A Harbour of Refuge


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Ilfracombe Harbour has, for generations, been a Harbour of Refuge. This means that ships in a storm have a right to come into the harbour to take advantage of the sheltered waters between Capstone and Hillsborough, a place of safety on a rugged coastline.


The natural shape of the coast here made it a safe place for a harbour on coast which is infamous for its stormy waters, extreme tides and treacherous rockiness.


The safety of the Harbour has been significantly increased by developments such as the solid Pier which protects the water behind it, where the bulk of boats are moored, and by the presence of our lifeboat station which currently houses two very efficient, high tech boats ready and able to go out on a rescue mission as soon as they are needed,




The Harbour has always been an active and busy place. Fishing boats have always come and gone. Large boats used to bring huge amounts of coal, much of which was used in the lime kilns producing lime to improve soil quality for agriculture. The Victorian era brought large paddle steamers carrying visitors in their thousand. LKined up against the Pier, day-trippers would have to climb of five or six other paddle steamers to get to shore!

Huge paddle steamers queue by the Pier



And in the modern day, the harbour is busy with many different tour boats, the Oldenburg ferries passengers to and from Lundy all through the summer season. Fishing boats bring fresh fish for our restaurants and to sell elsewhere. And there are many kayakers, paddle boarders, sail boats, jet skies and other pleasure vessels enjoyed by so many local and holiday-makers. Not to mention the crowds of people on the beach each sunny day. The Harbour is very definitely a busy place! 

This has meant that more innovation has been needed to maintain the Harbour's reputation as a safe place - to ensure the safety and security of all the Harbour's myriad users and visitors.


The Harbour Master, Georgina Carlo-Paat, earlier this year was delighted to hear that the Harbour had been granted funding from the European Maritime Fisheries Fund to upgrade the Harbour's CCTV system.


Sixteen new cameras have now been installed around the Harbour with a further one to  cover the Skate Park with provision for two more to cover the new Watersports Hub curently been built in Larkstone Cove. Importantly, for our safety, the cameras have night vision.


Another camera is over Cheyne beach to monitor the flood defences. This has been paid for by the Environment Agency.


But these cameras won't just be passive observers - a tannoy system has also been installed which will enable safety messages to be given. For example, warning people on the slipway that the lifeboat is about to rush out on a shout. In an emergency, the whole Harbour area could be given a warning alerting them to the danger.


Much work has been done behind the scenes to ensure that the system and its operation complies with all legal and regulatory procedures and the cameras have each been placed to avoid overlooking private property as far as is possible. 


The whole system will be linked with the Barnstaple CCTV hub in due course.


As Georgina says "This has given the Harbour much needed security coverage and hopefully Harbour users and our valued visitors will be able to feel at ease and safe whilst going about their law-abiding activities and enjoying all the Harbour has to offer". 

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