Harbour Board members are encouraged to spend one day a year in peak season with the harbour staff . This year I chose the first Saturday in August. This is an excellent way of finding out how the harbour works on the water.
And water was my first stop: I saw the new facility which makes drinking water available to yachts on the visitors’ pontoon in the Bag. Trying to connect the pontoon to the water mains would have involved sinking a pipe in a ditch for over a mile across the land of four owners to an air lock in a building on the water’s edge and thence in a specially reinforced pipe in a deep trench under the seabed to the pontoon. Instead the Harbour Master has equipped a launch with a large stainless steel tank which is then connected to the standpipe outlets on the pontoon – all for about £5000. The users were clearly delighted with this innovation, as it removes the need for yachts to go to Normandy pontoon to fill up which is very inconvenient, especially if you happen to be on an inside berth.
Life in the Harbour Office was hectic: people arrived with inquiries and trying to pay fees, and there are lots of different tariffs and stickers; the telephone rang incessantly; and the radio was forever receiving calls from yachts just entering the harbour wanting a mooring or wanting to know how much water there is on the bar.
All this was replicated in the harbour launch, where the boatman was guiding in perhaps six or seven yachts at any one time, helping yachts pick up buoys and taking money for moorings (we set the mooring fees in round pounds to make this easier, but the change in VAT did for that). On Whitestand, the staff were trying to keep the tenders under control and ferrying people to the remote tender pontoon. And the water taxi was running all the time between yachts and Whitestrand.
Preparations were being finalised for the Red Arrows later in the week. Stopping all movement in the harbour means the lifeboats would have to be moved to the harbour entrance in case there was a shout; more yachts would mean extra anchorages designated and a Notice to Mariners issued; and staff would have to be positioned to stop spectators going onto Normandy or Whitestrand because those pontoons would sink under the weight. When the day came, it was wonderful to see the harbour absolutely full of people but also absolutely quiet for the ten minutes before the Red Arrows arrived. It’s all about ensuring that people have a good time in safety.