Mooring buoys to help coral reef

The best way to avoid anchor damage to coral and other reef structure is to avoid dropping anchor there in the first place. That’s just been made more practical by the placement of six white plastic mooring buoys around Fowey Light, a seamark in Biscayne National Park.

The old lighthouse stands on shallow Fowey Rocks, 10 miles southeast of Key Biscayne. It’s a popular location for diving and snorkeling, fishing and bait-catching, as well as a rendezvous site. It can get pretty busy on weekends, so the mooring buoys do crowd control as well as reef protection.

The white buoys are 18 inches in diameter with a blue reflective band. They’re anchored to the bottom by heavy cement blocks. To use one, approach it slowly with a dock line tied to a bow cleat, slip your rope through the tag loop attached to the buoy and tie off with a knot you can untie easily.

If your line is long enough and your bow cleats large enough, you can loop the line all the way back to the cleat and wrap it there.

The park has set a four-hour time limit per boat per buoy. If they’re all in use when you arrive, you can anchor — but not on the rocks. Instructions on the park’s website say you have to find a sandy area downwind of the reef. That way if the anchor pulls loose it won’t drag across the reef.

To make it work, you’ll need plenty of rope scope — five to seven times the water depth or more if seas are high. Go overboard if necessary to make sure the anchor’s well dug in to the sand and the line not rubbing coral.

In addition to the Fowey Light buoys, Biscayne National Park has them at 19 other popular locations. The same rules apply at each site. If you find broken or frayed attachment tackle there, report it by calling 305-230-1144.