Powerboating in Dorset


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Speed boats, motor cruisers, and RHIB are all different types of power boat but they all have two things in common; they go fast and they are lots of fun. Whilst speeding about in your powerboat along the Dorset coast you can stop off and enjoy sheltered bays, see the different wildlife and view the outstanding coastal geology that this area is so famous for.

What do I need?

For all types for power boating you need a sea worthy boat, clothing for all weather conditions, safety equipment and a powerboat RYA certificate

If just starting out then use the iCoast map to find out the locations of all the tuition centres in Dorset. All of the tuition centres on iCoast-run RYA approved courses which will teach the basic principles of powerboating. The RYA Training Centres will also provide all the safety and wet weather kit needed.

When is the best time to do it?

Powerboating in Dorset can be done all year round on the Dorset coast and many tuition centres run courses all year round too. You should always check the weather, tides and currents before you go out. During winter months the water is colder, winds stronger, there are rougher seas and less hours of daylight – this all needs to be taken into consideration.


Staying Safe

It’s easy to stay safe if you follow these simple steps:

  • 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 and you are not back on time.
  • Register your vessel with the CG66– Voluntary Safety Identification Scheme. This scheme gives the Coastguard details of your vessel so that, if you get into trouble, they have all the information they need to mount a search and rescue operation. You can join onlineand the scheme is free.
  • Check your equipment and boat– The RNLI offer a completely free, friendly and confidential service that looks at safety aspects involved with your boat. Advice Onboard is neither a test nor an inspection and there is no pass or fail. Conducted by one of our highly trained volunteers, Advice Onboard is a personal face-to-face safety advice service that takes place on board your own craft.
  • Carry emergency alerting equipmentso you can call for help such as a VHF radio, flares, emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRB), personal locator beacons, man overboard devices – more information and advice on emergency alerting can be found at the RYA website.
  • 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 life-saving 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.
  • Wear a lifejacket–When out power boating you need to ensure that everyone on board is wearing a lifejacket. For advice on what to look for when choosing a lifejacket visit the RNLI website.
  • 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.
  • Be prepared for “Man overboard”– We understand that man overboard is not really something anyone wants to think about but it is important that if one of your crew fell overboard you would know what to do. The RYA recommend having a regular drill in place, then you could buy yourself valuable time should the unthinkable ever happen. The RYA website has all the information you need to learn and follow in a “man overboard” situation and guidance on what you should do in your regular drill:
  • 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.
    • Visiting the RYA travelling at speed page.



Planning Your Trip

What to look out for

Powerboating along the Dorset coast can offer fantastic way see all sorts of wildlife from a large number of different seabirds and if you are lucky, whales and dolphins.  It’s also a great way to see the geology of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Coastline. The waters can get busy, especially close to amenity beaches. There may be other users in the water including swimmers and divers so you should be observant and careful when you are out.

Watch out for the wildlife
  • The Dorset coast has many areas that are important for wildlife and birds.  These areas have restrictions at certain times of the year to help to protect the wildlife.  On iCoast please turn on the restricted areas icon to show these areas when planning your activity. 
  • Don’t linger for too long when you are close to wildlife– By all means look, but then move on. Keep back and stay slow around dolphins –
    • 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.
    • Do not approach seals ashore, cliff nesting or rafting sea birds

For more information about how to behave around marine wildlife and some top tips for spotting marine wildlife visit The Green Blue

  • Avoid anchoring, dragging and boat wash in eelgrass (seagrass) sensitive areas – because they:
    • Provide a sheltered habitat for lots of invertebrate species, cuttlefish, fish, and spiny and short-snouted seahorses.
    • Provide a food resource for overwintering birds such as brent geese, wigeon and mute swans.
    • Stabilize the sediment

Recreational boats can impact on seagrass beds by:

  • Vessel grounding – If this occurs on an eelgrass bed it can uproot the plants, damaging the bed.
  • Propeller wash- Scouring of the seabed and disturbance from wash can damage, dislodge and smother plants.
  • Anchoring – can all have a negative effect on the eelgrass beds.
  • Mooring – Fixed moorings within seagrass beds can cause scarring and scouring

Seagrass sensitive areas are currently marked out within Poole Harbour, close to Whitley Lake. These areas are marked with buoys.

  • Bring home all your rubbish– do not discard rubbish at sea or on the beaches.
  • Become a ‘Green Blue’ boat by following the Green Blue code. 
  • Also is your hull clean? In the spring time many boaters lift out their boats to clean them. Having a clean hull can increase fuel efficiency; increase speed and can stop non-native invasive species spreading. An antifouling coating is used to stop unwanted marine organisms such as barnacles, algae and not native invasive species colonising the hull – Antifoul is toxic though so it is important to be careful when applying it – guidance on Antifouling and the marine environment can be found on The Green Blue website
Watch out for other users
  • 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 power boating.
  • 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 Sea Sense code, which tells you who has priority in which situation and how you can be more considerate to other sea users.

For the full MCA guidance on distress signals and prevention of collision read the MCA distress signals guide.

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

  • Understand Kite surfers – When you come across a kite surfer while out cruising, it can be difficult to recognise which tack and course they are on. Being aware of kitesurfing can help you predict its movements and avoid a colliding with them. 
  • 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 webpage that helps you make mooring in a marina easy.
  • Plan your route and have a back-up plan– Plan your route using the iCoast map and admiralty charts, to ensure that you don’t end up in any busy shipping lanes, avoid any known navigational hazards and any sensitive areas. In your route plan is best to suss out 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 sometimes fail 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.

See the Solas V Regulations

  • 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 operates 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 (see sea danger area on the map).
      • 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.

If you are already out then it’s 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, 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 for each Harbour:
    • Poole Harbour: Poole Harbour Commissioners have navigational safety guidance
    • Portland Harbour – Portland Harbour Authority have a leaflet detailing guidance on speed limits and port/marina traffic signals.
  • Make yourself more visible by installing a radar reflector– If it is possible to use a radar reflector on your boat then you need to ensure you have installed the largest radar reflector possible. Radar equipment is used by commercial vessels to avoid collisions in bad weather or at night. Small vessels or vessels made of wood or fibreglass are hard to see on radar screens so installing a large radar reflector helps you be as visible as possible to other sea users. To find out more about radar reflectors at:
Watch out for the environment
  • Take home all rubbish – do not discard rubbish at sea or on the beach. Marine and beach litter spoils peoples experience of the Dorset coast, can harm marine wildlife and can disrupt commercial industries such as by  litter getting tangled up in fishermen’s nets. Find out more about Marine litter in Dorset.

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