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Freshwater Bay

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Overview





Freshwater Bay is located off the south coast of England, on the southwestern side and near the western extremity of the Isle of Wight. It is a small cove south of an inland village outside of which a vessel may anchor.

The bay provides an exposed anchorage that can only be made use of in settled conditions, or moderate northerlies, in the absence of any English Channel swell. Access requires attentive navigation as there are dangerous ledges outside the cove and projecting from each side within.
Please note

Best considered for a short visit or lunch stop in the event of an auspicious weather window.




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Keyfacts for Freshwater Bay
Facilities
Waste disposal bins availableShop with basic provisions availableSlipway availableShore based toilet facilitiesHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaPleasant family beach in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderQuick and easy access from open waterScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
None listed

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
2 metres (6.56 feet).

Approaches
3 stars: Attentive navigation; daylight access with dangers that need attention.
Shelter
2 stars: Exposed; unattended vessels should be watched from the shore and a comfortable overnight stay is unlikely.



Last modified
August 24th 2018

Summary

An exposed location with attentive navigation required for access.

Facilities
Waste disposal bins availableShop with basic provisions availableSlipway availableShore based toilet facilitiesHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaPleasant family beach in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderQuick and easy access from open waterScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
None listed



Position and approaches
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Haven position

50° 40.055' N, 001° 30.610' W

This is immediately outside the cove in about 2 metres.

What is the initial fix?

The following Freshwater Bay initial Fix will set up a final approach:
50° 39.900' N, 001° 30.610' W
This is set on the 10 metre contour about 400 metres south of the cove.


What are the key points of the approach?

The entry and the run-up thorough The Solent and Southampton Water are covered in
The Solent and Isle of Wight Route location coastal description.

  • Keep outside the 5 metre contour approaching the cove in order to avoid its outlying rocks and ledges.

  • Centre the yacht south of the cove and anchor on the 2 metre contour immediately outside.

  • Avoid the ledges projecting from either side of the cove when landing.



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 Freshwater Bay for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Totland Bay - 1.1 miles WNW
  2. Alum Bay - 1.4 miles W
  3. Yarmouth - 1.5 miles N
  4. Scratchell's Bay - 1.7 miles W
  5. Hurst Road - 1.8 miles NNW
  6. Keyhaven - 2 miles NNW
  7. Lymington Yacht Haven - 3.2 miles N
  8. Newtown River Entrance - 3.2 miles NE
  9. Lymington - 3.2 miles N
  10. Newtown River - 3.2 miles NE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Totland Bay - 1.1 miles WNW
  2. Alum Bay - 1.4 miles W
  3. Yarmouth - 1.5 miles N
  4. Scratchell's Bay - 1.7 miles W
  5. Hurst Road - 1.8 miles NNW
  6. Keyhaven - 2 miles NNW
  7. Lymington Yacht Haven - 3.2 miles N
  8. Newtown River Entrance - 3.2 miles NE
  9. Lymington - 3.2 miles N
  10. Newtown River - 3.2 miles NE
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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How to get in?


Freshwater Bay is a small cove located 3 miles east of Needles Point and 2 miles northwest of Hanover Point. It is located ¾ of a mile south of the main village of Freshwater which serves as a small beach resort. The pretty cove is only modestly developed with a prominent hotel, with a breakwater at its foot, some guest houses and an independent lifeboat building and jetty at its head.


Freshwater Bay is exposed to the prevailing winds with swell from the English Channel, and the cove is too shallow and tight for the vast majority of vessels to anchor in. This pushes most vessels immediately outside at the head of a five mile southwest facing coastal bight, between Needles Point and Hanover Point, that affords little protection. As such the bay should only be considered in placid or northerly conditions when the English Chanel is free of swell. It is best thought of as a lunch stop, tide wait or day stop location in the event of an auspicious weather window.


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Western Approach Vessels approaching from the west should keep at least 400 metres south of the Needles Lighthouse to avoid the ‘Goose Rock’ and the wreck of the ‘Varvassi’. The offing should be maintained or increased passing Scratchell’s Bay in order to give a wide berth to the covered and dangerous Irex wreck that lies outside the centre of the bay. The range of high and precipitous chalk cliffs that commenced at the Needles then leads three miles eastward to Freshwater Bay. Tennyson’s Cross, a prominent monument on the down, will be seen standing near the top of the cliffs 1.2 miles west of Freshwater Bay. Maintaining a distance of no less than 250 metres from the cliffs clears all dangers.

The cove makes itself known by a noticeable private house set into an old fort on the western side of Freshwater Bay. Keep outside the 5 metre contour on final approaches as a submerged rock with 1.4 metres LAT of water over it extends out almost 200 metres from the cliff on the western side of the entrance.




South Eastern Approach Vessels approaching from the southeast are cautioned against closing on the southwest coast of the Isle of Wight. This stretch of the coast’s Brook and Atherfield ledges have a long history of claiming ships and lives. This is especially the case during the flood as it sets vessels onto the coast, and the currents of St. Catherine’s Race also require some consideration. The shoreline from St. Catherine Point is largely made up and clay and sand cliffs fronted by ledges. Leisure craft should keep at least half a mile off this part of the island. A safe mark for small vessels working up inshore, is to keep the Priory Church at Christchurch open of the Needles lighthouse.


The clay and sand cliffs transform into precipitous white chalk cliffs a mile beyond Hanover Point and one mile before Freshwater Bay. Keep outside the 5 metre contour approaching Freshwater Bay. A reef, awash at low water springs, extends out almost 200 metres from the cliffs on the eastern side of the entrance. Mermaid Rock and Stage Rock will be seen standing off the eastern side of the entrance.


Initial fix location The initial fix is set on the 10 metre contour about 400 metres south of the cove. Steer north from here and anchor outside the mouth of the cove.




Haven location Anchor outside the mouth of the cove on the 2 metre contour. Holding in shingle and boulders is not the best. Any further in and the cove’s fringing reefs begin to converge on the space.

Land by tender at the slip at the head of the bay or on the shale beach. Care is needed when landing as the bay is shallow at low water with rocky ledges that project approximately 200 metres from the sides of the cove. The gap between the ledges, broadly in the centre of the cove, is about 100 metres wide leading into the slip at the head of the bay.




Why visit here?
Freshwater Bay was first recorded in Doomsday, 1086, as Frecewater which means, literally, ‘river with freshwater’. The cove received its name from the ‘River Yar’ that springs from the marsh behind the main carpark. It originally ran directly into the sea here, and it was the combination of its constant flow with waves that carved the cove from the chalky cliffs. Today the river runs south to north across West Wight’s low lying lands to exit into The Solent at Yarmouth. Its course was altered northwards and a marsh was created in the hollow of the bay by a seawall that was constructed across the head of the bay.




Freshwater Bay remained largely uninhabited as all the historic hamlets on this part of the island were located on the high downs for security reasons. It is believed than An Anglo-Saxon settlement grew beside the parish church of ‘All Saints’ in what was then called ‘Old Freshwater’. This was located on a gravel deposit beside the Yar Estuary, which was its shallowest fording point, to the north of the estate’s centre at Kings Manor. By the late Anglo-Saxon period Freshwater was a royal estate which was recorded in the Domesday Survey as ‘Kings Freshwater’. The Norman Conquest brought a planned settlement to the area that was later known as School Green. It was recorded that a dilapidated windmill was known to exist at ‘Old Freshwater’ in 1262 which was later replaced by a new windmill in 1300. By late medieval times the parish of Freshwater was made up of five small hamlets called Norton, Sutton, Easton, Weston, and Middleton. All these names are still in use except for Sutton which became known as ‘Freshwater Gate’ or ‘The Gate’. The ‘gate’ referred to Freshwater Bay that provided boats with an opening in the precipitous chalk ridges of the southwest coast of the island.


Little development occurred around the cove until the latter half of the nineteenth century. A watermill existed on the Afton side of the Freshwater Causeway from the 14th to the 16th century, which had its millpond on the southwest side of the causeway. This had disappeared by the 19th century when the millpond was drained, turning the area into marshland. In the 18th century it was recorded that the cove had two buildings. These were ‘The Mermaid’ and ‘The Cabin’ which were public houses. All traces of ‘The Mermaid’ have disappeared and The Albion Hotel now stands on the former site of ‘The Cabin’. Plumleys Hotel, overlooking Freshwater Bay on the raised ground above the western side of the cove and now called ‘HF Holidays’, was built in the middle of the 19th century. It was about this time, that Freshwater, and the cove slowly began to develop.




The most prominent addition to Freshwater Bay was the ‘Freshwater Redoubt’ that was constructed on the bay’s western headland. Also known as ‘Fort Redoubt’, it was built between 1855 and 56 as part of Palmerston’s huge programme of fortification. The build-up was a reaction to a sudden vulnerability caused by France declaring a second republic and Louis Napoleon becoming its first president as Napoleon III. Freshwater Redoubt was constructed to prevent a French landing on the beach that could then go on to attack the forts on the north side of the Island from the land. It had two batteries that were capable of taking a total of seven guns. The Upper Battery, facing the sea, had four gun emplacements and a separate Lower Battery with three gun emplacements covered the cove. A deep, brick lined dry moat was cut to the north and western side of the fort to defend against an attack from the land. Extensive tunnels and rooms were built into the chalk cliffs beneath to provide protection from mortars. The construction of the fort, along with those in Totland and the Needles, introduced this part of the island to large numbers of workers and military personnel who settled here during the construction phase.


The largest influence however was the British Poet laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson. He rented a house in Farringford in 1853 and bought it in 1858 as his permanent home when the area only consisted of a few farms. Lord Tennyson attracted other prominent artists and scientists, such as the pioneering photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, to the area and a building boom of quality property commenced. The purpose built grocery store Orchard Brothers, still in existence today on the corner of Victoria Road, was built in 1865. Nelson’s “Handbook to the Isle of Wight”, published in 1884, then described Freshwater as a picturesque watering place with several well built, convenient and handsome villas. By 1908 a row of Victorian houses, said to be commissioned by Queen Victoria for returning sea captains, were built on what was part of the Farringford estate. Easton had developed into The Square, Guyers Road, and Victoria Road and a group of fine Edwardian houses were built along the new Afton Road. With the arrival of the train the ribbon shopping development of Avenue Road was formed and the area was at its Victorian nadir. The bay area however remained largely undeveloped but an 1862 OS map shows that a small row of villas and a coastguard station were subsequently built to the north of the fort. On November 5th, 1916 the bay was to receive an unexpected visitor that lead to some alteration.


This was the 1,800 tons full-rigged sailing ship, 'Carl' which was driven into the cove by a furious gale. The large ship grounded so close to the shore that her crew of twenty-five were able to save themselves by running along the bowsprit and leaping onto the lawn of ‘Glenbrook at the Bay’. Despite the grounding and exposure to prevailing south-westerlies the ship remained intact in this position for about eleven months. It was finally released when the central floor of the bay, the area between the reefs extending from either side of the bay, was enlarged by explosives in 1917. 'Carl' was then towed out through the gap and back out to the open sea.


Today the bay’s Victorian underpinning is still visible in its buildings and military features. Fort Redout is not open to the public but its layout can be observed from the Tennyson Down above. Manned until the end of World War I, it was sold into private hands after 1928. Since then it has had several owners and had tea rooms added, but is now a private house. The grassy, whale-backed ridge of Tennyson Down took the name of the poet that made the area famous. Rising to 147 metres (482 ft.) above sea level Alfred Lord Tennyson used to walk out almost every day, saying that the air was worth 'sixpence a pint'. A huge granite cross commemorating the life of the poet now stands at the top of the Down.


Set in a uniquely beautiful and uplifting landscape Freshwater Bay is a popular destination for walkers and tourists since Victorian times. It remains just as magical for passing sailors should an auspicious weather window present itself. It is well worth coming ashore to explore the cove. The surrounding cliffs and Tennyson Down offer magnificent walks with wonderful vistas where the vessel on anchor can be seen at all times. For sailors with young people aboard, the promenade that lines the seafront provides a nice family beach area, albeit the beach itself is composed of shingle and well-rounded and abraded flint cobbles.


What facilities are available?
There is a choice of slipways at the head of the cove to land on. The promenade above the beach has public toilet facilities. Freshwater village, about 25 minutes’ walk from the bay, is the main shopping area that services the West of the Isle of Wight with a number of established stores and a supermarket.

Freshwater Bay has a couple of cafes and there are ample options to obtain an ice-cream on a sunny day. Many of the hotels in the bay area have established restaurants and eateries, and there are various take-aways and restaurants in the main village. The bay is served by 11 local bus services that pass through Freshwater Bay.


Any security concerns?
Never an issue known to have occurred to a vessel anchored off Freshwater Bay.


With thanks to:
Michael Harpur S/Y Whistler. Photography with thanks to Michael Harpur.


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Aerial overview of Freshwater Bay (1)







Aerial overview of Freshwater Bay (2)







A History In Pictures Freshwater Bay



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