The Queen’s Harbour Master (QHM) Portsmouth is the regulatory authority of the Dockyard Port of Portsmouth, an area of approximately 50 square miles that encompasses not only Portsmouth Harbour itself, but includes all the waters from Cowes in the west to Hayling Island down to Sandown Bay in the east, with the single exception of Bembridge Harbour.
Traffic co-ordination for shipping entering and leaving Portsmouth Harbour is performed by Harbour Control which is manned 24 hours a day. The QHM and his staff have to ensure that the 117,000 yearly shipping movements under their control are safely carried out and with the minimum impact to the surrounding area.
To facilitate the safe passage of small craft to and from Portsmouth Harbour, a 'Small Boat Channel' exists for vessels less than 20m in length on the western side of the harbour entrance. The northern and southern extremities of the Small Boat Channel are at Ballast beacon and No. 4 Bar buoy. Remember, small boats are extremely difficult to see and the harbour entrance is a blind bend to larger vessels. Enter and leave the harbour through the Small Boat Channel.
All craft fitted with engines, when navigating in the approach channel to Portsmouth Harbour, are to proceed under power between No. 4 Bar buoy and the Ballast beacon. Vessels are only to cross the main channel when they are to the north of Ballast beacon, and permission has been obtained from the QHM on VHF Ch 11.
The Small Boat Channel may only be entered or exited by vessels approaching from the east at its northern or southern extremities. A traffic pattern is established around Ballast beacon; small boats entering the harbour are to pass close to the east of Ballast beacon and those exiting close to the west. If crossing the harbour entrance, do so to the north of Ballast beacon or to the south of No. 4 Bar buoy.
Keep to the starboard side of the Small Boat Channel and adjust speed to remain within the channel rather than overtake and be forced into the main channel. Small boats may continue to use the Small Boat Channel when the main channel is closed for the passage of a large vessel.
Do not underestimate the speed of ships. If your boat is slow, allow sufficient time to take evasive action in the vicinity of large ships. Be visible. At night make sure your navigation lights can be seen. If you see the navigation lights of a vessel and think you have not been seen, get out of the way. Carry a radar reflector high on your boat. Remember, from the bridge of a loaded container ship or large tanker, the captain or pilot will lose sight of you a third of a mile ahead, although you can see the ship at all times. Ships with deep draught may have less room for manoeuvre than is immediately apparent.
At night be extra vigilant as, even on a clear night, you will have difficulty seeing a big ship approach. You might see it first as a black shadow against a background of shore lights, or as a growing shadow, at that point you are not far apart. Remember that your lights will not be easily spotted from the ship.
It is essential that all mariners operating north of a line between Outer Spit Buoy and Gilkicker Point maintain a close watch on VHF Ch 11, for vessel traffic information from QHM Harbour Control. In an emergency, if you believe you have not been seen or you are unsure of a ship's intentions, call them on VHF Ch 11 or 16, then shift to a working frequency for inter-ship safety messages.
The Swashway is an important channel for shallow draught vessels approaching and leaving Portsmouth Harbour. This channel is defined by a red beacon which is sited half a cable to the south of Fort Blockhouse, small boats transiting between the Inner Swashway and the Small Boat Channel are to leave this to port. It should be noted that hovercraft and high-speed catamaran ferries often transit the area en-route to and from Ryde at speeds in excess of 24 knots. As non-displacement craft, hovercraft usually navigate outside the Swashway in areas where depths are shallow.
The Spitbank area, as a whole, is regularly used for yacht racing and regattas. Yachts and slow moving craft are advised to keep watch for the possible approach of high-speed ferries and other fast craft. High-speed craft are cautioned not to assume that other boats, particularly those whom they are overtaking, are aware of their presence, and are to give them a sufficiently wide berth.
Extra caution is to be taken when operating in the vicinity of the harbour entrance to prevent small and less powerful boats being swept into mid-channel from the Small Boat Channel by the strong cross-tide.
The speed limit within Portsmouth Harbour is 10 knots and the same within 0.5nm of the line of MLWS in any part of the Port of Portsmouth outside the harbour. The speed limit in each case is to be taken as 'speed through the water'.
When visibility in the harbour or approach channel is less than 0.25 of a nautical mile the QHM may declare the fog routine to be in force. Small boats may proceed with caution but must keep clear of the main navigable channels and the approach channel. The QHM will direct that the routine is in force, and when it has ended, by broadcasts on VHF Ch 11 or 13.
Contact: Queen's Harbour Master Portsmouth, Semaphore Tower, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth, PO1 3LT. Tel: 02392 723694. www.qhmportsmouth.com for access to all QHM Portsmouth LNTM and General Directions.
Reference: QHM Portsmouth General Direction 07/10.
Small Boat Channel and access to Gunwharf Quays and Town Camber. The Small Boat Channel, as displayed on Admiralty charts, is defined by Ballast Beacon at its northern extremity and No 4 Bar Buoy to the south. As the harbour entrance is a blind bend for large vessels, small boats operating near the harbour entrance are often difficult to detect, the following rules therefore apply to all small boats:
1. Small Boats must enter and leave the harbour through the Small Boat Channel.
2. All craft fitted with engines, when navigating in the Approach Channel to Portsmouth Harbour, are to proceed under power between No 4 Bar Buoy, Ballast Beacon and Gunwharf Quays/Town Camber.
3. The Small Boat Channel may only be entered or exited by vessels approaching from the vicinity of Gunwharf Quays/Town Camber north of Ballast Beacon.
4. A traffic pattern is established at Ballast Beacon; small boats entering the harbour are to pass close to the east of Ballast Beacon, those exiting close to the west.
5. Small boats, unless authorised by QHM, are not to loiter in the Small Boat Channel.
6. Small boats should remain on the Starboard side of the Small Boat Channel, adjusting their speed to remain within the Small Boat Channel to avoid overtaking or leaving the Channel.
7. Immediately prior to departure from Gunwharf Quays/Town Camber, small boats are to request permission from QHM on VHF Ch 11, to cross the harbour to Ballast Beacon before entering the Channel.
Note - There are no visitor berths or moorings at Gunwharf Quays, and boats will only be permitted to cross the harbour to Gunwharf Quays if they have an assigned berth. The Gunwharf Berthing Manager can be contacted by VHF Ch 80 or 02392 836732.
Gunwharf Quays Marina - Gunwharf Quays Marina has hosted many top class yachting and water-based events and famous tall ships, but the marina is open to all, whatever your vessel. The marina is on the east side of Portsmouth Harbour, just five minutes inshore, directly underneath the Spinnaker Tower. To secure a berth it is recommend you book in advance. Call on VHF Ch 80.
Tides in the harbour entrance run very strongly in the third and fourth hours of the ebb and again during the last two hours of flood. There may be standing waves at the entrance and conditions can become confused in southerly winds particularly at times of frequent ship movements. Winds eddy round Fort Blockhouse and frequently turn through 180º. Vessels entering in windy conditions are advised to drop sails before transiting through the entrance.
Gunwharf Quays Marina offers electricity; water and pump out facilities; washroom and laundry; Wi-Fi; car parking; shops; bars and restaurants; boat care and services; waste and recycling; and 24-hour security. Contact: Gunwharf Quays Marina, Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, PO1 3TZ. Tel: 023 9283 6732. www.gunwharf-quays.com/marina.htm
Town Quay (Camber) - Set in the most historic part of the city, the Camber Dock is home to the Wightlink Isle of Wight ferry service, local fishing vessels, commercial barges and work boats, KB Boat Park dry stack, and private yachts and motor boats. Visitors are welcome at the Camber Dock and a number of marine related services are available. There is a slipway, trailer park, car park, and boat storage available. Contact: Camber Harbour Office, East Street, Camber Quay, Old Portsmouth, PO1 2JJ. Tel: 023 9283 3166. www.kb-boatpark.co.uk
Haslar Marina - Haslar Marina is a modern purpose-built marina in Portsmouth Harbour just minutes from the waters of the Solent. Located in Haslar Creek, Gosport, and protected by a large wave screen, the marina offers sheltered berthing with no tidal restrictions.
The marina has up to 120 dedicated visitors' berths, catering for vessels up to 60m LOA. All berths are fully serviced with water, electricity, and Wi-Fi. Facilities include showers and washrooms, two laundries, bars and restaurants, 24-hour security, and car parking. Sealift 2 are now operating from Haslar Marina. Call Sign 'Haslar Marina' on VHF 80. Contact: Haslar Marina, Haslar Road, Gosport, PO12 1NU. Tel: 023 9260 1201. www.deanreddyhoff.co.uk//haslar-marina
Gosport Marina - Gosport Marina is situated 500m from Portsmouth Harbour. The marina is dredged to a minimum of 2m and a breakwater redevelopment ensures boats are protected from the wash created by passing ships.
Gosport Marina can accommodate 500 boats on berths ranging up to 30m. The marina has excellent toilets and showers, a launderette, a quality café, fuel berth, dry stack storage, on-site boat care and boat sales. There's electricity and water on the pontoons, berth holder car parking, Wi-Fi, and bottled gas available. Gosport High Street with a variety of shops is just two minutes away. Call VHF channel 80 to speak to Gosport Marina. Contact: Gosport Marina, Mumby Road, Gosport, PO12 1AH. Tel: 023 9252 4811. www.premiermarinas.com/gosport
The Gosport Ferry provides fast shuttle services from nearby Gosport Ferry pontoon to the popular Gunwharf Quays with its designer outlets, bowling alley, cinema, restaurants and bars.
Endeavour Quay - Endeavour Quay provides a comprehensive new build, refit, storage, maintenance and repair facility for sailing yachts and power craft up to 40 metres LOA or 180 tonnes. A range of independent on-site services is available, coupled with an open yard policy. Service and support of major yacht race projects, private and commercial vessel refits, alongside standard repair and maintenance work.
The marina has easy access to the Solent and English Channel, with no air draft restriction. There is 90m of serviced waiting pontoons, a 30m long and 8.5m wide lifting dock, and a 180 tonne travel hoist. Tel: 02392 584 200. www.endeavourquay.co.uk
Royal Clarence Marina - Royal Clarence Marina lies within a deep water basin fronting the Royal Navy's former victualling yard, is less than 10 minutes from the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour and close to Gosport town centre. The marina provides fully serviced pontoon berths ranging in length from 10.5 to 18m. There is also over 350 metres of alongside berthing available for international events and other maritime spectaculars.
The marina enjoys one of the deepest water basins in southern England with the capacity to take vessels up to 5.25m draft. The 'alongside berths' are also ideal for club rallies and events as large numbers of vessels can be berthed.
Royal Clarence Marina has 180 fully serviced berths as well as the heavy duty and deep water berths. VHF Ch 80, Call Sign 'Royal Clarence Marina'. Contact: Royal Clarence Marina, Weevil Lane, Gosport, PO12 1AX. Tel: 02392 523523. www.royalclarencemarina.org