Cowes Harbour is one of the busiest leisure ports in the UK and consequently, it is an extremely dangerous place to swim. The harbour is also a busy commercial port with very frequent ferry traffic as well as large commercial shipping transiting up and down the River Medina.
Cowes is a tidal harbour and regularly experiences strong tidal currents of up to 4 knots (4.6 mph) or over, particularly in the narrowest part of the river where the Chain Ferry operates. Any person(s) in the water could easily be swept away by the tide and swimmers are virtually undetectable to commercial ships.
For safety reasons therefore, swimming within the waterways (fairways) in Cowes Harbour and in any areas around or from mooring or berthing facilities is prohibited, as is jumping or diving into the water from any structure, bridge, wall, pile, pontoon, jetty, pier or buoy within the harbour. These prohibited activities are legislated under Cowes Harbour 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. 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.
Boaters in the harbour are advised to 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 practise to CHC.
A permit to carry out diving or swimming operations within Cowes Harbour can be requested. Download the form on the CHC website, complete and submit it to the Cowes Harbour Office or the appropriate marina manager.
Further information and links can be found in the Swimming and Diving section of our website.