Portsmouth is Britain’s premier naval base and one of the busiest harbours in the country. It is a very large natural harbour, almost completely landlocked except for the narrow entrance, with the approaches well sheltered by the Isle of Wight.

Image Credit: MOD Crown Copyright

The Queen’s Harbour Master (QHM) Portsmouth is the regulatory authority of the Dockyard Port of Portsmouth, an area of approximately 55 square miles that encompasses not only Portsmouth Harbour itself, but includes all the waters from Cowes in the west to Hayling Island to Sandown Bay in the east, with the single exception of Bembridge Harbour.

Traffic co-ordination for shipping entering and leaving Portsmouth Harbour is performed by Harbour Control which is manned 24 hours a day.

The QHM and his staff have to ensure that the 130,000 yearly shipping movements under their control are safely carried out and with the minimum impact to the surrounding area.

To facilitate the safe passage of small craft to and from Portsmouth Harbour, a ‘Small Boat Channel’ exists for vessels less than 20m in length on the western side of the harbour entrance. The northern and southern extremities of the Small Boat Channel are at Ballast pile and No. 4 Bar buoy, both of which are to be left close to PORT by vessels entering and departing. Remember, small boats are extremely difficult to see and the harbour entrance is a blind bend to larger vessels. All vessels under 20m shall enter and leave the harbour through the Small Boat Channel.

All craft fitted with engines, when navigating in the approach channel to Portsmouth Harbour, are to proceed under power between No. 4 Bar buoy and the Ballast pile. Vessels are only to cross the main channel when they are to the north of Ballast pile, and after permission has been obtained from the QHM on VHF Ch 11.

The Small Boat Channel may only be entered or exited by vessels approaching from the east at its northern or southern extremities. If crossing the harbour entrance, do so to the north of Ballast pile or to the south of No. 4 Bar buoy.

Keep to the starboard side of the Small Boat Channel and adjust speed to remain within the channel rather than overtake and be forced into the main channel. Mariners should also be mindful of the wash their vessel is creating, particularly when near or overtaking other vessels. Small boats may continue to use the Small Boat Channel when the main channel is closed for the passage of a large vessel, except for entry or exit of the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers when the Small Boat Channel will be closed to all vessels except the carrier and those assisting her.

Extra caution is to be taken when operating in the vicinity of the harbour entrance to prevent small and less powerful boats being swept into midchannel from the Small Boat Channel by the strong cross-tide, especially at Springs. Plan your entrance/exit of the harbour with this in mind and consult nautical publications should needs be.

It is essential that all mariners operating north of a line between Outer Spit Buoy and Gilkicker Point maintain a close watch on VHF Ch 11, for vessel traffic information from QHM Harbour Control.

Do not underestimate the speed of ships. If your boat is slow, allow plenty of time to take 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 think you have not been seen, get out of the way. Carry a radar reflector high on your boat. Remember, from the bridge of a loaded container ship or large tanker, the captain or pilot will lose sight of you a third of a mile ahead, although you can see the ship at all times. Ships with deep draught may have less room for manoeuvre than is immediately apparent.

At night be extra vigilant as, 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.

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

The Swashway is an important channel for shallow draught vessels approaching and leaving Portsmouth Harbour. It should be noted that hovercraft and high-speed catamaran ferries often transit the area en-route to and from Ryde at speeds in excess of 24 knots. As non-displacement craft, hovercraft usually navigate outside the Swashway in areas where depths are shallow.

The Spitbank area, is regularly used for yacht racing and regattas. Yachts and slow moving craft are advised to keep watch for the possible approach of high-speed ferries and other fast craft.

High-speed craft are cautioned not to assume that other boats, particularly those whom they are overtaking, are aware of their presence, and are to give them a sufficiently wide berth and be mindful of their wash.

The speed limit within Portsmouth Harbour is 10 knots and within 0.5nm of the line of MLWS in any part of the Dockyard Port of Portsmouth outside the harbour, ie across most of the Eastern Solent. The speed limit in each case is to be taken as ‘speed through the water’.

When visibility in the harbour or approach channel is less than 0.25 of a nautical mile the QHM may declare the fog routine to be in force. Small boats may proceed with caution but must keep clear of the main navigable channels and the approach channel. The QHM will direct that the routine is in force, and when it has ended, by broadcasts on VHF Ch 11 or 13.  Vessels without operational radars are advised not to proceed in such conditions, and in any event, should navigate with extreme caution in conditions of restricted visibility.

Contact: Queen’s Harbour Master Portsmouth, Semaphore Tower, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth, PO1 3LT.      Tel: 02392 723694. Email: portsmouth@qhm.mod.uk

Visit: www.royalnavy.mod.uk/qhm/portsmouth for access to all QHM Portsmouth Safety Information, Local Notices to Mariners and General Directions, as well as other relevant Harbour information.

Reference: QHM Portsmouth General Direction 01/21.

Small Boat Channel and access to Gunwharf Quays and Town Camber. The Small Boat Channel, as displayed on Admiralty charts, is defined by Ballast pile at its northern extremity and No 4 Bar Buoy to the south. As the harbour entrance is a blind bend for large vessels, small boats operating near the harbour entrance are often difficult to detect, the following rules therefore apply to all small boats:

1. Small Boats must enter and leave the harbour through the Small Boat Channel.

2. All craft fitted with engines, when navigating in the Approach Channel to Portsmouth Harbour, are to proceed under power between No 4 Bar buoy, Ballast pile and Gunwharf Quays/Town Camber.

3. The Small Boat Channel may only be entered or exited by vessels approaching from the vicinity of Gunwharf Quays/Town Camber north of Ballast pile.

4. A traffic pattern is established at Ballast pile; small boats entering the harbour are to pass close to the east of Ballast Beacon, those exiting close to the west, ie always to port.

5. Small boats, unless authorised by QHM, are not to loiter in the Small Boat Channel.

6. Small boats should remain on the Starboard side of the Small Boat Channel, adjusting their speed to remain within the Small Boat Channel to avoid overtaking or leaving the Channel.

7. All vessels using the Small Boat Channel are to leave 4 Bar Buoy to port, whether heading inbound or outbound.

8. In vicinity of BC Outer (red beacon), all vessels are to pass to the east of the beacon except those joining or leaving the Small Boat Channel at the Inner Swashway who are to leave it to port. 

9. Immediately prior to departure from Gunwharf Quays/Town Camber, small boats are to request permission, from QHM on VHF Ch 11, to cross the harbour to Ballast Beacon before entering the Channel.

Gunwharf Quays Marina

Fantastically located at the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour, beneath the iconic Emirates Spinnaker Tower, Gunwharf Quays Marina offers immediate access to the Solent and some of the best sailing and cruising on the South Coast.

Use Gunwharf Quays Marina as a long term base, or visit for the weekend, and take advantage of over 90 outlet stores, offering up to 60% off original retail prices, and over 30 restaurants, cafes and bars, a cinema, bowling alley and casino.

Set against the vibrant backdrop of Portsmouth’s Historic Naval Dockyard, this specially designed marina can accommodate power and sail craft up to 80 metres LOA with a maximum depth of 5.5 metres. Offering spacious and easily accessible marina berths this well positioned marina offers all guests a unique waterside experience.

With excellent customer service, on site security and all berthing within a pontoon stroll of the centre. Add a friendly and professional team, who are dedicated to making your stay an enjoyable one, and you have the perfect destination marina.

For further information or to book a berth, contact Gunwharf Quays Marina on 02392 836732 or gwqmarina@incentive-fm.com

Contact - Gunwharf Quays Marina, Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, PO1 3TZ. Tel: 02392 836732.                Email: gwqmarina@incentive-fm.com  Website: gunwharf-quays.com/marina

Camber Dock  

Set in the most historic part of the city, Camber Docks is home to KB-Boatpark Dry Stack, the new Ben Ainslie Racing America’s Cup Challenge HQ, the Wightlink ferry service, the local fishing fleet and fish market, commercial workboats, Portsmouth Sailing Club, and a number of private sailing and motor vessels. Visiting vessels are welcome and can moor alongside the quay wall next to the Bridge Tavern with a short stay charge collected by KB-Boatpark staff on behalf of the Harbour Master.

Contact:  Camber Harbour Office, KB-Boatpark, 1st Floor, 96 Broad Street, Old Portsmouth, PO1 2JE.            Tel: 02392 833166. Email: info@kb-boatpark.co.uk                                                                                                                                  

KB- Boatpark Dry Stack






Image Credit: KB Dry Stack







KB-Boatpark was one of the first Dry Stacks in the UK and the longest established in the Solent area. KB’s years of experience and enviable location at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour in the most historic part of Old Portsmouth has made it a destination Dry Stack for many Rib and Sports Boat owners.

KB-Boatpark benefited from a complete re-build in 2014/15 after re-locating a few hundred metres to facilitate the building of Sir Ben Ainslie’s Ineos Team UK America’s Cup Challenge HQ at Camber Docks. The works included a new racking system, a brand new Hoist fork lift truck to work alongside the existing Clarke truck and new office accommodation making KB Dry Stack the most up to date in the Solent area.

Improvements are set to continue in 2021 with the installation of further new pontoons having now erected the new racking.

Contact: KB-Boatpark, First Floor, 96 Broad Street, Old Portsmouth. PO1 2JE Tel: 02392 833166/ Mob: 07733 880260. Email: info@kb-boatpark.co.uk Website: kb-boatpark.co.uk

Haslar Marina 

Haslar Marina is a modern purpose-built marina in Portsmouth Harbour just minutes from the waters of the Solent.

Located in Haslar Creek, Gosport, the marina offers sheltered berthing with no tidal restrictions.

The marina has up to 120 dedicated visitors’ berths, catering for vessels up to 60m LOA. All berths are fully serviced with water, electricity, and Wi-Fi.

Facilities include showers and washrooms, two laundries, bars and restaurants, 24-hour security, and car parking. Motorboat yard, Sealift3 and Boat Care repair and engineering services available on-site.

The Lightship has been refitted to become a destination bar with seafood specialities and great views. The onshore restaurant is now open from breakfast to late.

Call Sign ‘Haslar Marina’ on VHF 80.

Contact: Haslar Marina, Haslar Road, Gosport, Hampshire,PO12 1NU. Tel: 023 9260 1201.                        Email: haslar@boatfolk.co.uk Website: boatfolk.co.uk/haslar-marina-portsmouth

Gosport Marina 

Premier’s Gosport Marina is situated 500m from Portsmouth Harbour and a breakwater ensures that boats are protected from wash from passing boats. 

Gosport Marina can accommodate 500 boats on berths ranging up to 30m. 

The marina has quality toilets and showers, a launderette and an excellent Cafe Bistro - The Boat House Cafe. There is also 24hour a self serve fuel berth, dry stack storage, a specialist boatyard – Endeavour Quay and boat sales; electricity and water on the pontoons, berth holder car parking, free Wi-Fi and bottled gas is available. 

Gosport High Street with a variety of shops is just two minutes away and a quick ferry trip over the water will find you at Gunwharf Quays. Telephone or call VHF Ch. 80 for berthing. 

Contact: Gosport Marina, Mumby Road, Gosport, PO12 1AH. Tel: 023 9252 4811. Website: premiermarinas.com/gosport

The Gosport Ferry

The Gosport Ferry provides fast shuttle services from nearby Gosport Ferry pontoon to the popular Gunwharf Quays with its designer outlets, bowling alley, cinema, restaurants and bars.

Endeavour Quay 

Endeavour Quay offers a comprehensive refit maintenance and repair facility for commercial vessels and private sailing and power craft up to 40 metres LOA or 180 tonnes. Part of Gosport Marina, Endeavour Quay is also renowned for providing service and support for major yacht race projects. Supporting the yard’s lifting and storage services is a comprehensive range of independent onsite marine service tenants and a chandlery. The yard also we lcomes owner’s contractors onto the site as part of its ‘open yard policy’. 

Endeavour Quay offers easy access to The Solent and English Channel, with no air draft restriction. There is 130m of deep water pontoons, a 30mlong and 8.8m wide lifting dock, and a 180 tonne travel hoist. 

Contact: Tel: 02392 584200 Website: endeavourquay.co.uk

Royal Clarence Marina 

Royal Clarence Marina lies within a deep water basin fronting the Royal Navy’s former victualling yard, tucked inside Portsmouth Harbour. It’s less than 10 minutes from the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour and close to Gosport town Centre.

The marina provides fully serviced pontoon berths ranging in length from 8 to 18m. There are also over 150 metres of alongside berthing available. The marina enjoys one of the deepest water basins in southern England with the capacity to take vessels up to 4 m draft.

Royal Clarence Marina has 150 fully serviced berths in an extremely sheltered position inside the harbour. The marina benefits from contemporary toilets, showers, laundry and visitors lounge, right next to the pontoons. VHF Ch 80, Call Sign ‘Royal Clarence Marina’.

Contact: Royal Clarence Marina, Weevil Lane, Gosport, PO12 1AX. Tel: 02392 523523.                          Website: royalclarencemarina.org Royal Clarence Marina is a member of TransEurope Marinas 

Please note, this information is to be used as a guide only and not for navigation.