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 Wigh

Image Credit: MOD Crown Copyright

The King’s Harbour Master (KHM) 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 KHM 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 50m wide 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 KHM 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 when it runs as much as four knots. 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 listening watch on VHF Ch 11, for vessel traffic information from KHM 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.

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.

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.

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.

The speed limit within Portsmouth Harbour is 10 knots 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’.

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.

When visibility in the harbour or approach channel is less than 0.25 of a nautical mile the KHM 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 KHM 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: King’s Harbour Master Portsmouth, Semaphore Tower, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth, PO1 3LT. Tel: 02392 723694. Email: portsmouth@khm.mod.uk

Visit: https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/khm/portsmouth for access to all KHM Portsmouth Safety Information, Local Notices to Mariners and General Directions, tidal information as well as other relevant Harbour information and sign up for our mailing lists containing maritime safety information.

Reference: KHM Portsmouth General Direction 02/23.

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, all vessels under 20m LOA:

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.

3. Vessels greater than 20 metres in length may only use the Small Boat Channel with the express permission of KHM on VHF Channel 11.

4. The Small Boat Channel may only be entered or exited by vessels approaching from the east at its northern or southern ends.

5. A traffic pattern is established around Ballast Pile; small boats entering the harbour are to pass close to the east of Ballast Pile and those exiting close to the west, ie always leave it to port.

6. Small boats crossing the harbour entrance may only do so to the north of Ballast Pile and may not cross the main channel until south of 4 Bar Buoy.

7. Small boats, are not to loiter in the Small Boat Channel.

8. Small boats should remain on the Starboard side of the Small Boat Channel and should adjust their speed to remain within the Small Boat Channel rather than overtake other craft and be forced into the main channel.

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

10. 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.

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

Gunwharf Quays Marina

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

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 berths this well positioned marina offers all guests a unique waterside experience.

Gunwharf Quays Marina offers berths for short stays and overnights as well as longer term options for both monthly and annual berths. We are also an excellent location for hosting events and regattas.

We provide 24 hr on site security, access to water and electricity (32/16 amp), marina facilities, complimentary laundry service and subsidised car parking

All berths are just a short stroll to all that Gunwharf Quays has to offer. Take advantage of over 90 incredible outlet stores, over 30 restaurants, cafes and bars, a cinema, bowling alley and casino.

So why not experience the Solent marina with the warmest welcome! For further information or to book a berth, contact Gunwharf Quays Marina by phone, email or call VHF channel 80.

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

Camber Dock  

Image Credit: Camber Docks

Camber Docks- Set in the most historic part of the city, Camber Docks is home to KB-Boatpark Dry Stack, BAR Technology and Subsea Advanced Maritime Technology, 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 KBBoatpark 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/ 07960 393205. Email: info@kb-boatpark.co.uk                                                                                                       

KB- Boatpark Dry Stack






Image Credit: KB Dry Stack






KB-Boatpark 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 has over 120 rack spaces for boats from 6m to 10m and new pontoons that were installed in 2021, always ensuring sufficient space on the holding berths. We recently imported a Wiggins forklift from America to add to our Clarke and Hoist machines, allowing greater flexibility for routine maintenance work, and quicker launching on busy days.

Dredging of the Camber was completed in March 2023 to ensure we can continue to launch at spring low tides. 

Contact: KB-Boatpark, First Floor, 96 Broad Street, Old Portsmouth. PO1 2JE. Tel: 02392 833166/ 07960 393205. Email: info@kb-boatpark.co.uk. Website: kb-boatpark.co.uk

Haslar Marina 

Image Credit: Boatfolk- 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 100 dedicated visitors’ berths, catering for vessels up to 40m LOA. All berths are fully serviced with water, electricity, and Wi-Fi. On-site facilities include luxurious showers and washrooms, two laundries, blackwater pump out,24-hour security, ample car parking as well as two brand new restaurants. Home to the convenient sail-in-and-go Sealift, Haslar Marina also boats a brand new motorboat yard and boatcare service centre as well as dedicated boat brokerage, boatpoint. 

‘The Lightship’ restaurant and bar has been completely refurbished to create a destination venue. Upstairs, take in the panoramic views while you enjoy a sharing plate with your drink. Downstairs there is a superb restaurant for fine dining. Book online thelightshiphaslar.co.uk

‘The Creek’ restaurant and bar is located on the water’s edge, with stunning views of the marina and Portsmouth Harbour beyond.  It has indoor and outdoor seating and a relaxed, laid-back vibe. Book online www.thecreekhaslar.co.uk. Both venues are dog friendly (Lightship: outside only). Call Sign ‘Haslar Marina’ on VHF 80. 

Contact: Haslar Marina, Haslar Road, Gosport, PO12 1NU.  Tel: 02392 601201. Email: haslar@boatfolk.co.uk  Website:  boatfolk.co.uk/haslar-marina-portsmouth

Gosport Marina 

Image Credit: Premier Marinas Gosport Marina

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

Gosport Marina can accommodate 500 boats on berths up to 30m. There is electricity and water on the pontoons, car parking, free Wi-Fi and bottled gas available. The marina has luxury facilities, a launderette and The Boathouse Café. There is also a 24 hour a self-serve fuel berth, dry stack storage, a specialist boatyard (Endeavour Quay). 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.  

Contact: Gosport Marina, Mumby Road, Gosport, PO12 1AH.   Tel: 02392 524811. Email: gosport@premiermarinas.com VHF Channel 80 

A short ferry trip away is the popular Gunwharf Quays with its designer outlets, bowling alley, cinema, restaurants and bars.

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.

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 refit 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 welcomes 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, 130m of deep-water pontoons, a 30m long and 8.8m wide lifting dock, and a 180-tonne travel hoist. 

Contact: Endeavour Quay, Mumby Road, Gosport, PO12 1AH Tel: 02392 584200. Email: endeavourquay@premiermarinas.com 

Royal Clarence Waterside & Marina 

Royal Clarence Waterside & 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 Waterside & Marina has 150 fully serviced berths in an extremely sheltered position inside the harbour. The marina benefits from contemporary toilets, showers, laundry, wi-fi and a customer lounge. VHF Ch 80, Call Sign ‘Royal Clarence Marina’. 

Contact: Royal Clarence Waterside & Marina, Weevil Lane, Gosport, PO12 1AX. Tel: 02392 523523. Email: royalclarence@aquavista.com

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