Using the port for recreation

Useful information for leisure users, including those organising events, diving, swimming across the Solent, and guidance for Personal Water Craft (Jetski) users. How to enter the harbour and other safety information.

Designated jetskiiing areas

Facts to keep in mind


Avoid sailing in the commercial shipping channels, especially in poor visibility.

Obey Rule 9 of the Collision Regulations (COLREGS) for conduct in narrow channels by keeping to the side of the channel and crossing only when this does not impede the passage of a large vessel that can safely navigate only within the narrow channel.


Do not underestimate the speed of ships.

If your boat is slow, allow sufficient time to take effective evasive action in the vicinity of large ships.


Be visible.

At night make sure your navigation lights can be seen. If you see the navigation lights of a vessel and you think you have not been seen, get out of the way. Use torches, search lights or a spotlight on sails, or fire a white flare to indicate your position. Carry a radar reflector high on your boat.


Be alert.

Look around every so often, especially astern.


Keep an extra vigilant watch at night.

Even on a clear night you will have difficulty seeing a big ship approach. You might see it first as a black shadow against a background of shore lights, or as a growing shadow – at that point you are not far apart. Remember that your lights will not be easily spotted from the ship, particularly if seen against shore background lights.


Keep your VHF radio tuned to Channel 11.

In an emergency, if you believe you have not been seen or you re unsure of a ship’s intentions, call them on VHF Channels 11 or 16 then shift to a working frequency for intership safety messages.

COVID-19 Coronavirus Measures

Following the Government’s revised social distancing guidelines aimed at reducing the spread of the  COVID-19 Coronavirus,  we are continuing to review our advice to recreational boaters in concert with industry bodies and the regional ports and harbours.  Further clarity is currently being sought from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport who are setting details of how facility operators and water users will be required to comply, and our advice will be updated in line with this guidance.

In the meantime, QHM Portsmouth continues to operate an open port policy, the primary purpose of which is to protect defence output and commercial activity including vital transport, trade routes, and industry.  Some leisure facility providers within the harbour are starting to consider the feasibility of re-opening while addressing how to manage constraints which may be imposed to meet the Government’s requirements.  Individuals whose circumstances permit them access to the water are encouraged to consider the following:

  • Whether your activity is being carried out in conformance with Government regulations for social distancing and exercise, including on the shore when accessing the water?
  • Whether sufficient maintenance has been conducted on your vessel to ensure it remains serviceable and seaworthy, reducing the risk of needing external assistance?
  • Any other aspects which increase the risk of depending on emergency responders, including experience levels and prevailing conditions.
  • The fact that at present there are no RNLI lifeguards on beaches, no Volunteer Harbour Patrol in Portsmouth Harbour, and although volunteer lifeboat crews are fully operational should they be needed, it is important that anyone visiting the coast understands the risk and takes the necessary steps to keep themselves safe.