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Boat owners demand action against 'reckless' jet skiers in River Medway

Near misses, breaking speed limits, and reckless night-time jaunts by jet-ski owners in Medway have resulted in a call for action by boat owners.

Jet skis have frequently been spotted hurtling down the River Medway at high speeds, despite the byelaws stating they are not allowed to be used in the area.

Video taken by yacht owner reveals recklessness of jet-ski riders

Ricci Didonato has moored his yacht on Gillingham marina for the past six years, and believes the problem is getting worse.

He said: "I've been sailing for ten years now and it's never been as bad as it has for the past couple of years.

"The recklessness is on the rise, new people have taken it up and they just do not know what they're doing."

Last August, Ricci was out on his yacht with friends when a jet skier sliced across the front of them, leaving less than a metre to spare.

Ricci has been sailing on the River Medway for a decade
Ricci has been sailing on the River Medway for a decade

Ricci said: "The boats are like an obstacle course to them, so they just slalom between them.

"They're not aware of what they're doing - anyone can go and buy a jet ski."

The veteran sailor said the majority of the jet skiers take off from the slipway at The Strand leisure park in Gillingham, and believes Medway Council should take action.

He said: "I think the council should say 'no jet skiers,' because that slipway should be used for kayakers, paddle-boarders, small sailing dinghies, and people who are going to use it responsibly.

"But the jet skiers turn up with their massive vehicles and block it all so nobody else can access it, then just disappear off on their jet skis."

One jet skier was doing donuts close to moored boats behind St Mary's Island
One jet skier was doing donuts close to moored boats behind St Mary's Island

On Thursday, June 18, a group of people riding jet skis were seen on the River Medway close to midnight, weaving through moored boats without lights on their craft.

One frustrated sailor had a near miss with a jet skier last weekend, and was almost knocked overboard.

Vincent Donnelly set out on his 42ft sailing yacht “Isandra iii" on Saturday, June 20, for a day on the water.

He said: "On leaving the lock we noticed quite a bit of activity outside from lots of various jet skis, zipping up and down clearly doing more than the 6-knot speed limit.

"They swerved in and around the smaller yachts to our aft, and in particular one of them then came at us at full speed and within one metre of the stern of our yacht.

Vincent Donnelly has been a professional captain most of his life
Vincent Donnelly has been a professional captain most of his life

"At that same time, he swerved causing his wake and water outflow to spray water all over us on the back of our boat.

"The shock and panic in the unexpended incident caused me to jump, tripping and almost falling overboard.

"It was a very close call, and I was sailing with my significant other, who would not have been able to retrieve me or man the boat - this was very nearly a very different story."

Vincent was told by the coastguard that he should contact the police, but was left angered by their response.

Officers told him that a lack of reasonable lines of inquiry meant the report would be filed pending more information.

Photo of jet skiers speeding past moored boats on the River Medway
Photo of jet skiers speeding past moored boats on the River Medway

The 38-year-old said: "Nobody cares to police these idiots, not until someone loses their life, or is badly injured.

"Why should we have to put up with this harassment and abuse from these idiots, who have no respect for themselves let alone anyone else?

"I find it shameful that our governing authorities are not making any efforts to control these life threatening incidents - at what point does someone take action?"

Peel Ports London Medway is the authority who are in charge of the byelaws governing Medway's surrounding waters.

Their jurisdiction covers where craft are allowed to go, as well as enforcement of the 6-knot speed limit.

Vince Donnelly getting frustrated with speeding jet skiers whilst out on the water last weekend

A spokesperson said: "We are aware of the situation and we are taking the matter seriously with the Kent Police Marine Unit.

"Longer term discussions will take place with the council to put in place measures that strictly address any rule breakers, without impacting or penalising normal boat users who stay within the legal speed limits."

Despite some jurisdiction being placed at the foot of Peel Port's door, any action which is considered a crime is still the responsibility of Kent Police.

Spokesperson for the police, Steve Knight, said: "We are aware of concerns about jet skiers riding in a stretch of water near The Strand in Gillingham.

"Nobody cares to police these idiots, not until someone loses their life, or is badly injured..."

"Although the harbourmaster is responsible for enforcing byelaws which govern jet ski use on this part of the river, officers have attended the area to give advice to those found riding on the water.

"On Saturday June 20, a man also reported being assaulted after water from a jet ski was sprayed at him.

"All reasonable lines of enquiry were assessed, including the availability of any independent witnesses or CCTV footage, but no offenders could be identified. Should any further information come to light, it will be fully assessed."

Jet skis are not the only problem in Medway - one boat owner is concerned by the number of large pleasure craft breaking the speed limit and putting lives in danger.

Dani Avery owns a boat moored in Cuxton, and said boats speeding past threaten to capsize her and others crafts.

A drone shot of the Chatham Maritime marina. Picture: Geoff Watkins
A drone shot of the Chatham Maritime marina. Picture: Geoff Watkins

She said: "It's just absolutely ludicrous - they speed up and down here, they must be going 20-25 knots.

"You get some flashy so-and-so in his big boat that hares up there, and before you know it the boats are going over.

"If one goes faster than that, we will all tip over."

It comes as dozens of residents complained to councillors in Herne Bay of an "explosion" of jet skiers since the easing of lockdown.

The complaints resulted in Canterbury City Council blocking off a launching ramp in Hampton, despite some saying the dangerous actions of a few were spoiling the fun for safe water-sports enthusiasts.

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