The ACA Forum

Conserving the Devonshire Avon from source to sea



The ACA’s Safe Navigation sub-Committee is ever mindful of the problems arising from water skiing and the use of personal water craft (jet skis) on the river. The ACA’s view remains that the river would be better off as a ‘quiet amenity’ without skiers but we recognise that a regulated ski zone is far superior to the anarchic situation which preceded the current state of affairs. Whatever regulations might be imposed, there will always be those who flout them.

Relations between the ACA and the Aune Valley Ski Club (AVSC) Chairman are excellent and involve a free exchange of views and information about safety, ecology and occasional shared ventures. Unsurprisingly, the registered members of the AVSC see themselves as responsible boat owners rather than young ‘tearaways’. They, also, are interested in the welfare of the Avon (improving water quality, removing debris, the siltation problem, observing wildlife) and have no interest in upsetting other river users. The meetings have always been very amicable and I have been impressed at the degree of responsibility and professionalism shown by all the AVSC members that I have met. The AVSC is a well managed organisation.

Despite some local views to the contrary, the AVSC is not moribund. The club is limited to 20 members by agreement with SHDC but could not safely accommodate more owing to the lack of ‘water time’. As a direct result, they have a permanent waiting list of potential new members and there exists an ‘overspill’ of people wishing to ski who are excluded from membership. – some of them are ‘locals’ (who may consider they have a ‘right of birth’ to use the river as they see fit). Some of these excluded locals probably resent the access to the ski area enjoyed by members of the ski club who do not live locally. The use of the ski zone by people who are not AVSC members, who may not be insured, and who may be unfamiliar with the rules of British Water Ski (the national governing body) by which the club is bound is a problem. No jet skis are allowed in the club.

Both the ACA and the AVSC contribute to the annual costs of SHDC in maintaining a patrol boat on the river to enforce the byelaws (see below). The boat is operated by the Bantham Harbourmaster – Ryan Hooper.


ACA members are asked to report any infringement of the byelaws to the Bantham Harbourmaster (01548 560897). Please, also tell the ACA about any infringements by either telephoning me (01548 810373) or by sending an e-mail to as this would help us in our conservation activities and in negotiations with SHDC.

If you do spot any infringement of the byelaws,.it is essential that you provide a record of the following:- nature of the offence, time, date, location on the river, your name and contact details.

As most of our members are probably not intimately familiar with the byelaws, I have provided a ‘digest’ below, for reference.


  • SHDC’s River Avon Byelaws make provision for a designated water ski area and a speed limit of 8 knots throughout the entire stretch of the river.
  • Only members of the AVSC may obtain consent from SHDC to exceed the speed limit within the designated area (clearly marked by labelled buoys). The number of consents is limited to 20 and boat owners are required to display a consent number on the side of the boat in black numbers at least 30cm high and 5cm wide on a white background.
  • The navigator (the person in charge or control of the boat, whether as owner or otherwise) shall comply with the International Rules for the Prevention of Collision at Sea).
  • Each boat towing water skiers shall be occupied by two persons of whom one is in charge of navigation and the other is an experienced water skier i.e. observer.
  • No boat shall tow a water skier from a period of one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise.
  • No navigator operating a pleasure boat towing a skier shall allow any person to ride or sit on the gunwales or decking of the vessel while under way.
  • The navigator shall ensure that he/she does not begin towing a skier until all other vessels in the exempted area have ceased towing skiers (i.e. only one boat at a time is allowed to tow a skier).
  • The navigator shall be responsible for ensuring that the skier shall wear a life jacket, that the towing boat shall carry an approved life preserver as well as a fire extinguisher and any other reasonable safety equipment.

Thank you for your collaboration.

Stuart Watts
October 200
Updated November 2020