Blakeney Norfolk Geraldine Burles

Geraldine Burles

Whether you sail for leisure or work, sailors have a responsibility to avoid polluting the seas surrounding England and beyond. The Green Blue has good advice for boat owners (everything from protecting wildlife and preventing invasive species to eco-friendly power and how to dispose of old boats (and reporting abandoned boats, which often leak fuel into the water).

If you fish, it’s even more important to be vigilant about not leaving fishing waste (nets, lines etc) in the water, as these are lethal to wildlife. Monomaster is a nifty little invention from The Netherlands that unlike conventional fishing line recycling bins (which often have birds tangled up in them) keeps fishing line and tackle safe until you can safely dispose of it. Read more on how to help prevent ghost fishing waste.

If you run a charter company, you can take a 4-day WiSe Scheme course. This will show you how to protect wildlife as you sail. On completion of the course, you receive a certificate that you can put on your marketing and website, and you even get a flag for your boat!

The Green Blue’s boating pledge

Minimise noise – especially important in water, as noise travels further and disturbs birds and wild creatures. Never sail through birds or creatures on the water, as this can split mothers from their young.

Minimise wash – this can uproot vegetation and cause soil erosion, and even cause damage to other boats and loosen their moorings.

Keep to speed limits – this helps protect local birds and wildlife. It’s also good to reduce fuel use and maintain engine efficiency, as well as of course reducing risk of collison. If you see wildlife, slow down to a no-wake speed and use binoculars to view from at least 300ft. 

Don’t throw anything overboard (even milk from coffee can cause bacteria in the water, and an orange peel takes 2 years to break down). Keep it all on board and dispose/recycle when you get back to shore. Secure bins (so items don’t blow into the water). Wear natural rubber flops and biodegradable sunglasses (rather than ones made from recycled plastic, which don’t biodegrade if they fall overboard). If you smoke, use a personal ashtray to safely extinguish butts, to dispose of when back at shore.

Download the guide on using anchors with care, to prevent harm to seagrass (and creatures that rely on it like seahorses and sea turtles). Advanced mooring systems has developed mid-water floats that elevate chains from seabeds, leaving seagrass undisturbed. Respect voluntary no-anchor & no-access zones. Often this is due to special conservation status, enabling biodiversity to recover for plants and wildlife. Use designated slipways to protect seagrass and reed beds. SEAFLEX is another anchor alternative – an elastic mooring solution for docks and pontoons and other places that can even be secured in locations exposed to extreme weather conditions.

Keep your hull and equipment clean (choose biodegradable brands free from chlorine), as this helps to prevent invasive species, and also gives a smoother journey. Store paint and oil securely (just one litre of spilled oil can pollute one million litres of seawater). Use drip trays and funnels and recycle oil when back at shore. And use pump-out facilities at shore for blackwater.

let’s meet our lovely hidden harbours

Mousehole Gill Wild

Gill Wild

Harbours are simply places for ships and boats to shelter. In yesteryear, they were used just to load and unload ships (especially in Liverpool and Bristol).  are two  cities with big maritime histories). Ships would often moor at piers (the reason they were built) and artificial harbours were first built during the 1944 D-day operations. Many harbours are not dog-friendly for safety, so check before visiting. 

Mousehole (Cornwall) is a tiny harbour on the west side of Penzance Bay, 7 miles from Land’s End. It’s so tiny it can only take tiny boats! It’s tricky to get in, due to weather and rocky islands.  It’s popular with wild swimmers who often brave the freezing cold waters, drying off on the small sandy beach, before using the stairs to head back to the village (full of ancient alleys and higgeldy-piggeldy houses of different shapes and sizes).

This is real ‘deep Cornwall’, where many people still use the (similar to Welsh) Cornish language (the last person to speak it as a first language was local resident Dolly Pentreath – she died in 1777).

The seas near Mousehole can be treacherous. In 1981, all 8 volunteeer lifeboat men were killed along with the crew of the coaster vessel they were trying to save (which ran aground after seawater got into the fuel tank). Today the village has a local train named after the boat’s crew. Within one day, local volunteers had formed a new lifeboat crew.

Other beautiful harbours in England include:

Lynmouth (Devon) has a funicular powered railway (cliff-lift) nearby and is stunning beautiful. It also has a tragic history. In 1952, it suffered England’s worst flood, when 34 people died (and 100 buildings were destroyed). So much rain fell in nearby Exmoor that the river could not cope and burst its banks. Today the flood overflow area is built to take more water, so hopefully this can never happen again.

Weymouth (Dorset) is a well-known seaside resort with a nice harbour. The coast faces the Channel Islands, with ferries running to the Channel islands (at time of writing).

Lymington (Hampshire) is an affluent town with a ferry to Isle of Wight. Boats shelter in two  marinas in the Solent.

Whitby (Yorkshire) is a unique harbour. You can walk 199 steps up the hill to visit the ruined abbey, while you wait to sail out again. With a strong Dracula connection, this town also has a sad history, as it used to be a whaling port.

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