Stargazing – Why choose Chichester Harbour to spot the stars?

Preserving our dark skies is beneficial for many reasons – education, astronomy, nocturnal animals and astro-tourism to name just a few - and so we were extremely pleased to have three sites within the Harbour awarded Dark Sky Discovery designation in 2017.

With nothing other than the English Channel reflecting the night sky south of the Harbour and the eastern Isle of Wight emitting minimal light pollution, the views of the southern skies from within the Harbour are unrivalled. Despite the light pollution to the north east and north west of the Harbour - caused by the conurbation and large expanses of horticultural glass - the views to the south are some of the best in the country when it comes to stargazing. This quality of the area for stargazing has certainly not been lost on the likes of Sir Patrick Moore, Damian Peach, Pete Lawrence and a number of other famous astronomers who have made the Manhood Peninsula their home.

Avid stargazers amongst you will already know Pete Lawrence as one of the regular presenters of The Sky at Night. Earlier this year, Pete hosted the programme from one of our new Dark Sky Discovery designated sites, all of which were identified as excellent places for stargazing due to their impressive levels of darkness, lines of sight and good, year-round, accessibility. We were delighted for The Sky at Night to recognise this and ask to film the slot, which was focused on Jupiter, in the Harbour. Thankfully the weather played ball and delivered a beautifully clear evening in June. Pete and the crew began filming at around 8.30pm, in time for sunset, and continued until 10.30pm. Although the main focus of the filming was on Jupiter, Pete’s knowledge of the southern skies, having viewed them from Selsey for many years allowed the crew to pick up plenty of other footage. Due to the clarity of the sky and quality of the ‘seeing’ (the term given to the visibility of stars and deeper parts of space) the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxy can be seen and on clear nights, more than 2000 stars are visible.

So whether you are a keen night sky amateur or a seasoned pro, if you’re heading out in search of stars, do plan a visit to Chichester Harbour. You can explore the area and base yourself at one of our designated Dark Skies sites which are: north of the Lt. Col. John Q Davis foothpath in West Itchenor, Maybush Copse in Chidham, and Eames Farm on Thorney Island.

Meet the Team – Phoebe Nobel, Seasonal Patrol Officer

Our dedicated team are responsible for the smooth running of the Harbour, and help deliver our duty to conserve, maintain and improve the area for recreation, leisure, nature conservation and natural beauty.

Phoebe Nobel is part of our Seasonal Patrol Team, working to provide additional help and support to boat users and visitors during our busy summer season. She has worked with us during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, during breaks from her degree studies at Oxford University. Following a training programme, which the Conservancy runs at Easter for the seasonal patrol team, Phoebe has worked with the core team helping support the ongoing safety of the Harbour.

On a daily basis Phoebe’s first task each morning is usually to update the weather information at the Harbour Office at Itchenor so that those planning time on the water can plan accordingly. Phoebe, who has been sailing in Chichester Harbour since she was six years old, then spends the majority of the day on the water providing assistance to those who are in difficulty with breakdowns or other problems and plaque checking to ensure that harbour dues are up to date. This summer the continued heatwave proved an additional challenge and meant the patrol teams needed to carry extra water, and rotate themselves more regularly.

Part of the responsibility of the Patrol Team is to support Harbour users who come into extreme difficulty. During recent bad weather, with Force 8 winds, Phoebe took a call from the Solent Coastguard who reported that there was a rib in difficulty. Phoebe worked to identify and report on the position of the rib, and supported the on-call Patrol Team to a successful rescue.

Some words from Phoebe:
“I loved my first summer season on the water so much I came back again! The opportunity to be outside, and provide practical help to people, is just what I enjoy – so much so that my experience with the Conservancy has helped me decide to continue my studies into an MA in Maths and Engineering with a view to building a career in Marine Engineering in the future.”

03 August 2018  - R E S P E C T: Getting afloat together

The continued streak of long hot days throughout summer 2018 has meant that the Harbour has often been as busy as it gets. We are not suggesting for one minute that the 10,000 craft that regularly take to the water are all fair-weather sailors, but the reality is when the sun shines and the weather is good, more visitors head to the Harbour more often and spend longer out and about on the water.

With so many of you on the water, sometimes vying for space and wanting to enjoy your time, it seems like a good opportunity to offer a useful reminder of general etiquette and safety in the Harbour.

The Respect the Water campaign by the RNLI has given an updated view on how to survive an unexpected fall into the water, providing guidance on cold water shock, how to use your clothing to help you float and leading on the tagline ‘Float to Live’. If you have not seen or heard the adverts or had chance to visit the website then please do so and also remember to brief any passengers you are taking out before you set off and regardless of their previous experience on the water.

The theme of Respect is a good one and it applies to those on the water as well as in it. Whilst we are blessed with a huge amount of space in the Harbour, the fact remains there are hot spots that attract clusters of visitors such as jettys, lock gates, channels and around large fleets of sailing dinghies - and an increased number of users can sometimes lead to frustrations with tensions bubbling over.

So here are some etiquette top tips:

Watch your wake – Remember that your boat may disturb the water for some distance behind and will ripple out too. Speeding up to pass someone can increase wake, creating an unintended impact whilst trying to avoid another issue

Help others – Whether grabbing a line for another skipper whilst on the jetty or going out of your way to help a vessel in trouble, the Harbour is a nicer place when we all look out for one another (and next time it might be you that needs a hand)

Choose the right speed – Be consistent wherever possible at it is easier for others to judge. You must not speed, but equally make sure you are making due progress and not likely to interfere with another user’s direction of travel

Do not linger at fuel and loading pontoons – Whilst it can be time consuming to fill up, get kit on board or unpack after a trip, please remember that others may need the space.

Respect other users and their vessels - Sailors love the purity of powerless propulsion. Speedboaters like power. Paddlers enjoy peace.  All have a right to use the water.

Using some good common sense and etiquette helps make everyone’s time in the Harbour enjoyable, interesting and above all safe.

15 June 2018 - Meet the Team: Mike Hayes, Lead Technician

Over the next few months we will be introducing you to our dedicated team that are responsible for the smooth running of the Harbour.  They work together to help deliver our duty to conserve, maintain and improve the area for recreation, leisure, nature conservation and natural beauty.

This month we start with Mike Hayes, Lead Technician.  Mike is part of our Maintenance Team, working to look after the infrastructure of the Harbour. He joined the Conservancy in 2014 as a Seasonal Patrol Officer for the summer period, following his work as a Fisheries Officer in Kent. After a successful first season Mike stayed on at the Conservancy first as a Harbour Technician, and now works as our Lead Technician, helping preserve the ongoing safety of the Harbour.

Day to day Mike performs ongoing maintenance on Harbour assets – looking after all the infrastructure from the upkeep of the moorings and jettys to the vessels and quays. The moorings are on a four year rolling service programme - which is worked through during the winter months - to ensure they remain in good condition. It is common during winter to see the team on the Regnum barge – whatever the weather!

The summer period brings with it the opportunity for Mike to also be out on patrol and on call, acting as Duty Coxswain when required. These busy months see Mike helping to enforce byelaws, undertaking navigational maintenance as required and ensuring the safe and smooth running of the Harbour so all our visitors can enjoy the area.

Some words from Mike:
“The Conservancy is an amazing place to work, and I love the variety of what each day brings. The whole area is a lovely community of people – when my wife and I married last year in Bosham Church we travelled back to Itchenor by water and, as a surprise, the Conservancy boats lined up to escort us across. It is a very special memory.”