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Little Island

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Overview





Little Island is located on the southeast coast of Ireland thirteen miles within Waterford Harbour. Encircled by the Suir the small island offers an excellent anchorage in an idyllic rural setting but still close to the city of Waterford.

Little Island is a completely protected anchorage, and if one had to endure an extreme weather event this should be one of the area's first choices. The wide, unhindered and well-marked Waterford Harbour estuary provides straightforward access, night or day and at any stage of the tide. The helm should prepare for both strong and deflecting currents as the Suir diverges and converges around Little Island.
Please note

Tidal streams are a prime consideration within Waterford Harbour; a strong adverse current will make for slow progress, conversely, a favourable passage current will make the estuary quickly traversable.




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Keyfacts for Little Island
Facilities
Hot food available in the localityRegional or international airport within 25 kilometres


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationJetty or a structure to assist landingSailing Club baseScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Note: could be two hours or more from the main waterwaysNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
6 metres (19.69 feet).

Approaches
4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
Shelter
5 stars: Complete protection; all-round shelter in all reasonable conditions.



Last modified
April 15th 2020

Summary

A completely protected location with straightforward access.

Facilities
Hot food available in the localityRegional or international airport within 25 kilometres


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationJetty or a structure to assist landingSailing Club baseScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Note: could be two hours or more from the main waterwaysNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration



HM  +353 51 301400     HM  +353 87 2598297      Ch.14/10/13 [Waterford Port]
Position and approaches
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Haven position

52° 14.912' N, 007° 3.939' W

This is situated to the north of the mainland ferry slip and is the most charted anchorage in the Kings Channel.

What is the initial fix?

The following Little Island Western Channel Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
52° 15.430' N, 007° 3.989' W
This is a fairway turn point to avoid the Dirty Tail off the western shore and the foul ground extending off Little Island.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in southeastern Ireland’s coastal overview for Rosslare Harbour to Cork Harbour Route location. Seaward approaches, along with the run up the harbour, are covered in the Port of Waterford Click to view haven entry.


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 Little Island for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Port of Waterford - 1.1 miles WNW
  2. Cheekpoint - 1.8 miles ENE
  3. Seedes Bank - 1.8 miles E
  4. Buttermilk Point - 1.9 miles ENE
  5. Passage East - 2.1 miles E
  6. Ballyhack - 2.2 miles E
  7. Arthurstown - 2.6 miles E
  8. Duncannon - 3.1 miles ESE
  9. Creadan Head - 3.6 miles SE
  10. Dollar Bay - 4 miles ESE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Port of Waterford - 1.1 miles WNW
  2. Cheekpoint - 1.8 miles ENE
  3. Seedes Bank - 1.8 miles E
  4. Buttermilk Point - 1.9 miles ENE
  5. Passage East - 2.1 miles E
  6. Ballyhack - 2.2 miles E
  7. Arthurstown - 2.6 miles E
  8. Duncannon - 3.1 miles ESE
  9. Creadan Head - 3.6 miles SE
  10. Dollar Bay - 4 miles ESE
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?
The west end of Little Island
Image: Michael Harpur


Little Island divides the River Suir two miles west of its confluence with the Barrow and the same distance below the city of Waterford. Situated thirteen miles within Waterford Harbour, and encircled north and south by the Suir’s Queen's and King's Channel, the small 420 acres triangular island remains a delightful largely rural location.

Yacht anchored off Little Island
Image: Burke Corbett


At the islands western end, where the Queen's Channel the King’s and Queens’s channels reunite, there is a quiet and very secure anchorage out of the strongest tides with excellent mud holding in depths of 3 to 5 metres.


How to get in?
Little Island
Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Use the Port of Waterford Click to view haven for details of seaward approaches, entry to Waterford Harbour and the run up the estuary. At the east end of Little Island, the Suir divides with the Queen's Channel leading northward of the island, and King's Channel leads southward. The Queen's Channel is the best route to continue as it is well marked, has 4.8 metres in the fairway and is the preferred passage to Waterford as well as the west end of the island. The King's Channel is subject to silting on its eastern end, is unmarked and seldom used.

There is no marked channel to pass from the Queen's Channel down the west side of Little Island. Both sides are shoal out to 200 metres so this is not a place to cut corners but come to the initial fix and round up hard for the centre of the entrance.


The entrance as seen from the south
Image: Michael Harpur


Initial fix location From the initial fix turn abruptly to steer 166° T to pass close to and on the correct side of the port buoy moored mid-channel 200 metres southward. Then take a central course steering for the western tip of the island maintaining a keen eye on the sounder until the dirty tail is passed.

Haven location There are several places to anchor off the western side of the island all of which are very good. Many vessels find the most convenient anchorage is on the 3-metre plateau 300 metres south of 'Dirty Tail' marker buoy.


Yacht anchored south of the Dirty Tail
Image: Burke Corbett


This is immediately south of the shallow 'Dirty Tail' area extending from the western mainland shore midway between the mainland and island shorelines. Excellent mud holding will be found here.
Please note

The holding is so good here that it is difficult to break free when it comes to departing. Expect the anchor to come up with half of the river bed attached.



The island is linked to the mainland by a private ferry which operates across Kings Channel between Ballinakill and the island's west side. Charts typically mark the traditional anchorage off the western shore just north of this ferry crossing point and clear of local moorings.


Area where the charted anchorage is located
Image: Michael Harpur


Care should be taken when approaching this anchorage to keep well off Little Island’s extreme western point. A rocky ledge called Golden Rock dries off to a distance of 100 metres from here. Pass this danger by aligning on the mainland ferry terminal and passing close to port of the 'Dirty Tail' starboard-hand buoy keeping in depths of no less than 5 metres.


The ferry making its crossing to Little island
Image: Michael Harpur


The best and most convenient anchoring positions around Little Island are to the north of the ferry. But it is possible to continue south to find alternative anchoring positions in the King's Channel beyond the ferry although there is no further buoyage beyond this point.
Please note

Vessels continuing south should be watchful of the self-propelled, wire-guided ferry. It crosses the river frequently turning around surprisingly quickly. Never try cut in front of the ferry as it lifts its front towing cable off the bottom creating a barrier across the channel.




The cables lifted out of the water as the ferry nears the shore
Image: Michael Harpur


To the south of the ferry, the shores begin to converge narrowing the channel. Depths here are in excess of 18 metres. Immediately beyond these narrows, approximately halfway between the ferry and the island’s southern extremity, there is the dangerous and unmarked Maulus Rock. This pinnacle rock is situated 40 metres off the western mainland shore and has 0.3 metres of a metre over it nearly drying at low water. It obstructs the western third of the channel at this point leaving the distance between it and the island to be 90 metres wide, with 3.2 metres of water. The island side of a central path passes Maulus Rock to starboard.

Good anchoring points in the King’s Channel
Image: Michael Harpur


Immediately south of the Maulus Rock area, at the southwest corner of Little Island, is another possibility to anchor in 3 to 4 metres.

Continuing along the King’s Channel and rounding the southern corner presents more anchoring opportunities. Keep well off the southern extremity of the island as it is foul, drying out to 100 metres. There is a clear channel along the south side of the bight close to the edge of the mainland’s mud.

A good anchorage will be found when proceeding northeast from the corner just off the southeast corner in 3 to 5 metres of water. Likewise at about midway up the eastern side of the island opposite the Saltings.
Please note

Anchoring at other points may be unreliable especially near or on the river bends rounding the island’s southern point. Fast-moving currents scour these out, making the centre very deep with steep shelving banks on the edge that the anchor easily pulls out of.




Why visit here?
The diminutive Little Island, positioned just a couple of miles downriver of Waterford City and encircled by the River Suir, enjoys a setting of idyllic seclusion with the convenience of the city within a ten-minute drive.

Strongbow
Image: Public Domain
It was the seclusion that attracted the islands first known settlers who were Monks. A Monastic settlement existed on the island sometime between the 6th and 8th-Centuries and the discovery of two island artefacts bear witness to their presence. The earliest of these was a crude 6th-century carving of a Monk's head that is now prominently displayed over the main entrance to the island’s 15th-Century castle. The latter was a winged angel that dates back to the 8th-Century. By then, due to the strategic importance of the island, the monastic settlement was increasingly being attacked which forced the monks to abandon the site.

It was then taken over by the Vikings who held the island between the 9th and 11th-Centuries. During this time it was referred to as Dane’s Island or Island Vryk. They built two fortifications upon the islands northern and the southern extremes, to guard the river approaches to Waterford. There is, however, no remaining traces of either of these forts today.

In 1170 the Norman invasion of Ireland commenced in earnest with the main landings happening within a few miles of Little Island. The Earl of Pembroke, Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow, lead the conquest with Raymond FitzGerald nicknamed Le Gros second in command. Advancing from Strongbow’s landing position of Passage East, he quickly conquered Waterford City, subsequently Leinster, and then all of the country.

Maurice FitzGerald
Image: Public Domain
Maurice FitzGerald (circa 1105 – September 1177), Strongbow’s cousin and the uncle of Le Gros, was the leader of the first Bannow Bay landings, a year earlier in 1169, and was a major figure in the Norman invasion of Ireland. Strongbow rewarded his efforts by making him potentate over large tracts of Munster and Leinster. But he also had a specific interest in the diminutive Little Island. It is believed that during a pitched battle that took place in the early stages of the invasion, the Danish Osserman of Waterford took FitzGerald prisoner and held him on Little Island. It was only for a short time and FitzGerald was quickly rescued by his son-in-law enabling him to re-join the victorious Norman army. So Little Island was included in his award and after the country was secured Maurice FitzGerald decided to make it his home. Thus commenced one of the longest unbroken stewardship in Irish records with the FitzGerald descendants remaining on the island, generation after generation, for eight centuries.

The first structure he built on the island was a Norman Keep. This was a tower-like stone structure with thick walls, narrow slit windows and a lead roof. At that time the 'Keep' would have been the virtually impregnable core of any defensive battle. However, by the 15th-Century, the original 'Keep' had fallen into such condition as not to be habitable. A new tower, small in size, and the centre part of the present castle was then constructed on the site of the old keep. It was this period, the 15th and 16th centuries, that was to mark the seminal moment for the FitzGerald family. During this period they were the Kings of Ireland in all but name and the newly constructed Little Island tower would have hosted many feasts and banquets with the faith of the nation being decided within its walls.


Waterford Castle today
Image: Michael Harpur


Over the years this tower was gradually expanded to be the Waterford castle that can be seen today. Firstly in 1849 by John Fitzgerald and subsequently in 1875 and 1895 when the east and west wings were added. Built entirely out of stone, these additions are now almost indistinguishable from the older structure. Up until the present century the castle retained its original arrow-slit windows, giving a fortress-like exterior but a rather dark uncomfortable interior. The Island and castle remained in the FitzGerald name until 1958.


Local mooring adjacent to the traditional anchoring area
Image: Michael Harpur


Then the Igo Family of Rhodesia bought the property and installed a five-acre horticultural glasshouse complex from which they produced fruits and flowers. A chain-link ferry was set up between the island and the mainland around this time. In 1978 a local pedigree dairy farmer rented the land and later bought the Island. Finally, in 1988, it started its current role as the small luxury hotel 'Waterford Castle', and the island became its grounds. The grounds have since been converted into a golf course.


Yacht anchored south of the Dirty Tail
Image: Burke Corbett


Today Little Island continues to be a rural idyll with a castle, its grounds and a golf course contained within its 170 hectares. Access to the island is via the self-propelled wire-guided private car ferry, installed in 2008, that crosses the King's Channel between Ballinakill and the island’s west side. This ferry crosses every 10 minutes and the journey only takes a few minutes. On the opposite side a winding tree-lined driveway leads up to the grounds of the castle that remains completely obscured by trees until the end of the driveway is reached. Then it majestically appears behind the tree line on the north side of the island overlooking the Queen’s Channel.


Dawn arrives at Little Island's placid anchorage
Image: Burke Corbett


The small island is easily discovered by foot and it offers plenty of flora and fauna. It is considered a significant site for bird watchers with Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Wigeons, Greenshanks, Common Sandpipers and common waders, Kingfishers and Jays in abundance. Domestic pheasants also live on the island and wildlife such as badgers, deer and the odd hare will also be encountered by walkers.


Dawn as seen the anchorage at Little Island
Image: Burke Corbett


From a boating perspective, this is truly a lovely secluded anchorage in a natural setting. All around are fine views of the course of the Suir, and the adjacent counties of Kilkenny and Wexford, terminated by the lofty and picturesque mountains of the Comeragh Mountains and Slieve Coillte. It is both away from the hustle and bustle of Waterford city and yet, being only a couple of miles downstream, the city easily accessible for a quick jaunt for lunch or resources. Tucked into this side-channel upriver there is nothing to disturb a vessel and there is little or no fetch. It is also completely protected from the elements and an excellent place to take shelter in a period of heavy weather. There are talks of a 250 berth marina being built in this location which may disturb the great natural beauty of the place.


What facilities are available?
There are no facilities at Little island. There is a very pricy restaurant in the area. Almost everything else will be found in Waterford City about 10 minutes by car.


Any security concerns?
You are most likely to be completely alone at this beach and away from any interference.


With thanks to:
Burke Corbett, Gusserane, New Ross, Co. Wexford. Photos with thanks to Michael Harpur, Burke Corbett, Albert Bridge and Kapustowicz.




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