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Chapel Bay

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Overview





Chapel Bay on Copeland Island, the principal island of the Copeland Islands group, is located in the Irish Sea off the northeast coast of Ireland. The island group is situated on the south side of the entrance to Belfast Lough, and Copeland Island is the largest island and closest to the mainland. Chapel Bay is on the west and mainland-facing side of this secluded island. It provides an anchorage in a spacious sandy bay.

Chapel Bay on Copeland Island, the principal island of the Copeland Islands group, is located in the Irish Sea off the northeast coast of Ireland. The island group is situated on the south side of the entrance to Belfast Lough, and Copeland Island is the largest island and closest to the mainland. Chapel Bay is on the west and mainland-facing side of this secluded island. It provides an anchorage in a spacious sandy bay.

The bay provides good protection from the west through north to east and, save from the southeast, it is moderately good from all other points. Access is straightforward in daylight at any stage of the tide although a great measure of tidal planning will be required to address the currents of Donaghadee Sound through which it is addressed.
Please note

Any trip to the Copeland Islands will require good charts and careful navigation as the waters are shoal, encumbered with rocks and the channels between are swept by rapid tides. This is particularly true of Donaghadee Sound, where streams achieve 4.5 knots in places, and great care plus tidal planning is necessary on approach and departure. In thick weather, the area should be avoided entirely.




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Keyfacts for Chapel Bay
Facilities
Marked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderQuick and easy access from open water

Considerations
Restriction: strong to overwhelming tides in the localityNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
3 metres (9.84 feet).

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.



Last modified
January 13th 2023

Summary* Restrictions apply

A good location with straightforward access.

Facilities
Marked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderQuick and easy access from open water

Considerations
Restriction: strong to overwhelming tides in the localityNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration



Position and approaches
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Haven position

54° 40.310' N, 005° 32.340' W

This is west-of-centre Chapel Bay where the anchoring position is marked on Admiralty Chart 1753.

What is the initial fix?

The following Chapel Bay Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
54° 39.990' N, 005° 32.340' W
This is just under half a mile south of the anchoring location. It is set upon the 5 metre contour, approximately midway between the anchoring position and the Foreland Red Can Buoy Fl R 6s.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in the northeast Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Malin Head to Strangford Lough Route location and the Donaghadee Sound Route location for local tidal optimisations. Track in from the south keeping clear of the west arm of Chapel Bay which has the very dangerous awash Rid Rock at its southern extremity.


Not what you need?
Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Below are the ten nearest havens to Chapel Bay for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Port Dandy - 0.3 nautical miles NW
  2. Donaghadee Harbour - 1.6 nautical miles S
  3. Copelands Marina - 1.9 nautical miles S
  4. Groomsport - 2.7 nautical miles W
  5. Ballyholme Bay - 3.9 nautical miles W
  6. Bangor Harbour & Marina - 4.7 nautical miles W
  7. Helen’s Bay - 6.8 nautical miles W
  8. Whitehead - 7.5 nautical miles NW
  9. Ballywalter - 8.4 nautical miles SSE
  10. Cultra - 9.7 nautical miles W
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Port Dandy - 0.3 miles NW
  2. Donaghadee Harbour - 1.6 miles S
  3. Copelands Marina - 1.9 miles S
  4. Groomsport - 2.7 miles W
  5. Ballyholme Bay - 3.9 miles W
  6. Bangor Harbour & Marina - 4.7 miles W
  7. Helen’s Bay - 6.8 miles W
  8. Whitehead - 7.5 miles NW
  9. Ballywalter - 8.4 miles SSE
  10. Cultra - 9.7 miles W
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

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Chart
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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What's the story here?


Copeland Island is by far the largest of the group of three islands, Lighthouse Island and Mew Island being the others, that mark the southern entrance to Belfast Lough. It is nearly 1 mile long, a ⅓ of a mile wide and it is low only rising to a modest 31 metres at its highest point. It forms the eastern side of Donaghadee Sound in which Chapel Bay is situated facing the mainland on its southern side. The island is privately owned, with residents who come to stay during the summertime. Tourist boats bring visitors from Donaghadee in summer who land at the jetty in the bay.

Chapel Bay is an open spacious bay it offers a good anchorage in a remote bay. But those without permission to visit the island must stay below the high water mark on the beach. Copeland Island is owned by Alan and Ryan McCulla and access to the island beyond is only by direct permission from the owners.


How to get in?
Copeland Island as seen from Donaghadee Harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Use the details available in the northeast Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Malin Head to Strangford Lough Route location for local approaches and the Donaghadee Sound Route location for local tidal optimisations. The principal danger for a vessel approaching Chapel Bay is the very dangerous awash Rid Rock a detached termination of a reef running south from the west arm of Chapel Bay.


Copeland Island as seen from the west with Carn Point (right)
Image: Drone across Ireland in 4k External link


The bay is formed by a drying area that extends a ¼ of a mile southward from Copeland Island's southwesternmost point. This terminates at the continually exposed 1 metre-high islet of Carn Point. Foul ground then extends a further 200 metres south by southeastward from Carn Point to the dangerous Rid Rock.

Rid Rock - Awash detached rock position: 54° 40.130' N 005° 32.590' W

Therefore it is essential that any vessel approaching from the north, or the adjacent Port Dandy, do not cut into Chapel Bay. Particularly so during the southeast-going stream that sets on to Rid Rock. Rid Rock is positioned almost due west of the southeastern extreme of Copeland Island. So when it is on a bearing of 85°, or less, it is safe to alter course and proceed along that line as it leads southward of Rid Rock.

The simpler option is to drop south into Donaghadee Sound, then round south around Rid Rock before approaching Chapel Bay from the south. Vessels approaching Donaghadee Sound from the north are best advised to take the shipping channel through the middle of the sound by aligning on the Foreland Buoy. Chapel Bay will then gradually open on the port side to the north. From the initial fix the bay is a ½ mile directly north.


Initial fix location From the Chapel Bay Initial Fix track north into the bay. Be cautious not to drift west over to Rid Rock and the foul ground that dries at low water and extends southward to Carn Point.


Church Bay with the jetty
Image: Drone across Ireland in 4k External link


Haven location Anchor according to draft and conditions over sand with some mud which provides good holding. Just be careful there is a rock less than 100 metres off the jetty at the head of the bay, just where you think it would be a perfect place to anchor. The bay is also fringed by other hazardous rocks close to the shore so it is best to keep out.

The jetty should be avoided as this is for a tourist boat from Donaghadee. The very good sandy beach at Chapel Bay makes it easy to combine the anchorage with a visit to this unique island. However, the island is privately owned so ask for permission to explore. Likewise, keep away from the main settlement areas, as island folk value privacy.


Why visit here?
The Copeland Islands group are a cluster of three islands that are called respectively Copeland, Lighthouse and Mew islands. The origin of the group’s name is a little uncertain. Many believe the group derive their name from ancient Norse 'kaupmanna' meaning 'merchant'.

The old graveyard on Copeland Island
Image: Aubery Dale via CC BY SA 2.0
'Kaupmannaeyjar' is derived from attaching 'eyjar' the plural form of 'ey', Norse for 'island', making it 'Merchant’s Isle'. Over time this name was anglicised to 'Copman' and altered in usage to the present Copeland. This led to the suggestion that the Copeland Islands were at one time used as a Viking base and trading centre. Others believe that the island group received their name from the conquering Anglo-Norman de Coupland family. John de Courcy lead the northwestern invasion of Ireland, and William with his brother Henry de Couplan was among his most prominent Ulster subtenants in the late 12th century. Named Willelmo and Henrico de Couplan, they acted as witnesses for two de Courcy charters, including one for the priory of St. Andrew in Ards or Black Abbey. It is believed that the de Courcy seat was the Motte that overlooks the harbour at Donaghadee and the islands.


Lighthouse and Mew islands
Image: © Marek Soltysiak External link


The anchorage of Chapel Bay derives its name from the ruins of a church that can be found immediately inshore from the landing beach. Its adjacent burial ground is very old with inscriptions on headstones dating back to at least 1742. Back then Copeland Island hosted a thriving community that took great pride in the island’s appearance and unique community culture. In the early part of the 19th century, the island population was almost one hundred with a school that had 28 pupils. This was, however, its peak from which it gradually declined during the first half of the 20th century.


The islands are dangerously low lying and claimed many victims
Image: Bobby McKay via CC BY 2.0


The last two families regretfully moved ashore in 1946 and finally, the last islanders, Frederick and Aise Clegg, departed for the mainland in 1953. Just over a decade later they returned one final time to be buried in the island graveyard. Today the island’s seven neat farmhouses are weekend and holiday homes that are usually only visited during the summer.


Depiction of a slaver of the period unloading slaves in the Caribbean
Image: Florida Keys Public Libraries


Although the islands may be quiet and secluded this could not be said of their surrounding waters. Situated as they are in the fast-running tides of the North Channel the island group have been responsible for many shipwrecks. For here the North Channel conflicts with tides swirling around the Lough plus those that wrap around the island group. The resultant Ramharry Race which is derived from the Norse for 'rough and strong' entirely lives up to its name. Add to that, the island group channels that are beset with dangers swept by their rapid currents, and a dangerous environment is created for vessels approaching Belfast Lough.


Cross section of slave ship 1830
Image: Public Domain


A spectacular wreck of the slave ship Enterprise went down close to the notorious Ramharry Rock in January 1803, on the eastern side of Mew Island. Enterprise was a slaver working the Atlantic triangle having made 9 voyages 1791 – 1803 purchasing slaves in Bight of Biafra and West Central Africa and selling them on in Grenada, Jamaica, the Danish West Indies and Cuba. The vessel was extremely efficient, as a surviving account book for the 1794 voyage showed it made a profit margin of 44% in 1794, far higher than the average 8 - 10% expected for British slave ships. Average slave mortality was 1 - 4% per voyage, which might have been expected to be higher. Indeed crew mortality rate was much higher than that of the slaves.


The low-lying and very dangerous Mew Island
Image: Albert Bridge via CC BY-SA 2.0


She was homeward-bound by way of the coast of Guinea, the Caribbean and New England when she struck off of Mew Island. Aboard at the time was a rich cargo and ill-gotten proceeds of the slave trade in the form of silver dollars worth over £40,000. The ship was completely wrecked eleven of the crew members drowned leaving only two. The final two then died of exposure which included an African crew member. It is said instead of immediately seeking to save themselves, the crew attacked a container on the deck with axes for the silver dollars. The weight of this booty caused them all to drown. The entire cargo lay buried in the sea until 1833. Then a man who would achieve fame as an inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, employing an innovative diving apparatus succeeded in recovering about £25,000 of the dollars, five brass guns, and other valuable properties.


The old derelict tower on Lighthouse Island
Image: Albert Bridge via CC BY-SA 2.0


The wreck of the Enterprise occurred before the new lighthouse was built and first lit on Mew Island on 1st November 1884, but may have been a key contributing factor to its construction. Prior to that, Lighthouse Island hosted the lighthouse and hence its name. This original structure dates back to 1711 and the ruined stump of the 16-metre stone tower remains to be seen on the island today. Because Lighthouse Island was the higher of the two outer islands the maritime engineers of the time considered it to be the natural placement point for a lighthouse structure. However, in practice, this was a disastrous decision that had to be abandoned. This is because the highly visible light on Lighthouse Island concentrated attention on the higher island only causing the low-lying Mew Island to be entirely overlooked. So many wrecks resulted that the lighthouse had to be deactivated and moved out to Mew Island.


The present day lighthouse on Mew Island
Image: Rossographer via CC BY SA 2.0


Today there is less drama on the islands and their modern reputation is derived largely from their wildlife. The group are an internationally important site for breeding populations of Manx Shearwater, Eider Duck and Arctic Tern. They are also nationally important sites for breeding Mediterranean Gull, Common Gull and Eider. Other breeding colonies of note include Black Guillemot, Water Rail Lapwing, Snipe and Stock Dove. Birds of prey favour the islands when the breeding season is over. Hen Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Merlin and Peregrine Falcon are all seen regularly.


Seasonal hut on Copeland Island
Image: Gordon Hull via CC BY SA 2.0


Copeland Island has the most diverse range of habitats of the three islands. It offers a cliff shoreline, with maritime cliff vegetation, pockets of salt marsh and wet grassland with frequent areas of marsh. As such it makes it ideal for a wide range of birdlife and in particular, it hosts an internationally important Arctic Tern colony, with some 550 pairs. The site now represents the largest colony of this species in Ireland. Significant numbers of Grey Seals and Common Seals can also be found on the shorelines of the islands. They make use of the reefs and off-shore islands as haul-outs plus pupping and mating sites.

Donaghadee Harbour boat bringing visitors to Chapel Bay
Image: Albert Bridge via CC BY-SA 2.0


From a boating point of view, Chapel Bay is a very useful anchorage on the southern entrance to Belfast Lough. It provides easy access and perfect shelter in a northerly round to easterly conditions where there are few other local options. Donaghadee Harbour would be untenable, Copelands Marina inaccessible and the outer anchorages of Belfast Lough would also be exposed in these conditions. It also offers a useful tide wait anchorage off Donaghadee Sound, the popular cut between the group and the mainland. For those heading along the coast or up towards the North Channel without losing the time it takes to set down in a harbour or marina or indeed take a detour into Belfast Lough.


What facilities are available?
There are no facilities available off this secluded island.


Any security concerns?
Never an incident known to have happened to a vessel in Chapel Bay.


With thanks to:
Michael Fitzsimons, Groomsport Harbour Master.







Aerial views of Donaghadee Sound and Copeland Island


About Chapel Bay

The Copeland Islands group are a cluster of three islands that are called respectively Copeland, Lighthouse and Mew islands. The origin of the group’s name is a little uncertain. Many believe the group derive their name from ancient Norse 'kaupmanna' meaning 'merchant'.

The old graveyard on Copeland Island
Image: Aubery Dale via CC BY SA 2.0
'Kaupmannaeyjar' is derived from attaching 'eyjar' the plural form of 'ey', Norse for 'island', making it 'Merchant’s Isle'. Over time this name was anglicised to 'Copman' and altered in usage to the present Copeland. This led to the suggestion that the Copeland Islands were at one time used as a Viking base and trading centre. Others believe that the island group received their name from the conquering Anglo-Norman de Coupland family. John de Courcy lead the northwestern invasion of Ireland, and William with his brother Henry de Couplan was among his most prominent Ulster subtenants in the late 12th century. Named Willelmo and Henrico de Couplan, they acted as witnesses for two de Courcy charters, including one for the priory of St. Andrew in Ards or Black Abbey. It is believed that the de Courcy seat was the Motte that overlooks the harbour at Donaghadee and the islands.


Lighthouse and Mew islands
Image: © Marek Soltysiak External link


The anchorage of Chapel Bay derives its name from the ruins of a church that can be found immediately inshore from the landing beach. Its adjacent burial ground is very old with inscriptions on headstones dating back to at least 1742. Back then Copeland Island hosted a thriving community that took great pride in the island’s appearance and unique community culture. In the early part of the 19th century, the island population was almost one hundred with a school that had 28 pupils. This was, however, its peak from which it gradually declined during the first half of the 20th century.


The islands are dangerously low lying and claimed many victims
Image: Bobby McKay via CC BY 2.0


The last two families regretfully moved ashore in 1946 and finally, the last islanders, Frederick and Aise Clegg, departed for the mainland in 1953. Just over a decade later they returned one final time to be buried in the island graveyard. Today the island’s seven neat farmhouses are weekend and holiday homes that are usually only visited during the summer.


Depiction of a slaver of the period unloading slaves in the Caribbean
Image: Florida Keys Public Libraries


Although the islands may be quiet and secluded this could not be said of their surrounding waters. Situated as they are in the fast-running tides of the North Channel the island group have been responsible for many shipwrecks. For here the North Channel conflicts with tides swirling around the Lough plus those that wrap around the island group. The resultant Ramharry Race which is derived from the Norse for 'rough and strong' entirely lives up to its name. Add to that, the island group channels that are beset with dangers swept by their rapid currents, and a dangerous environment is created for vessels approaching Belfast Lough.


Cross section of slave ship 1830
Image: Public Domain


A spectacular wreck of the slave ship Enterprise went down close to the notorious Ramharry Rock in January 1803, on the eastern side of Mew Island. Enterprise was a slaver working the Atlantic triangle having made 9 voyages 1791 – 1803 purchasing slaves in Bight of Biafra and West Central Africa and selling them on in Grenada, Jamaica, the Danish West Indies and Cuba. The vessel was extremely efficient, as a surviving account book for the 1794 voyage showed it made a profit margin of 44% in 1794, far higher than the average 8 - 10% expected for British slave ships. Average slave mortality was 1 - 4% per voyage, which might have been expected to be higher. Indeed crew mortality rate was much higher than that of the slaves.


The low-lying and very dangerous Mew Island
Image: Albert Bridge via CC BY-SA 2.0


She was homeward-bound by way of the coast of Guinea, the Caribbean and New England when she struck off of Mew Island. Aboard at the time was a rich cargo and ill-gotten proceeds of the slave trade in the form of silver dollars worth over £40,000. The ship was completely wrecked eleven of the crew members drowned leaving only two. The final two then died of exposure which included an African crew member. It is said instead of immediately seeking to save themselves, the crew attacked a container on the deck with axes for the silver dollars. The weight of this booty caused them all to drown. The entire cargo lay buried in the sea until 1833. Then a man who would achieve fame as an inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, employing an innovative diving apparatus succeeded in recovering about £25,000 of the dollars, five brass guns, and other valuable properties.


The old derelict tower on Lighthouse Island
Image: Albert Bridge via CC BY-SA 2.0


The wreck of the Enterprise occurred before the new lighthouse was built and first lit on Mew Island on 1st November 1884, but may have been a key contributing factor to its construction. Prior to that, Lighthouse Island hosted the lighthouse and hence its name. This original structure dates back to 1711 and the ruined stump of the 16-metre stone tower remains to be seen on the island today. Because Lighthouse Island was the higher of the two outer islands the maritime engineers of the time considered it to be the natural placement point for a lighthouse structure. However, in practice, this was a disastrous decision that had to be abandoned. This is because the highly visible light on Lighthouse Island concentrated attention on the higher island only causing the low-lying Mew Island to be entirely overlooked. So many wrecks resulted that the lighthouse had to be deactivated and moved out to Mew Island.


The present day lighthouse on Mew Island
Image: Rossographer via CC BY SA 2.0


Today there is less drama on the islands and their modern reputation is derived largely from their wildlife. The group are an internationally important site for breeding populations of Manx Shearwater, Eider Duck and Arctic Tern. They are also nationally important sites for breeding Mediterranean Gull, Common Gull and Eider. Other breeding colonies of note include Black Guillemot, Water Rail Lapwing, Snipe and Stock Dove. Birds of prey favour the islands when the breeding season is over. Hen Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Merlin and Peregrine Falcon are all seen regularly.


Seasonal hut on Copeland Island
Image: Gordon Hull via CC BY SA 2.0


Copeland Island has the most diverse range of habitats of the three islands. It offers a cliff shoreline, with maritime cliff vegetation, pockets of salt marsh and wet grassland with frequent areas of marsh. As such it makes it ideal for a wide range of birdlife and in particular, it hosts an internationally important Arctic Tern colony, with some 550 pairs. The site now represents the largest colony of this species in Ireland. Significant numbers of Grey Seals and Common Seals can also be found on the shorelines of the islands. They make use of the reefs and off-shore islands as haul-outs plus pupping and mating sites.

Donaghadee Harbour boat bringing visitors to Chapel Bay
Image: Albert Bridge via CC BY-SA 2.0


From a boating point of view, Chapel Bay is a very useful anchorage on the southern entrance to Belfast Lough. It provides easy access and perfect shelter in a northerly round to easterly conditions where there are few other local options. Donaghadee Harbour would be untenable, Copelands Marina inaccessible and the outer anchorages of Belfast Lough would also be exposed in these conditions. It also offers a useful tide wait anchorage off Donaghadee Sound, the popular cut between the group and the mainland. For those heading along the coast or up towards the North Channel without losing the time it takes to set down in a harbour or marina or indeed take a detour into Belfast Lough.

Other options in this area


Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Alternatively here are the ten nearest havens available in picture view:
Coastal clockwise:
Donaghadee Harbour - 1 miles S
Copelands Marina - 1.2 miles S
Ballywalter - 5.2 miles SSE
Ballyhalbert Bay - 7 miles SSE
Portavogie Harbour - 8.3 miles SSE
Coastal anti-clockwise:
Port Dandy - 0.2 miles NW
Groomsport - 1.7 miles W
Ballyholme Bay - 2.4 miles W
Bangor Harbour & Marina - 2.9 miles W
Helen’s Bay - 4.2 miles W

Navigational pictures


These additional images feature in the 'How to get in' section of our detailed view for Chapel Bay.


































Aerial views of Donaghadee Sound and Copeland Island



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