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We all like going fast - it can be exhilarating and exciting. Going slow can be tedious especially when you are keen to get out of the harbour on a nice summer's day. But there is a time and a place for everything, and proceeding at speed within the harbour increases risk of collision and can make life uncomfortable and even dangerous for other users. It also makes hassle for me, because I have to investigate every accident, incident and complaint, and then take appropriate action.

But remember, it is not just your speed that you need to watch. Keep a good lookout (astern as well) and realise what effect your wake is having on other users. Slow down when you see vessels more vulnerable - e.g. youngsters in canoes, passengers disembarking from a ferry.

Behaviour in Poole Harbour is generally good and our policy is to educate rather than prosecute. It is a team effort and we rely on the majority to set a good example. There is however always a minority who blatantly flout the limit and there are also those who will nudge the throttle up and think they can get away with a couple of extra knots. If the Harbour Patrol estimates that you are above the speed limit, you will probably get a hand signal to slow down. If you do not you will be followed and your speed will be accurately measured with a view to further action. If you are warned, your boat name will be noted and if you offend again in the season you will invariably be prosecuted.

As a statutory authority we have similar powers to the police regarding the enforcement of byelaws. If the police detect offenders, they will pass their reports to Poole Harbour Commissioners for further action. We employ solicitors to take our cases to the magistrates court. For more serious cases (i.e. offences against the Collision Regulations) we would consult with the MCA and decide who would take the case forward.

How do we measure speed?

The speed limit is "through the water". This is measured by a conventional speed log, usually driven by a small impellor. It needs to be checked regularly for accuracy. Speed "over the ground" is measured very accurately by GPS, and many recreational craft are fitted with this facility. If there are no tidal or weather conditions, your speed "over the ground" and "through the water" will be the same. Remember therefore, if you are measuring your speed by GPS to make allowance for the tidal stream to give you your speed "through the water". Our launches are fitted with both conventional logs and GPS so that we can measure both.

We will normally measure your speed by following at a set distance over several hundred yards - our equipment is checked and adjusted on a daily basis. We can also check speed accurately on radar within the harbour and CCTV is also very useful in the initial detection of speeding craft.

In summary:

  • The speed limit helps to reduce the risk of an incident - please abide by it.
  • Please also watch your wash. Keep a good lookout and try not to inconvenience other users.
  • Have a "gentle" passage down harbour! Savour the beauty and save your speed till you get into clear water outside.