Boat Trips in Dorset

Boat Trips

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Whether you are a thrill seeker looking for a white knuckle ride in a RHIB around Weymouth Bay or you are just looking for a ferry ride or sightseeing trip along the World Heritage Jurassic Coastline, going on a boat trip is always a great way to spend a day, or evening, on the Dorset coast.

If you want the freedom to set your own pace then hiring and self-driving a boat is the way to do this. This can be done at many places with a variety of different boats, including motor boat self-drive, rowing boat hire and even RHIB hire at a number of places along the coast.  See iCoast map to get locations and contact numbers.

What do I need?

All you need for an organised boat trip is the right clothes for the weather on the day because the boat trip organisers and boat skippers will ensure that you have all the safety equipment you need.  Remember, it often gets cold out on a boat.

For self-drive boat hire all the safety equipment you need should still be provided, but in order for you to be able to take out your own RHIB then you will need to have completed an RYA powerboat level 2 course.

When is the best time to do it?

Boat trips and tours in Dorset run all year round; you can use the iCoast map to check the weather, tides and currents before you go out. Remember, during winter months the water is colder, winds stronger, there are rougher seas and fewer hours of daylight, so it’s always best to be prepared.


Planning your trip

Watch out for wildlife

If you want to go on wildlife watching or on a boat trip then all the information you need is included in the iCoast map under the Wildlife watching and boat trip icons. Think about whether you are going to be going through any areas that are important for wildlife.

  • The Dorset coast has some Special Protection Areas for birds and it is important not to disturb roosting or nesting birds in these locations between:
    • November and March birds when certain birds are “over wintering” and need to conserve energy reserves.
    • Mid-April to the end of June when birds are breeding. If birds are disturbed during this time then birds can abandon eggs or chicks.
  • Don’t linger for too long when you are close to wildlife – by all means look, but then move on.
    • When you are within 300 metres of dolphins move at a constant slow speed, don’t go any closer than 100 metres.
    • Avoid sudden or repeated changes in speed or direction.
    • Do not chase whales or dolphins when they leave you.
    • Do not attempt to approach dolphin mothers and young calves.
  • Avoid anchoring, dragging and boat wash in eelgrass (seagrass) sensitive areas – It is important that any water user should take care in areas where there is seagrass because it:
    • Provides a sheltered habitat for lots of wildlife including, cuttlefish, fish, and spiny and short-snouted seahorses.
    • Provides food for over wintering birds, such as brent geese, wigeon and mute swans.
    • Stabilises the sediment
  • Seagrass-sensitive areas are marked with buoys within Poole Harbour, close to Whitley Lake. For more information click here.
  • To find out more about seagrass and boating click here
  • Report live strandings of cetaceans, and injured/entangled marine mammals to British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) on 01825 765546 (24 hours). Report all other live injured or entangled animals to RSPCA 0300 1234 999.
  • Take home all your rubbish– do not discard rubbish at sea or at beaches. Marine and beach litter spoils peoples experience of the Dorset coast, can harm marine wildlife and can disrupt industry by getting tangled up in fishermen’s nets. Find out more about Marine litter in Dorset.

Staying safe

If you going on an organised boat trip:

  • If instructed to, wear a lifejacket
  • Be sun smart
    • Always wear SPF factor 30 and above waterproof sun cream. Reapply frequently.
    • Drink plenty of fluids as you dehydrate faster while exercising.
    • Consider taking a rest and seeking shade during the hottest part of the day.

If chartering a boat or going self-drive boating

  • Share the water – Jetskiers, gig rowers, kitesurfers, anglers etc. all use the Dorset waters. It is important to be observant, careful and respectful when you are out on the water.
  • Always tell somebody responsible where you are going and when you will be back. They will be able to raise the alarm by calling 999 and asking for the Coastguard if they get worried when you are not back on time.
  • Keep your distance from other boats, especially diving boats that are flying the blue and white ‘Alpha’ flag – this flag means that divers are in the water.
  • Get skilled up in seamanship, navigation and the Rules of the Road to avoid conflict and collisions with other sea users. Follow the SeaSense code, which tells you who has priority in which situation and how you can be more considerate to other sea users
  • Take care when mooring in a marina– Marinas can be quite confined spaces with lots of moored boats and other vessels moving around so the RYA have put together a web page that helps you make mooring in a marina easy – Click here
  • Plan your route and have a back-up plan – Plan your route using the iCoast map for tides, weather and currents and the admiralty charts for navigation, then you can ensure that you won’t end up in any busy shipping lanes and you can avoid any known navigational hazards and any sensitive or restricted areas. Always plan is a few places where you can take refuge if the weather changes or if someone gets hurt. Having a GPS is great but they do fail sometimes so it is best to know your route and have an admiralty chart. You can buy admiralty charts from most chandleries in Dorset, find out where the closest chandlery to you is using the iCoast map.

Look at the restrictions layer on the iCoast Map – All the information you need on speed restrictions and areas to avoid such as bathing only areas and sea danger areas can be found on the iCoast map –

  • Sea danger areas –The Ministry of Defence operate in a number of areas along the Dorset coast. In order to keep safe and to avoid disturbing training and operations it is important to avoid the sea danger areas.
    • The Lulworth Ranges Sea Danger Area – the boundary of this area is shown in iCoast and in the below link. You can find out when the army are firing here by:
      • Reading the Lulworth Ranges – Information for Mariners
      • Contacting your local yacht club – Exact details of the firing programme are sent monthly in advance to all the main yacht clubs in the area.
      • Listening to the radio – Firing times are broadcast on Radio Solent (300m, 221m, 96.1 MHz and 103.8 MHz) during the shipping and weather news at about 0645 and 0745 hours on weekdays.
      • It is also easy to see when firing is taking place because red flags are flown, and red flashing lights are displayed from the flag-staffs on Bindon Hill, Kimmeridge Bay and St. Albans Head. During firing times, range safety boats are on station at the outer extremities of the danger area.
  • Powerboating in Ports and Harbours – Ports and Harbours are very busy places; to reduce conflict and respect other harbour users make sure you follow the rules.
    • Poole Harbour Commissioners have written navigational safety guidance which details where and how you should sail when in Poole Harbour. If you plan to sail in Poole Harbour then please read and follow the guidance here
    • Portland Harbour Authority have produced a leaflet which includes guidance on speed limits, port and marina traffic signals. If you plan to sail in Portland Harbour then please read and follow the guidance here.
  • Learn your life saving signals – If you get into trouble and search and rescue ship or plane comes to help then it is important that you know how to communicate with them properly using the internationally recognised lifesaving signals. This leaflet tells you all you need to know in a simple, friendly way.
  • Check the weather and tides and be aware of local hazards– Learn to interpret tide tables and weather forecasts
  • Safe and Speedy – One of the most exciting things about motor cruising is the speed that you can travel at. Keep you and your crew safe when travelling at speed by:
    • Letting your crew know before you speed up, this gives then time to sit down and hang on.
    • Wearing a kill cord
    • Look out for other vessels
    • Avoid situations where you will need to change your direction quickly

For the full MCA guidance on distress signals and prevention of collision click here.

The RYA offer a number of courses to help you get skilled up, find the right one for you here

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