Motorboats using Cowes Harbour range in size and type from small displacement craft used for day fishing and river activities, through to medium sized power cruisers and other planning craft capable of speeds in excess of 25 knots, to the large cruisers over 20 metres in length, many with professional crews. All are subject to the Inner Harbour speed limit of 6 knots through the water, which also applies within 100m of the shore.
Passage on the Solent from Lymington, Hamble, or Portsmouth at 25 knots on a fine, sunny day can be exhilarating. The faster planning craft are often more comfortable at this speed rather than wallowing at displacement speeds below 10 knots. However, reducing speed on approaching Cowes fairway, much like reducing speed at a motorway slip road after long periods at 70mph, can be deceiving – even 12 knots feel like a crawl. Hence, on approaching Cowes fairway reduce speed in good time, in consideration of the many other craft manoeuvring at the harbour entrance.
Remember that the Small Craft Channel, extending from the Shrape Beacon inwards, is all part of the Inner Harbour and subject to the 6 knot speed limit. Double check speed with your GPS, remembering to make the correction for tidal stream (speed through the water). Always make a visual check of the wash being generated. Ensure you are well clear of the designated moorings areas, and if possible, detail a crew member to keep a good all-round lookout, especially astern, while the helmsman concentrates on negotiating the river traffic.
Good seamanship is not just about tying knots and smart boat handling; safe navigation is all about care and consideration of your crew and other mariners.
Consideration for other harbour users is all part of good seamanship. “Complying with the maximum permitted speed will not exonerate the owner, Master or crew 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 endanger the safety of other persons or cause nuisance to the occupants of any other vessel, person or property.” (Extract from General Direction No. 3.2.2)