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Small Boat Channel

The Small Boat Channel is shown on Admiralty charts. Its northern and southern extremities are at Ballast Beacon and No 4 Bar Buoys respectively. A tide pole is fitted to Beacon BC4. Small Boats are reminded that they are extremely difficult to see and the harbour entrance is a blind bend to larger vessels. The following rules apply:

  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 and the Ballast Beacon.
  3. The Small Boat Channel may only be entered or exited by vessels approaching from the east at its northern or southern extremities.
  4. A traffic pattern is established around Ballast Beacon; Small Boats entering the harbour are to pass close to the east of Ballast Beacon and those exiting close to the west.
  5. Small Boats crossing the harbour entrance may only do so to the north of Ballast Beacon or to the south of No 4 Bar Buoy.
  6. Small Boats, save those listed below, are not to loiter in the Small Boat Channel.
  7. 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 and be forced into the main channel.


The following vessels under 20m in length are authorised to use the Main Channel and loiter in the Small Boat Channel when their duties require; Pilot Boats, Police Launches, QHM Volunteer Harbour Patrol Launches, Customs Craft, Royal Naval vessels, MCA Lifeboat, Senior Officers Boats flying official flags or discs and tugs engaged in towing operations or escorting a vessel under instruction from a pilot.

Small boats may continue to use the Small Boat Channel when the main channel is closed for the passage of a large vessel.