The Queen’s Harbour Master and Ministry of Defence Police Marine Unit are urging leisure users enjoying themselves afloat in the Dockyard Port of Plymouth to take safety advice as part of a water safety initiative.
As the summer holidays approach and the weather remains kind the number of people taking to the water in the port increases significantly.
In Plymouth and on the South West coast the Royal Navy and MOD Police play a crucial role in ensuring the safe passage and security of warships and submarines. As a result, they are vital eyes and ears on the water 24 hours a day and play a role in assisting and rescuing people on the water.
They are appealing to paddle boarders, windsurfers, yachtsmen, powerboat and dinghy sailors alike to be properly equipped and informed before going on the water.
The Queen’s Harbour Master in Plymouth, a Royal Navy Officer, is responsible in the Dockyard Port of Plymouth for the safe control and operation of the port and the safe navigation of all ships and craft. Whilst the primary focus is on managing the movement of large military and commercial ships, use of the port by the myriad of recreational water users is closely monitored. The port control stations are permanently manned and work closely with the MOD Police Marine unit.
Commander Carl Necker, Queen’s Harbour Master, in launching this year’s sea safety initiative, said: “It is always great to see so many people enjoying getting out on the water and partaking in a broad spectrum of activities. A few simple precautions will help ensure the day goes smoothly and everyone returns ashore safely.”
The MOD Marine Unit Commander Inspector Gordon Peters has a fleet of launches and smaller rigid hulled inflatable boats patrolling the water day and night protecting Devonport Naval Base. They offer advice to boatmen as they pass, respond to tasks from the emergency services and regularly assist the Coastguard and the RNLI. This includes rescuing tired windsurfers or swimmers in difficulty and attending boats broken down or adrift with no-one on board.
Additionally on behalf of the Queen’s Harbour Master, they issue warnings, cautions and occasionally prosecute water users who don’t comply with the regulations for operating in the Port of Plymouth.
Inspector Peters said: “The MOD Police Marine Unit here in Plymouth works very closely with colleagues in QHM’s department to ensure that the boating community using this busy port are able to work and play in as safe an environment as possible.
“We are on the water in all weathers and sea conditions, primarily looking after the Naval Base and the warships and submarines entering and leaving the port; but also keeping an eye out for members of the public who may get into difficulty from time to time.
Regrettably, in the course of our work we come across boat users who are ill equipped to be out on the sea; common problems include operating without safety equipment – no life jackets, radio or flares, no tools or paddles, should their engine fail and operating outboard motors without kill cords to disable the boat should they fall out of it.
“We would appeal to all boat owners who use this beautiful and busy harbour – treat the sea with respect, don’t take for granted that the weather will stay fine and the sea calm, or that your boat will always run as it should. Take the right kit with you; when you need it, it must be with you and not at home.”
Getting out on the water can be fun. Whatever the craft, a few simple safety precautions can make the trip even more enjoyable and reduce your chances of getting into trouble. The following tips will aid the safe enjoyment of the Port:
- Check the weather and tides: Always check the weather forecast and tides before you set off. It is important that the tidal predictions fit in with your plans for the day and remember that the 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 even 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 spare fuel and engine spares. All craft should be able call for help, consider carrying a VHF radio and flares. If the boat is fitted with a kill cord, ensure that 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 fun on 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 PLYMOUTH WATERWAYS – A guide for small craft is free and widely available at local chandlers, marinas and clubs and on QHM’s website: www.qhm.mod.uk/plymouth/