Call 01983 293952 or email chc@cowes.co.uk

Cowes Harbour regulations on swimming and diving

Swimming and Diving

Dangers of swimming 
Cowes Harbour is one of the busiest leisure ports in the UK and consequently, it is an extremely dangerous place to swim. 

Cowes is also a busy commercial port with very frequent ferry traffic, as well as large commercial shipping transiting up and down the river. 

Cowes is a tidal harbour and regularly experiences strong tidal currents of up to 4 knots (4.6 mph) or over, particularly in the narrowest part of the River Medina where the Chain Ferry operates.

Any person(s) in the water could easily be swept away by the tide and swimmers are virtually undetectable to commercial ships.

Regulations on swimming, jumping and diving
For safety reasons, swimming within the waterways (fairways) in Cowes Harbour and in any areas around or from mooring or berthing facilities is prohibited, as is jumping or diving into the water from any structure, bridge, wall, pile, pontoon, jetty, pier or buoy within the harbour. These prohibited activities are legislated under General Direction 4.4 and those found guilty of an offence in court are liable to a fine of up to £2,500.

No swimming - diving - jumping sign

Local beaches
It is recommended that swimming activities are restricted to the beaches at Cowes and East Cowes. Cowes beach is a short pebble and shell covered beach to the west of the town front beyond The Parade. East Cowes beach is a quiet shingle and sand beach running along the Esplanade.

Families at Cowes beach on Prince's Green during Cowes Week
Families at Cowes beach on Prince's Green during Cowes Week

There are also many other beautiful beaches on the Isle of Wight that are safe for swimming; you can find out about these on the Visit Isle of Wight website.

Advice for boaters
Navigate with care and caution at all times and keep a good lookout for other vessels and swimmers in the water off the beach at Prince’s Green in Cowes, and off East Cowes beach at the mouth of the River Medina.

Underwater diving
No person shall undertake any underwater or diving activities of any kind within the harbour without a valid permit to dive from the Cowes Harbour Master or the manager of the marina you wish to dive at. Companies wishing to conduct underwater diving operations within Cowes Harbour must submit evidence of their compliance with the HSE Diving at Work regulations 1997 and the appropriate approved code of practise to Cowes Harbour Commission.

Diving / swimming permits
A permit to carry out diving or swimming operations within Cowes Harbour can be requested. Download the request form below, complete and submit it to the Cowes Harbour Office or the appropriate marina manager:
Cowes Harbour Diving or Swimming Request Form

Further information:
Approved codes of practice (ACOPs) for diving:
https://www.hse.gov.uk/diving/acop.htm

HSE guidance on diving:
https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/diveindx.htm

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) guidance for divers at work:
https://nerc.ukri.org/about/policy/safety/procedures/guidance-divers/

Top photo: A busy waterway (the Inner Fairway) at Cowes Harbour during Cowes Week. Credit Monika Olek



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