Welcome to our blog!

visit-nci-ct-official-siteHere you will find informal news about events at and around the NCI Calshot Tower Coastwatch Station…

Visitors – for official information about NCI Calshot Tower, the National Coastwatch Institution, and useful Solent and Southampton Water marine information, please visit our main web site – https://nci.org.uk/calshot

Calshot Watchkeepers – you can contribute to this blog – please email Peter Taylor to find out how!

Posted in Media

Who spilt the washing powder?!


Since around Easter time the surface of Southampton water has had lots of surface foam. The wakes of boats leave persistent white foam lines like vapour trails in the sky.

The cause is almost certainly natural. The recent warm weather has probably caused a phytoplankton “bloom”. Phytoplankton are microscopic organisms which produce their own food through photosynthesis. In the spring they may reproduce in huge numbers to form a “bloom”. When they die they breakdown to organic compounds which act as surfactants or foaming agents. The bubbles formed by boat and ship wakes no longer quickly burst, but are preserved as long lasting foam streaks on the water.


(Photos from Calshot Tower on 21st May 2019)

Plankton blooms often occur in spring because inorganic nutrients needed by the phytoplankton have accumulated in the sea water over the winter, and because the warm sun promotes photosynthesis.

There is also the possibility of the estuarine water becoming stratified. Freshwater from rivers is rich in nutrients. Lacking salinity and, at this time of year, warmer than the sea, the freshwater forms a less dense layer at the sea surface where the phytoplankton can happily reproduce in vast numbers until they deplete the nutrients and the bloom subsides.

The foam from algal blooms is normally harmless, but some algal species produce toxins which, if inhaled,  can cause respiratory issues and occasionally initiate asthma attacks. Harmful blooms may associated with “red tides” caused by pigments from the phytoplankton. However, I haven’t heard of any such problems associated with the present outbreak of foam.

Peter Taylor (a retired scientist from the National Oceanography Centre)


Posted in Seen from the Tower | Leave a comment

Watchkeepers go Cruising


Friday crew, from left: Mark Williams, Iain Price, David Atkinson, Steve Collins (Skipper), Laurence Cox (Acting First Mate)

Seven Watchkeepers participated in this year’s cruises on Rosebud, watchkeeper Steve Collins’ sailing yacht,  on Friday 17th and Saturday the 18th May. The weather was not great for the Friday cruise, although we did manage a lively sail down the North Channel and across the Solent to Osborne Bay. However, we had to motor all the way back in zero winds and what can only be described as ‘mizzle’.

The weather was better on the Saturday, with some sunshine, but light winds and a complete calm for lunch at anchor in Osborne. It looked like might have to motor back again, but a westerly sea breeze set in and we even had to put a reef in the mainsail.


Saturday Crew, from left: Richard Skinner, Sandra Rose, Julia Smith, Steve Collins (Skipper), KC, Kathy Collins (First Mate, behind the camera)

On the way back, First Mate, Kathy Collins (the only non-watchkeeper on board) spotted a yacht aground on the Bramble Bank. We switched to Channel 16 to find a pan-pan in full progress.

The crew looked nervously at the Skipper as we were on course to pass only two cables east of the Bramble tide gauge, but the Skipper’s confidence in his tidal calculations proved to be well founded and the minimum depth recorded was 2.4 metres, giving 0.6 metre clearance above Rosebud’s draught of 1.8 metres.

All watchkeepers reported that they enjoyed the cruises, and that seeing the buoys close up and at sea level was a great way of supplementing and developing their chart work training.  Steve Collins

Dave Atkinson comments: “It was a great day out and certainly gave me a different view of the buoys. Very helpful in remembering their names. Thanks again to Steve.”

Posted in Station News, Training | Leave a comment

NCI Calshot takes a Lepe!

This summer NCI Calshot Tower will be operating a satellite station at Lepe Beach on a trial basis. The first steps have been taken with the installation of an NCI trailer unit to act as the watchkeeping base.

The team are now busy preparing the trailer with the local charts and other gear to create an efficient NCI station.

An exciting aspect is that watchkeepers will be able to meet members of the public and explain what NCI does – something the lofty heights of Calshot Tower prevents!

(Thanks to watchkeeper Paul F. for the photos)

Posted in Station News | Leave a comment

Cruising with Containers…. and bringing them into Port!

On Tuesday morning ( 9th April) the second event of the NCI Calshot Tower Social Group consisted of two intriguing talks, both featuring large Container Ships of the type we see coming into Southampton.


The CMA CGM Georg Forster in Hamburg

Cruise with a Difference’ was a very interesting presentation by two of our Station Officials. They cruised as passengers on one of the worlds largest container ships to several North European ports.

With photographs and  an excellent commentary they described what went on aboard the ship, and when visiting ports like Rotterdam where the containers were moved around by robotically controlled vehicles and by unmanned straddle carriers.

Throughout the trip they were very well looked after by the Romanian Officers and Philippino crew.

passage_planThe second talk concerned Container Ships and other very large vessels entering and leaving Southampton, and the ‘Southampton Pilot’ presentation by Senior Pilot Gareth Mead was equally engaging. All those attending were given a Port of Southampton Passage Plan and were asked to participate. This is an official document which is given to the Captain when the Pilot comes on board.

It was interesting to note how long it takes for a Pilot to become fully qualified in order to undertake in a job which is not without its risks, particularly when getting on and off the ships!

Watchkeepers who missed this event you will have to wait until next year before we put on something similar – but watch the Bulletin for details of future Social Group events!

Henley Howard, NCI Calshot Social Group Chair

Posted in Station News

Thank You to Waitrose


(photo by Jo, Waitrose Community Manager)

Waitrose Partners Sam and Helen present a marvellous donation to NCI Calshot Tower Station Manager Di Roblett !

A big “Thank You” to Waitrose and “Thank You” also to the customers of Waitrose Hythe who voted for NCI Calshot in the Waitrose Community Matters scheme.

Although the National Coastwatch Institution operates nationally, each NCI station is responsible for raising its own finances. Be assured that the donation will be well spent helping NCI Calshot Tower provide “Eyes Along the Coast” for the safety of people and vessels using what is probably the busiest area of sea in the UK.

Posted in Station News