The Small Craft Channel connects the eastern approaches to Cowes with the Inner Fairway opposite Town Quay, enabling small vessels to avoid the main harbour entrance when approaching or departing Cowes from/to the north and east.
Small vessels, generally less than 20m in length, approaching from or departing to the north or east may use the Small Craft Channel provided that there is sufficient water in relation to their draught. The current tide height can be found on the CHC website or on the tide boards located at both ends of the Small Craft Channel, on the Shrape Beacon and 4A Beacon. The minimum depth in the Channel is 0.2m below chart datum; therefore, the minimum depth of water in the channel is just 20 cm deeper than the height of tide shown on the tide gauge. If your draught is more than the current tide height you should avoid using the Channel.
The channel is, at its narrowest, 35m wide and is marked by three pairs of lit lateral buoys at the eastern end, 2 yellow cones and a yellow can within the Inner Harbour and the red 4A beacon with tide gauge marking the western end where the channel joins the Inner Fairway.
Vessels joining or leaving the Small Craft Channel at the western end should navigate with extreme caution and are advised to give way to all vessels navigating in the main harbour fairway (Inner Fairway). Particular care should be taken to avoid impeding commercial vessels in the Inner Fairway, this includes passenger ferries (Red Jets) turning off Cowes Town Quay and large vehicle ferries approaching and departing from East Cowes Red Funnel Terminal.
A west-southwesterly current of up to 1.5 knots during spring tides may be experienced between HW-2.5hrs and High Water, west of the Shrape Breakwater. Caution should be exercised so as not to be set into the path of vessels navigating the Inner Fairway or into the small craft moorings.
Keep to the buoyed Channel and do not to enter the ‘small craft mooring’ areas either side; these are prohibited areas.