Cowes Harbour is one of the busiest leisure ports in the UK and consequently, it is an extremely dangerous place to swim.
Cowes is also a busy commercial port with very frequent ferry and commercial traffic on the river Medina.
Cowes is a tidal harbour and regularly sees strong tidal currents of 4 knots (4.6 mph) or over, particularly in the river Medina around the Chain Ferry.
Anyone in the water could easily be swept away by the tide and swimmers are virtually undetectable to commercial ships.
Regulations on swimming, jumping and diving
For safety reasons, swimming in Cowes Harbour, (other than in the Shrape Watersports Area) and in any areas around mooring or berthing facilities is prohibited, as is jumping or diving into the water from any fixed or floating structure. These prohibited activities are legislated under General Direction 4.4 and those found guilty of an offence in court are liable to a fine of up to £2,500.
It is recommended that swimming activities are restricted to the beaches at Cowes and East Cowes. Cowes beach is a short pebble and shell-covered beach to the west of the town front beyond The Parade. East Cowes beach is a quiet shingle and sand beach running along the Esplanade.
There are also many other beautiful beaches on the Isle of Wight that are safe for swimming; you can find out about these on the Visit Isle of Wight website.
Advice for sailors
Navigate with care and caution at all times and keep a good lookout for other vessels and swimmers in the water off the beach at Prince’s Green in Cowes, and off East Cowes beach at the mouth of the River Medina.
No person shall undertake any underwater or diving activities of any kind within the harbour without a valid permit to dive from the Cowes Harbour Master or the manager of the marina you wish to dive at. Companies wishing to conduct underwater diving operations within Cowes Harbour must submit evidence of their compliance with the HSE Diving at Work regulations 1997 and the appropriate approved code of practice to Cowes Harbour Commission.
Swimming & Diving permits
A permit to carry out diving or swimming operations within Cowes Harbour can be requested. Download the request form below, complete and submit it to the Cowes Harbour Office or the appropriate marina manager: Cowes Harbour Diving or Swimming Request Form