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Spike Island

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Overview





Spike Island is a small island situated on the south coast of Ireland within Cork’s Lower Harbour. It offers an anchorage off an uninhabited island of major historical interest.

Set inside Cork’s Lower Harbour and nestled within its islands and banks, the island offers good protection from all conditions except a north easterly where at high water it would get uncomfortable. Straightforward access is assured by Cork Harbour’s easily approached and well-marked harbour but the path to Spike Island is off the beaten path and unmarked.



1 comment
Keyfacts for Spike Island
HM  +353 21 4273125      info@portofcork.ie      Ch.12, 14 &16
Approaches
4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
Shelter
4 stars: Good; assured night's sleep except from specific quarters.


Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationJetty or a structure to assist landingHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity
Facilities
(None)


Last modified
May 30th 2017; suggest a correction?

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Now Force

Summary* Restrictions apply

A good location with straightforward access.

LWS draught

3 metres (9.84 feet).

Today's tide estimates

LW 01:53 (1m) HW 07:53 (3.9m)
LW 14:14 (1.1m) HW 20:04 (3.8m)
Now approaching Neaps

Swell today




Approaches
4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
Shelter
4 stars: Good; assured night's sleep except from specific quarters.


Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationJetty or a structure to assist landingHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity
Facilities
(None)


Last modified
May 30th 2017; suggest a correction?

Position and approaches
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Haven position

51° 50.270' N, 008° 17.450' W

This is set on the head of Spike Island pier and the deep water channel can be found 30 metres off the head.

What is the initial fix?

The following West Passage southern entrance initial fix will set up a final approach:
51° 49.000' N, 008° 16.825' W
This waypoint is set at the southern end of the West Channel within Cork’s Lower Harbour. By keeping just east of the path of 329° (T) and westward of 326° (T) of the Christ Church spire, located at Rushbrooke on the west end of Great Island, the West Channel’s mile long lower section may be passed up to southwest end of Spike Island.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore and approach details are available in the westbound Rosslare to Cork Harbour Route location or eastbound Mizen Head to Cork Harbour Route location sequence.


Not what you need?
Try our Advanced Havens Search tool to find locations with the specific attributes you need, or click the 'Next', coastal clockwise, or 'Previous', coastal anti-clockwise, buttons to progress through neighbouring havens. Below are the ten nearest havens to Spike Island for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line distance
  1. Cobh - 0.4 miles NNW
  2. Cuskinny - 0.8 miles NE
  3. Cork Harbour Marina - 1 miles WNW
  4. Crosshaven - 1.2 miles S
  5. Glenbrook - 1.2 miles NW
  6. White Bay - 1.5 miles SE
  7. Drake’s Pool - 1.6 miles SW
  8. Aghada - 1.9 miles E
  9. East Ferry Marina - 2.1 miles ENE
  10. Ringabella Bay - 2.5 miles S
Ten nearest havens by straight line distance
  1. Cobh - 0.4 miles NNW
  2. Cuskinny - 0.8 miles NE
  3. Cork Harbour Marina - 1 miles WNW
  4. Crosshaven - 1.2 miles S
  5. Glenbrook - 1.2 miles NW
  6. White Bay - 1.5 miles SE
  7. Drake’s Pool - 1.6 miles SW
  8. Aghada - 1.9 miles E
  9. East Ferry Marina - 2.1 miles ENE
  10. Ringabella Bay - 2.5 miles S
Alternatively the above can be ordered by compass direction or coastal sequence


How to get in?
Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the haven and its approaches. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Open the chart in a larger viewing area by clicking the expand to 'new tab' or the 'full screen' option.

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Spike Island is an island of 103 Acres in Lower Cork Harbour about a mile southward of Cobh. Originally the site of a monastic settlement, the island is dominated by an 18th-century star fort named Fort Mitchel. The island's strategic location within the harbour meant it was used at times for defence and as a prison, but as of the early 21st century is under development as a heritage tourist attraction.

Convergance Point The run up the Lower Harbour to Spike Island is best described in the Cork City Marina Click to view haven entry.

The anchoring area off Spike Island is fenced in to the north by Haulbowline Island and on the west by Haulbowline Island’s mainland bridge. Likewise Spike Island closes off the east, and the very shallow Spit Bank closes off the northeast. Although the Spit Bank covers at high water it is not advisable for any boatman to cross it, as many a local boatman has found to his cost as he has come foul of the Spit Bank. The only safe approach therefore is from the south via the Lower Harbour’s West Passage.

The West Passage commences half a mile northeast of the Owenboy River estuary that opens on the western side of the harbour above the neck of the entrance. The West Passage leads between the western shore of the harbour and the western side of Spike Island. Here a vessel may, on the flood with a half-tide, run up to Spike Island without any great difficulty.



Initial fix location From the initial fix, that is positioned at the entrance of the West Channel about a third of a mile north of Ram’s Head, the Lower Harbour’s principal features are those of Spike Island and Haulbowline Island, with the town of Cobh on the southern shores of Great Island behind. A comparatively small part of the wide expanse that now presents itself is available for navigation. The greater part of the section to the north is occupied by the shallow Curlane Bank that extends for more than half a mile southward from Spike Island. It divides the well marked main deep water channel on its east side, that runs in a northeast by north direction to the shores of Great Island, from the shallower unmarked aptly named West Channel that runs in a north by northwest direction to pass between the mainland and the west side of Spike Island.

Although not marked the southern mile long West Channel section may be adhered to by keeping just east of the path of 329° (T) and westward of 326° (T) of Christ Church spire at Rushbrooke on the west end of Great Island.
Please note

The 329.5°(T) alignment of the Christ Church Spire and the east extremity of Fort Meagher on Ram's Head, as best seen on Admiralty Chart 1777, is used as an alignment to clear the Cow and Calf Rocks.



Christ Church - spire unlit position: 51° 50.900' N, 008° 18.790'W



When between Spike Island and the mainland on the west side, take a central path towards Haulbowline Island tending slightly east of centre at the north end to avoid the drying spit off Paddy’s Point. All the channels here are readily apparent and steep-to, so an eye on the sounder should keep a vessel clear of trouble. Continue north, with Haulbowline Island’s mainland bridge and Rocky Island well off to port, until the pier is bearing due east before turning towards the anchoring position immediately off the head of the pier.



Haven location Anchor about 20 to 30 metres off the pier in mud where 4 metres will be found. Vessels that can take to the hard may come alongside the pier that dries out a few metres beyond its head at LWS. Land by dingy at the pier.
Please note

All is mud in the passage and there is very little hard to hit for a vessel that goes off course. The cables around the island, as presented on Admiralty 1777, have never been known to cause a problem for a local vessels.






What's the story here?
The small 103 acres that make up Spike Island occupies a key geographic position and place in the history of Cork Harbour. Through the centuries the island has hosted a monastery, a fortress, a prison and has its place in the nation’s historic struggle; all of these have left their marks for a visitor to see today.

The island was originally the site of a 7th century monastic settlement and after the monks departed it became a base for smugglers. In the eighteenth century Cork Harbour became an important naval base and Cobh a rapidly developing garrison town. At the time Cork provided a key position to bolster the defence of Britain’s western approaches, guarding the entrance to the English Channel plus maintaining the blockade of France, and during this military build-up the island’s strategic position came into sharp focus. The British government purchased it in 1779 and construction on the islands' high ground of the present day fort began in 1790. The fort was named Fort Westmorland, after John Fane the 10th Earl of Westmorland and then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Completed by 1860 it is a regular six bastioned work surrounded by a ditch with fortified gun emplacements facing the mouth of the harbour.

The island became a convict prison in 1847 when a convict depot was added to house "convicts" prior to penal transportation. By 1850 it housed over 2,000 inmates when it gained the retrospective reputation of being "Ireland's Alcatraz". It was here in 1848 that John Mitchell, an Irish nationalist activist and political journalist, was held on his way to Van Diemen’s Land. It was during his time in Spike Island prison that his classic Jail Journal was written. The island remained in use as a garrison and prison throughout the Irish War of Independence, when it held hundreds of republicans and their sympathisers. The conditions under which the men were then imprisoned were appalling, even by the standards of the time.

Following the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the island remained as one of the so-called Treaty Ports, and was handed over to the Free State in 1938. On its handover to the Irish State, the island's installations were renamed Fort Mitchell after the former inmate John Mitchell. The island then remained the site of a prison and military base for the regular Irish Army, plus the FCÁ (the Irish National Guard) and later the Navy for some time.

Late into the 20th century it was used as a youth correctional facility. On the 1st September 1985 inmates rioted and, as a subsequent Dáil committee reported, "civilians, prison officers and the Gardai on the Island were virtual prisoners of the criminals". During the riot, one of the accommodation blocks, Block A, caught fire and is known as the Burnt Block. This prison facility was subsequently closed in 2004 and Fort Mitchell, then Spike Island prison, or "Spike" as it is known nationally, was gifted to Cork County Council by the State.

Today the island is dominated by its ‘star’ shaped fort, which is being renovated as a tourist attraction by council workers and volunteers under the supervision of archaeologists. From a sailing perspective Spike Island offers another unique Cork Harbour location where a world class heritage site may be enjoyed by a visiting boatman.


What facilities are available?
There are no facilities on Spike Island save for the island pier to land at. Cork Harbour is a major yachting centre for Ireland and as such almost everything is available within the lower harbour area. The main concentration of services will be found at Crosshaven.


Any security concerns?
Never an issue known to have occurred to vessels that anchor at this secluded location.


With thanks to:
James O’Brien the Cork Harbour Marina owner and manager. Photographs with thanks to Informatique, Guliolopez, Best36, Neil Walker, shotsproof and Denis Sheehan.


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Please zoom out to see the 'initial fix' for this location.
The above plots are not precise and indicative only.
















This very useful aerial overview of Cork Harbour is highly recommended for first time visitors to familiarise themselves with Cork Harbour:





This video provides a short overview of Spike Island’s inshore area.





Add your review or comment:


Rodolphe Thimonier wrote this review on Jun 16th 2016:

In force 5 easterly winds, as I didnt feel like anchoring at the recommended spot, I anchored west of Spike Island (by 51 50.01N - 8 17.68W). The shelter was good, the holding in mud good, and the depth sufficient since the strong tidal currents always kept the boat in the middle (deepest) of the channel. There is some traffic of small boats - including the customs.

Average Rating: ***

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