Safety concerns over kitesurfer ‘dopes on ropes flying in front of boats’ at Exmouth have been raised by the new Exe Estuary chief.
Grahame Forshaw, who was appointed to the role of Exeter Harbour Master in July, this week announced his agenda for keeping Exmouth’s water users safe.
He told Exmouth Town Council he aimed to educate on sailor and kitesurfer safety, and tackle anti-social behaviour on the water.
Mr Forshaw, employed by Exeter City Council, said he planned to ‘look carefully’ at the current practice of kitesurfers crossing the main channel into the estuary.
He said marked out kitesurfer areas were being considered but he was ‘not convinced’ the move would help.
He raised concerns over high numbers of kitesurfers ‘trying to cross in front’ of vessels when returning to Exmouth Marina.
Mr Forshaw, who served with the Royal Navy, said: “I do have a concern over kitesurfing crossing the main channel into the estuary. That’s on my list of things to look carefully at.
“I do have normal basic safety concerns about dopes on ropes flying in front of boats.
“I have done a kite surfing course. I have meddled in the activity. The wind doesn’t come in one set direction. The problem with kitesurfers is they can only go in certain directions in relation to the wind. They can’t sail directly into the wind. They can’t sail away from it. They can only sail straight across it.
“So, the problem I am going to have, if you’re suggesting that we have a buoyed channel or a sealed off area, it’s going to go right across the across the estuary whichever way we mark it. I am not convinced.
“I am quite worried about how we are going to manage that. Myself and my team have been talking about that already. It is going to be an area of huge concern.”
The retired Royal Marine, who spent a decade as Lyme Regis Harbour Master, said tackling anti-social behavior on Exmouth’s waters had begun through regular weekend patrols.
“We have been speaking to people. We are trying to educate rather than legislate, and try to draw people’s attention to the fact there is a speed limit and the speed limit is there for the good of all,” he said.
“We are trying to be pragmatic and make people understand, rather than hit people with a big stick. But we will have that big stick up our back if we need it.
Mr Forshaw said the aim was for a ‘well-run and happy environment for everybody to enjoy’.
“Education is key,” he said. ”As we come across a boat that is going a little bit too quickly, or in an area where it ought not to be, on the inside of the yellow marker buoys for example, we would explain what it is that they might be doing wrong and point out what they should be doing, and how they should be behaving, and point out an area where they could be doing it.”
A new patrol boat costing in the region of £75,000 is expected next year, to help the team with towing, salvage work and for pollution control.
Funding has been made available through the Exeter Canal and Quay Trust for a training scheme to recruit patrol boat volunteers.
“We have to make sure we have the right boat to do survey work,” said Mr Forshaw. “As we all know the sands out here are shifting where the channel is silting up.
“The sands are moving around and that’s a topic quite close to many of our hearts.
“What we are looking to do with our new patrol boat is get the right survey equipment put on, so come the start of the year we can go out and do a local survey of the channels and the way things are moving around.
“We can publish all that information so people will have a better understanding of where the deeper bits of the water are.”
He added: “We are looking to get out teeth into lots of aspects of the job, because we are aware lots of things have slipped.
“It’s been a while since anyone was in my role and there will need to be some patience while we get that sorted out.”