The new season sees a 6 knot speed limit for powered boats in the centre of harbour. Up to now, the limit has been 8 knots. Why this change?
In a word, wash. Drivers of vessels and vehicles alike tend to ignore wash. The 50mph restrictions around motorway roadworks are at least partly because, above that speed, the turbulence from passing vehicles makes it difficult and dangerous for the workforce.
Equally, it may be safe enough – in terms of avoiding collisions – to drive a motor boat through the harbour at 8 knots but the wash this creates is nevertheless a significant hazard. Salcombe has a big problem with wash. For much of the year there are visitors and locals living on yachts being rocked about all the time by passing boats and not liking it. Just because there are no other moving vessels around does not mean that it is OK to make wash.
The new 6 knot zone starts at the Marine Hotel and runs up to the Saltstone, so includes South Pool, but not Frogmore, creek. There is also a 6 knot zone for Kingsbridge itself. These two zones cover most of the places where traffic is heaviest and yachts moor. The limit in the rest of the harbour, including the expanse between the Saltstone and Kingsbridge, remains at 8 knots.
Do people know accurately the difference between 6 and 8 knots? Probably not and, to make life more complicated, the speed limit is over the water, not over the land. The only way to judge is by watching your wash. Most boats make much less wash at 6 knots: that is the purpose of the new limit.
Of course, safety issues will always be with us. Speeding is a particular risk at high tide on summer evenings, when people think that the harbour staff have gone home and boats are free to blast up to South Pool or Kingsbridge, exceeding 8 knots, let alone 6. But the Harbour Master has tide tables too and knows when to look out for them: those who fail to comply with harbour regulations can be ordered off the water and denied a mooring. Enough said.