As obstacles to the cruising sailor grow, Pete Goss considers whether the recreational sailor has some form of collective voice

Much like Asterix, the cartoon character from Gaul, I have never once considered that our coastal sea might one day find the generosity of its appetite being stretched. As a youth it was an immutable fact that the horizon would swallow us up along with everyone else that put to sea.

There were few obstacles in any direction and there was never any shortage of space once the destination was reached. Fast-forward to the present and it seems that the number of differing claims and their scale is growing exponentially to introduce competition for what is fast becoming limited space.

In my youth, no-go areas chimed with common sense – MOD dockyards, firing ranges, limited fishing nets, discrete oyster beds and localised moorings for a handful of craft. Remaining areas of open sea were big enough to allow all parties to coexist in harmony. Harmony that I fear is to be tested as we are all forced to adapt to the new order.

As a sailor who has enjoyed unlimited freedoms, my low-level sense of alarm could be construed as being selfish but I think it goes beyond that. Of course we will have to adapt but I do think, along with everyone else, we must have a voice. If only for future generations, who are likely to have a deeper thirst for liberty in this ever-shrinking world.

I’ve experienced this coming constriction all over the world and it feels like the thin end of a growing wedge. Kayaking round Tasmania, we encountered bay after bay congested with vast salmon farms. Sailing down the English East Coast about 10 years ago I was staggered by the scale of the early offshore wind farms which were clearly a navigational hazard; one that has since grown exponentially.

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The anchorages of my youth are congested with moorings. Some estuaries don’t allow anchoring at all and if they do it’s miles away from the town and comes with a hefty charge. I was sailing the amazing Garcia 60 in Cherbourg the other day and, chatting in the bar, there was much talk of how large areas of that beautiful coast are being lost to wind farm construction. There was a palpable sadness behind the powerless sense of acceptance. Few thought the no-go area would be lifted on completion.

Nature, quite rightly, has a place at the table, with the introduction of marine parks and popular anchorages being reclaimed by sea grass. I don’t rail against these competing interests but hope that all parties find a solution through sensible legislation.

Marine spacial planning is hugely complex and will require much debate to evolve. An example is the latest generation of fish farms, which are vast. I don’t question the need for them – the world needs feeding – but where should they be placed? Google ‘Offshore Aquaculture’ to get a sense of what is to come. Norway has just turned down an application for 12 of them.

If you find wind farms alarming then the Pelamis wave power system is positively terrifying. Like a long chain of submerged containers, these great tubes work against each other in the swell to generate electricity.

I rather like the concept but wonder how will they be made safe, particularly for small craft, due to the fact that the most expensive part of this system is the power export cable, which makes short cable runs from inshore locations preferable. Should they carry masts, and how should they be lit? Will they be visible on AIS? Who decides which area of sea we must forgo and under what criterion?

I confess to have just started to nose my way into this fascinating area and hope that as a recreational sailor we have some form of collective voice, which I assume (in the UK) is the Royal Yachting Association.

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