The enclosed harbour provides good protection from all directions except from the northwest. Although tidal, with an approach that dries half a mile out from the harbour’s entrance, daylight access is made straightforward by a well-marked channel leading to the harbour entrance. A night entry is possible, but inadvisable for newcomers.
Keyfacts for Ryde Harbour
Summary* Restrictions applyA good location with straightforward access.
Position and approaches
Haven position50° 43.993' N, 001° 9.283' W
This is the outer or port side of the entrance that exhibits a light by night 2 FR (vert) 7m 1M
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
The Solent and Isle of Wight coastal overview. Vessels converging on the entrance will find nothing in the way of local hazards by staying in reasonable soundings and following the marks.
Not what you need?
- Ryde Roads - 1.2 nautical miles WNW
- Seaview - 2 nautical miles ESE
- Wootton Creek (Fishbourne) - 2.3 nautical miles W
- Stokes Bay - 2.8 nautical miles N
- Priory Bay - 2.8 nautical miles ESE
- St Helens Duver - 3 nautical miles ESE
- Bembridge Harbour - 3.1 nautical miles SE
- Haslar Marina - 3.8 nautical miles NNE
- Osborne Bay - 4.1 nautical miles WNW
- Gunwharf Quays Marina - 4.1 nautical miles NNE
How to get in?
Ryde is a seaside town on northeast coast of the Isle of Wight and is the island’s largest urban area. The conspicuous Ryde Pier, fronting the town and extending nearly a ½ mile to seaward, is the terminus of a High Speed passenger ferry to Portsmouth, and a hovercraft terminal is situated at the foot of the pier's eastern side. Ryde Harbour is situated on the seafront further east of the hovercraft terminal beyond a leisure complex development area. It is predominantly a leisure harbour with berths for 150 vessels including 70 visitors.
The harbour dries to about 2.3 metres and is more ideally suited to smaller vessels that can take to the hard. A yacht carrying a draft of 1 metre should find the harbour accessible from approximately 2½ hours before to 2 hours after high water. Vessels drawing up to 1.5 metres can come in on a neap tide and marginally deeper draft will need to work Spring tides. The harbour approach channel also dries out a ½ mile from the harbour's entrance.
It is advisable to contact the berthing master in advance of any intended stay as the harbour can get busy and especially so on a fine summer’s weekend. Staff are usually available 24 hours a day during the season and can be contacted on P: +44 1983 613879 | M: +447970 009899 | VHF Ch 80 call sign [Ryde Harbour].
Ryde Pier, with its three sets of lights, 2FR (vert) and FY fog, serves to make the harbour vicinity apparent from a great distance. The primary hazard for all vessels approaching Ryde Harbour, or indeed this part of the island, is the great expanse of Ryde Sand that has left many leisure craft standing.
Ryde Sand extends out more than a mile from the northeast corner of the island and dries to 2 metres. The most dangerous part of Ryde Sand is its northern edge. This arches out between Ryde Pier and the ‘Ryde Sands’ red port beacon, Fl.R.10s, that marks its northeast point. This section is very steep-to and must be approached with great caution. To the southeast of this beacon, around to Nettlestone Point, the sands are more irregular and shoal more gently. A careful watch on the sounder whilst keeping outside the 2 metres contour should see a vessel clear of the dangers in this part.
Vessels converging from the east should pass to the north of No Man's Land Fort or use the small boat channel between the fort and Ryde Sands. Vessels converging from the west should stand well off the head of Ryde Pier so as not to hamper the high-speed ferry service. In all cases keep at least 200 metres outside the Red Piles of Ryde Sand at all times.
The initial fix is set in deep water on a bearing of 200° T of Ryde Holy Trinity Church spire. Holy Trinity Church’s spire, the left of the town’s two most prominent church spires, provides an initial point of approach to the navigational buoys that lead across the sand to the harbour entrance.
The channel dries at low water to 1.5 metres and it is marked by 3 starboard hand and 3 port hand unlit navigational buoys. The marks describe a course of 197° T, or 202° M, to the harbour entrance. The helmsman should maintain a careful watch for cross currents at near high water, when Ryde Sands is well covered, as the streams run almost uninterrupted over the shallows and are very strong.
It is important to be aware that the buoyed channel over Ryde Sand is no way dredged or deeper. The sole purpose of the channel is to confine the harbour’s traffic into a ‘safe water’ path of access that is clear of the fast moving Ryde to Portsmouth hovercraft service. Outside of this the hovercrafts, operating from their terminal at the foot of Ryde Pier, have absolute right of way. Vessels should stay in the channel at all times to avoid an unwanted encounter with the hovercrafts.
From the first buoys of the channel, the entrance is a distance of about a ½ mile. Although the town and pier are readily obvious the small harbour itself is difficult to distinguish on approaches. The harbour lies 400 metres east of the foot of Ryde Pier. It is protected east round to north by the arm of a substantial breakwater and on the west by a seafront development that features two large leisure complexes. The conspicuous large modern ice rink building immediately west of the entrance helps to position the harbour’s entrance that opens to the northwest.
The entrance exhibits lights at night, two fixed red lights (vertical) on the port side of the entrance and 2 FR (vert) 7m 1M, and one flashing green light on the head of the breakwater on the starboard side Fl.G.3s 7m1M. There are 6 metre high metal masts at each side of its entrance and the starboard-hand breakwater has a tide gauge. Turn into port as soon as the port-hand breakwater is abeam.
Berth as directed by the harbourmaster. The harbour shallows away from the entrance. Vessels that can take to the ground usually berth along the easterly most 'A' pontoon.
Long and fin keel yachts can dry out on a flat sandy bottom against the wooden piles fixed to the inner breakwater. The piling is more closely spaced near the ladders and the harbour provides fender boards.
Why visit here?Ryde occupies the site of a fishing village called La Rye or La Riche, and was first recorded in 1257 ‘La Ride’. It derives its name from the Old English word ‘ryde’, or ’rithe’, which means a small stream.
Human inhabitation of this area dates back to the Neolithic period. Archaeological finds in the area include a late Bronze Age urnfield, used for the cremation and interment of ashes, and a hoard of 12 Bronze Age palstaves, a type of axe, was found here. Shards of Roman or Iron Age pottery have also been uncovered indicating that it may have been the site of a Roman cemetery. The Norman lords who occupied the Island at the time knew it as La Rye or La Riche.
Image: Public Domain
In 1574 a packway, or track, was built to move goods from the shore of what was then called Lower Ryde, at the bottom of the hill and by the sea, up the hill to a small farming community, situated on the brow of the hill, called Upper Ryde. Upper Ryde was then a typical medieval open field system with farmsteads which were being divided and enclosed. In the following century boats known as Ryde Wherries, moderately sized passenger and cargo boats with a long overhanging bow, were providing a fairly regular service between Ryde and Portsmouth. Later a road was built directly from the shore to the village green of the developing hamlet of Upper Ryde creating what is today St Thomas’s Street. In 1656 the population of both Upper and Lower Ryde was calculated to be about 220.
By the late 18th-century Lower and Upper Ryde, which had essentially been two separate small medieval communities, had come together and were united in 1780 in which would later be called Union Street to mark the 1800 ‘Act of Union’. By then the sprawling fishing village of Ryde was slowly transforming into a fashionable resort that was being developed with many fine houses by local landowners William and Jane Player. It was noted in 1791 that Ryde had ‘a number of pretty houses about this place, which are inhabited in the summer season by very respectable families’. These early patrons raised the town’s social standing and it began to attract wealthy visitors in the early part of the 19th-century. It was Ryde’s convenient position to the mainland that was the primary reason for its development.
In 1796, the large sailing vessel Packet was introduced to provide a daily return trip and, by 1811, two return journeys were available. The establishment of Yelf’s Hotel in the same year began the commercial life of Union Street. Travellers were at first dependent on the tides to leave the Island and so many of the new buildings in the early development of the town were the various inns and pubs, which provided a waiting place for visitors and traders. But this tidal constraint was far from ideal because, at low water, Ryde’s gently shelving beach left a wide expanse of mud. This forced vessels to anchor a half a mile offshore and passengers were brought in a rowboat, from which they were then dragged through the muds before being transferred by horse and cart. The procedure most famously described by Fielding, in 1754… I was at last hoisted into a small boat and being rowed pretty near the shore, was taken up by two sailors, who waded me through the mud and placed me on the land’. This came to an end when Ryde’s extensive pier was opened in the summer of 1814.
Image: Michael Harpur
The pier was 527 metres long and was, and still is, a timber-planked promenade. A lengthening of the structure in 1824 and 1833 enabled it to be used at all states of the tide. The extensive new pier allowed travellers to come ashore in safety and comfort and when it opened Ryde acquired its name as the ‘Gateway to the Isle of Wight’. Finally, the last major constraint to the further development of the town was overcome. From this moment on the town expanded rapidly and it has been estimated that 300 houses were built between 1811 and 1831; between 1827 and 1832 the Town Hall, St Thomas’s Church and Brigstocke Terrace were all built. In 1825 steamboats replaced the wherries on the Portsmouth to Ryde service. The population of Ryde mirrors these developments, in 1795 it was 600, in 1811 - 1600, and in 1851 - 7147.
Image: Lewis Clark via CC BY SA 2.0
By then the Isle of Wight had become increasingly popular as a place to visit largely thanks to the patronage of Queen Victoria. The royal family’s 1845 purchase and move to Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s and Prince Albert’s coastal retreat at East Cowes, promoted further Victorian development, including an array of villas and gardens at Ryde. Ryde’s popularity and prestige was particularly heightened by its proximity to Osborne House and Prince Albert even laid the foundation stone of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club in Ryde in 1846 (now the Prince Consort). After Prince Albert’s death in 1861 Queen Victoria retreated to Osborne House but she was still a frequent visitor to the town, Queens Road being named for her.
Image: Public Domain
For the new Isle Of Wight lines had the unintended consequence of enabling visitors to quickly and conveniently leave Ryde and travel to other Island resorts on the railway network. Most notably Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor, which was the first town to be developed purely as a holiday resort from about 1830, all started to flourish. All of the isle’s other newly developing main resorts had much better beaches than Ryde.
House and Town Hall
Image: Michael Harpur
During the 20th-century tourism continued to be of major economic importance, although declining somewhat towards the end of the century. After the Second World War large numbers of summer holidaymakers arrived on day trips or dispersed to other resorts throughout the Island. However, as the popularity of the car increased, Ryde, which did not have facilities for the unloading and loading of vehicles, saw visitor numbers decline. Likewise, as foreign holidays became popular in the 1970s, tourism decreased further.
Image: Michael Harpur
Today Ryde remains a popular resort and with a population of approximately 30,000, it is also the Island’s largest town. Evidence of Ryde’s once grand status can still be seen in its elegant Victorian housing, seafront Esplanade, promenade, pier and entertainment facilities. Ryde Pier is a listed structure, and the fourth longest pier in the United Kingdom, as well as the oldest.
Image: Ronald Saunders via CC BY-SA 2.0
From a boating perspective, Ryde is more associated with the terrors of Ryde Sands for the majority of Solent-based sailors, and its drying marina is to the largest part overlooked. Yet for boats that can take to the bottom with a young family it is a truly a wonderful location. The long sandy beach is right next to Ryde Marina and if the weather is not attractive enough for the beach so is an ice rink, bowling alley and all sorts of entertainments, not to mention a golf course to the west of Ryde. Outside of this there is plently to explore in this once grand Victorian seaside town.
What facilities are available?Fresh water is available on the pontoons but no power. Harbour facilities are limited but it does have shower and toilet facilities, and rubbish disposal. The ablutions block is protected by a combination lock, the number for which can be obtained from the harbour master. Ryde’s harbour is focused on leisure and it has no yard or engineering capabilities. Vessels in need of assistance can make use of local island capabilities of which there is an abundance.
The closest outlet to the harbour for gas is Hursts in Union Street Ryde, during shop opening hours, and fuel by jerry can be obtained from a choice of garages. Ryde, the largest town of the island, has an abundance of pubs, shops and restaurants. It has all the essentials such as a post office and pharmacy on the High Street, and supermarkets spread out around the town. Likewise all the major banks can be found along the High Street, most with cash machines.
Regular bus services run from Ryde to Cowes and Newport along with all the island tourist destinations. The regular ferries of course go straight to Portsmouth directly connecting with mainline rail services to London and beyond.
Any security concerns?This is an open harbour where normal security precautions should be adhered to.
With thanks to:Michael Harpur S/Y Whistler. Photography Lewis Clarke, Jon Curnow, Marcin Chady, Graham Horn, Paul Gillett, Philip Halling, Marcin Chady and Ronald Saunders.
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur
Aerial view of Ryde seafront
View from a rib entering Ryde Harbour
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