While the boat of the Magic Reef Recovery project is under repair after being thrown onto ironshore by rough seas earlier this week, restoration work on the reef is continuing, volunteers say.
The boat was damaged after breaking free from its mooring in large waves and high winds Tuesday morning.
According to project leader Lois Hatcher, the boat’s hull was damaged and needs to be patched up with fiberglass and painted, and some of the electronics need to be repaired, but the engine does not appear to have been flooded.
“The boat didn’t capsize as we originally thought,” she said. “It was swamped and it looked like it would flip, but it didn’t capsize completely,” so there was no water in the engine.
She said she hoped that the boat could be repaired and back in the water within the next couple of weeks. “It’s a tough little boat,” she said. “When we picked that boat, we picked it because it was a work boat.”
“This is a major setback,” she added. “It’s obviously not a great way to start the year.”
The Honey Badger had only recently returned to the water as the project was temporarily put on hold because warm seas were causing coral bleaching and the divers did not want to stress the corals further.
The project has also suffered another setback in that several of the volunteers who worked with the project initially have either left the island, are not diving because of injuries or other reasons, or are not regularly available.
However, corals placed on an underwater “tree” and other outplanted corals have been doing well, Ms. Hatcher said. “We have been seeing visible successful growth of those corals … That is really rewarding,” she said.
Volunteer Joe Avary said the restoration work will continue with what he described as “old-school restore from shore.”
Before the Honey Badger was purchased in June last year – with money from fundraisers and a $100,000 donation from Carnival Cruise Lines – volunteer divers on the project would swim from the dock at Don Foster’s Dive or go to the site on dive boats supplied for free by dive operators.
With the 24-foot boat out of the water for the time being, the next step for the volunteers is a shore dive to recover the anchor, dive weights and anything else that was lost from the boat, as well as check the state of the coral nursery and outplanting of corals.
Mr. Avary said the volunteer divers would also continue working on removing milk crates that had been used to collect salvageable coral, as well as remove bottles and other trash found at the site.
The restoration work began in August 2014 after the captain of the Carnival Magic cruise ship mistakenly anchored in an unauthorized zone outside of Don Foster’s Dive shop in George Town. The anchor and giant chain of the cruise ship damaged 12,000 square feet of the reef.
“It’s one of those unfortunate things,” Ms. Hatcher said of the damage to the Honey Badger. “It happened and it can’t ‘unhappen,’ but all we can do is pull up our socks and move forward.”
Anyone interested in volunteering for the project can make contact via the Magic Reef Recovery page on Facebook.