On water

Motorised Craft


Sea and fresh water motor craft have a long history of commercial use where goods, activities and or passengers are carried for profit.

In more recent times there has been a rapid and widespread expansion of motor craft demanded by use for recreation and pleasure. Comprised of many diverse specifications by way of  size – length, width and draft; range from a bare open deck boat to those with highly specified above and below deck features.

These commonly include cuddys, cabins, with the ever more luxurious fitted with lounges, bunks [sleeping quarters], toilets [ heads], kitchen [galley] In their extreme they become the “super-yachts” of the rich which are not yachts but the height of motorised luxury afloat.

All of these motor craft have a means of propulsion. This is either outboard – with engine[s] attached to the stern or transom, or inboard with engine[s] fitted internally. The larger craft can often carry masts and sails and the combination may give them the class as motor-sailing boat.

There are many definitions or classes of motor craft; for example these include  large and small commercial and or sport fishing boats, touring boats, speed boats, deck boats, house boats, pontoon boats, cabin cruisers, ribs and more.

A recent phenomenon in the world of motor craft are the personalised water craft [PWC]   These are more popularly known as jet skis which uses an inboard water jet pump as its power source.

The majority of motor craft in the area are for private and mostly recreational use. Whatever the purpose all these craft have to be launched onto the water. Typically the smaller say under 12 feet length craft, are portable and can be easily launched and retrieved. Otherwise larger craft need to be moored or tied up into a safe and secure position in order to be left on the water for any length of time.

Area of Activity – Where to Go

Access to the sea is limited mostlly to those main locations which provide the benefit of slipways to launch and retrieve, or cranage-lifting facilities for the heavier craft. The locations mostly associate with harbours and Sailing Clubs and a few isolated open public sipways          These are listed under the section on Opportunities and Access. 

Our area offers very extensive open sea-ways for motor boating. There are always the common challenges which goes with any craft on the water with regard to tide, current and weather etc. There are other more local considerations which can require relevant information, more demanding navigational skills.

For example one of the most demanding areas for boating would include the “Narrows” in Strangford Lough. Here very strong tidal currents occur and when wind is contra to tide rough waves and seas prevail. Any open water and particularly out in the Irish Sea will experience exposed conditions and big seas . The entrances to both Carlingford and Strangford Lough are complicated by the physical nature of the sea bed, here conditions frequently combine to make for heavy, chaotic seas, standing waves etc . 

Throughout the entire area shallows, rocks, reefs or pladdies present any craft at sea with the challenge of safe passage and negotiation of obstacles. Navigation charts reveal where all these situations occur     

See Opportunities and Access for lists of main activity areas


In our area  some few thousands of fixed moorings  exist which facilitate the mooring or tieing up of craft to secure positions. These are usually associated with harbours and seaide towns and villages. There are principal harbours which do offer combinations of “drying-out”, tieing up to harbour walls, pontoons and marinas.” 

The best facilities are undoubtedly linked to the infrastructure of harbour towns and villages and Sailing Clubs of which are numerous.

General Description

The three Loughs of Carlingford, Strangford and Belfast to varying degree offer the most scope for the motor craft which is not seeking extensive deep water passage. Here a mixture of open water, near shore routes and island hopping can give great enjoyment. All are scenically very attractive.

Additional Information

Good Practice & Safety


Part of having Good Practice at sea is to have a plan before you go to sea !!

Be prepared; think ‘what if?’ and don’t ruin a good day out on the water with insufficient planning.

An element of planning is required for even the simplest and shortest of journeys. Passage planning is an obligation for all seafarers under the International Convention on Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS V)

However, a passage plan needn’t be complicated. The type of boat you have and the trip you are intending to take will determine how much planning you need to do.

Essential elements to your plan are thinking about the obvious: tides, current , weather , currents ; abilities of boat, you and crew; communications, equipment; backups for when things go wrong.

For most useful and relevant advice, hints and tips for safe motor boatingcrafting this RYA site is a — Must Go To!!

Invasive Alien Species x contamination. How do you identify them?
It’s not always easy to identify these species, but there are some guides available to help:

GB NNSS guides and maps
MBA non-native species guides
For more information on how non-native species can affect biodiversity, human health and the economy, read this informative article by the European Environment Agency.

Further information on non-native invasive species can be found on the GB Non Native Species Secretariat website. Advice on boating best practice can be found on The Green Blue website.

What can you do?
For information on how to enjoy the wildlife you see whilst out boating and steps you can take to minimise your impact on it, see The Green Wildlife Guide for Boaters, or look on The Green Blue Website.

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) have also written guidance about marine wildlife disturbance.

In addition, by following The Green Blue guidance on related topics such as waste management, oil spill management and boat cleaning and maintenance, boat users can further reduce their impact on wildlife.

Clubs, Opportunities, Disability Access


Access to the sea via Public, informal means :

This tends to be very limited and localised by way of public or free access of boats in/out of the sea.

Strangford Lough:              – at Strangford Village, Killyleagh, Whiterock, Kircubbin

Outer Ards & Down Coast:  – Groomsport, Donaghadee, Knockinelder, Minerstown, Dundrum, Newcastle   

Access to the sea via Sailing – Boating Club Membership-Affiliation 

There are numerous Clubs in County Down with strong association and access to the seas both in Belfast Lough, Strangford Lough and on the Irish Sea .Membership will give access to various practical and social facilities which will aid your motor crafting and social life ! Within each club will be a wealth of practical, real time knowledge and experience some of which you might obtain for as little as a pint or two !!!

Otherwise facilities provide for launching boats, parking of boats, wash down, sometimes repairs; usual creature comforts ashore within the clubhouses etc .

List of Sailing Clubs;                                                                                                                                                                            

Strangford Lough 

Strangford Sailing Club, Castleward Estate, Strangford, Downpatrick. BT30 7LS                                                                                    Tel:028 4488 1404  Email:

Quoile Yacht Club 21 Castle Island Road,Downpatrick.   Co. Down   BT30 7LD                                                                                          Tel: 028 4461 2266  Email:

Killyleagh Yacht Club  22 Cuan Beach, Killyleagh, Downpatrick BT30 9QU

East Down Yacht Club, 62 Comber Rd, Downpatrick. Co.Down BT30 9QZ                                                                                                      Tel: 028 44 82 837                                        

Strangford Lough Yacht Club Whiterock Killinch yCo Down. BT23 6QA                                                                                                          Tel:028 9754 1883    Email:

Clubship Petrel. 52 Ballydorn Road, Killinchy, Newtownards. BT23 6QB                                                                                                        Tel 028 97541663     Email:

Newtownards Sailing Club 161 Portaferry Road, Newtownards, Co. Down, BT22 2A

Kircubbin Sailing Club 106 Shore Road, Kircubbin, Newtownards, Co. Down, BT22 2RP,                                                                              Tel: 078 429 86993    Email:

Portaferry Sailing Club 38 Shore Road, Portaferry County Down  BT22 1JZ                                                                                          Tel: 028 427 28770     Email:

North Down & Ards 

Royal Ulster Yacht Club 101 Clifton Rd, Bangor BT205HY                                                                                                                            Tel: 029 91270568  Email:

Ballyholme Yacht Club. Seacliff Road Bangor, Co. Down Northern Ireland BT20 5HT                                                                                      Tel: 02891271467  Email:            

Groomsport Cockle Island Boat Club, Harbour Road, Groomsport, Co Down. BT196JP                                                                        Tel: 02891464431 Email:

Donaghadee Sailing Club 20 Shore St., Donaghadee, Co Down. BT 210DG                                                                                                    Tel: 02891884270 Email:

Newcastle Yacht Club Ltd, 12-14 South Promenade, Newcastle, Co Down. BT33 0EX                                                                      Email:    

Public Access to the sea via commercial providers: 

Opportunities are  available to hire the services of registered boat owners. This includes simply taking tours for pleasure on the sea, for wildlife watching, scuba diving, sea-angling.

Private Charter – Useful Hire Contacts:

Clear Skies Adventure Centre, Castle Ward, Old Farmyard, Strangford  028 437 23933                                                                                  Hire 12 seater high speed rib with driver. Sea Safari Trips on Belfast Lough, Strangford Lough, Newcastle

John Murray. 40 passenger boat, sea-angling trips  – Saint Brendan.   6 The Strand, Portsaferry.

Bangor Boat Company, Bangor.

Nelson Quinton, Donaghadee.

Local Visitor Centres for local boat charter contacts at Newtownards, Bangor, Cockle Row/Groomsport, Portaferry, Newcastle 

Care for our Coast


Accepting that all vesels have a right to navigate at sea, all vessels with their operators and crew are asked to be considerate with regard  to the wildlife and natural habitats of our area. For example there is a widespread use by many marine based animals associated with islands, reefs[pladdies], coastal shore, intertidal shores, on and within the seas. The more iconic and noticeable include the cetaceans – whales, dolphins and porpoise; basking shark; grey and harbour seals. There are very significant populations and concentrations of bird life throughout the year with great seasonal variation. These include huge flocks of geese. ducks, waders and auks especially in the autumn-winter; with very important breeding colonies of terns and gulls in the summer.

Good and sensitive practice is about looking out for these wildlife, being aware that the noise, speed, direction, wake and proximity of a boat can cause disturbance to aniimals that will be feeding, resting, breeding with young.

Reccommended are the principles of the RYA Green-Blue Scheme and the WiSE scheme

Anyone using the water has a duty to protect wildlife and enhance the environment.  We share the waters we use for our recreation with a wide range of birds, fish and cetaceans but the presence of boats should not necessarily have to mean disturbance to the local wildlife. If craft are handled with sensitivity there can be minimal or zero disturbance. Zoning of sensitive areas, speed restrictions, awareness of seasonal and geographical sensitivities, and education can all been used to mitigate the impact of boat use on wildlife.

For information on how to enjoy the wildlife you see whilst out boating and steps you can take to minimise your impact on it, see The Green Wildlife Guide for Boaters, or look on The Green Blue Website.

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) have also written guidance about marine wildlife disturbance.

In addition, by following The Green Blue guidance on  related topics such as waste managementoil spill management and boat cleaning and maintenance, boat users can further reduce their impact on wildlife.

So make a WiSe choice when enjoying the marine wildlife this summer – choose a WiSe accredited operator and follow our code of conduct.

Research & Studies

The RYA was commissioned by the Council of Europe to develop a European Code of Practice on Recreational Boating and Invasive Alien Species to ensure that we are playing our part to stop the spread across Europe. It was adopted by the Bern Convention in November 2016.