With the end of the sailing season in sight it's a good time to review those

aspects that affect our rather expensive hobby.

Folk say that "sailing is synonymous with standing in a cold shower tearing

up £20 notes".  Well not quite like that for me as with modern

communications we can avoid the bad weather although the notes still seem to

be shredded!

Rye Maritime Festival is now behind us though, yet again, the whole project

was held in the balance by some myopic people that hadn't realised the

tremendous financial benefit to Rye businesses.  The Festival has been going

for several years now so you would have thought that the movers and shakers

in Rye would have been aware of the potential to build on the past success

of the event and earmark funds a year ahead.  Of course, instrumental in

making the Festival exist as well as running it we have a big 'thank  you'

to Charles and Sue Bronsden without whose efforts I doubt the Festival would

even exist.

The west wall at the harbour straight bit is now complete though I often

wonder how many visitors damage their keels when the underwater wall lurks

just a meter below the surface for unsuspecting mariners.  I guess the

massive operation was paid for by Environment Agency national funds;

probably our taxes originally?  The EA has also carried out other works,

like the port entry signals now erected at the seaward end of the harbour

entrance.  This was well overdue as on a foggy day the lights over the

Harbour Masters office could never be seen; it doesn't bear thinking about

where there was the prospect of a large coaster coming out in fog with a

group of yachts going in.  Anyway, again I believe we have to thank Charles

for this added safety feature.

Half way down the river is the wooden wreck which must surely be an artist's

visual paradise.  It doesn't affect us sailors other than breaking up the

river bank vista.  I seem to remember in the old days the Harbour Master

would put a notice in the local paper saying that if wrecks in the river

were not removed by the "owners" he would take steps to dispose of it

himself; I guess he meant the EA.  Of course removing a wreck could cost

quite a lot.  However, there may be other options.  Can the wreck be a

'fund-raiser' rather than a looming expense?  I mentioned artists that would

love to capture its image with their brushes but are there other

opportunities for it to raise funds; archaeology, diving, ship construction

studies, biological studies, history of the boat (someone must know its

name) and even do a limited "Mary-Rose" type rescue, pop it into a museum

and charge folk to see it and read about it.  Otherwise, as I have mentioned

elsewhere, it could be set alight as a fund-raising bonfire with Pims,

music, Viking head gear and invite Abu Qatada back to be the guest of

dishonour! . . . .or perhaps you know someone else that would benefit our

community by a warm sending off?

At last, this year, the RHBOA were able to effect the rally to Eastbourne

having had two years of cancellation due to bad weather.  About 8 boats

went, including me and you could say that the weather was not very good

again only this time it was too calm for sailing.  We had the sails up but

also motored all the way.  Similarly on the way back the next day we had to

have the engine on as the wind was on the nose.

We've heard talk over the years of a marina being built by the river and

even of a bridge over the river; well the main south coast road does have a

bottle neck at Rye and a bridge would overcome this.  I guess this is only

likely to happen if Lydd became a major airport.  The prospect of stopping

the noise polluting aircraft over the countryside by making them land on the

coast is very attractive as I live right under the flight path for Gatwick

and Heathrow.  Do you remember the 60's 70's promotion of the Folkeston /

Honiton trunk road?  Well it never happened.  All that hype and you still

wiggle your way on lanes through villages in the Hastings / Rye area.

Yes, the Environment Agency has done some useful work but I read now that

they want to put up the Harbour dues to double the rate of inflation.  This

is grossly unfair and shows that the EA has no consideration for the

hundreds of Rye Seamen that are struggling as a result of the obscene

behaviour, indeed corrupt dealings of casino bankers, and the Labour

government, none of whom have been charged but, between them, have caused

misery and debt to millions of British families.  Yes, the EA has done some

dredging but the actual facilities for individual craft are provided by

private yards.  It is these private yards, like my berth at River Brede

Moorings, that get down to the nitty gritty of building pontoons, providing

lifting facilities, loos, chandlery and a friendly professional ambience.

These very yards are at the sharp end of maintaining the pulse of Rye's

maritime heart and yet are being clobbered for fees by the EA for

successfully running their businesses that bleeds much of their profits back

to the EA.  The harbour of Rye is NOT a marina.  Rye is a muddy river where

boating can only be carried out for less than five hours in daylight on most

days.  I think the EA should come to terms with the Rother simply being a

drain for rain water and the fact that the tide pops up twice a day for a

few hours to allow things to float has its limitations.  It is of benefit if

this drain is kept in reasonable condition as it provides aesthetic and

recreational qualities but it is wholly unreasonable to expect the

Rother-goers to give the EA a profit from their Rye venture.   The Harbour

of Rye, a jewel of East Sussex, should be heavily subsidised by the EA, the


Happy sailing!

Tony Smith




A boat owners viewpoint by John Sivier




On 23 February 1999, John Sivier presented written and oral evidence to the RYA

Inquiry into the stewardship of Rye Harbour. These are his concluding remarks.

On 23 February 1999, John Sivier presented written and oral evidence to the RYA

Inquiry into the stewardship of Rye Harbour. These are his concluding remarks.

Rye can no longer be regarded as a viable commercial shipping port. The current revenue from harbour dues for ships and cargo is dwarfed by the on-costs of continuing to meet the requirements of a commercial port. The sole reliable and continuous source of income available to the harbour comes directly or indirectly from the small craft owner with a permanent berth. This is augmented to a very small extent by visitors and those using the slipways for trailer craft and careening. So how do the finances of running the harbour appear to our permanent berth holder? First he or she has to pay berthing fees. Here, at least, market forces hold sway. You put up with the inconveniences and balance the service you receive from the provider of your berth against what it would cost you elsewhere. For harbour authority berths, the income goes directly to the harbour account. For those on private moorings the income goes to the proprietor who has either invested in the purchase of riparian land or pays rent to the harbour authority. So we can assume that berthing receipts - either directly or through rents - represent the main income for the harbour account.

But our berth-holder also has to pay harbour dues. What does he or she get in return for this surcharge? Sea water floods around the craft twice in every 24 hours and half of the time the boat is unusable because there is no water. When the tide comes in and the skipper puts to sea, the helmsman has the benefit of port and starboard buoys and beacons and a trained (for flood defence purposes) Outer Channel with entrance piers. At night some of these beacons and the entrance lights will be lit. And that is all so that the imposition of harbour dues at the current level on permanent berth holders is completely disproportionate to the cost of providing the primitive navigational aids...which is all they need.

So how do we get the changes which are desirable to encourage greater use and development of the harbour? My considered judgement is that the profitable operation of the Rye Harbour navigation assets cannot any longer be left as an irrelevant adjunct of the huge and unwieldy Environment Agency hogtied by Treasury annual accounting rules .

So the solution is to find ways to relieve the Environment Agency of the tiresome responsibility for navigation management and for these responsibilities, together with the remaining harbour assets, to be transferred to a local body - or sold to a private concern – to administer - with due financial prudence, in the navigational and fishing interests of RyeHarbour and the Town of Rye. This would enable the Environment Agency to concentrate on their core businesses of fluvial defence, flood defence, environmental matters, river and water quality, fresh water fish migration, etc. This sort of arrangement was clearly implied in the 1995 Rye Harbour Strategy Study Report by Binney Partners which preceded the more recent - and considera