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Skerries Bay and Harbour

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Overview





Skerries Bay and Harbour is situated on the east coast of Ireland on County Dublin’s coastline four miles to the southeast of Balbriggan and twelve miles north of Howth. It offers a bay anchorage with the option of picking up moorings off a popular small coastal town. Shallow draft vessels, or vessels that can take to the hard may come alongside its drying harbour wall.

A tolerable anchorage can be found in Skerries Bay with good holding. Good shelter is available in offshore winds, southwest round to east, but it is however completely open to anything from the west round to the northeast. Swell can make life aboard uncomfortable after a few days of northerly winds. Better protection is available to shallower draft vessels, or vessels that can take to the hard alongside the pier, or more likely lay alongside a fishing boat as it is common practice here. Access is straightforward and the harbour has a sectored pierhead light and a marker buoy that marks the approach dangers at the mouth of the bay.
Please note

In any northerly conditions or heavy weather Howth Harbour would be the better option. Vessels coming alongside should be prepared to move at short notice and keep an eye on the depth.




1 comment
Keyfacts for Skerries Bay and Harbour
Club  +353 1 8491233      info@skerriessailingclub.com      Ch.72
Approaches
4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
Shelter
3 stars: Tolerable; in suitable conditions a vessel may be left unwatched and an overnight stay.


Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierRestriction: rising tide required for access


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachSailing Club baseUrban nature,  anything from a small town of more 5,000 inhabitants  to a large city
Facilities
Water available via tapGas availableTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansShop with basic provisions availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway availableHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the areaCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaInternet café in the areaDoctor or hospital in the areaPharmacy in the areaScrubbing posts or a place where a vessel can dry out for a scrub below the waterlineBus service available in the areaTrain or tram service available in the areaRegional or international airport within 25 kilometresShore based family recreation in the area

Last modified
May 30th 2017; suggest a correction?

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Now Force

Summary* Restrictions apply

A tolerable location with straightforward access.

LWS draught

4 metres (13.12 feet).

Today's tide estimates

LW 06:03 (0.4m) HW 12:22 (4.5m)
LW 18:12 (0.7m) HW 00:40 (4.3m)
We are now on Springs

Swell today




Approaches
4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
Shelter
3 stars: Tolerable; in suitable conditions a vessel may be left unwatched and an overnight stay.


Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierRestriction: rising tide required for access


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachSailing Club baseUrban nature,  anything from a small town of more 5,000 inhabitants  to a large city
Facilities
Water available via tapGas availableTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansShop with basic provisions availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway availableHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the areaCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaInternet café in the areaDoctor or hospital in the areaPharmacy in the areaScrubbing posts or a place where a vessel can dry out for a scrub below the waterlineBus service available in the areaTrain or tram service available in the areaRegional or international airport within 25 kilometresShore based family recreation in the area

Last modified
May 30th 2017; suggest a correction?

Position and approaches
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Haven position

53° 35.100' N, 006° 6.480' W

At the westernmost end of the Skerries pier where the light stands Oc R 6s.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in the southbound Route location or northbound Route location sequenced ‘Strangford Lough to Dublin Bay’ coastal description; eastern approaches may use either description.

  • Newcomers should keep at least a quarter of a mile off the Skerries Island Group when approaching from the south or east.

  • Locate the 'Perch' port hand marker a quarter of a mile north by north west of the pierhead.

  • Continue west and then turn into the harbour when the bearing to the pierhead is less than 154°T or by night when pierhead's sectored light becomes visible.



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 Skerries Bay and Harbour for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line distance
  1. Loughshinny - 1.6 miles SSE
  2. Balbriggan Harbour - 1.8 miles WNW
  3. Rush Harbour - 2.4 miles SSE
  4. Rogerstown Inlet - 2.8 miles S
  5. The Boat Harbour - 3.8 miles SSE
  6. Saltpan Bay - 3.8 miles SSE
  7. Talbot’s Bay - 4 miles SSE
  8. Seal Hole Bay - 4.2 miles SSE
  9. Malahide - 5 miles S
  10. Carrigeen Bay - 6.8 miles S
Ten nearest havens by straight line distance
  1. Loughshinny - 1.6 miles SSE
  2. Balbriggan Harbour - 1.8 miles WNW
  3. Rush Harbour - 2.4 miles SSE
  4. Rogerstown Inlet - 2.8 miles S
  5. The Boat Harbour - 3.8 miles SSE
  6. Saltpan Bay - 3.8 miles SSE
  7. Talbot’s Bay - 4 miles SSE
  8. Seal Hole Bay - 4.2 miles SSE
  9. Malahide - 5 miles S
  10. Carrigeen Bay - 6.8 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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Skerries Bay and Harbour is located 1.7 miles north by northwest of Shenick Point. It is enclosed to the southwest by a causeway to Red Island a former islet that is now joined to the mainland. A small fishing harbour is formed by a 150 metre long pier extending from the west side of Red Island. A conspicuous sectored light stands on its head.

Skerries Bay Red Island pier - Oc.R.6s.7m 7M position: 53° 35.103'N, 006° 6.484' W

Offshore Skerries Islands consist of three islets; Colt, St. Patrick’s and Shenick Islands that lie about half a mile east, one mile east, and one mile to the southeast respectively of Red Island. They vary from 15 to 18 metres in height and all have extensive rocky foreshores.
Please note

Great care should be taken in all approaches to the Skerries, including Red Island, to steer well clear of the island’s rocky foreshores and sandy banks that extend out some distance. Vessels should also watch out for lobster pots in all approaches to Skerries Bay and Harbour.



Northern Approach Vessels approaching from the north will have unimpeded access to Skerries Bay. Those hugging the low-lying coast from the River Boyne should pay special attention to keep clear of Cardy Rocks. This is a patch of half-tide rocks that are marked by a port hand or red beacon and also covered by the green sector of Balbriggan Light. They are located one mile north by northeast of Balbriggan lighthouse, 400 metres from Braymore Point.

Cardy Rocks – Port beacon position: 53° 37.912'N, 006° 10.850’W

Continue southward keeping three quarters of a mile off the mainland as the shore is shallow a long way out along this coastline. The ‘Perch’ buoy, a red light-buoy marking Cross Rock to the north of Red Island, makes a sea mark for the initial fix.




Eastern Approach Vessels approaching from the east will find Rockabill Lighthouse, a white tower with a black band, provides an excellent landfall. Although situated two and a half miles east by north of St. Patrick’s Island, as well as separated from the Skerries islands by a deep and clear channel, it is considered an outer part of this group.

Rockabill Lighthouse - Fl WR 12s position: 53° 35.811' N, 006° 00.297' W

Rockabill consists of two granite rocks rising abruptly from the sea to a height of 9.5 metres. Its lighthouse stands 32 metres high on the highest part of the south rock. The rocks are clear of danger, with 12 or 16 metres close in, and 20 to 30 at a distance of a quarter of a mile off.

From Rockabill pass to the north of the islands keeping a quarter of a mile to the north to the initial fix. The ‘Perch’ buoy makes for a good sea mark for the distance to stay north of Red island and the position of the initial fix.


Southern Approach Vessels approaching from the south will find Lambay Island to be the most conspicuous feature of this coast. Its east point, called the Nose of Lambay, is elevated 55 metres above high water, and the 123 metres high Knockbawn is its highest summit. The channel between Lambay Island and the mainland is nearly two miles wide and straightforward for leisure craft avoiding going close to the island side. Off the westernmost point of the island are the Burren Rocks that are marked by a starboard beacon 400 metres west of the dangers. Keeping half a mile off the mainland until ‘The Skerries Islands’ clears all dangers.



On final approaches St. Patrick’s Island, the outermost island, should be rounded on its outside and vessels should keep well off. Then pass into the bay keeping at least a quarter of a mile north of the islands. Approaching Skerries Bay and Harbour, Cross Rock, on the outer end of a ledge extending to the northward of Red Island, is dry at low water and must be carefully avoided by vessels heading into the harbour. This may be easily avoided by passing the ‘Perch’ buoy to port where the initial fix is located.



It is possible to approach Skerries Bay and harbour from the south through the islands but this is more involved and not advisable for newcomers. However there is a narrow passage with a least depth of 3 metres between St. Patrick’s Island and Colt Island that is used by local leisure craft. The principal dangers to be avoided in cutting between the islands are on the St. Patrick’s Island side. This includes a drying reef that extends 500 metres to the south of St. Patrick’s Island that encloses Plough Rocks drying to 2.5 metres, and Roaring Rocks on its southern extremity, and also the Dthaun Spit that has a least depth of 0.6 metres and extends south westward from the St. Patrick’s Island to almost midway between the islands.



Admiralty Chart 633 provides two transits for the cut; the crown of Colt Island on 325° T, as a lead in, and the alignment of Shenick’s Martello on the crest of the round Popeshall Hill, to the south, on 187° T to pass between Colt and St Patrick’s island.

The islands themselves are easily identified by those taking this approach. St. Patrick’s is readily distinguished by the conspicuous church ruins on its southwest end.



Shenick, like Red Island, may be readily identified by its Martello tower, and Shenick again like Red Island, connects to the mainland but only at low water. So the area between it and the mainland should be considered too shallow for navigation except for shallow draft vessels on the appropriate rise. It should also be noted that the passage inside of Shenick Island looks deceptively clear on the charts but there is a sandbar stretching from the island’s Martello tower westwards towards the mainland and an uncharted rock. The isolated and uncharted rock has a depth of about -2 metres and it could do a lot of damage. It is situated to the southwest of Shenick Island and is about midway between it and the shore. The rock stands about a metre over the sand when dry and has several rocks within about five metres of it.

Shenick Island - unmarked position: 53° 34.169' N, 006° 05.535' W

The area between Colt and the mainland almost dries except for a small section that maintains a depth of just under a metre. This may be usable with an adequate rise of tide and the best water will be found closer to the mainland side of centre. Skerries Sailing Club shares a list of waypoints and directions Route location to assist with passage planning through the Skerries Islands. But as a rule newcomers are better off staying outside of the islands.


Initial fix location From the initial fix near the ‘Perch’ red light-buoy marking Cross Rock will have been readily visible for some distance.

Perch - Red Buoy Fl R 10s position: 53° 35.305’N, 006° 06.488’W



From here the light on the pierhead Oc R 6s, bearing between 103°T and 154°T, leads into the bay towards the anchorage. Do not turn into the harbour until the bearing to the pierhead bears less than 154° T or by night when the above sectored pierhead light becomes visible. This keeps a vessel clear of the rocks and shallows extending north by northwest from Red Island to Cross Rock.


Haven location Skerries Bay mooring possibilities include anchoring in the bay, picking up moorings or coming alongside at the outer extremity of the south side of the harbour wall and/or drying out further in.

Anchor in Skerries Bay west by northwest of the pierhead and outside the moorings in 3 metres where very good holding will be found. However the amount of moorings crowding the bay tend to push anchoring well offshore. This reduces the amount of protection available, owing to the extended fetch making it uncomfortable and for a long dinghy ride to shore.
Please note

A tripping line is advised in this ancient harbour in the event of snarling old ground tackle.



It is well worthwhile making enquires ashore to see if it is possible to secure sailing club moorings further in. Vessels can usually get mooring advice from the sailing club boatman on VHF Ch 72.




The 150 metres long pier, west of Red Island, dries out at low water save for the outer 60 metres where a depth of just under a metre remains. Medium draft vessels can come alongside the pier, or more likely a fishing boat in the harbour, but keep an eye on the depth all the way in.
Please note

Rafting vessels should be respectful of the needs of the fishing fleet; always be prepared to move at short notice.



Fender boards are a must if rafting up is not possible and a vessel is required to lay alongside the wall. If planning to enter and dry out alongside the harbour wall check the grounding area is clear as large stones are reportedly scattered about in the vicinity. There is one spot on the wall to avoid due to a hard stony ridge with soft muddy sand on either side. This is at the seaward end of the inner straight stretch of the quay wall. A boat that dries on this ridge can easily topple fore or aft as the tide recedes - the soft mud on either side is less than attractive as anything could be buried in there.



The inner harbour dries entirely to a flat sandy bottom that is particularly suitable for bilge keel vessels.


What's the story here?
The Skerries, in Irish Na Sceirí, derives its name from the conjunction of Norse words skere, meaning rocks or a reef, and ey meaning an islet or small island. These terms aptly describe the series of islets and reefs that lie offshore opposite the town here. The name and term was adopted by the Irish language with the words na sceirí meaning ‘the rocks’.

The first known mention of the Skerries area dates back to the second century with talk of it being the point of an invasion. Early writers speak of the landing happening here, either on Shenick or Red Island, both of which were tidal islands at the time. The invaders formed ranks on the island and then at low tide made their way to the mainland. They were soon to be defeated at the ancient settlement of Knocknagin to the north of Balbriggan. In 432 AD St. Patrick is reputed to have come here from the Strangford Lough area with intentions of conquering the souls of the Irish people for Christianity. He went to pray on what was soon to be called Church Island and is now St. Patrick’s island. According to the ’Annals of Inisfallen’ Saint Mochonna founded a monastery on the island shortly afterwards whereupon it became known as Church Island.

It is recorded in the ‘Annals of Munster’ that in the year 797 AD the Danes carried out one of their earliest Irish coastal raids here plundering the Church Island monastery. Having an excellent natural harbour with a Norse derived name it is broadly assumed that the Vikings eventually occupied the area and settled here. By 1120 the Danes had become Christians and in that year Sitric, who was a son of a Dane called Murchard, re-founded the monastery on Church Island. He dedicated the island to St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, calling the area Holmpatrick; the prefix holm being from the old Danish word for ‘harbour’.

Reestablished as an important centre for Christianity it was Augustinian monks that were to shape and define the town character in the following centuries. In 1148, Saint Malachy, Archbishop of Armagh, arranged a synod on St. Patrick's Island to settle differences between the Irish Christians and the Pope. Fifteen bishops, two hundred priests and other clergy convened to find a solution here. Afterwards St. Malachy was sent to Rome to discuss the decisions with the Pope. This was never to transpire as he died on route at the monastery of Clairvaux in France under the attendance of St. Bernard. By 1220 the Augustinian monks thought the island an unsuitable location for their monastery and moved to the mainland creating the ‘Priory of Holmpatrick’, or what was more correctly called “The Monastery of the Canons Regular of the order of St. Augustine”. Cosmo De La Hayde was the last Abbot of Holmpatrick Abbey before it was transferred to the mainland in 1224. The new monastery of Holmpatrick flourished and in time the fishing village of Skerries joined with it to form the heart of the town that is established here today. But the buildings of the monastery were to disappear in time and no trace of them remain.




What is well evident today is the harbour that dates back to 1496 when King Henry VII gave permission to the ‘Prior of Holmpatrick’ to build a pier. At this time, Skerries was the property of the monastery and was known as the ‘Port of Holmpatrick’. In 1565, after the Reformation, the monastery and its lands became the property of several Earls and landowners who partially maintained the harbour through the centuries. In 1759 the Irish parliament granted £2,000 to the then owner John Hamilton to enlarge and extend the pier. During the days of sail the harbour was a busy trading port. But after the arrival of deeper steam ships the harbour was too shallow and this trade died away. Despite further petitions to extend the pier into ‘ten feet of water at low tide’ to enable steam ships to berth there little was done until the 1960s. Then the 55 metre long and 9 metre wide extension was added to the existing pier bringing it to its current size. Although it had taken two hundred years and appeals to three totally different Governments, the final extension of Skerries never achieved the original 1769 petition of achieving ten feet of water.



Above the pier ‘The Great Windmills of Skerries’ were another unique development for the area. The practice of stone-ground milling dates back as far as the middle of the sixteenth century and was also introduced to the area by the Augustinian monks. The late 18th and early 19th century was the heyday of the Skerries tower mills but a bakery existed in the town as late as 1840 that produced bread and confectionery until the middle of the 1980's. Recently two fully restored and working windmills were re-established by Fingal County Council as a local amenity and tourist attraction. The larger four and a half storey tower mill is a reconstruction of the mill that suffered a disastrous fire during a gale about 1860. Guided tours of the mills are available with their associated mill ponds, mill races and wet lands as a focal point for Skerries Town Park. The watermill also houses the Watermill Café, a craft shop and exhibition space that may be accessed independently. The site commands wonderful views of the coast and off-shore islands.

Today Skerries is a prosperous fishing town with much to offer the coastal cruising boatman. The town has many amenities which are enjoyed by both residents and visitors alike. The long sandy beaches, patrolled by life-guards in the summer months, and the secluded harbour are awash with pubs and restaurants. These offer excellent eating and drinking locations ready at hand. There are many walks around Skerries, whether they are along the strand, or up around The Head where seals can be seen bobbing in the water. The close by Ardgillan Demense, half way along the road to Balbriggan, offers a series of walks through wooded parklands or open spaces with good views of the sea.

The origins of Red Island’s name is uncertain and many theories are advanced. Some believe the name stems from the dyeing or “barking” of sails in the old barking yard in the town. The sails were taken to the island and spread out to dry. Continuous spreading of sails, still wet with dye, caused the rocks and the soil of the island to redden. Others suggest that the name comes from the time when Skerries was a large fishing centre. The fishermen spreading hundreds of their reddish-brown nets on the island to dry lending the island its name. Others suggest "Red" went back to a Viking name that meant "red" as it does in English today. It was common for a place to be called after a chieftain and "red" was a common nickname with the amount of red hair genes in the Viking race. So the name could have been derived from "Red's Ey", a name that moved easily into English as "Red Island". Likewise "Colt" was a Viking word kult that has the same meaning as the modern English word colt, a young horse. It would have needed another larger island alongside, most likely St. Patrick’s Island, to have been called "herschel" meaning horse at the time; thereby creating a horse and colt.

Whatever the case Red Island is certainly no longer an island. It is a rocky headland connected to the mainland by a roadway, which forms part of the quay wall of the harbour and shelters the bay. In 1987 the outlying Skerries Islands Group became wildlife reserves. One of the three islands off shore, Shenick Island, may be reached at low tide by walkers but great care must be taken when the tide turns. Visitors to Shenick Island will find a Martello tower, which along with Red Island, are one of a number of defensive towers erected during the Napoleonic era along the Irish coast. The other islands can be visited by tender or via guided tours that operate out of the harbour during the sailing season.



The very welcoming Skerries Sailing Club has its clubhouse on the quay and is a must for all visiting boatmen. The club burgee has a goat that commemorates a story of St. Patrick. Apparently he left his pet goat in the care of Skerries people whilst he went out to pray on the island that was to bear his name. But when he returned he found the Skerries people had eaten the goat. A "footprint" on Red Island Springboards swimming spot is supposed to owe its existence to St. Patrick stamping his foot on the rock when he found out about his goat. Today a plaque in the goat's memory is to be found under St. Patrick's statue on the front of the local Roman Catholic Church. Skerries sailing club also hosts both National and World sailing events. Current club members assure visitors that pet goats will meet with no harm.


What facilities are available?
Water is available at the inner end of the pier, diesel from a filling station about a mile away, provisions from several excellent shops in the town.

Skerries Sailing Club affords facilities to visiting boatmen including moorings.
Phone: +353 1 8491233
VHF: CH 72 is usually monitored during the sailing season.

Skerries Sailing Club host a Skerries Windguru Station that provides real time wind speed, direction and also reports the current temperature.

The airport and ferry ports are quickly and easily accessible from Skerries. Dublin Bus operates a public transport system for Skerries to the centre of Dublin and a rail service runs seven days a week. The train runs between Dublin city centre and Drogheda/Dundalk.


Any security concerns?
All owners should secure their vessel if leaving it unattended alongside the wall.


With thanks to:
Charlie Kavanagh ISA/RYA Yachtmaster Instructor/Examiner and local boatman Brian Lennon. Photography with thanks to Dietrich, Simon Carrasco, Delatorre, Cqui, Crouch, William Murphy, Joyous, Brian Lennon and Michael Harpur.


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The following videos may be useful to help first time visitors familiarise themselves with the Skerries area.

The following video presents a view off the beach of the islands.




The following video presents a time lapse video of the harbour.




The following videolog shows a trip from Wales to Skerries Harbour; advance to the 4 minutes point for the approach and harbour.




Add your review or comment:


Brian Lennon wrote this review on Aug 26th 2014:

My understanding is that the Vikings used their version of "skerries" to refer to rocky locations (not necessarily islands as we understand them), places where they could hear the water breaking at night. The big attraction of Skerries is the number of restaurants and bars (including the sailing club) on the Harbour Road itself. The infrequent visitor is recommended to approach by sailing outside the islands and keep a watch for lobster pots! When the club punt is in operation, you can usually get mooring advice from them on ch 72.

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