Recommended chart for navigation: British Admiralty 2793 – Cowes Harbour and Medina River
The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea apply within the harbour.
All craft entering and leaving the harbour should use the main buoyed fairway and approaches. There are large numbers of unlit moorings to the east of the main fairway and approaches. Craft should not navigate within the moorings unless proceeding to or from a mooring.
• maintain a proper lookout, including astern.
• keep to the starboard side of the fairway when proceeding up and down river.
• not impede the passage of vessels, including high speed ferries, which can only safely navigate within the fairway.
• not cross the fairway if this impedes the passage of a vessel which can only navigate within the fairway.
• give way to vessels in the fairway when leaving a mooring or marina.
High water times are Portsmouth +15 minutes at Neaps / –15 minutes at Springs. See also Tides section.
Mean Spring range 3.6 metres (12 feet).
Mean Neap range 1.8 metres (6 feet).
The tide stands for two hours after high water. There is a strong west going tidal set at the harbour entrance from 1.5 hours before HW.
Every mechanically propelled vessel navigating in the Harbour or Roads, unless otherwise authorized by the Harbour Master in writing, must be navigated at a speed not exceeding 6 knots over the ground and in a manner which shall not endanger the safety of other vessels, boats or property or cause damage thereto.
In addition to the stated speed limit of 6 knots over the ground all vessels operating must have due regard to their wash and its effects upon others in the close vicinity especially other craft moored up on pontoons or buoyage. Small vessels moored up may be embarking or disembarking persons/passengers and will be particularly vulnerable to excessive wash.
This byelaw will be rigorously enforced and harbour patrol craft and staff will carefully monitor the situation of vessels and their speed. The use of a ‘speed gun’, close circuit television (CCTV) and videotapes may be used in evidence in the ultimate step to prosecute byelaw offenders. Class A and B AIS Transponders are also recorded.
Anchoring is prohibited within the main fairway and navigable channels, small craft moorings, in the area of the Chain Ferry, and also in the area of the cable and pipeline crossings at Kingston as charted and indicated by notice boards on shore.
COWES HARBOUR RADIO VHF Channel 69
All vessels regardless of size or type are strongly recommended to listen to VHF Channel 69 whilst operating within Cowes Harbour.
Private/recreational vessels of 30 metres LOA and above, plus all commercial vessels should give notice on VHF Channel 69 to “All ships in Cowes Harbour” on entry and when getting underway. Vessels >20m should also contact “Cowes Chain Ferry” on VHF Channel 69 before passing.
Channel 69 is monitored and recorded by Cowes Harbour Radio.
NOTE: Private/recreational vessels less than 30 metres LOA are NOT required to announce their movements on VHF Channel 69 but are strongly recommended to monitor this channel for information.
Large numbers of recreational craft are moored on buoys, pontoons, and pile moorings in Cowes Harbour and the River Medina together with four marinas in the harbour and river. Many yacht races start and/or finish at Cowes and the harbour is also an important destination harbour for cruising sailors and powerboaters. The racing season extends from April to October with the peak activity in July and August. During Cowes Week, in particular, the fairway and approaches are often extremely crowded.
All sailing vessels are strongly recommended to use their engine, if fitted, when navigating in the main fairway in Cowes Harbour. This is especially important in the area of the blind bend in the vicinity of the Cowes Chain Ferry. See note below.
All mariners are to be aware of the strong tidal flows in the vicinity of the Cowes Chain Ferry. The strongest tides are usually found on the eastern side of the fairway, especially during the spring ebb when tidal rates in excess of four knots may be experienced. Mariners should also take extra care in this area as it is a blind bend.
There are frequent high speed ferry (exhibiting a flashing yellow light) and vehicular ferry movements. Cargo vessels up to 100 metres LOA and 5.4 metres draft use the harbour.
Water skiing is prohibited within harbour limits.
Board sailing and kite sailing are prohibited in the fairway, approaches, and main navigable channel.
Personal water craft shall observe the speed limits, remain within the main navigable fairway (except to make the shortest approach to a recognised landing area) and keep clear of all areas where vessels are moored.
Swimming is prohibited within the main navigable fairway and approaches and in areas around berthing and mooring facilities.
Noise from internal combustion engines, which causes a noise nuisance, is not permitted within the harbour or in the marinas.
Nets are not to be laid amongst moorings or in the main navigable fairway, nor should they be left unattended.
Cowes Chain Ferry gives way to all river traffic and exhibits a flashing white light from its leading end when proceeding. Commercial vessels and also all private recreational vessels of 20 metres LOA and above should establish contact with the Chain Ferry (call sign “Cowes Chain Ferry”) on VHF Channel 69 before passing. These vessels should also sound one prolonged blast on the whistle when approaching from north or south.
In fog the Chain Ferry will sound two prolonged blasts at intervals of not more than one minute when proceeding.
NB. See Cowes Chain Ferry section for special warning on depth of water when passing Chain Ferry.