Please do some dredging!
I recently returned from a frustrating trip to Brighton via Gosport. I sail a silly deep boat (2.7m draught), but as a result I am careful about tide, time, and depth.
Brighton Marina does not have 2m below chart datum as indicated in Reeds. On entering at about half-tide, I was advised to go to Eastbourne but, after a careful sounder survey, I found a berth in which I would just touch at low water. I was in their deepest berth, everywhere else had much less. In four days there were numerous groundings. The marina’s staff said they intended to dredge and there was a mini dredger on the visitors’ berths but it did not move during our stay.
Earlier I stayed at Gosport Marina. Again I mentioned my draught and was given a berth near the Clipper fleet, which draws 3m. I lost two hours of my planned passage time trying to get out. They had 2.1m in the main channel at low water (tide was 1.0m), contrary to the claimed depths. Again they ‘plan’ to dredge.
It is a skipper’s duty to do his sums, and I am responsible for the berths I accept (and pay for), but we need accurate data. Might I suggest some warnings for these marinas until they confirm that they have actually done some dredging? (try getting to the Orkneys and back on a single tank...). I've seen the police scouring the pontoons in Nieuwpoort, but have been lucky to escape notice!
I was and remain a campaigner for red diesel for yachts but, after long discussions with the European Commission, have also realised that in the end the UK is at fault for not implementing an EU Regulation. To use a footballing analogy, you can't say ‘I want to play European football’ and then unilaterally not recognise the offside rule.
If it is any consolation, cruisers based in Belgium who want to visit the UK need to fill in a special Schengen form and leave this with the police/customs. Again Brexit has been mentioned as a justification for reintroducing a form that I thought had gone out of the window years and years ago. The system, like the proposed new UK border control system, is in practical terms unworkable for your average cruising sailor.
It smacks of bully-administration, and a poor justification for knowing who is coming and going into the country. But it is back and fines are being handed out to unsuspecting Belgium-based yachts going to the UK and back.
This library shot shows that dredging is done, but perhaps it needs to be done more often
Marco Thyssen, a Kiwi sailing a Dutch-flagged yacht based in Belgium, sympathises on red diesel but counsels against the ‘have cake, eat it’ mindset