Rowena Judd - meet the woman keeping the waters around Emsworth Harbour moving
PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 April 2020
Once a harbour master might have resembled a salty seadog. Emsworth’s Rowena Judd is part of a new breed looking after our coastal waters.
Walking down the polished cobbles of Emsworth’s South Street on a crisp spring morning, the gently lapping waters of Town Quay beckon as a picture-postcard scene unfolds. Former fishermen’s cottages frame the view, and, for a moment, time stands still. Yet today, with two day boats the sole survivors of a once buoyant fleet and the famous Victorian oyster beds barely visible at low tide, Emsworth and its harbour attracts a very different flotilla.
Whether bobbing within sight of the slipway, or stretching out towards the deep water Emsworth Channel on the horizon, all types of leisure craft can regularly be spotted. Seasoned sailors explore this peaceful northwest corner of Chichester Harbour, some berthing at the local Yacht Harbour to take advantage of the skilled repair yards, or to refuel. Meanwhile, there’s a multitude of moorings, two sailing clubs racing or teaching the next generation of enthusiasts, and seasonal passenger cruises navigating the inlets. All of which, adds up to a hive of activity.
So harbour technician Rowena Judd, who’s employed by Chichester Harbour Conservancy the area’s statutory harbour authority, has her hands full between April and October tackling the 21st century challenges posed. Although in post for under a year, three previous seasons working as a member of the conservancy’s patrol team, alongside a full-time job at Ocean Chandlery (formerly Sea Teach) in Emsworth providing advice on sailing equipment and safety, means she’s no stranger to these waters.
“Emsworth is tidal so once there’s enough water everyone is going to be out at the same time,” says Rowena, adding: “It’s a fairly small space for a lot to happen.
“While I have checks that I need to do which mean I need to be on the water, I’m always in touch with the patrol team who cover the whole of Chichester Harbour. I have a little dory and if something was to happen, and I needed a more substantial vessel, that’s when I’d call patrol over and they’d come here in the rib. We’ve each got electronic tablets, which are all linked, so in addition to using radios it’s another way to communicate across the harbour, so we can respond quickly if anyone has a problem.
“The conservancy is unable to provide 24-hour cover. However, if there’s a major incident or medical assistance is needed, usually it’s the coastguard who’d be called straightaway. And, most likely, it is the Hayling Island lifeboat that would be launched.”
Emsworth Harbour is entered over a sand bar, between sand banks. This ability to call-in reinforcements if needed, means that Rowena’s core duty to ensure everything runs safely and smoothly in accordance with the Port Marine Safety Code, can be accomplished.
For anyone dropping by what she wryly refers to as her “compact and bijou” office, towards the bottom of South Street, the door is open whenever she’s there.
“My day starts at 8.30am and I work until 5pm five days a week, including at weekends. Because I can’t be everywhere at once, I always put a sign up if I’m not in the office.”
Surrounded by a myriad of leaflets on activities to enjoy, Rowena is first port of call for questions about using the harbour: from tide times, to launching anything from a paddle boat to a much larger craft, or the availability of moorings as the Emsworth waters can accommodate boats up to 12m in length.
“There’s a mixture of private and conservancy moorings here. And we can take card payments for harbour dues out on the water too.
“People also ask about the different harbour walks. We have the conservancy’s solar boat and a lot of the trips during the summer are from Emsworth, so we get booking enquiries about this.”
Naturally, Chichester Harbour Conservancy steers a delicate balance between the social and environmental impact of harbour use. And maintaining the integrity of the local jetty, including protecting it from hot weather disruptions caused by overcrowding or tombstoning, is part of Rowen’s landside remit.
She’s also mindful that while the quay and pontoon offer good protection, the area can become exposed to developing conditions from the south and west. So the weather’s impact needs constant monitoring.
“At the end of last summer we had a couple of weekends with a strong southerly wind with a high tide. This resulted in quite a surge in the waves and the water coming up to the steps of Flintstones tea room,” she says. “Fortunately, my office is on the hill so it didn’t quite come up to the door, which was lucky for me. However, boats came loose from their moorings and washed up on the foreshore, and needed dealing with.
“We can identify the owners because having paid their harbour dues, their plaques which are fixed to each boat have a unique number, so we can get in contact with them straightway.”
With no two days the same, it’s the job’s variety that Rowena enjoys the most. And, even during her downtime, she likes nothing more than being out riding the waves.
“I do powerboating for pleasure, on the Solent. I’ve my own boat and have recently done my certificate of competence for advanced power boats, meaning that I’m a responsible skipper and can plan my passage.”
Small wonder then, that there’s the sense of having found her true vocation.
“I’m delighted to be back on the water doing what I love – and what better place than here in Emsworth. You just have to look at it – it’s so quaint and the access to the water is great, even though this is tidal. It really is such a beautiful place to work.”