BETTER HARBOUR ACCESS TURNS TIDE FOR YACHTING
Yachting is a relatively popular activity in the Moray Firth, with sailors taking part in year round events, weather permitting! All sectors of the community participate in this competitive yet friendly sport and, with clubs spread along the coastline, there are plenty of opportunities for the would-be sailor to learn the ropes.
Yet despite its popularity, yachting in the Moray Firth fails to realise its full potential due to access restrictions to harbours. The repair and maintenance of harbours in the Firth has frequently been raised within the Moray Firth Partnership and is an issue of concern for, amongst others, the North of Scotland Yachting Association (NSYA).
Established in 1969, the NSYA represents the interests of local yacht clubs in promoting water sports throughout the area. One of the major problems faced is that silt deposition in and around harbours often limits access to an hour or two either side of high tide. This hampers the sailing activity of all but the smaller dinghies but, without commercial activity, there is normally neither revenue nor reason to improve conditions by dredging.
At Lossiemouth however, improvements have been made that clearly demonstrate the benefits of good harbour facilities. Elgin and Lossiemouth Harbour Company converted part of the harbour into a 40 berth marina, in association with property development around the harbour. It wasn't long before the new marina had reached full potential, with a list of yachts waiting to berth there. Eight new berths have recently been added and plans are afoot to convert the remainder of the harbour.
Dredging of the marina has given greater freedom of access throughout most of the tide and, as a result, the marina has become a focal point for yachting in the Moray Firth. The Lossiemouth Cruising Club boasts a full programme of events from May to September, whilst participation in races has increased considerably. As well as enhancing yachting opportunities, the improved facilities have given a valuable boost to the town's economy. The marina is a popular area of the town, with local retail outlets benefiting from regular passing trade, as visitors view the yachts at their pontoons. The numerous yachting events bring their own share of revenue as sailors and observers alike make use of local goods and services.
Other harbours in the Moray Firth have marina style berthing for yachts, yet fail to meet their full potential in part due to more restricted tidal access. The NSYA hope that future investment will allow others to improve their harbour facilities, so helping to promote watersports, whilst boosting the economy of the Moray Firth.