starts to settle in on everything, so storms are really good for reef health,” Mr. Avary said.  

The rough seas also affected cruise ships Tuesday. The three ships scheduled to come into George Town on Tuesday, Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas, Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Reflection and Pullmantur Cruise Ship Management’s Zenith did not moor due to the rough weather conditions.  

Five cruise ships, carrying up to 13,703 passengers, and two cargo vessels, are scheduled to come into George Town harbour on Wednesday. 

Cayman Islands National Weather Service meteorologist Allan Ebanks said water conditions should be better Wednesday, as the cold front that caused rough seas Tuesday has dissipated outwards. He forecast a north to northwest wind flow at 5 knots and wave heights of about 2 feet or less Wednesday. While there might still be some swells along the west coast Wednesday, making the seas around the dock area a bit bumpy, Mr. Ebanks said, he doesn’t “expect the seas to be rough.” 

A crane lifts a boat off the ironshore in front of Don Foster’s on Tuesday morning.

A crane lifts a boat off the ironshore in front of Don Foster’s on Tuesday morning.

Volunteers move a trailer into position on the Don Foster

Volunteers move a trailer into position on the Don Foster’s Dive dock, in preparation for getting the Honey Badger boat off the ironshore. – PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY

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  1. This sounds like the reef recovery people need a 101 in boat ownership in Cayman, if your boat is anchored off 7 mile beach or George town harbor and a northwester is coming, you have to move it to safe harbor, or your boat would end up on the shore.