Once in pilotage waters, the general rules, especially for the first time visitor are not to enter any buoyed approach channel before half tide rising, let them know your plan in advance and seek local knowledge. And remember, ships still use many of these harbours so with forethought, small craft should have no problem.
Once committed to a particular harbour and with its fairway buoy identified, the next step is to follow the respective buoyed approach channel but to the scale of the UKHO 1200 and Imray Y9 charts, much buoyage is not shown. In any case, local inshore surveys result in frequent buoy movements so there is no substitute when finalising a pilotage plan for consulting the website of your chosen destination.
Wells-next-the-Sea, the River Nene for Wisbech and Sutton Bridge and the Great Ouse for King’s Lynn have highly detailed chartlets showing all their local buoyage, including positions and these are updated as necessary. It would be imprudent to proceed without their benefit.
The channel towards the River Witham for Boston and the River Welland for Fosdyke are as depicted on the UKHO and Imray charts and once in the rivers themselves, beacons mark the river banks. But again, additional detail is on the respective websites. For Boston this will include warnings over the status of the tidal barrier.
Pilotage in the various buoyed approached channels is generally straightforward and is that followed by the numerous commercial ships which visit and the commercial fishing vessels going to and from their home ports. Over high water periods, pilot boats may well be operating and can be contacted on the appropriate port working channel for advice.
Overall there is no substitute for local knowledge and of course for vessels over stipulated LOA, pilotage is a legal requirement for this very reason. But for the small boat sailor, a call to the relevant authority or harbour will generally be met with friendly advice. Do though make your call well in advance and during office hours. Rousing a harbour master from his bed in the early hours will not endear you to him. None of the ports here is a 24/7 operation nor is there a constant VTS but they have a charm of their own for all that and maybe because of it.
And talking of Imray, their pilot guide ‘Tidal Havens of the Wash and Humber, soon to be republished as ‘North Norfolk, The Wash and Humber – Lowestoft to Spurn Head’ is a rich source of more detailed pilotage advice for all the harbours of interest here and as a cruising guide for the marine tourist, invaluable.