While being one of the keenest advocates of installing floating pontoons at Lynn’s South Quay, I am starting to feel disquiet at the low levels of boats using the facility thus far, currently in its second year of operation.
The recent Hanse Festival on the town’s waterfront was a glorious example of what a wonderful attraction the pontoons can provide, with hundreds of people taking the opportunity to explore the medieval merchant ship that was moored there.
But occasions like that do not come round regularly enough to offset the long periods when the floating moorings are completely empty.
A glance at the pontoons website reveals that there are two six-day periods, in late July (around the time of Lynn Festival) and again in late August, when the facility is fully booked, but otherwise there seem vacant berths available at any time.
Last year was the first real opportunity for the boating fraternity from further afield, both inland and round the coast, to discover the new facility at Lynn, so the number of craft that visit the port this summer should give a much better indication of the project’s future potential.
Of course, there are the critics who have already attacked the meagre return in mooring fees last year, compared to the initial cost of installing the pontoons. Any calculation of return should surely be spread over a number of years relative to the lifespan of the facility.
So while I take note of the level of pontoon usage so far, I am certainly not rushing to judgement just yet.
One of the reasons for my earlier optimism was the thriving boating facilities that have been created by our near neighbours Wisbech on their tidal river, several miles inland from the Wash.
They do have a handy range of maritime facilities for boat owners, and there are presumably similar facilities in Lynn used by our long-established fishing community. Perhaps more could be done to promote these services to potential boat visitors to Lynn.
The further you travel inland on the River Ouse to places like Ely, you certainly find an abundance of small pleasure craft.
Perhaps they are happy to potter around on the inland waterways, rather than venturing on to the tidal Ouse beyond Denver Sluice.
My son and his girlfriend recently hired a narrowboat from March and cruised through the local river network to Salters Lode, venturing only briefly on to the tidal Ouse on their way to Denver, and then down to Ely. We visited them in Ely and I noticed that several other March-based boats had travelled the same route.
It could be the tidal Ouse may still be rather daunting to small boat users – it’s a big, wide river compared with the sleepy inland waterways.
People on the waterways seldom seem in a rush, so perhaps we should also not to be too hasty reaching conclusions about the pontoons.