This is a good anchorage that is particularly well sheltered from westerly winds. However, it is somewhat exposed to strong northeasterly or south easterly winds where it may be a little uncomfortable. The enclosed stretch of water provides shelter sailing in all weather, all tides and has ample marks to make daylight navigation straightforward.
Keyfacts for White Rock Bay
SummaryA good location with attentive navigation required for access.
Position and approaches
Haven position54° 29.000' N, 005° 38.780' W
The position of the Strangford Lough Yacht Club pontoon.
What are the initial fixes?The following waypoints will set up a final approach:
(i) Dead Man’s Rock Initial Fix.
54° 28.980' N, 005° 36.200' W
This is set on the Lough’s main fairway, adjacent to Track H for those using Admiralty Chart 2156 ‘Strangford Lough’, and is quarter of a mile to the northeast of Dead Man’s Rock. It sets up an eastern approach to pass to the east then north of Dead Man's Rock, then north of Inisharoan and Trasnagh Islands until White Rock Bay opens between Sketrick and Trasnagh Islands.
(ii) Parton Island Initial Fix.
54° 28.148' N, 005° 37.500' W
This is situated in the deep water channel between Darragh Island and Parton Island setting up a Ringhaddy Sound approach that passes between these islands. When past Darragh Island and Parton Island the line of bearing 345°(T) off the eastern side of Sketrick Island should be adopted. This leads north by north west, passing Conly Island on the way to the anchorage.
What are the key points of the approach?
Not what you need?
- Ballydorn and Down Cruising Club - 0.3 miles NNW
- Ringhaddy Sound - 1.3 miles SSE
- Pawle Island - 1.6 miles SSE
- Simmy Island - 2.2 miles S
- Kircubbin - 2.3 miles E
- East Down Yacht Club - 2.6 miles S
- Don O’Neill Island - 2.8 miles SSE
- Holm Bay - 2.8 miles S
- Killyleagh - 3.2 miles S
- Between Jackdaw & Chapel Island - 3.8 miles SSE
How to get in?
Tucked in behind Trasnagh Island, on the west side of the lough White Rock Bay with its quiet village of Whiterock offers another berthing destination on this beautiful Lough. It is home to the largest sailing club in the Lough Strangford Lough Yacht Club.
Details of the approaches, tidal timings and the run up the Narrows to about a ½ below Strangford are covered in the Entering and exiting the Strangford Narrows route description.
After passing through the Narrows proceed up the deep water fairway on the Lough’s eastern side, Track E, F and H for those using Admiralty Chart 2156 ‘Strangford Lough’, to the Dead Man’s Rock Initial Fix. This is located a quarter of a mile to the northeast of Dead Man’s Rock which is marked by a perch.
Keep the perch on Dead Man’s Rock to port and proceed to the initial fix, then turning to the north-west pass Inisharoan and Trasnagh Islands to port, until White Rock Bay opens between Sketrick and Trasnagh Islands.
Those approaching from Ringhaddy Sound should use the Parton Island initial fix located between Darragh Island and Parton Islands. A spit extends 400 metres to the north-west of Parton Island with its extremity marked by a pole. The spit dries halfway out from the island, and a further 200 metres west of the pole there is as little as 1.2 metres of water. Deep draft vessels should favour the Darragh Island side of the channel and particularly so at low water. 2.7 metres can be found 60 metres off to Darragh Island’s north-west point.
Once Darragh and Parton Islands are astern, align a course for the eastern side of Sketrick Island, 345° (T) and a mile north by north-west, pass Conly Island to port and then Braddock Rock situated close offshore off the southern entrance of White Rock Bay. This is marked by three pole-like floats carrying cardinal markings. When the north end of Trasnagh Island is abeam, be prepared to turn to port to enter White Rock Bay.
The area to the south of Sketrick Island contains many local vessels on moorings, but there is plenty of room to anchor seaward of these. Holding is not the best on a light sandy bottom. Land at the slipway alongside the clubhouse.
There are usually visitor moorings available on the outside of the mooring area, which are yellow buoys marked 'visitors'. Seek advice from the Club Boatman with regard to using these moorings and ferrying details. It may also be possible to come alongside the pontoon jetty for a short stay. 2 metres can be found here 3 hours either side of HW.
Caution: Billy Smith’s Bay, to the south-west of White Rock Bay, has a wreck and should be avoided.
Why visit here?In this area of outstanding natural beauty, it is no surprise that the bay plays host to the lough’s largest sailing club; Strangford Lough Yacht Club. The extensive and modern club has a variety of competitive dinghy and keelboat racing events during the sailing season, typically on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. These include Rivers, Glens, Clippers, Flying Fifteens, Sonatas, Cruisers and a large dinghy fleet.
A few minutes stroll around the bay will bring a walker to the causeway that joins Sketrick Island to the mainland. Here stand the ancient ruins of Sketrick Castle. Recorded as captured in 1470, in the Annals of the Four Masters, the tower-house is estimated to date back to the 15th century. It remained largely intact until 1896 when a storm caused half its structure to collapse. As late as 1957 a stone subterranean passage was discovered beneath the walls containing a chamber with a freshwater spring. Currently, access to the inside of the castle is not allowed but it can be viewed at any time.
The renowned ‘Daft Eddy’s pub, restaurant, chandlery and sail loft, is situated near the castle on Sketrick Island’s north shore. It has a landing pontoon close to the pub that supports 1.7 metres at low water. The award-winning pub and restaurant Balloo House is just a mile away, and those wanting to go further afield will find Belfast is just a 25-minute drive from Whiterock.
Activities such as golf and horse riding can be arranged in the area, as well as the local attractions that include walks and bird watching.
What facilities are available?Mooring requests, and permission to come alongside the club pontoon, should be directed to the club boatman. A water hose is available at the pontoon jetty. The Clubhouse has a bar and restaurant that typically opens after races on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Daft Eddie's pub and restaurant has a chandlery and sail loft. In Conly Bay, immediately south of White Rock Bay, there is a privately owned boatyard with a slip that can accommodate vessels up to 25 tonnes. Some boat repairs can be catered for here.
Whiterock village, with a population of 350 people, has little to offer in terms of provisions. Fresh provisions including vegetables, fruit, butchery, dry goods, gas and petrol are available in Balloo Village 3.5 KM away. Newtownards somewhat further away has a wider selection, including laundry facilities.
Any security concerns?The Strangford Lough Yacht Club grounds are a secured area within a fenced compound. If you intend to leave your dinghy within the compound it is recommended that you first ascertain as to when the access gates are likely to be locked.
With thanks to:Brian Crawford, local Strangford Lough boatman of many decades. Photography with thanks to Albert Bridge, Oliver Dixon, Brian Shaw and Wilson Adams.
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