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A puzzle for Christmas

With Christmas on us, I will pose a puzzle this month. Not the usual kind of Christmas brain-teaser, but a real-life puzzle about what to do next.

It concerns the Normandy and Whitestrand pontoons at Salcombe. Their significance depends on where you live. If you live on the Salcombe side of the harbour, Whitestrand is where you keep your tender to get to your mooring. If you live on our side of the harbour, Whitestrand is where you try to squeeze in to visit Salcombe, for breakfast, lunch, cream tea, shopping or whatever.

Normandy is the easterly pontoon, where visiting yachts land or tie up their tenders. It is like this because it was built with a grant to promote tourism.

Both pontoons are coming to the end of their life and need to be replaced. The question is: what with? Should we do a straight replacement, keeping Whitestrand for tenders, the South Sands Ferry, water taxi, ICC boats and other pleasure vessels – and keep Normandy for visitors and yachts which need to take on water? The advantage is that this is understood and easy to manage.

The disadvantage is that it does nothing for the problems at Whitestrand. In spite of the remote overflow pontoons for tenders, it is still overcrowded with rubber ducks, sometimes dangerously so, some of which are so little used that they are half-full of water. Moreover the front of the pontoon is very busy with boats dropping off, taxis, ferries and the like – and all the time it is difficult to moor even the smallest boat in order to visit Salcombe and there is nowhere for boats longer than 4.5m, even for 10 minutes.

One possibility is to switch the functions of the two pontoons. This would create more space for tenders and make the bigger pontoon take the busiest traffic – but it might be more difficult for yachts to get in and out of the new Whitestrand. Alternatively, we could redistribute the functions in some way – one pontoon for visiting yachts and ferries; the other for tenders, for instance. Or we could link the two together to make one big frontage, but how would you then access the slip behind?

So this is where you should get out the pencil, paper, Lego or whatever and design a replacement system for the two pontoons and either send in your suggestion or attend one of the public meetings. Because people who live this side of the harbour see Whitestrand as something other than a dinghy park, we need to make our views heard – and have a Happy Christmas!

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