Well, it did not turn out to be a barbeque summer. Visiting yachts, which account for about a third of the harbour’s income, are probably slightly up on the last two years but still around 50% down from about seven years ago. This underlines how dependent the harbour is on the weather.
We do face some difficulties in marketing the harbour. It is generally choc-a-block in July and August. If we promote the harbour, more people turn up in the middle of the summer and do not necessarily have a brilliant experience because many skippers do not like tying up alongside another vessel (“rafting”). Moreover, we have proportionately more powerboats than other harbours – without the space to spread them about – so Salcombe is not always the most restful place to spend the night. Some people like it busy: but some prefer not.
And Salcombe still tends to be a port of transit rather than a destination. Yachts call in when, for instance, they are en route from the Solent to the Scillies and the wind has dropped and the tide is against them. That said, most visitors come from no further afield than Dartmouth or Plymouth. So we have to play to our strengths: this is still the best harbour for the family as it has far better beaches than anywhere for miles around. And if the weather is iffy, you can always hire a launch and make the beautiful trips to Kingsbridge, Frogmore or South Pool.
As the season finishes, the Harbour Board turns again to fees and charges for next year. This involves the inevitable debate about moorings. Just as (I understand) you have to put your child down for Eton before he is born so, if you want a Salcombe Harbour mooring, you seem to need to put your name down before you have a boat! There are generally commercial moorings available, of course, but these are around two to three times more expensive.
Salcombe is a South Hams District Council municipal port and is unusual in that it has a residence requirement on its moorings – most harbours don’t. In order to reach the top of the waiting list, you need to be a full SHDC Council Tax payer and you must remain a SHDC Council Tax payer to retain your mooring (in legal terms, it is a licence rather than a lease). Moreover you cannot “assign or sub-let”, so there is no passing the mooring down the family, or sub-letting to a friend. We are having to tighten up on these rules in order to keep at least some new moorings coming up each year.