The Eastern Channel connects the eastern approaches to Cowes with the Inner Fairway, enabling small craft up to 20m in length to avoid the main harbour entrance when arriving or departing Cowes from/to the north and east.
Vessels in the Eastern Channel must adhere to the harbour speed limit of 6 knots through the water and no wash.
Small vessels may use the Eastern 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 four tide boards located around the harbour, including on the Shrape Beacon (east of the entrance to the eastern Channel) and on the 4A Beacon at the Inner Fairway junction.
The Eastern Channel is, at its narrowest, 35m wide and the dredged depth is 2.25 metres below chart datum. Mariners are advised that shallow water lays either side of the channel until passing north of the Cowes Breakwater. Keep to the buoyed channel and do not to enter the ‘small craft mooring’ areas either side; these are prohibited areas.
A west-southwesterly current of up to 2 knots during spring tides may be experienced between HW-2.5hrs and HW, west of the Shrape Breakwater. A northwesterly current of up to 1.5 knots during spring tides may be experienced from HW+3hrs to HW+5hrs, west of the Shrape Breakwater. Caution should be exercised so as to not be set into the path of other vessels using the Eastern Channel or vessels navigating in the Inner Fairway.
New for 2020, the East Cardinal Mark (EC3) has been replaced with a green starboard channel mark. Also, the yellow special mark (EC9) has been replaced with a green starboard channel mark. These changes make for improved consistency in the Eastern Channel buoyage. See Local Notice to Mariners - Eastern Channel.
Particular care should be taken to avoid impeding commercial vessels in the Inner Fairway when joining or leaving the Eastern Channel. This includes a) passenger ferries (Red Jets) turning off Cowes Town Quay and b) large Red Funnel vehicle ferries and freight ferries approaching and departing from East Cowes Red Funnel Terminal. These areas are defined as 'Inner Fairway Precautionary Areas' and include the 'Red Jet turning & Eastern Channel Traffic Convergence Area'.
See diagram below and Local Notice to Mariners - Cowes Harbour Inner Fairway Precautionary Areas.
Dredged Eastern Channel in Cowes Harbour and cautions. Download a PDF of diagram.