Some months ago I was at Thorpe Bay where I had a look at the public slipway by Southend Coastguard’s Rescue Station. There was a Southend Borough Council official supervising activities and collecting launching fees.The cost of launching a motorised vessel, including a jet ski, was in my opinion excessive, something in the region of £35, if I remember correctly. I spoke to the official to enquire if the same fee applied to sailing dinghies, and he said there was no charge for them, providing they were not equipped with an engine. Trailers could be placed beside the slipway when not in use, but towing vehicles had to be parked elsewhere. There were a few spaces on the road leading to the slipway, but to use them an additional parking fee had to paid. About three-hundred yards away there were several free parking bays, but finding an empty one was unlikely, since it was the height of the summer season, and the beach was crowded with visitors.
The official was sympathetic when I suggested to him that the fee was high for what was being offered. He said he had no option, but to collect the fee required. He acknowledged there wasn’t a freshwater facility for hosing boats and trailers after use, neither were there changing rooms or showers. The nearest public toilets were 300 yards away at a car park where you would probably have to leave your car after launching your boat. Meanwhile, if you were on your own, your boat would be left unattended at the end of the slipway, unless the official was free to look after it.
The most astonishing thing for me was the prolific number of signs setting out rules and regulations for use of the slipway; where you could go, where you were prohibited from going, what could be done and what could not be done. Even more astonishing was the state of some of the signs - words were missing or faded, making the signs intelligible. If you were to try reading every sign it would take you a good 20 minutes, and because some of the instructions are technical you wouldn’t be any the wiser!
I would give a generous 2 out of 10 to Southend Borough Council for the facility - one point for being able to park road trailers beside the slipway and one point for providing buoys marking a channel for separating swimmers from boats using the slipway. Personally, I think the Council should be ashamed.