Understanding Maui's Day Use Moorings

Mooring in Maui

Mooring in Maui

If you’ve ever been on one of our Molokini, Kaanapali, Lana’i Seafari, or Lahaina Picnic Sail trips then you have witnessed the boat being tied up to a mooring. This action occurs when, upon arriving at the desired snorkeling location, a Trilogy crewmember jumps into the water, locates the mooring, and is subsequently thrown an extremely long line which will be used to hold the boat in place. Oftentimes this involves the crewmember needing to dive down anywhere from 5-40 ft. to either retrieve the mooring shackle or run a line directly through the mooring itself.

Seems simple right?

Well, on most of our excursions we’ve noticed that passengers frequently have questions about this process, so we’re here to walk you through the history of day use moorings, why we use them, and a take a more detailed look at the process involved.

Diving on a mooring in Maui

Diving on a mooring in Maui

First Off, What Is A Mooring?

Moorings frequently are comprised of either a pin in the ocean floor or a stationary object such as a block of concrete. Attached to the base is a massive chain which usually leads up to a big plastic float resting about 7-12 ft. below the surface (so that boats don’t get them caught in their propellers or wrapped around their rudders). Attached to this plastic float is another tag line which dangles in the water when unused, and a large metal eye splice usually found on the end. This is the eye splice which the line from the boat will run through, eventually being run back to the boat and tied to the desired length.

At locations such as Mokulei’a Bay (Slaughterhouse Beach), Olowalu, or Kaunolu on the island of Lana’i, often times only a single mooring off of the bow of the boat is employed. In locations such as Molokini Crater or Honolua Bay which see a greater amount of boat traffic, mooring lines are connected to both the stern and the bow of the boat so as to prevent the boat from pivoting and unnecessary movement.

A mooring at Cathedrals on Lanai

A mooring at Cathedrals on Lanai

So Why Do We Use Them?

Prior to the establishment of mooring systems at island snorkeling spots vessels were left with only two options: Set an anchor, or simply drift. Since most people like to find their boats where they left them, nearly all boats would opt to lay anchor and use them as a means of staying in one place.

The problem with this, however, is that anchors have the potential to be catastrophic for the sensitive coral reefs if operated improperly. Anchors can be accidentally dropped on to the reef instead of into the sand, the anchor chain can drag across the coral, and when pulling ahead on an anchor to raise it they can occasionally drag and catch a rock or reef on their course to the surface. With the increasing number of charter boats operating in Maui’s waters, the Maui ocean community opted to look for viable alternatives which didn't involve destroying reefs which house the island’s marine life.

Mooring at Molokini Crater Maui

Mooring at Molokini Crater Maui

So when—and how—were moorings introduced to Maui?

The technology to install mooring pins in the sea floor was first implemented in the Florida Keys in 1981 by divers utilizing an underwater hydraulic drill. Given the success of the mooring programs taking place in Florida the idea for installing day-use moorings eventually migrated to Hawaii, and in 1987 The Ocean Recreation Council of Hawaii (TORCH) began to tackle the idea of instituting this new technology at popular island snorkeling locations. During these formative years Trilogy played an integral role in the establishment of TORCH and the effort towards establishing a system of day-use moorings to help protect our island reefs.

The first  moorings in the Hawaiian Islands were installed off of the Kona coastline in 1987, and by the following year in 1988 there were 30 moorings installed and tested at Molokini Crater. Despite initial success a degree of trepidation and hesitancy continued to surround further implementation. The long-term effect of these moorings still weren't known, and organizations such as TORCH and Sea Grant continued with largely voluntary efforts to prove that this system of moorings was the best possible solution for Hawaii's reefs.

Jerry Garcia

Jerry Garcia

Finally, in 1990 with the help of a $10,000 donation from Grateful Dead front man Jerry Garcia, the Malama Kai foundation was established in an effort to place buoys on the existing mooring pins installed around the state. By 1995 the state realized the success of the moorings and plans were erected to include over 200 more mooring locations throughout the state of Hawaii. When you visit our island snorkeling locations today we continue to tie up to moorings born of these original efforts.

Still interested?

Check out a detailed timeline of Hawaii's day-use moorings  or scour through the Maui County Day-Use Moorings Database to find detailed coordinates and depths of select island moorings.

 Visiting Maui? Check out our main homepage for our full array of snorkeling, sailing,and recreational opportunities.

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