On this cold winter’s day, I am thinking fondly of the fair summer weather of 2022 that brought us another busy season on the water. The numbers of visiting boats have settled at a ‘new normal’ of around 6000 per year but our statistics show that they are staying longer which is good for local businesses as visitors explore all that Fowey has to offer.

Demand for resident berths and facilities remains high, we are continuing to look at ways to improve useability and provide extra capacity to encourage people to get afloat. The utilisation of space at Caffa Mill is a potential option but with the devolution from Cornwall Council still incomplete, we are frustratingly no closer to a solution. The sites at Caffa Mill and Whitehouse are not only under-utilised, but we continue to voice our safety concerns over their poor material condition and lack of management. Our involvement in the Fowey Town Team and the Town Masterplan process allowed us to hear the views of the community on the potential for the future of these sites and we will use these plans to help develop our ideas once the devolution is complete.

Our primary function as a Harbour Authority is to manage the water space and ensure the safety of all harbour users. In addition to the high numbers of resident and visiting craft, the number of casual users of the estuary remained high this year both on, and in, the water. Paddleboards and kayaks provide a portable and relatively low-cost way of getting afloat but raise concerns about the potential for inexperienced users to get into difficulty. We are pleased to report a good uptake to our Paddlesports scheme, introduced this year, which provided important safety information directly to the 600 registered users as well as at launching sites.

Wild swimming has grown massively in popularity over recent years and Readymoney has become a hub for this activity with its inherent physical and social benefits. Readymoney is the perfect place for swimming, it is buoyed off throughout most of the year to prevent boat access and is generally calm and without currents. We have responded to several incidences of swimming in the lower harbour this year outside the safety of Readymoney, we even had a group that were trying to swim from Mixtow to Polruan! With the high density of boat traffic and commercial ship movements in the lower harbour, swimming is simply not safe and contravenes Harbour Byelaws. We are exploring ways to improve the regulation of swimming to ensure safety and will be working with the Port User Group to develop greater control.

Fowey hosted a number of sailing events this year including the prestigious Prince of Wales Cup for the International 14s and the Ballad 50th Year Championships, our thanks go to the Fowey Sailing Committee for continuing to champion Fowey as a superb sailing destination. Our local fleets of Troys and Fowey Rivers continue to go from strength to strength and it has been excellent to see some close fought competition again this year. The culmination of Fowey’s events of course is in Regatta Week which saw a full sailing programme along with a fantastic offering of events ashore – thanks to all involved and the Regatta Committee are always looking for volunteers and new ideas, so get yourself signed up!

The Commissioners continue to focus on improving the facilities available to users and our team. Penmarlam will see further investment in the replacement of the original section of shore-linked pontoon. Grid Irons and visitor pontoon 3 will also be replaced as they have also reached the end of their lives. The pontoon replacement will be preceded by dredging in Mixtow Pill to restore depths.

Following feedback from our users and visitors we are also commissioning a pay-at-pump petrol facility which will sit alongside the existing diesel facility at the Pilot’s pontoon to make refuelling easier and reduce the potential for pollution from transferring fuel from cans.

The workshops at Brazen Island are long overdue renovation to not only improve the working conditions for the team but also modernise their workspace. The Brazen Island slipway restoration was completed in 2018 and the workshops will form the next phase of the renovation project.

Commercial activity has had its ups and downs this year. Exports of china clay have pleasingly been slightly above forecast and have included some additional cargoes to replace supplies of carbonates from Ukraine which have been affected by the ongoing conflict. Aggregates have unfortunately fallen below forecast at only 100,000 tonnes this year, the main cause being the significant rise in fuel costs and the already slim financial margins of this low-value commodity. Major investments have been made to support this product by project partners in London and Cornwall so we continue to have high hopes that the aggregate trade will grow in the coming years.

Our tugs have both undergone their 5-yearly out of water surveys this year. Whilst it is unfortunate that they occur in the same year, their dry docking and maintenance work is essential to ensure that these vessels remain ready to continue their essential operations in Fowey and in the neighbouring ports of Plymouth and Falmouth.

Our dredger ‘Lantic Bay’ has not been as busy this year as hoped but did complete a short contract to Penzance in September to undertake some harbour dredging work to ensure safe entry for the Scillonian III.
Dredging work in Fowey will begin again in earnest in January focussing on areas in Mixtow, Pont and Polruan.

Cruise calls went as planned this year with 16 ships visiting the harbour. Fowey remains a highly desirable destination for cruise liners with an air of exclusivity as we keep a limit on the number of bookings. Feedback from passengers is that they feel the centre of attention moored in the middle of our beautiful harbour. Visitors enjoy exploring the peace and tranquillity of the upper estuary and the heritage and shops of Fowey.
There are 11 cruise calls currently booked for 2023, some of the ships will anchor outside the harbour as they are simply too big to enter the harbour safely. A list of cruise calls can be found on our website.

You will notice an increase in fees on your invoice for next season. Although we have tried to keep price increases in line with inflation, a continuation in the significant increases in costs of materials, fuel, transport and labour is more than we can absorb. We know that for many of our users, boating is a luxury that may be adversely affected by the rising cost of living. We will try and help where we can to assist in spreading the cost, please do discuss your needs with us as early as possible.

General Information
Most of our customers now receive invoices by e-mail, this is appreciated as part of our drive to help the environment and keep our overheads down, please make sure the details we hold for you are correct. You can use your customer portal to pay invoices online, manage your account and update your contact preferences. Details of how to log-in and your unique renewal code can be found on your invoice.

Please remember that moorings are allocated by vessel size, type and length overall and our approval must be sought before any change in boat on any mooring, including pontoons and frapes. You risk being found liable for any damage resulting if you are oversize. We do our very best to ensure boats do not come into contact with each other but without the right information from you, spacing and swinging room is sometimes insufficient and vessels can come into contact. Please also ensure you always have adequate fendering arrangements in place, responsibility for the safety of the vessel always lies with the owner.

As part of the terms and conditions of taking a mooring, you undertake to ensure your vessel has adequate insurance cover (including wreck removal). We will continue to request proof of insurance from a small number of customers annually to ensure compliance.

There have unfortunately been a few instances of marine crime this year. We encourage you to take photos of your boats, outboards and other equipment and note any serial numbers. This information is very important when logging a crime and will help reunite you with your property if it is located.

Now is the time of year to check that your lifejackets and flares are all in date. Why not invite a friend to cast an eye over your boat to check your safety equipment, there is nothing like a fresh pair of eyes to spot something you may have grown accustomed to. The RNLI’s sea safety team are also available to offer further advice and guidance. Please also be aware that guidance has changed around the safe disposal of flares and you should make an enquiry about disposal to your flare supplier. The Harbour Office, RNLI and HM Coastguard stations are not able to accept flares for disposal.

We hope you have found this newsletter informative and useful. We are here to help so please feel free to contact us if you have any specific queries or require any further information.
I wish you a safe and enjoyable time afloat in 2023.

Paul Thomas
Harbour Master