Cowes Chain Ferry
January 2017: The Cowes Chain Ferry is currently out of service and has been removed from station so that works can be carried out on both the East and West Cowes slipways in preparation for the arrival of the new Chain Ferry later in 2017. There is a replacement water bus in place for foot passengers. For full details, see Local Notice to Mariners No 62(T) of 2016.
Note: The information below will be updated prior to the commissioning of the new Chain Ferry in 2017
The Chain Ferry operates between the east and west banks of the River Medina hauling on two chains, each of approximately 165m, which span across the estuary and are permanently attached to both river banks. The Chain Ferry displays a flashing yellow light on the forward end of the Chain Ferry to indicate to mariners its intention to commence a crossing and the light remains illuminated until it reaches the opposite bank.
The Chain Ferry has right of way over all river traffic, however, any vessel requiring an unimpeded passage is required to establish early contact (call sign ‘Cowes Chain Ferry’) and agree on VHF Channel 69 which side the Chain Ferry will hold for your passage.
The Chain Ferry is situated on a blind bend and the narrowest stretch of the River Medina; you are strongly advised to navigate with caution when approaching the ferry particularly when following the tide. The tidal flow generally accelerates as you approach the Chain Ferry due to the river narrowing, which may set you down towards the Chain Ferry quicker than you initially anticipated. Give way in good time.
During all tides, especially spring tides, there are strong currents associated with this area. The ebb flows are usually more pronounced than the flood. The ebb tide is accentuated towards the eastern side of the river where the spring ebb may be in excess of 4 knots and cause the unwary to be set down upon the eastern bank, especially in the area of the Trinity House Wharf (East Cowes) and the Red Funnel ferry terminal (East Cowes).
The depth of navigable water above the chains varies depending on the state of the tide height and the position of the ferry in relation to either the east or west riverbank. When the Chain Ferry is berthed on either riverbank, and therefore not partway across the fairway, the depth of navigable water is deepest in the middle of the visible fairway and decreases rapidly towards either riverbank and the prow or ‘forward end’ of the ferry as the chains rise closer to the surface.
The least depth of navigable water over the chains is approximately 1.7m below chart datum in the middle of the visible fairway during the half tide period. Large vessels with less than 0.8 metres predicted under keel clearance are required to request that the Chain Ferry is moored on the east bank for the passage as the under keel clearance (UKC) is increased by between 0.3 and 0.8 metres.
Full survey diagrams of the clearance over the chains at various states of tide and with the Chain Ferry berthed on the East and West banks can be viewed and downloaded below:
The Chain Ferry is manned 24hrs a day, but between 0030 and 0530 the Chain Ferry is generally out of service and moored off of the west bank exhibiting an anchor light. Vessels requiring an unimpeded passage shall call the Chain Ferry in good time (10 minutes notice) to enable the crew to start her engines and move to shore.
For more detailed information, see the Chain Ferry Local Notice to Mariners and the contents of Cowes Harbour General Directions Section 6 with specific reference to paragraphs 6.1 and 6.5 which refer to the Chain Ferry's right of way.