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Plymouth Harbour

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Overview





Plymouth is a city situated on the south coast of England that lies between the Rivers Plym and Tamar, which flow into Plymouth Sound. It is a sizable city and busy port that offers a host of marinas and anchoring opportunities to leisure craft.

Plymouth is a city situated on the south coast of England that lies between the Rivers Plym and Tamar, which flow into Plymouth Sound. It is a sizable city and busy port that offers a host of marinas and anchoring opportunities to leisure craft.

It is one of Europe's finest deep water anchorages and it offers complete protection from all conditions in at least one of its marinas. The harbour may be safely accessed through its wide and deep channels that exist on either side of its breakwater in all reasonable conditions, at any stage of the tide, night or day.



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Keyfacts for Plymouth Harbour



Last modified
January 31st 2019

Summary

A completely protected location with safe access.

Facilities
Water hosepipe available alongsideWater available via tapWaste disposal bins availableDiesel fuel available alongsidePetrol available alongsideGas availableTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansShop with basic provisions availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableExtensive shopping available in the areaSlipway availableLaundry facilities availableShore power available alongsideShore based toilet facilitiesShowers available in the vicinity or by arrangementHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the areaCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaInternet café in the areaInternet via a wireless access point availableDoctor or hospital in the areaPharmacy in the areaChandlery available in the areaTrolley or cart available for unloading and loadingMSD (marine sanitation device) pump out facilitiesHaul-out capabilities via arrangementBoatyard with hard-standing available here; covered or uncoveredScrubbing posts or a place where a vessel can dry out for a scrub below the waterlineMarine engineering services available in the areaRigging services available in the areaElectronics or electronic repair available in the areaSail making or sail repair servicesBus service available in the areaTrain or tram service available in the areaRegional or international airport within 25 kilometresBicycle hire available in the areaCar hire available in the areaTourist Information office availableHandicapped access supportedShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationMarina or pontoon berthing facilitiesAnchoring locationVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachSailing Club baseUrban nature,  anything from a small town of more 5,000 inhabitants  to a large cityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Note: harbour fees may be chargedNaval or military area with specific regulations



HM  +44 1752 663 225      Ch.14/16 [Longroom Port Control]
Position and approaches
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Haven position

50° 21.977' N, 004° 7.966' W

This is the entrance to the Lock for Sutton Harbour Marina set in the historic heart of Plymouth.

What are the initial fixes?

The following waypoints will set up a final approach:

(i) Plymouth Western Channel initial fix

50° 18.858' N, 004° 10.895' W

This is 200 metres east of the Draystone Buoy, Fl(2)R.5s, situated a ¼ of a mile southeastward of Penlee Point. It set in the white sector of Plymouth Breakwater West Head Light, 1½ miles northeast.

(ii) Plymouth Eastern Channel initial fix

50° 18.000' N, 004° 8.000' W

This sets up an approach via the Eastern Channel in the white sector of Plymouth Breakwater East Head Light Beacon a grey, conical structure with black spherical topmark, 2 miles northward.
Please note

Initial fixes only set up their listed targets. Do not plan to sail directly between initial fixes as a routing sequence.




What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in southwestern England’s coastal overview from Start Point to Lizard Point Route location

  • Except for the off-lying Shagstone, on the east side, and the shallow Draystone reef, fronting the southeast side of Penlee Point to the west, there are few natural hazards for leisure craft in the approaches.

  • Plymouth Sound can be entered via the Breakwater's Western or Eastern channels which are well lit and buoyed with few real hazards.

  • Plymouth Sound is deep with its main fairway leading north-eastwards towards Plymouth Hoe.

  • With reference to good charts, leisure craft can usually pass any side of the Sound's navigation buoys.

  • In the right conditions vessels heading for locations in the Hamoaze can make use of an optional shortcut passing west of Drake's Island through The Bridge.


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 Plymouth Harbour for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. River Tamar & Tributaries - 0.9 miles WSW
  2. River Yealm - 2.8 miles SE
  3. River Erme - 4.8 miles ESE
  4. River Avon - 7 miles ESE
  5. Looe Harbour - 7.6 miles W
  6. Hope Cove - 7.9 miles SE
  7. Kingsbridge - 9.1 miles ESE
  8. Polperro Harbour - 9.2 miles W
  9. Salcombe - 9.9 miles ESE
  10. Starehole Bay - 10 miles SE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. River Tamar & Tributaries - 0.9 miles WSW
  2. River Yealm - 2.8 miles SE
  3. River Erme - 4.8 miles ESE
  4. River Avon - 7 miles ESE
  5. Looe Harbour - 7.6 miles W
  6. Hope Cove - 7.9 miles SE
  7. Kingsbridge - 9.1 miles ESE
  8. Polperro Harbour - 9.2 miles W
  9. Salcombe - 9.9 miles ESE
  10. Starehole Bay - 10 miles SE
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

Resources search



What's the story here?
Plymouth
Image: Michael Harpur


Between the islands of Great Mew Stone and Penlee Point opposite, 3.2 miles westward, is Plymouth Sound which is the entrance to the Port of Plymouth. Enclosed by the mouths of the rivers Plym and Tamar, which are naturally incorporated into Plymouth Sound and form the boundary with Cornwall, the city of Plymouth lies on the north side of Plymouth Sound. With a population of over a quarter of a million, it is the 30th-most populous built-up area in the United Kingdom.

Despite being primarily a naval port, Plymouth is also home to docks, a ro-ro ferry terminal and a fishing harbour, which sees considerable commercial traffic. This includes daily ferries to Roscoff, weekly to Santander, regular calling cruise ships, as well as commercial cargo and oil tanker vessels and a busy fishing fleet. Alongside this activity, Plymouth Sound and its environs is a major centre for leisure boating with visiting boats having the choice of four large scale marinas, three small marinas and a range of anchoring opportunities. This does not include the berthing opportunities within the River Tamer the lower part of the which is the Hamoaze.


Plymouth is a naval port where military vessels and establishments must be given
a wide berth

Image: Bradley Darlington via CC BY-SA 3.0


HM Naval Base, Devonport, is situated in the west part of the port, and the Dockyard Port of Plymouth is a naval port under the jurisdiction of the Queen's Harbour Master, (QHM). All movements are controlled by the Longroom building located in a tower at the head of the Sound close west of the entrance to Millbay Docks. Contactable by VHF 14/16 [Longroom Port Control], P:+44 1752 663 225, the port controller has special naval regulations. No vessel shall navigate within 50 metres of the Her Majesty’s vessels, foreign warships, auxiliaries, walls, slipways or boundaries of naval establishments. A wider limit of 100 metres applies to submarines berthed alongside HM Naval Base. The Harbour Master's launch may also usher vessels away from the main channels when naval ships are entering or leaving the port.




MARINAS

Plymouth has seven marinas to choose from, and it is important to make arrangements in advance to choose the best line of approach through the harbour. The principal marinas of Queen Anne's Battery, Sutton Harbour or Plymouth Yacht Haven are in the east side of the harbour. Mayflower International Marina and Royal William Yard Harbour are located to the west of Plymouth Sound.


Queen Anne's Battery (QAB)

Queen Anne's Battery
Image: Michael Harpur


Queen Anne’s Battery is in the centre of Plymouth on the approaches to Sutton Marina. It has 235 berths, dredged to 2.2 metres, with 40 visitors berths, and it can accommodate boats up to 18 metres in its visitors' area alongside the continuous pontoon attached to the inner side of the breakwater.


Queen Anne's Battery Marina Plan
Image: Michael Harpur


Please contact the marina in advance on VHF Ch 80 [QAB], Landline +44 1752 671142, Mobile+44 7740 806039, Websitewww.mdlmarinas.co.uk, for berth allocation. Though it has ample visitor berths vessels may need to raft up during peak season. It may, however, be possible to obtain one of the finger jetties of a permanent berth holder who is away, but do not enter one without permission. The Royal Western Yacht Club of England has its clubhouse here and very generously makes its premises available to visitors.




Sutton Marina

Sutton Marina
Image: Michael Harpur


Sutton Harbour is set in the historic heart of Plymouth and is entered just past Queen Anne's Battery. The marina has 420 berths and can accommodate visiting yachts of up to 40 metres LOA drawing up to 3.5 metres. The marina is accessed via Sutton Lock which is free, on demand, staffed 24 hours. It has a barrel dimension of 44 metres x 12 metres and is 1.5 metres below chart datum. Locked in the marina provides the snuggest berth in Plymouth Harbour, and situated within the city, it is the most convenient one from which to explore it.


Sutton Lock
Image: Michael Harpur


It is advisable to contact Sutton Marina in advance of any stay, Channel 12 [Sutton Marina], Landline+44 1752 204702, E-mailmarina@sutton-harbour.co.uk, Websitewww.suttonharbourmarina.com. The Marina Office is open 9 am to 5.30pm, seven days a week. For assistance outside of office hours contact Sutton Lock on +44 1752 204732 or VHF Channel 12 [Sutton Lock].

Sutton Marina Plan
Image: Michael Harpur


Sutton Marina is dredged to 2 metres CD and the lock retains chart datum of >3.5 metres in the harbour. It is free flow in operation when the rise of the tide is greater than 3.5 metres which is typically on the top half of the tide. For access call on VHF Channel 12 [Sutton Lock] or the Lockkeeper is available on Landline+ 44 1752 204732 and await further instructions including the allocated berth. Standard traffic light signals, displayed at the north and south end of the lock, direct traffic. On entry to the lock secure to the floating pontoons down each side, and the maximum speed drops to 5kn inside Sutton Harbour.

For flood prevention, the lock gates will close at 5.7 metres on a rising tide and will not recommence operation until 5.6 metres on a falling tide. During these times vessels will be unable to arrive or depart from Sutton Harbour.




Plymouth Yacht Haven

Plymouth Yacht Haven
Image: Michael Harpur


Plymouth Yacht Haven is an extensive modern Marina located on the Mount Batten peninsula. The marina has 450 fully serviced berths dredged to 2.2 metres with visitor berths on the outer west pontoon. It can be approached at all states of the tide and it can accommodate vessels up to 45 metres LOA carrying a draught of up to 7 metres.

Plymouth Yacht Haven Pontoon Plan
Image: Michael Harpur


Visiting yachts should book a berth in advance by Landline+44 1752 404231, VHF Ch 80 [Plymouth Yacht Haven] working channel after that VHF Ch 37, E-mailplymouth@yachthavens.com, Websitewww.yachthavens.com.




Millbay Marina

Millbay Marina
Image: Michael Harpur


Millbay Marina is a small and private marina situated on the east side of the entrance to Mill Bay Docks close to the RoRo ferry terminal. The small basin has 88 fully serviced berths that can accommodate vessels from 10 to 14 meters LOA carrying up to 3.5 metres.


Millbay Marina
Image: Michael Harpur


Principally a private marina serving the surrounding apartments, it welcomes visiting boats when space is available. Contact the marina office for details Landline+44 1752 226785, Mobile+44 7980 908737, E-mailoffice@millbaymarina.co.uk Monday - Sunday 08:00 - 17:00. Alternatively by 'web form' outside of hours Websitewww.millbaymarina.co.uk.





King Point Marina

King Point Marina
Image: Michael Harpur

King Point Marina is a new marina that has been established in the old inner basin to the north of the Mill Bay's main basin. It has 151 fully serviced berths for vessels from 7.5 to 20.5 meters LOA, drawing up to 2.5 metres. The marina is just above Millbay Marina with its entrance close east of the RoRo ferry terminal that operates vehicle and passenger ferry services and cruise ships. As such, vessels entering or leaving King Point Marina should keep a sharp eye out for ferry movements.


King Point Marina in Millbay's northern inner basin
Image: Hugh Venables via CC BY-SA 2.0


Contact the marina office and make berthing arrangments in advance Landline+44 1752 424297, E-mailmarina@kingpointmarina.co.uk, Websitewww.kingpointmarina.co.uk.




Mayflower International Marina

Mayflower International Marina
Image: Michael Harpur


Mayflower International Marina is an extensive 400 berth fully serviced marina located to the west of the town centre within the historic naval city of Plymouth. It overlooks the picturesque Mount Edgecombe Country Park to the west and the magnificent 19th-century naval victualling yard to the south, now open to the public. It offers 40 visitor berths on the outer pontoon and full tide access for boats of up to 20 metres carrying 4 metres. Just be aware that currents can run very strong in the approaches so be prepared for some steadfast helming should the tide be in full flow.


Mayflower International Marina Plan
Image: Michael Harpur


The marina maintains a 24x7 listening watch on VHF Channel 80 [Mayflower Marina] then VHF 37, Landline+44 1752 556 633, Mobile+44 7840 116853, and should be contacted in advance to arrange a berth. Websitewww.mayflowermarina.co.uk




Royal William Yard Harbour

Royal William Yard Harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


The Royal William Yard is in one of the historic dockyard basins and has some visitors' berths. These are ahead on entry behind the ferry, on both sides of the pontoon. With a MLWS approach depth of 1.5 metres and berths of 1-metre, this is an option for smaller yachts and power boats.

Contact the marina on Mobile+447971 208381, E-mailinfo@royalwilliamyardmarina.co.uk or via their web site Websitewww.royalwilliamyardmarina.co.uk, before your arrival. It can be popular during the summer months, so it is important to book in advance to avoid disappointment.


Royal William Yard
Image: Swissboy76 CC BY-SA 3.0


The Royal William Yard Marina also provides the perfect place for a short stay, and berthing is available for up to four hours for vessels no longer than 10 metres for just £10 and £15 for vessels no longer than 13.5 metres (subject to availability). The Grade 1 former Royal Naval victualling buildings are now home to a thriving hub of Plymouth businesses and retailers that include cafes, bars, restaurants, museum, art galleries, offices and residential spaces. There is also a ferry to Barbican every hour, and a short stroll down the road is the Cremyll ferry taking passengers to Mount Edgecombe, Cornwall which runs twice an hour.





ANCHORAGES & MOORINGS

The Sound offers a choice of anchorages, and there is no charge for anchoring in the harbour area. None offer complete protection from all directions which can be found further upriver. Cawsand Bay and Jennycliff, on the west and east sides of the Sound, are conveniently close inside the entrance. Drake's Island and Barn Pool are closer to the city.


Cawsand Bay

Cawsand
Image: Michael Harpur


Cawsand Bay is situated on the west side of the Sound and although technically in Cornwall it is included here as being part of the berthing opportunities of Plymouth Sound. The anchorage lies off the old twin fishing villages of Kingsand and Cawsand, and provides a very convenient and excellent anchorage close to the entrance. Protected from southwest and westerly weather, it is wide open to the east, gradually shelving and free from dangers. Holding is excellent in a mixture of fine sand, mud and small shells in its deeper waters, and sand closer to the shore. Anchor anywhere clear of the local moorings in about 2.5 metres.


Kingsand Beach
Image: Michael Harpur


This is a handy overnight stop for vessels arriving into Plymouth Sound late at night or on passage along the coast trying to avoid the delay, costs and detour potential of a Plymouth marina. Reasonable supplies may be obtained at the villages of Kingsand and Cawsand. It is also well appointed with pubs and restaurants which can result in it being crowded with local boats at weekends. The beach has extensive facilities for hire. There is also a fine coastal footpath which if taken northward eventually takes you to the beautiful Mount Edgecombe Country Park that backs on to the Barn Pool anchorage.




Jennycliff

Jennycliff
Image: Michael Harpur


Jennycliff Bay, on the east side of Plymouth Sound, offers the best protection if the wind has an easterly component. Wide open from the west it is simply a matter of tucking-in under the sheer cliffs fronting Staddon Heights. The key danger is a substantial wreck the MV Fylrix at its north end that dries to 2 metres. This, however, is marked by a lit starboard buoy moored close westward Fl.G.6s. Apart from the wreck, there are no dangers outside the 2-metre contour CD and holding is good in mud. Anchor to the south of the buoy as the inshore area northward of it, across Batten Bay, is a designated water skiing area.


Jennycliff
Image: Michael Harpur


Land on the sandy beach. Steps lead up from the beach to a park above where there is a café and very pleasant walks along the cliffs.


Drake's Island

Drake's Island
Image: Michael Harpur


This is the flat to the north of Drake's island in depths from 0.4 metres to 6.1 metres, depending on how close you proceed in to the island. It provides a good berth in southerly winds. Admiralty Chart 1901 shows the designated anchoring area which has good holding over mud, sand and gravel throughout. The usual location is the northeast of the private pier in nothing less than 2 metres CD which avoids a charted obstruction, with 0. to9 metres of water over it, northward of the pier and drying rocks closer in.


Yacht on Ministry of Defence mooring Drake's Island
Image: Michael Harpur


Keep clear of the yellow mooring buoys and use a trip line and buoy on the anchor in this most ancient of anchorages. It is possible to temporarily pick up one of the mooring buoys but don’t leave the boat unattended on these. They are owned by the Ministry of Defence who may need them at short notice so if you use them, expect to be moved on. Drake's Island is private, uninhabited, save for a caretaker, and landing is not permitted.




Barn Pool

Barn Pool
Image: Michael Harpur


Barn Pool lies ½ a mile west of Drake's Island, to the south of Wilderness Point and on the west side of The Narrows. Again, technically this is in Cornwall but included here as part of Plymouth Sound. It provides excellent shelter from westerly component winds but can be subject to eddies, especially on the flood, that set into it around the Vanguard Shoal. Because of this, it is more comfortable for an overnight stay during neap tides. Sound in carefully to the northern end of the bay and anchor in about 3 to 4 metres on the steep-to shore. Use a trip line and buoy on the anchor as the bottom can be foul and there is a charted deep water wreck, reportedly the remains of an old barge, in the middle of the bay.


The shale beach at Barn Pool
Image: Michael Harpur


The trees and greens of the beautiful Mount Edgecombe Country Park are immediately ashore and The Edgecombe Arms pub, which serves food, is conveniently nearby. The Cremyll passenger ferry leaves from outside the pub to Stonehouse in Plymouth, and the famous Royal William Yard with its shops, bars and restaurants is a ten minute stroll. A ferry service to The Barbican, in Plymouth also operates during the summer months.




Cattewater Harbour Office Moorings

Visitor moorings north of the Mount Batten peninsula
Image: Michael Harpur


Close north of the Mount Batten peninsula, the Cattewater Harbour Office provides a large number of visitor moorings. There are no anchorages within the Cattewater and these swing moorings are very close to the Barbican which is the historic heart of the city.


Cattewater local authority visitor moorings
Image: Michael Harpur


The Mount Batten Visitor’s Mooring are available for a [2019] daily rate of £15.70 for the 1st four days, then a weekly rate of £62.35. Contact the Cattewater Harbour Office for details Landline+44 1752 665934, E-mailinfo@plymouthport.org.uk, Websitewww.plymouthport.org.uk.


How to get in?
The Breakwater seen from the Fort Bovisand overlooking from the east
Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Use southwestern England’s coastal overview from Start Point to Lizard Point Route location for seaward approaches. The Port of Plymouth is under the jurisdiction of the Queens Harbour Master so it is worth keeping a listening watch on VHF channel 13/14 [Longroom Port Control].

There are few natural hazards in the approaches to Plymouth Harbour. The approaches are bounded to the west by the almost conical Rame Head with a ruined church atop and then the low headland of Penlee Point, 1¼ miles further in with a turreted beacon. On the east side is the 57 metres high, conical, Great Mew Stone Island. All are highly prominent from seaward.

Low lying Penlee Point as seen over Plymouth Breakwater at sunset
Image: Nilfanion via CC BY-SA 2.0


Except for the off-lying Shagstone on the east side, marked by an unlit beacon, and the Draystone, a shallow reef, that fronts the southeast side of Penlee Point, marked by a lighted buoy, there are few natural hazards for leisure craft. The central Knap, Panther and Tinker Shoals are all deep and more of a concern for large vessels. However, Tinker shoal, with a least depth 3.5 metres and a lit east cardinal buoy, can have heavily breaking seas over it in developed southerly conditions. During these times the western entrance is the better option.


Plymouth Sound as seen from Jennycliff
Image: Michael Harpur


Plymouth Sound is sheltered by the detached ¾ mile long Plymouth Breakwater. This breakwater lies at the east side of Plymouth Sound with its west end situated about 1½ miles northeast of Penlee Point. The breakwater has a lighthouse and a substantial beacon at its endpoints and a sea fort within, but itself is a low lying structure that at high spring tides can be awash and hardly visible. No mooring or landing is permitted on the Plymouth Breakwater and all of the berthing opportunities, save for Cawsand Bay, 1½ miles west, lie above it. Beyond the breakwater, there is a speed limit of 10kn reducing to 8kn in Cattewater and 4kn north of a line from Fisher's Nose to the southern wall of Queen Anne's Battery Marina.


Plymouth Breakwater Western Lighthouse with the Breakwater Fort behind
Image: Lewis Clark via CC BY-SA 2.0


Initial fix location The Sound can be entered via the Western or Eastern channels which are well lit and buoyed with few real hazards. The Western Channel Initial Fix sets up the main approach channel which passes around the West end of Plymouth Breakwater with its conspicuous lighthouse. The lighthouse and its sectored light will become visible immediately upon passing Penlee Point and the Draystone buoy. The channel to the west of the breakwater is deep and ½ a mile wide. The western channel is generally considered the preferred approach in boisterous conditions.


Plymouth Breakwater East Head Light Beacon
Image: Michael Harpur


The Eastern Channel Initial Fix sets up an approach that lies between the eastern end of Plymouth Breakwater and Staddon Point, about a ¼ of a mile east by northeast. It is a safe channel but best avoided during strong westerly winds which create a lee shore and some dangerous seas. Likewise, the small square-headed and steep Shagstone rock has a beacon that is unlit at night.


Plymouth Sound
Image: Jackofhearts101 via CC BY-SA 2.0


Once inside the breakwater and into Plymouth Sound, by either the east or west passage, Drake's Island and the city will present itself as a mile and a half wide panorama directly to the north. Plymouth Sound has general depths of 26 to 5.5 metres and its main fairway leads north-eastwards towards Plymouth Hoe. With reference to good charts, leisure craft can usually pass any side of the Sound's navigation buoys. Over the largest part of the Sound, there is not less than 3.7 metres of depth at MLWS, so it is navigable by most leisure craft at all states of the tide.


Drake's Island is fringed with drying flats
Image: Nilfanion via CC BY-SA 2.0


This is not a place for leisure craft to causally cut tight corners. Particular care is needed to avoid the foul ground surrounding Drake's Island, particularly to the southwest where it is connected to the western shore by a submerged ledge that has a pass discussed below. The Sound's several shoal areas are very much a concern to commercial shipping who have right of way over leisure vessels under 20 metres. Leisure craft should not impede larger vessels confined to the channel. Keep the marked deep water channels clear for HM ships, cross channel ferries, large tankers, bulk carriers and the city’s fishing fleet and only cross them at right angles. Inshore there are designated swim areas that are cordoned off by special yellow buoys along the Hoe foreshore, Bovisand Bay, Cawsand Bay and Western King.

With this in mind, the chosen berthing arrangements will then determine the best route up through the Sound. Sutton Harbour Marina, Queen Anne's Battery Marina and Plymouth Yacht Haven and the Jennycliff anchorage are all on the east side of the Sound which follows the main fairway.

Mount Batten breakwater with Fisher's Nose right
Image: Michael Harpur


Those heading for these eastern marinas should shape a course for the 'S Mallard' cardinal buoy VQ (6) + L Fl 10s aiming to pass between it and the head of Mount Batten Breakwater. The Mallard shoal is deep, 3.4 metres at its shallowest point, and of no consequence to leisure craft. So it is possible to pass either side of the cardinal buoy and move over the shoal, ignoring the fairway marked by the 'West Mallard' starboard buoy, Q.G., to clear the channel for tankers and bulk carriers entering or exiting the Cattewater. When 'S Mallard' is abeam, turn east and shape a course towards 'Fisher's Nose', Fl (3)R10s, after which the Cattlewater Channel will open up with all the berthing opportunities it has as well as the marinas on the east side of the city.


Primary marks to the east of Drake's Island
Image: Michael Harpur


Alternatively, those intending on anchoring off the central Drake's Island, accessing the marinas around Millbay or continuing to Hamoaze, should steer for the port hand Melampus Buoy, FL.R.4s, ¼ of a mile southwestward of Drake's Island. Then to the Asia Buoy, Fl(2)R.5s, positioned a ¼ of a mile northeastward of the island and a ⅓ of a mile westward of the 'S Mallard' cardinal. These marks lead past the shoals lying around the eastern side of Drake’s Island and the outer end of Drake Channel.

Mayflower International Marina, Royal William Yard Harbour and Torpoint Marina as well as the Barn Pool anchorage, are all on the approaches or in the Hamoaze to the west of Plymouth which may be accessed by continuing along the Drake's Channel and The Narrows.


Drake Channel as seen from the west
Image: Michael Harpur


Vessels heading for the western locations in and around The Narrows and Hamoaze have an optional shortcut from lower down in Plymouth Sound to pass west of Drake's Island through The Bridge. The Bridge is a rocky reef or submarine causeway connecting Drake's Island with Mount Edgecumbe on the western shore. It has a narrow channel located about ⅔ of the distance from the island, and is marked by four substantial lit beacons, two red and two green, of which two have tide gauges indicating the height of tide above CD. The pass is 15 metres wide with a least depth of 1.2 metres at LAT, 2.9 metres at MLWS. There are underwater obstructions east and west of The Bridge channel and it must be addressed between the marks which align a path of 327°/147° T.


The Bridge as seen from Barn Pool
Image: Michael Harpur


During springs the tidal stream in the channel can attain 3 knots and with no room for error, this requires some deliberate helming. Worse in bad weather, especially with a southerly wind and an ebb tide, the sea can break across the channel, and it is best avoided until well after half ebb. But if conditions are suitable, it is the preferred leisure boat cut into to Hamoaze. It is nevertheless best used with caution, with a sufficient rise of tide, under power and ideally no earlier than an hour or so after LW or at the slack end of the top end of the tide. Stay in the marked channel and continue in line for about 200 metres past the beacons until the deep water soundings reestablish themselves.


Yacht passing over The Bridge
Image: Dave Morris via CC BY-NC 2.0


After The Bridge, it is simply a matter of steering for The Narrows leaving the starboard green 'West Vanguard' buoy, FlG3s, to starboard opposite Barn Pool. Continue through the narrows between Cremyll and the orange and white beacon on Devils Point, QG.


The Narrows with West Vanguard (right) and Mayflower Marina (left)
Image: Michael Harpur


Keep a sharp lookout in the Hamoaze and the River Tamar for ferries and for the naval ships entering and leaving the Devonport Naval Base, particularly in the Narrows where there are strong tidal streams.

Haven location Berth as pre-arranged or anchor according to conditions.


Why visit here?
Plymouth, takes its name from the River Plym, being the conjunction of the name Plym and the Old English mútha, meaning mouth; 'Mouth of the River Plym'. The river received its name from the Old English plym tun meaning 'plum tree village'. So the river took its name from Plympton, now part of Plymouth, on the river the meaning ‘plum-tree farm’. But the cities' founding village was in Sutton which it was called long after the Norman Conquest.


The Mount Batten promontory
Image: Michael Harpur


The first settlement was on the Mount Batten promontory which projects into the upper eastern reaches of Plymouth Sound and the Cattewater. This was a major port and commercial trading centre during the Late Bronze Age period and it survived as a coastal port through Roman times with evidence of it trading until at least the early part of the third century AD. The level of finds discovered here suggests it was one of the main trading ports of the country during its time. The settlement continued until it was surpassed by the more prosperous village of Sutton founded in the 9th-century. Another settlement at Plympton, further up the River Plym, was also an early trading port. But early 11th-century silting of the river forced its mariners and merchants to join those from Mount Batten promontory in Sutton.


Sutton as seen from above the Mount Batten promontory
Image: Michael Harpur


After the Norman Conquest, it was Sutton that Doomsday recorded as Sudtone, meaning ‘south town’ in Old English. It noted that the greater part of it belonged to the Priory of Plympton. Considered too small a settlement to warrant fortification the Normans established a motte and bailey castle at Plympton. A market was established in Sutton in 1253 which attracted merchants and craftsmen accelerating the development of a town. In 1292 the town first returned members to parliament and continued for centuries afterwards. The Barbican was home to Plymouth's fish market and is still home to its fishing fleet. The district generally regarded as the Barbican is roughly equivalent to the location and size of the medieval town of Sutton.

The Barbican today
Image: Michael Harpur


In 1311 The ‘Port of Plymouth’ embraced Plympton, Modbury and Newton Ferrers, and received a customs grant from Richard II. Wine from France and Spain was imported into medieval Plymouth. Being a port of embarkation and disembarkation in connection with expeditions to France, caused it to be a known target during the Hundred Years' War. There were several attacks with the worst of them occurring in 1403 when Breton raiders landed north of Sutton. They then marched into the small town and occupied the area around Exeter Street. The English fought back but were unable to dislodge the invaders who stayed overnight. The next day the French burned much of the town that at the time was largely constructed of wood with thatched roofs, and then sailed away. The occupied part of the town was called Breton Side for the following centuries.

The only remaining part of Plymouth Castle at the Barbican
Image: Smalljim via CC ASA 4.0
This attack highlighted the need to protect Sutton and Sutton Pool, which is where the fleet was based in Plymouth prior to the establishment of Plymouth Dockyard. King Henry IV ordered the prior of Plympton and the abbot of Tavistock to further fortify the town with walls and towers. No finance seems to have been forthcoming from the Crown and the Bishop of Exeter, later granted indulgences to those who made contributions towards the cost of the project. Instead of town walls, the defences took the form of a ‘castle quadrate’ that featured four round towers, one at each corner, which have been incorporated into the city coat of arms. The name Barbican indicating it was the location of the fortified gate of a late medieval fortress.

City of Plymouth coat of arms
Image: Jackofhearts101 via CC BY-SA 2.0
In 1412 the inhabitants petitioned for a charter, which, after strenuous opposition from the Priors of Plympton, was granted by Henry VI in 1439. Plymouth was the first town to be incorporated and in doing so the charter officially replaced Sutton with the name Plymouth.

During the reign of Elizabeth, Plymouth rose to be the foremost port in England. In 1497 this was heralded by John Cabot's discovery of Newfoundland with its rich stocks of fish. From then on Plymouth fishermen fished off the coast of Newfoundland and it became the most important industry in Tudor Plymouth. 'Black Gold' was discovered by Plymouth’s William Hawkins in 1528 when he established the notorious Transatlantic trade. It made him one of the richest men in the town, Mayor of Plymouth and in 1539 a member of Parliament. In 1572 Sir Francis Drake became the first Englishman to sail into the Pacific from Plymouth, and in 1577 he embarked on the first ever circumnavigation of the globe. He too became mayor of Plymouth in 1581 and went on to represent the borough in parliament. Sir Humphrey Gilbert sailed out on his second colonizing expedition to America in 1583 from here, and it was where Drake brought the remnant of Raleigh's Virginian colony. So Plymouth served in the establishment of England's first colony, at Roanoke in Virginia, an act that may be regarded as the origin of the British Empire.


A depiction of the the embarkation of the Pilgrims
Image: Public Domain


The most celebrated expedition to leave Plymouth was that of the Pilgrims in 1620. It was here they abandoned the Speedwell for being unseaworthy and set sail for the New World from the present Barbican on board the Mayflower. After spending a few weeks in Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod, they eventually landed in Plymouth Harbor and helped to establish a new Plymouth community. Plymouth also helped to discover a whole new world in 1768, when The HMB Endeavour sailed out under the command of Captain James Cook, an accomplished astronomer, navigator and surveyor. His voyages would discover Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.


Plymouth military expansion began in earnest in the 17th-century
Image: Michael Harpur


Whilst great discoveries were being made from Plymouth it was gradually losing its pre-eminence as a trading port in the 17th-century. Fortunately, alongside a reputation for voyage and discovery, Plymouth had also demonstrated prowess and importance as a military port. In 1588 Plymouth supplied seven ships against the Armada, and it was in Plymouth Sound that the English fleet of galleons assembled to await the first sighting of the Spaniards. It is said that Drake masterminded the Armanda's defeat whilst playing bowls on Plymouth Hoe as it was sailing up the Channel. Legend has it that Drake wouldn't be panicked into stopping the game saying 'there was plenty of time to finish it and then tackle the Armada'. Naval historians consider the story to be true as they believe this not to be an act of machismo but rather Drake applying his local knowledge of tides, winds or distance at sea.


1643 Plymouth Siege Map
Image: Public Domain


During the Civil War, Plymouth sided with Parliament against King Charles and it held out against overwhelming odds of Royalist forces for nearly four years. It only ended when the King was finally defeated and they found themselves on the winning side, as the only town in the west that never fell into their opponents hands. They later paid a price for this when the monarchy was restored and the new King, Charles II exacted revenge for Plymouth’s resistance. Many of its heroes were imprisoned on Drake’s Island, some until their deaths.



The Royal Citadel built in the late 1660s
Image: Michael Harpur


The military expansion of the town began in earnest after the Glorious Revolution and under the direction of King William. A citadel was built on the highest point above the town the Hoe, meaning ‘high ground’, to defend the port from naval attacks and to train the armed forces. Its walls were made 6.1 metres thick and it was armed with cannons facing both out to sea and into the town, rumoured to be a reminder to Plymothians with Parliamentary leanings, not to oppose the Crown. Mount Batten tower and the first Royal Dockyard was opened on the banks of the Tamar in the west of Plymouth and dates from around this time. A settlement developed around the Royal Dockyard that was called ‘Dock’ or ‘Plymouth Dock’ at the time, and a new town, separate from Plymouth, grew up around it. Further docks were built in 1727, 1762 and 1793, and a huge naval complex was later established, which was renamed Devonport in 1824.


1666 plans for the citadel show the Barbican at this time
Image: Public Domain


The Royal William Victualling Yard at Stonehouse was built in 1835. In addition to the Victualling Yard, with its naval ordnance department, it also included repair shops, an armoury, and a Barracks that accommodated 1500 men. This lead to the development of another new Stonehouse community in another separate town, that like the Docks had its own identity, local government and civic pride.


Royal William Victualling Yard
Image: Michael Chapman via CC ASA 4.0


The nation's investment in Plymouth was rewarded by the Navy's pivotal role during the Napoleonic War and in 1812 Plymouth Breakwater was commenced to protect the fleet in the Sound. The defeated French Emperor Napoleon would see it being built when he remained in Plymouth Sound for two weeks on HMS Bellerophon before sailing to exile on St Helena in 1815. Before it was completed Darwin would also see its craftsmen at work before starting from Plymouth Sound in 1831 on his journey aboard the Beagle, that would lead to his theory of evolution. Unfortunately, numerous technical difficulties and repeated storm damage meant that the breakwater was not completed until 1841. It was followed in the 1860s, by a Palmerston fort located immediately behind it as well as a ring of further forts around the outskirts of Devonport, to protect the dockyard from attack from any direction. Whilst these fortifications were being constructed thousands of convicts were being shipped off from the Sound to Australia.

Crowds trying to glimpse Napoleon aboard The Bellerophon in Plymouth Sound
Image: Public Domain


Notable explorers continued to depart from here during the 20th century and Scott of the Antarctic's last fateful ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition departed here in 1910. In 1912, just months after Scott died, the survivors of the Titanic disaster disembarked at Millbay Docks. All the time the population and physical size of the three independent towns increased dramatically. It was only the threat of war in 1914 that finally led to the Three Towns being joined together under one authority creating the Plymouth we know today. During the First World War Plymouth became the port of entry for many troops from around the Empire and an important base for escort vessels and repairs. Major units of the Royal Navy moved to what was believed to be the safety of Scapa Flow where the loss of the Royal Oak dealt the nation a shattering blow. It also developed as a facility for the manufacture of munitions and had flying boats operating from Mount Batten. After the war, in 1928, Plymouth was granted City status.


1854 map of the Three Towns, Devonport to the left, Stonehouse in the centre,
Plymouth to the right

Image: Public Domain


During the Second World War, Devonport was the headquarters of Western Approaches Command until 1941. Sunderland flying boats operated by the Royal Australian Air Force flew from the Sound. Its military significance resulted in a devastating bombing by the Luftwaffe. A series of 59 raids, known as the Plymouth Blitz, left it one of the most badly bombed cities in England. The ‘Blitz’ caused widespread damage; flattening large parts of the city centre, central Devonport, areas of Stonehouse and in total over 3,700 houses were completely destroyed and more than 1,000 civilians lost their lives. This did not stop the war effort and it went to be one of the principal staging posts for the Normandy landings in June 1944, with Normandy Way near the Tamar bridges, leading down to one of a series of embarkation points for tens of thousands of US troops.

Long before the soldiers were making arrangements for their departure, the plucky Plymothians had already embarked upon a revolutionary plan to rebuild their city anew with thoroughly modern designs. Since then Devonport Dockyard has refitted aircraft carriers such as the Ark Royal and, later, nuclear submarines. New light industrial factories were constructed in the newly zoned industrial sector, attracting rapid growth of the urban population. The Royal Citadel is today the home of 29 Commando Royal Artillery and the city also remains the home to the 42 Commando of the Royal Marines.


All berths in Plymouth are overlooked by Maritime History
Image: Michael Harpur


Plymouth's fame and fortune has always come from the sea and those arriving by boat to its waterfronts will get the best experience the city has to offer today. Passing in under The Hoe and mooring against the walls of The Barbican has to be one of the best berths one can come alongside in Devon. On these quays maritime history runs deep, as you are walking in the very footsteps of the greatest explores the world has ever known. Even in more modern yachting times, it was from here that Sir Francis Chichester sailed Gypsy Moth on his solo round-the-world voyage.
It was also the startline for transatlantic races, including the legendary 1968/9 Golden Globe race that Robin Knox Johnston won after Bernard Moitessier abandoned the lead to sail off to Tahiti and the second placed Donald Crowhurst committed suicide.


Sutton quays now are more famous for lively bars, restaurants and night life
Image: Michael Harpur


A short walk will provide splendid vantage points over Plymouth Sound, such as The Hoe and the Mount Batten Centre, which help to make it one of Europe's finest deep water anchorages which is a joy to cruise. The Royal Citadel has guided tours during the summer months. The best views, all around, are available close west from atop of the classic red-and-white striped Smeaton's Tower. This was the 1759 lighthouse that stood for over 100 years on the wave-battered Eddystone Rocks. It was dismantled in 1877 and the top two-thirds were reassembled on Plymouth Hoe in 1882 as a tribute to the tower and its pioneering builder.


Ninety three steps to the top Smeaton's Tower provides superb views
Image: CC0


The city has 20 war memorials of which nine are on The Hoe including Plymouth Naval Memorial, to remember those killed in World Wars I and II, and the Armada Memorial, to commemorate the defeat of the Spanish Armada. The Barbican is also home to The Mayflower Steps close to the site from where the Pilgrims are believed to have finally left England aboard the Mayflower in 1620. For those tired of history, there is the adjacent National Marine Aquarium which displays 400 marine species and includes Britain's deepest aquarium tank, or lively shopping, eating and culture, and many varied interesting bars, cafes and restaurants around the Barbican and Sutton Harbour. Devon's biggest city really has plenty to enjoy.


National Marine Aquarium
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating point of view, this city is a mecca for all seafaring people. And the city is only the heart of the matter as the Sound, its rivers and creeks are all steeped in history as well as considerable natural beauty. It has everything a coastal cruiser could require in the best of weather and an ideal place to continue exploring during a broken spell.


What facilities are available?
All Plymouth's marina pontoons provide power and water. Domestic requirements such as showers, toilets, launderette facilities and including WiFi can be found throughout most of their areas. Facilities for garbage disposal and waste oil can also be arranged and all the marinas have their own slipways. Alongside diesel and petrol can be found at Plymouth Yacht Haven, Queen Anne's Battery Marina and Mayflower Marina. There are also eight yacht/sailing clubs in the area, details can be found in the useful contacts list.

Queen Anne's Battery Fuel Dock
Image: Michael Harpur


A wide range of boatyards in and around the city offer every conceivable repair a boat owner could imagine. There are countless marine engineers, riggers, sailmakers, electronic and electrical experts available along with a wide choice of chandlers. Travel hoists that can lift vessels weighing up to 200 tons are available and ample hard standing ashore in a variety of locations. Any boat can be lifted out here.

Public slips include the large concrete Mount Batten Slip with access at all of the tidal range except at dead low water springs. Turnchapel Slip, located west of Hooe Point Sailing Club on the south side of Cattewater, has access at about half of the tidal range. Elphinstone Boat Park concrete ramp can be found next to the Plymouth Harbour Master's office, with access at all states of the tide. There is no charge for the use of any of these slips.

The City, depending on where the berth is taken, is either a short walk, ferry, bus or taxi ride, has a choice of excellent large scale supermarkets, and shopping centres for more concerted provisioning. Being England's 30th largest city it has all of the banks, cashpoints and post offices that can be relied upon to sort out any element required.

The major city and commercial port has excellent transport connections. There are good mainline railway links to the North and to London. The mainline station is slightly to the north of the city centre. Regular bus services are provided by Plymouth Citybus, Stagecoach South West and Target Travel. Plymouth airport has flights to London, Scotland and Ireland and there are straightforward road connections with the M5. International ferry connections to Roscoff and Santander.


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About Plymouth Harbour

Plymouth, takes its name from the River Plym, being the conjunction of the name Plym and the Old English mútha, meaning mouth; 'Mouth of the River Plym'. The river received its name from the Old English plym tun meaning 'plum tree village'. So the river took its name from Plympton, now part of Plymouth, on the river the meaning ‘plum-tree farm’. But the cities' founding village was in Sutton which it was called long after the Norman Conquest.


The Mount Batten promontory
Image: Michael Harpur


The first settlement was on the Mount Batten promontory which projects into the upper eastern reaches of Plymouth Sound and the Cattewater. This was a major port and commercial trading centre during the Late Bronze Age period and it survived as a coastal port through Roman times with evidence of it trading until at least the early part of the third century AD. The level of finds discovered here suggests it was one of the main trading ports of the country during its time. The settlement continued until it was surpassed by the more prosperous village of Sutton founded in the 9th-century. Another settlement at Plympton, further up the River Plym, was also an early trading port. But early 11th-century silting of the river forced its mariners and merchants to join those from Mount Batten promontory in Sutton.


Sutton as seen from above the Mount Batten promontory
Image: Michael Harpur


After the Norman Conquest, it was Sutton that Doomsday recorded as Sudtone, meaning ‘south town’ in Old English. It noted that the greater part of it belonged to the Priory of Plympton. Considered too small a settlement to warrant fortification the Normans established a motte and bailey castle at Plympton. A market was established in Sutton in 1253 which attracted merchants and craftsmen accelerating the development of a town. In 1292 the town first returned members to parliament and continued for centuries afterwards. The Barbican was home to Plymouth's fish market and is still home to its fishing fleet. The district generally regarded as the Barbican is roughly equivalent to the location and size of the medieval town of Sutton.

The Barbican today
Image: Michael Harpur


In 1311 The ‘Port of Plymouth’ embraced Plympton, Modbury and Newton Ferrers, and received a customs grant from Richard II. Wine from France and Spain was imported into medieval Plymouth. Being a port of embarkation and disembarkation in connection with expeditions to France, caused it to be a known target during the Hundred Years' War. There were several attacks with the worst of them occurring in 1403 when Breton raiders landed north of Sutton. They then marched into the small town and occupied the area around Exeter Street. The English fought back but were unable to dislodge the invaders who stayed overnight. The next day the French burned much of the town that at the time was largely constructed of wood with thatched roofs, and then sailed away. The occupied part of the town was called Breton Side for the following centuries.

The only remaining part of Plymouth Castle at the Barbican
Image: Smalljim via CC ASA 4.0
This attack highlighted the need to protect Sutton and Sutton Pool, which is where the fleet was based in Plymouth prior to the establishment of Plymouth Dockyard. King Henry IV ordered the prior of Plympton and the abbot of Tavistock to further fortify the town with walls and towers. No finance seems to have been forthcoming from the Crown and the Bishop of Exeter, later granted indulgences to those who made contributions towards the cost of the project. Instead of town walls, the defences took the form of a ‘castle quadrate’ that featured four round towers, one at each corner, which have been incorporated into the city coat of arms. The name Barbican indicating it was the location of the fortified gate of a late medieval fortress.

City of Plymouth coat of arms
Image: Jackofhearts101 via CC BY-SA 2.0
In 1412 the inhabitants petitioned for a charter, which, after strenuous opposition from the Priors of Plympton, was granted by Henry VI in 1439. Plymouth was the first town to be incorporated and in doing so the charter officially replaced Sutton with the name Plymouth.

During the reign of Elizabeth, Plymouth rose to be the foremost port in England. In 1497 this was heralded by John Cabot's discovery of Newfoundland with its rich stocks of fish. From then on Plymouth fishermen fished off the coast of Newfoundland and it became the most important industry in Tudor Plymouth. 'Black Gold' was discovered by Plymouth’s William Hawkins in 1528 when he established the notorious Transatlantic trade. It made him one of the richest men in the town, Mayor of Plymouth and in 1539 a member of Parliament. In 1572 Sir Francis Drake became the first Englishman to sail into the Pacific from Plymouth, and in 1577 he embarked on the first ever circumnavigation of the globe. He too became mayor of Plymouth in 1581 and went on to represent the borough in parliament. Sir Humphrey Gilbert sailed out on his second colonizing expedition to America in 1583 from here, and it was where Drake brought the remnant of Raleigh's Virginian colony. So Plymouth served in the establishment of England's first colony, at Roanoke in Virginia, an act that may be regarded as the origin of the British Empire.


A depiction of the the embarkation of the Pilgrims
Image: Public Domain


The most celebrated expedition to leave Plymouth was that of the Pilgrims in 1620. It was here they abandoned the Speedwell for being unseaworthy and set sail for the New World from the present Barbican on board the Mayflower. After spending a few weeks in Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod, they eventually landed in Plymouth Harbor and helped to establish a new Plymouth community. Plymouth also helped to discover a whole new world in 1768, when The HMB Endeavour sailed out under the command of Captain James Cook, an accomplished astronomer, navigator and surveyor. His voyages would discover Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.


Plymouth military expansion began in earnest in the 17th-century
Image: Michael Harpur


Whilst great discoveries were being made from Plymouth it was gradually losing its pre-eminence as a trading port in the 17th-century. Fortunately, alongside a reputation for voyage and discovery, Plymouth had also demonstrated prowess and importance as a military port. In 1588 Plymouth supplied seven ships against the Armada, and it was in Plymouth Sound that the English fleet of galleons assembled to await the first sighting of the Spaniards. It is said that Drake masterminded the Armanda's defeat whilst playing bowls on Plymouth Hoe as it was sailing up the Channel. Legend has it that Drake wouldn't be panicked into stopping the game saying 'there was plenty of time to finish it and then tackle the Armada'. Naval historians consider the story to be true as they believe this not to be an act of machismo but rather Drake applying his local knowledge of tides, winds or distance at sea.


1643 Plymouth Siege Map
Image: Public Domain


During the Civil War, Plymouth sided with Parliament against King Charles and it held out against overwhelming odds of Royalist forces for nearly four years. It only ended when the King was finally defeated and they found themselves on the winning side, as the only town in the west that never fell into their opponents hands. They later paid a price for this when the monarchy was restored and the new King, Charles II exacted revenge for Plymouth’s resistance. Many of its heroes were imprisoned on Drake’s Island, some until their deaths.



The Royal Citadel built in the late 1660s
Image: Michael Harpur


The military expansion of the town began in earnest after the Glorious Revolution and under the direction of King William. A citadel was built on the highest point above the town the Hoe, meaning ‘high ground’, to defend the port from naval attacks and to train the armed forces. Its walls were made 6.1 metres thick and it was armed with cannons facing both out to sea and into the town, rumoured to be a reminder to Plymothians with Parliamentary leanings, not to oppose the Crown. Mount Batten tower and the first Royal Dockyard was opened on the banks of the Tamar in the west of Plymouth and dates from around this time. A settlement developed around the Royal Dockyard that was called ‘Dock’ or ‘Plymouth Dock’ at the time, and a new town, separate from Plymouth, grew up around it. Further docks were built in 1727, 1762 and 1793, and a huge naval complex was later established, which was renamed Devonport in 1824.


1666 plans for the citadel show the Barbican at this time
Image: Public Domain


The Royal William Victualling Yard at Stonehouse was built in 1835. In addition to the Victualling Yard, with its naval ordnance department, it also included repair shops, an armoury, and a Barracks that accommodated 1500 men. This lead to the development of another new Stonehouse community in another separate town, that like the Docks had its own identity, local government and civic pride.


Royal William Victualling Yard
Image: Michael Chapman via CC ASA 4.0


The nation's investment in Plymouth was rewarded by the Navy's pivotal role during the Napoleonic War and in 1812 Plymouth Breakwater was commenced to protect the fleet in the Sound. The defeated French Emperor Napoleon would see it being built when he remained in Plymouth Sound for two weeks on HMS Bellerophon before sailing to exile on St Helena in 1815. Before it was completed Darwin would also see its craftsmen at work before starting from Plymouth Sound in 1831 on his journey aboard the Beagle, that would lead to his theory of evolution. Unfortunately, numerous technical difficulties and repeated storm damage meant that the breakwater was not completed until 1841. It was followed in the 1860s, by a Palmerston fort located immediately behind it as well as a ring of further forts around the outskirts of Devonport, to protect the dockyard from attack from any direction. Whilst these fortifications were being constructed thousands of convicts were being shipped off from the Sound to Australia.

Crowds trying to glimpse Napoleon aboard The Bellerophon in Plymouth Sound
Image: Public Domain


Notable explorers continued to depart from here during the 20th century and Scott of the Antarctic's last fateful ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition departed here in 1910. In 1912, just months after Scott died, the survivors of the Titanic disaster disembarked at Millbay Docks. All the time the population and physical size of the three independent towns increased dramatically. It was only the threat of war in 1914 that finally led to the Three Towns being joined together under one authority creating the Plymouth we know today. During the First World War Plymouth became the port of entry for many troops from around the Empire and an important base for escort vessels and repairs. Major units of the Royal Navy moved to what was believed to be the safety of Scapa Flow where the loss of the Royal Oak dealt the nation a shattering blow. It also developed as a facility for the manufacture of munitions and had flying boats operating from Mount Batten. After the war, in 1928, Plymouth was granted City status.


1854 map of the Three Towns, Devonport to the left, Stonehouse in the centre,
Plymouth to the right

Image: Public Domain


During the Second World War, Devonport was the headquarters of Western Approaches Command until 1941. Sunderland flying boats operated by the Royal Australian Air Force flew from the Sound. Its military significance resulted in a devastating bombing by the Luftwaffe. A series of 59 raids, known as the Plymouth Blitz, left it one of the most badly bombed cities in England. The ‘Blitz’ caused widespread damage; flattening large parts of the city centre, central Devonport, areas of Stonehouse and in total over 3,700 houses were completely destroyed and more than 1,000 civilians lost their lives. This did not stop the war effort and it went to be one of the principal staging posts for the Normandy landings in June 1944, with Normandy Way near the Tamar bridges, leading down to one of a series of embarkation points for tens of thousands of US troops.

Long before the soldiers were making arrangements for their departure, the plucky Plymothians had already embarked upon a revolutionary plan to rebuild their city anew with thoroughly modern designs. Since then Devonport Dockyard has refitted aircraft carriers such as the Ark Royal and, later, nuclear submarines. New light industrial factories were constructed in the newly zoned industrial sector, attracting rapid growth of the urban population. The Royal Citadel is today the home of 29 Commando Royal Artillery and the city also remains the home to the 42 Commando of the Royal Marines.


All berths in Plymouth are overlooked by Maritime History
Image: Michael Harpur


Plymouth's fame and fortune has always come from the sea and those arriving by boat to its waterfronts will get the best experience the city has to offer today. Passing in under The Hoe and mooring against the walls of The Barbican has to be one of the best berths one can come alongside in Devon. On these quays maritime history runs deep, as you are walking in the very footsteps of the greatest explores the world has ever known. Even in more modern yachting times, it was from here that Sir Francis Chichester sailed Gypsy Moth on his solo round-the-world voyage.
It was also the startline for transatlantic races, including the legendary 1968/9 Golden Globe race that Robin Knox Johnston won after Bernard Moitessier abandoned the lead to sail off to Tahiti and the second placed Donald Crowhurst committed suicide.


Sutton quays now are more famous for lively bars, restaurants and night life
Image: Michael Harpur


A short walk will provide splendid vantage points over Plymouth Sound, such as The Hoe and the Mount Batten Centre, which help to make it one of Europe's finest deep water anchorages which is a joy to cruise. The Royal Citadel has guided tours during the summer months. The best views, all around, are available close west from atop of the classic red-and-white striped Smeaton's Tower. This was the 1759 lighthouse that stood for over 100 years on the wave-battered Eddystone Rocks. It was dismantled in 1877 and the top two-thirds were reassembled on Plymouth Hoe in 1882 as a tribute to the tower and its pioneering builder.


Ninety three steps to the top Smeaton's Tower provides superb views
Image: CC0


The city has 20 war memorials of which nine are on The Hoe including Plymouth Naval Memorial, to remember those killed in World Wars I and II, and the Armada Memorial, to commemorate the defeat of the Spanish Armada. The Barbican is also home to The Mayflower Steps close to the site from where the Pilgrims are believed to have finally left England aboard the Mayflower in 1620. For those tired of history, there is the adjacent National Marine Aquarium which displays 400 marine species and includes Britain's deepest aquarium tank, or lively shopping, eating and culture, and many varied interesting bars, cafes and restaurants around the Barbican and Sutton Harbour. Devon's biggest city really has plenty to enjoy.


National Marine Aquarium
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating point of view, this city is a mecca for all seafaring people. And the city is only the heart of the matter as the Sound, its rivers and creeks are all steeped in history as well as considerable natural beauty. It has everything a coastal cruiser could require in the best of weather and an ideal place to continue exploring during a broken spell.

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:
River Tamar & Tributaries - 0.9 miles WSW
Looe Harbour - 7.6 miles W
Polperro Harbour - 9.2 miles W
Fowey - 11.9 miles W
Polkerris - 13.1 miles W
Coastal anti-clockwise:
River Yealm - 2.8 miles SE
River Erme - 4.8 miles ESE
River Avon - 7 miles ESE
Hope Cove - 7.9 miles SE
Starehole Bay - 10 miles SE

Navigational pictures


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

























































































































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