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Plymouth Queen’s Harbour Master offers advice on safety afloat

24 July 2017
The Queen’s Harbour Master and Ministry of Defence Police are advising leisure water users to follow simple safety advice during the summer holidays.

Carl Necker, Queen’s Harbour Master (QHM) is keen for as many people as possible enjoying the waters of Plymouth Sound and the Tamar Estuaries. He says a few simple precautions and plans will help ensure everyone returns safely.

In particular, paddle boarders, windsurfers, kayakers, yachtsmen, powerboat and dinghy sailors are asked to ensure they are properly equipped and informed before going afloat.

Carl oversees the safe control and operation of the port and navigation of all ships and craft at all times in the Port of Plymouth with the support of the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP).  Whilst primarily managing large military and commercial ships, QHM and MDP closely monitor use of the port by any recreational users and are available to help any in trouble on the water.

The MDP Marine Unit, led by Inspector Tony Micallef, has a fleet of boats on the water 24 hours a day in all weathers primarily protecting Devonport Naval Base.  At the same time they are able to offer advice to recreational users and respond to tasks from the emergency services as well as assist HM Coast Guard and the RNLI.

We would appeal to all boat owners who use this beautiful and busy harbour to treat the sea with respect

Inspector Tony Micallef, Ministry of Defence Police Marine Unit

Inspector Micallef says although his force primarily protects the naval base and warships and submarines entering and leaving the port, they also keeping an eye out for members of the public who may get into difficulty.

He said, “Regrettably, in the course of our work we come across boat users who are ill-equipped to be out on the sea.  We would appeal to all boat owners who use this beautiful and busy harbour to treat the sea with respect.  Don’t take fine weather or the reliability of your boat for granted.  Take the right kit with you; if you need it, you need it with you, not at home.”

On behalf of QHM, the police also issue warnings, cautions and can prosecute water users who do not comply with the regulations for operating within the Port of Plymouth. These regulations and more detailed guidance for recreational users can be found on QHM’s web site:

QHM offers the following advice to stay safe on the water:  

  • Check the weather and tides: Always check the weather forecast and tides before you set off. It is important tidal predictions fit in with your plans for the day and remember tidal streams can be very strong in certain areas of the port. Be prepared to change your plans or cancel the trip if the forecast is unfavourable.

  • Keep others informed: Let someone ashore know of your plans; they can alert the emergency services if you have a problem. If you are alone or in a small dinghy or canoe think about how you will summon help.  

  • Wear a lifejacket: A correctly fitted lifejacket will keep you afloat long enough for those nearby to rescue you, or until the arrival of search and rescue services.

  • Check your boat and safety equipment: In many instances vessels get into difficulties through equipment failure.  It is sensible to carry extra fuel and engine spares. All craft should be able to call for help, consider carrying a VHF radio and flares. If the boat is fitted with a safety cut-off or  ‘kill cord’, ensure the driver wears it at all times.

  • Avoid alcohol: Alcohol will impair your judgement. It is as irresponsible for a skipper to be in charge of any craft under the influence of alcohol, as it is to drive a car under the influence.  

Respect other water users and the environment: Whilst having enjoying the water, it is important that you are aware of your interaction with others afloat and the local wildlife.  Keep clear of larger vessels that can only navigate in the deep water channels and obey the speed limits.  Slow right down when passing through anchorages, moorings or close to shore. Be particularly aware that your wash may cause difficulties to smaller craft, canoeist or swimmers and keep well clear of divers.  Don’t throw rubbish into the water, or spill petrol or oil.  

A useful guide to the local rules and environmentally sensitive areas is ‘PLYMOUTH WATERWAYS – A guide for small craft’ (PDF) which is free and has recently been updated; it is widely available at local chandlers, marinas and clubs and can be downloaded from the leisure users’ page of QHM’s website.

If you wish to report any dangerous activity to QHM, for which a rapid response is needed, such as speeding boats within the Sound bathing areas or jet skis operated irresponsibly, then call the port control station at Longroom via VHF Channel 14 or phone 01752 663225.

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