From our base in Haslar Marina we are able to easily cross the English Channel. We can also travel as far west as Weymouth or as far east as Brighton in a long weekend. Add a few more days and the Channel Islands, West Country and the Normandy Coast are feasible. Our annual Summer Cruise takes us further afield and in the past we have gone around Britain, to Holland, Brittany, the Mediterranian and the Baltic. Here is an example report from southern Brittany https://phoenixyachtclub.co.uk/cruising/summer-cruise/5777/ .
The pages linked below gives you more information about our favourite destinations. We have links to any trips we have planned.
Bembridge - Isle of Wight
Bembridge is one of the few destinations in the Solent which are not all-tide but it is certainly worth a visit. It is also popular and in summer 2021 booking a place is needed to stay in Duver marina and it is a few week’s wait, but things may change quickly and everything become more flexible. The entrance to Bembridge needs to be approached with care. The buoyed channel is clear and it is to the north of St Helen’s fort. Although Navionics may show enough water on the south side of the fort this sandbank is not regularly surveyed and should be treated with suspicion. The buoyed channel has the luxury of an automated depth gauge which is available on-line. The harbour is extremely well-described on http://www.bembridgeharbour.co.uk/the-harbour/navigation. Pilot books and the Almanac show the entrance in addition to the charts and they are all a little different, which is because it is continuously changing. Once inside it is totally sheltered and as the tide ebbs you are surrounded by mud and have to wait until the next tide before the water returns and you can leave. This is often an opportunity to walk to the sandy beach and do sea-side activities.
Newtown Creek - Isle of Wight
Newtown creek is an unspoiled natural harbour on the north side of the Isle of Wight. It is a National Nature Reserve and managed by the National Trust. It has some mooring buoys for which there is a charge and there is a little space nearby to anchor (but avoid the chains of the buoys). It is very popular and an overnight stay will mean arriving about midday, since the boats already there will not be planning to move. It is not all-tide so careful calculation of the best time to cross the bar is needed and there are useful navigation buoys and transits to enter the harbour. The tidal flow in the Solent is strong and the transits are needed to ensure the boat remains on the correct line.
Levington (Suffolk Yacht Harbour)
Our change over port https://www.syharbour.co.uk/ which is a large popular marina 3 miles upstream on the east bank of the River Orwell. At low water springs approach the entrance with care in case there has been no recent dredging. Has a retired light ship for the local yacht club. Good chandlery and extensive parking but ~20miles by taxi from a station. Visitors first approach the pontoon directly opposite the entrance, berthing office hours 8 to 5.30 7 days a week.
Honfleur is picture post card pretty and as a yacht you form part of the attractions for the very many tourists to see in the inner Vieux harbour. The harbour is surrounded by bars, restaurants and jumbo parasols (and against rain). Honfleur is on the south of the river Seine and accessed through a large 24hour lock (no internal pontoons) which opens hourly (check times with lock-keeper). The inner harbour opens on the daytime-only half hour when departing yachts have priority and it can be very busy. There are also visitor places in the much larger outer harbour (CNH Avant port).
Yarmouth Harbour, Isle of Wight
Yarmouth is one of the most popular Solent destinations for a weekend trip. It used to have very many pubs to choose from to eat a meal out in the evening, (and hopefully post-covid still will have). In order to get in at a summer weekend it is essential to book ahead and the harbour office will take a credit card number for the full payment. This means that if the wind is strong and from the south-west and your crew don’t fancy the long beat up-wind then you have lost that money. You do not need to book the mooring buoys outside the harbour so they are well-used but a bit lumpy with wind over tide. The harbour staff and friendly and welcoming and are out and about in the harbour in a rib which they will happily use to help you in or out of a space. Good showers ashore, and they have thankfully stopped using tokens it is now all in the overnight fee.
Swanwick Marina, Hamble
The largest marina is Swanwick (Premier) with more visitor spaces, Deacons is smaller and both have fast flowing tides under the berths at all but slack water. Careful manoeuvring is essential. Medium sized chandlery ashore at Swanwick larger one at Deacons. Several good pubs to eat at ashore, the furthest usually used is the Jolly Sailor on the other side of the river, roughly a half mile walk. Closer is the cafe-restaurant on site, the Navigator, The Old Ship and nearer to Deacons the Chinese and a bistro.
East Coast (in general)
The English east coast is flat, has plenty of mud and is dominated by the Thames estuary. Because of the Thames and other banks you may be 12 miles offshore but in only 4m of water with a drying bank alongside you. The tidal set is fierce so ensure you note cross track position when crossing the tide, to hop from one channel to another. The Thames Estuary is basically many channels all funnelling into one river as it narrows by Sheerness. Between each channel is a sandbank, often drying or with little water. There are gaps in the sandbanks called gats, swashways, or spitways and at certain tidal states you can cross from one channel to the next. These sandbanks move with time, wind farms and bad weather, so keep well clear, and set the echo sounder alarm. Despite all of the cautions above it is a beautiful sailing area, lots of wildlife and natural beauty, good pubs and restaurants and plenty of interesting pilotage.
Suitable for a lunch time stop or overnight with the wind from the north or east and it is a drying harbour with lots of space for anchoring off. It was a refuge for large sailing vessels they sheltered from Easterlies waiting for favourable winds to go up the English Channel and if the wind shifted to the west they needed to leave quickly without their anchors. We found such an abandoned relic as we attempted to lift our anchor. But an exquisite spot to spend a few hours Porth Mellin (https://eoceanic.com/sailing/harbours/563/ ) more information & guidance.
St Michael's Mount
Open to the south-west but very sheltered from the north and east there is ample space for small boat to dry out next to the causeway to the island. There is also a designated anchorage and enough swinging room for 2 or 3 others to stay afloat. To visit St Michel’s Mount you need your National Trust membership card or to pay their prices and a dinghy to access the drying harbour with the usual slime and weed-covered steps.
Mainly a ferry port with a little fishing. Trains to Parkstone Quay ferry terminal. Halfpenny pier makes a good lunch stop (free). Cheapest over night pontoon in the area, with showers ashore. It can be a bumpy night with wash from ferries and the container ships giving a challenge to the best fender arrangements. Not suitable to leave the boat unattended overnight. Good stop for a pub lunch and short explore of this small town (with some limited shopping choices), with maritime history.
A large marina with a locked entrance opposite the docks, accessed via a lock. The entrance channel is narrow with drying mud bands each side and a strong tidal set, so there is a Moiré directional light on the entrance (you sterr in the direction of the arrow to correct the set). Very convenient from the sea, but less so by land. Long taxi from Ipswich train station or foot ferry (limited service http://www.harwichharbourferry.com/ ) from Harwich. Like all locked marinas limited tidal flow leads to poor water quality and the queues to leave on a summer weekend or bank-holiday are lengthy. Restaurant at the marina and the Bristol Arms pub serves food, a quarter mile walk away.
Brightlingsea is a small coastal resort town/village and harbour and makes a nice day trip from our planned base on the River Orwell. It is accessible at all tides except low water springs. Mooring can be on a pontoon adjacent to traditional fishing smacks; there is an excellent water taxi service ashore. The local yacht club serves good beer. There are other pubs and restaurants in the small town, (Indian etc) Further information is available from http://www.colneyachtclub.org.uk/ and https://www.visitessex.com/explore/coastal-destinations/brightlingsea
Woodbridge is at the top of the beautiful River Deben and is a pretty town, very popular with water colour artists and some classes sit on the beach. The marina is in the old Tide Mill Pool and has a sill, which dries 1.5m, access HW only at neaps, with a larger time access window with higher tides. The tide gauge is very accurate, and the river virtually dries. The Tide Mill is open for visitors and runs occasionally when volunteers are available. There is a nice walk upstream past the many house boats. Train line from Ipswich to Lowestoft with rural service levels, the station is near the marina. Many pubs and restaurants, plus supermarkets and normal market town shops, plus an arts cinema and a working boatyard (building a replica Saxon ship) close to the river and Sutton Hoo Anglo-Saxon burial site nearby.
Orwell and Stour Rivers
Both rivers are dominated by the Felixstowe and Harwich docks at the sea entrance but are very rural upstream. A very busy port with a precautionary area offshore, and a small craft channel outside the ‘dual carriageway’ of the channel and designated crossing point on the main channels. As you approach the entrance there is a breakwater off Blackman’s Head, which is covered at HW. Harwich shelf to the Guard is a shallow bank between the main channel and the east side of Harwich, which narrows the small-craft channel considerably. Shotley Spit extends virtually up to the cardinal on the north side of the Stour and it has a sharply dredged shoulder. Harwich Haven Authority has an excellent guide to the local rivers, available free (01255 243030).Also available on www.HHA.co.uk but to read it in enough detail you will need to print it on a large high resolution printer and view with a large screen. So paper is best.
South Coast (in general)
Covering the coastline from Kent to Dorset. Visit My Harbour is a very useful reference site.
Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight has a number of useful harbours on the sheltered north side of the island, the all tide ones of Yarmouth (link) and Cowes (link), partial tide ones of Newtown creek and for deeper draft yachts Bembridge is high water only. On the south east and south west sides of the island which are more exposed to the prevailing weather there are no harbours but you may find a fair weather short anchorage by inspection of the chart. Whitecliff bay is one such example.
Cowes, Isle of Wight
Cowes is a town split into two halves by the river Medina. The chain ferry forms the link between the two parts for both the road and foot traffic. The east side of Cowes has one large marina upstream of the chain ferry and it is part of the same Boatfolk group as Haslar. There is a large pub ashore next to the marina and early booking is essential to get any food, though there is enough room for a drink. There is a water taxi upstream to the Folly Inn and downstream to West Cowes. East Cowes is mostly residential with some other pubs for locals (never tried) and a couple of oriental restaurants near the ferry. The Folly Inn is further upstream and has its own mooring pontoons (with limited depth on the Inn side). There is a water taxi to the mid-stream pontoons. There is not enough depth in the Medina river channel to depart and arrive at low water. West Cowes has 3 marinas, too many places to eat and drink to list, yacht clubs (some very smart) and some useful shops, yacht gear chandleries and boutiques.
The River Orwell flows through the county of Suffolk in England. Its source river, above the tidal limit at Stoke Bridge, is known as the River Gipping. It broadens into an estuary at Ipswich, where the Ipswich dock has operated since the 7th century, and then flows into the North Sea at Felixstowe, the UK's largest container port, after joining the River Stour at Shotley forming Harwich harbour.
Penzance has a wet dock and you lock in ~HW-2 to HW+1. The harbour is managed by https://www.cornwallharbours.co.uk/our-harbours/penzance/ The town’s railway station is at the end of the Great Western line. The restaurants and tourist facilities get mixed reviews on-line.
There are two entrances to Cherbourg’s outer harbour, and you should use whichever one suits the tidal stream, which flows very strongly east or west outside the entrance, along the channel here. Stay in the buoyed entrance channel especially on night-time arrival since there are often lobster pots just outside the marked channel. The marina is inside the inner harbour at the eastern end of the main harbour where the town is too. Is is a busy ferry port and the terminal is right next to the marina and yachts must give way to ferries.
Helford River is a popular sailing destination and in a prevailing south-westerly wind is a safe short passage from the sheltered harbour of Falmouth. There are many mussel beds, so the river area that is available for visitor mooring buoys and anchoring is not large. Facilities (food, beer and showers) are available at the yacht club a dinghy ride ashore.
Falmouth is a lovely sailing destination, in bad weather there are a number of places to sail to within the all-weather all-tide harbour and if the day is windless then a motor upstream is interesting too. It is a good starting point for a trip to the Isles of Scilly too. In the days of sailing ships when they had to sail slowly up wind from London or Portsmouth the initial instructions were ‘Falmouth for orders’, then a rider would carry written orders on horse back the length of the country. It is a good landfall for long-distance yachties so it is an historic town which is popular with both sailors and tourists.
Plymouth is a very popular changeover port for a cruise. It is a huge harbour still heavily populated by navy vessels who have priority. It has 4 major marinas but because of transport logistics or locked access Mayflower and QAB are the most popular with the club. Most of the harbour is controlled by QHM, and military vessels have priority in the major entrance channels, with MOD police vessels ensuring yachts keep away from military vessels (like Portsmouth in fact). There may also be manoeuvres or firing offshore too.
Le Havre, Normandy
Le Havre is a very busy, freight, oil and ferry port on the north bank of the Seine river and there are two sides of the harbour. The marina is immediately inside to port of the most northerly entrance, (which the ferries use too), which is relatively narrow. Inbound to marina stay close to the northerly edge of the approach channel, (depth 1m or less outside channel).
St Vaast, Normandy
The entrance to St Vaast dries totally and there is an anchorage to wait in the bay, but this is not tenable in strong east or southerly winds. The entrance gate to the marina opens about HW+/-2hrs according to the tide, closing earlier in high pressure and neap tides. This site is useful https://www.digimap.gg/marine/marinas/st-vaast-la-hougue/ The town is attractive and the delicatessen of Maison Gosselin is well-known. Lots of restaurants (but it was too late and raining too heavily so we did not sample them).
Read https://www.newlynharbour.com/leisure-craft/ which makes it clear that Newlyn is primarily a fishing port, but yachts are not unwelcome. The pubs are geared up for locals and there are great fish and chip shops instead of restaurants. It has the overwhelming advantage of being an all-weather, all-tide harbour and it is the only one for miles, so whinging that it does not have pretty showers is unfair, since that is not what it is there for.
The marina at Brighton is 2 miles from the eastern end of the town. It is part of a new-build shopping and leisure complex, with many restaurant and pub chains and a cinema. The marina itself does not get dredged enough so for a 2m draft boat access at the entrance and movement within the harbour is not viable towards LW, (may change in 2021).The locked inner harbour is deep enough for much larger craft. The entrance is unsafe with wind above F6 from any southerly direction. Buses and a leisure train run into the main city of Brighton with all of the cultural attractions there.
There is a very useful site of https://www.conservancy.co.uk/page/boating-and-leisure The most popular anchorage is that of East head just to the east of the entrance, (see detailed blog at http://phoenixyachtclub.co.uk/news/6888/) and there are other places on the chart. There are visitor mooring buoys at Itchenor reach and three marinas, Sparkes, Northney & Chichester plus a yacht club in Birdham pool. The entrance needs careful pilotage since the bar is shallow and is dangerous with winds of F6 and above from southerly directions.
The West Country (in General)
The West Country is an extremely popular destination for our club members and certainly in 2020 and 2021 it seems to be a destination for all UK yachties. Add link http://phoenixyachtclub.co.uk/news/6971/
The Solent (in General)
Our Club Sails usually take place in the Solent but often don't have a specific destination because it depends on tide and weather. This page gives a general overview of the area and the trips we have planned.
St Valery-en-Caux, Normandy
The entrance dries totally so your arrival time is dictated by the bridge and lock-in harbour. Entry HW -2.5 to +1.75 depending on the tidal coefficient. Tidal range is 7 to 9 metres so make sure you do your homework. The tide runs fast across the entrance. You can work out a transit using the wind towers on the clifftop and it is a revelation. You will probably be pointing straight at the cliff to get the correct angle. There is a small waiting pool in front of the bridge with a couple of waiting buoys but don't rely on them being available. Better to time your run in to arrive about 5 mins before the bridge opens and hover. Beware of the shingle bank on STB side of channel. Deeper water is to port. Port official at bridge will probably direct you to a mooring as you pass through. Short term moorings are immediately on Port or Starboard. Facilities are at Yacht Club by Pontoon 6 but visit Capitanerie in Control Tower by bridge to get codes. Town has small Carrefour plus small shops in main square. There is NO fuel available at the marina. We ate at La Barcarole 22 Quai du Havre, which has a good range of dishes plus pizzas (enormous) and good WiFi. ~€20 each (2018) Take a walk to the cliff top and see the monument to the 51st Highland Regiment, the “forgotten army” who were left behind at D-Day and fought a rearguard action all the way to St Valery. Hundreds died and thousands were captured. If you have time take a bus to Veurles Les Roses about 10 minutes away. A small seaside town that is rated among the top 150 prettiest towns in France. The bus departs from stop at N side of Marina, and see https://phoenixyachtclub.co.uk/cruising/france/4195/ for a full trip reported
St Malo, Brittany
St Malo is a great changeover port with regular ferries and two marinas with visitor spaces. For our (cancelled 2020) cruise we chose Bas-Sablon marina because of the better tidal access, (it has a 2m cill on the entrance so is accessible ~HW +/-3hrs). This marina is right next to the ferry terminal and so is affected by the ferry wash but with bags it is still a taxi ride around the extensive harbour complex. The alternative Port Vauban with locked access (HW+/-2) was a bit tight for our yacht RelaX. The old town (Intra Muros) is worth some sight-seeing time and has very many restaurants. Closer to the marina is the small resort of St Servan and there is a bus service between parts of Brittany.
Salcombe is one of the prettiest harbours in the West Country and therefore it is also one of the busiest in the summer. It is a good place to replenish stores as reported in https://phoenixyachtclub.co.uk/cruising/west-country/3048/ with its many delicatessens. It has an entrance bar which can make it half-tide and in southerlies it becomes dangerous. You can therefore get stranded there by storms. If in any doubt use nearby (15nm) Dartmouth which is equally as attractive and has a deep water entrance. Visitor buoys opposite the village and a mid-stream pontoon in the more sheltered area of the ‘bag’ slightly upstream on the west bank. There are also places to anchor. You need the dinghy or the water taxi to get ashore to the many pubs & delicatessens.
Lymington is at the western end of the Solent and has two large marinas and the town quay. The town quay mooring facilities were upgraded for the 2021 season to take more boats. This quay is a very convenient location to stroll into the lovely Georgian town for an ice-cream or a beer. There are a lot of pubs and restaurants and take-away fish and chips and a pasty shop. There are many chandleries selling everything that you may want. The main town is a worthwhile walk even from the other marinas, which are further out (about a mile). But there are pubs closer to the large marinas too.
Tucked inside Hurst Castle is the picturesque harbour of Keyhaven. It is a lovely place to explore all the way up to the quay at high water springs especially easy in Quartette. It is great practice of your pilotage skills. Access is only at the higher water levels over a virtually flat bar outside.
Haslar Marina, Gosport, Hants
Our home location. You will find RelaX on berth G51 and Quartette on berth I2.
Fowey and Polruan, Cornwall
Fowey is a very convenient distance between Plymouth and Falmouth and as a consequence absolutely everyone stops off here. It is an all-tide harbour very sheltered from the west but in strong southerly winds the swell rolls in from the sea. There are mid-stream pontoons for visitors in the harbour and Falmouth on the western bank and quieter Polruan on the east. Surprisingly large freighters make their way upstream fairly suddenly and they need to take the centre of the channel.
The port is 24 hour access, but is not advised in strong Northerly winds Don't bother with Bassin Berigny, since it is a long way from facilities and has restricted hours of opening Easy entrance and a good place to wait for tidal push going north or south. Tends to fill up after 4pm. Swell sometimes on pontoons. Showers are adequate but the clubhouse has short opening hours/days Fuel available 24/7 with credit card. We ate at La Marine €33 each, La Plaisance €27 each (2018 prices) Provisions at small Carrefour facing inner harbour Nice walk to top of cliffs to Signal tower and fortifications. For a fuller report on the trip please read https://phoenixyachtclub.co.uk/cruising/france/4195/
Dartmouth and Kingswear, Devon
An all-weather all-tide entrance with excellent shelter inside. The largest marina (Darthaven) is on the Kingswear side. Visitor buoys are for smaller boats (<9m) The two villages are either side of the River Dart, connected by a busy vehicle ferry, which has the absolute right of way. Many anchorages are viable much further upstream too. Great food available at the Ship in Kingswear, & Royal Dart yacht club.
Weymouth and Portland, Dorset
Weymouth is an all-weather all-tide harbour https://www.weymouth-harbour.co.uk/ and a handy & attractive destination either to wait to round nearby Portland Bill or as a target for a long weekend trip from the Solent. Both the marinas are part of the Boatfolk group (with discount for berth-holders). The main town has raft-up alongside berths for visitors with facilities at the yacht club, but it can be noisy. The quieter marina is huge and is under a lifting bridge (see almanac for opening times) and a short walk will give you ample choice of where to eat. This blog describes a passage and visit https://phoenixyachtclub.co.uk/news/quartette/2100/. Portland harbour is huge but the marina does not have too many visitor places and there is a limited choice of where to eat. Buses into town are rare but there are taxis available. Portland is closer to the Bill and may ease passage planning constraints.