Cowes Harbour is regulated using a set of General Directions designed to promote safe navigation, and protect property, flora and fauna in and around the harbour.
The Cowes Harbour General Directions were introduced on 2nd April 2013, after being ratified by Cowes Harbour Commission. The General Directions replaced the previous Cowes Harbour Byelaws.
A revised set of Cowes Harbour General Directions came into force on 1st June 2017, after consultation with the Harbour Advisory Committee, the Chamber of Shipping and the RYA. The amendments to existing Directions (3.17 and 3.19) and the introduction of two new Directions (3.17.1 and 4.7) are designed to further improve the safety of navigation in the harbour.
New General Directions:
3.17.1. Sailing through Inner Harbour Small Craft Mooring Area - A sailing vessel without auxiliary engine may sail through the Small Craft Mooring Area, as designated on Admiralty Charts within the Inner Harbour south of the Detached Breakwater, when entering or exiting the harbour and when in compliance with the following conditions:
a) It is reasonably considered by the Master to be the safest, most practicable route taking account of prevailing conditions of weather, tide and traffic.
b) That the vessel only uses the minimum number of sails required to maintain the vessel’s course and a safe and reasonable speed over the ground, whilst not exceeding the 6kt speed limit.
c) When joining the fairway / Small Craft Channel, due regard shall be had for the manoeuvring characteristics of other vessels, and in any case that Cowes General Direction 3.7 and the International Regulations for the Preventions of Collisions at Sea are complied with.
4.7. Welding and hot works on commercial vessels berthed within Cowes Harbour - Prior to any hot works commencing the wharf operator / marina manager must be informed and a permit to work be obtained from the wharf operator or marina manger.
Amended General Directions (new text underlined):
3.17. Navigation in Inner Harbour Small Craft Mooring Area - No person shall navigate any power driven vessel or sailing vessel fitted with an auxiliary engine within the Small Craft Mooring Area as designated on Admiralty Charts within the Inner Harbour south of the Detached Breakwater and west of longitude 01 17.50W, unless proceeding to or from a mooring located within that area, without the written permission of the Harbour Master.
3.19. VHF Communications within Cowes Harbour - All vessels of 30 metres length overall and above are required to give notice of entry, movement or departure within the area of jurisdiction of Cowes Harbour on VHF Channel 69 in accordance with this Direction.
All vessels required to give VHF notification shall give an ‘ALL SHIPS’ call prior to departure from any berth within Cowes Harbour and when passing the following positions:
• Prior to entering the Outer Harbour
• 250m north of Cowes Chain Ferry (at Shepards Wharf Marina)
• Folly Inn (vessels bound for Newport).
• Folly Inn.
• Kingston Wharf.
• 250m south of Cowes Chain Ferry (at Cowes Harbour Fuels)
The call shall give the following information:
• Vessel's name.
• Vessel's position.
Any vessel to which this Direction applies and under way within the area of jurisdiction of Cowes Harbour shall, if a close quarters or passing situation is likely to occur, respond to an ‘ALL SHIPS’ call from another vessel and state her stating name, position and whether inbound or outbound.
In addition, vessels to which this Direction applies shall maintain a listening watch on VHF Ch 69 at all times when under way within Cowes Harbour and north of No. 8 buoy.
The general call signal as required by this Direction does not allow any vessel priority or sole occupancy of the main fairway. All vessels are required to navigate in Cowes Harbour in compliance with the Merchant Shipping Distress Signals and Prevention of Collisions Regulations (as amended) and Cowes Harbour General Directions.
It is emphasised that commercial vessels and private recreational vessels of 30 metres and above, leaving Newport Harbour and entering the jurisdiction of Cowes Harbour must comply with this Direction.
Nothing within this Direction shall relieve the Master of any vessel of over 20 metres in length of his obligation to give due notice to the Cowes Chain Ferry both by sound signal and VHF radio call on Channel 69 as required under Direction 6.