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Limit your speed and wash

28 September 2017
You’ve had a great day on the water, a delightful run ashore for dinner and you’ve arrived safely back aboard for a peaceful night in your bunk. You’re just drifting off when you hear an ominous rumble drawing closer at a worrying pace. You prick up your ears at the sound of shouts from adjacent berth holders: “Slow down!” You brace for a rough ride when you hear the ropes start to sing… 

May we take this opportunity to remind all mariners that wash caused by vessels, even at speeds lower than the Cowes Harbour speed limit (6 knots through the water), can result in damage to vessels, injury to other harbour users, particularly those in shallow water, and damage to the intertidal and marine environment.

To provide further guidance on this issue, mariners are invited to review what the Cowes Harbour General Directions require: 

3.2. Speed Limit
3.2.1. Every vessel navigating the Inner Harbour of Cowes or within 100 metres of the Mean High Water Mark shall unless otherwise authorised by the Harbour Master in writing, subject to the requirements of maintaining adequate steerage way and control, be navigated at a speed not exceeding 6 knots through the water.


This is commonly said, but 6 knots through the water is a limit and not a target! As a skipper, responsible for the safety of your crew and others around your vessel, you must bear in mind what effect your vessel’s wash may have on other harbour users – and this includes those paddling / swimming off Prince’s Green or the beaches at Cowes and East Cowes. General Direction No. 3.2.2 covers this point in some detail:

3.2.2. Complying with the maximum permitted speed will not exonerate the Master of any vessel from the responsibility of reducing speed as necessary in the observance of normal practice of safe seamanship. This includes, but is not limited to, when passing mooring trots, pontoons, vessels alongside quays, jetties or pontoons, vessels engaged in maritime works and when approaching the Cowes Chain Ferry. Vessels shall at all times be navigated with care and caution and in such a manner so as not to endanger the safety of other persons or cause nuisance to the occupants of any other vessel, person or property.

General Direction 3.3, below, provides Cowes Harbour Authority with the power to consider and pursue legal action against any vessel that is proven to have created a potentially harmful level of wash:

3.3. Wash - A vessel shall not be navigated or manoeuvred in any part of the Inner Harbour or within 100 metres of the shore in a manner or at a speed so as to cause wash to be generated that may cause damage to or endanger the safety of other persons, vessels or property.

So, please keep a close eye on your speed and in particular your wash and what effect it may have, which may be substantial even when within the speed limit of 6 knots through the water.

Please remember, all craft should be driven with due care and consideration for other river users, including those berthed and those in small vessels or tenders, property and the environment.

Speed and wash in Cowes Harbour


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