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The Cove

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Overview





The Cove is a small south opening inlet that lies between St Agnes and its adjacent isle of Gugh in Scilly. It provides an anchorage in a quiet and natural setting.

The Cove is a small south opening inlet that lies between St Agnes and its adjacent isle of Gugh in Scilly. It provides an anchorage in a quiet and natural setting.

The Cove is a good anchorage providing shelter from southwest round through west through north to east. It is also one of island group's most straightforward anchorages to approach and can be accessed at any stage of the tide with the benefit of daylight.
Please note

It can be subject to a chop at high water Springs when developed north and north-westerly winds occur.




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Keyfacts for The Cove



Last modified
December 2nd 2019

Summary

A good location with straightforward access.

Facilities
Waste disposal bins availableShop with basic provisions availableShore based toilet facilitiesHot 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 areaPost Office in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderQuick and easy access from open waterScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
None listed



Position and approaches
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Haven position

49° 53.508' N, 006° 20.178' W

This is in the middle of the cove in about 2 metres LAT.

What is the initial fix?

The following The Cove Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
49° 53.166' N, 006° 19.870' W
This is about 250 metres outside the entrance and on the alignment of the middle of The Bar with The Cow rock located 0.8 miles north by northwest off the entrance to Porth Conger. The alignment leads safely into and up The Cove.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in southwestern England’s coastal overview from Land's End to Isles of Scilly Route location

  • The Cove's primary hazard is the covering and uncovering Little Hakestone situated on the southwestern corner of the entrance on the St Agnes side. It may be easily avoided by keeping to the Hakestone, on the Gugh side of the entrance, which is steep to.

  • Keeping The Cow rock over the middle of The Bar provides a clear line in through the entrance and straight up the middle of the cove past its fringing rocks.


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 The Cove for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Porth Conger - 0.2 miles NNW
  2. Porth Cressa - 0.8 miles NE
  3. St Mary's Pool - 1.1 miles NNE
  4. Old Town Bay - 1.1 miles NE
  5. Windmill Cove - 1.9 miles NE
  6. Green Bay - 2.2 miles N
  7. New Grimsby - 2.6 miles N
  8. Old Grimsby - 2.6 miles N
  9. Higher Town Bay - 2.8 miles NNE
  10. St Helen's Pool - 2.8 miles N
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Porth Conger - 0.2 miles NNW
  2. Porth Cressa - 0.8 miles NE
  3. St Mary's Pool - 1.1 miles NNE
  4. Old Town Bay - 1.1 miles NE
  5. Windmill Cove - 1.9 miles NE
  6. Green Bay - 2.2 miles N
  7. New Grimsby - 2.6 miles N
  8. Old Grimsby - 2.6 miles N
  9. Higher Town Bay - 2.8 miles NNE
  10. St Helen's Pool - 2.8 miles N
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

Resources search



What's the story here?
The Cove
Image: Michael Harpur


The Cove lies between the island of St Agnes and its small near neighbour of Gugh. The islands are connected by a tombolo called The Bar, locally known as Gugh Bar, that connects to Gugh from the eastern side of St Agnes forming bays on either side. The Bar comprises a narrow spit of boulders and sand that dry to 4.6 metres at low tides and covers at three-quarters flood.


Gugh, left, Porth Conger north of The Bar and The Cove to the south
Image: Michael Harpur


The Cove lies to the south is of The Bar with Porth Conger, which has the island's principal quay, on the opposite northern side. The Cove is the larger and the deeper of the two bays with 7 metres or more in the middle and ample room for 20 boats to anchor with excellent sand holding.


The Bar starting to cover
Image: Michael Harpur


The Bar covers at springs when there is a strong tidal stream from north to south. When covered, it becomes dangerous to swim and it becomes difficult to travel by dinghy without an outboard at high tide. The anchorage also loses a measure of its northerly protection and a chop will occur in developed conditions. It isn’t viable in a strong northwesterly at high water springs as the swell is too uncomfortable. During developed southwesterly and easterly winds The Cove is also subject to swell near high water and is entirely open to the south. Apart from this, it is an excellent anchorage.


How to get in?
The Cove as seen from the northwest from above St Agnes
Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Use southwestern England’s coastal overview from Land's End to Isles of Scilly Route location for local approaches. The Cove should be visible from about a mile off the south coast of St Agnes.

The Cove is approached between the Tean Plat Point and The Hoe and is very straightforward from the south. Tean Plat Point lies a ⅓ of a mile northeast Horse Point the southern extremity of St Agnes. Standing a ¼ of a mile off Horse Point clears all the dangers close south of St Agnes. These comprise the drying Wingletang Ledges that lie 250 metres south-westward of the always visible and 2-metre high Great Wingletang rock. The Hoe, which is a small rocky islet off the southern extremity of Gugh, is by contrast steep-to.
Please note

Vessels approaching from Saint Mary’s Sound should keep the charted alignment of Pidney Brow, a 13-metre high hill on the southern end of St Agnes, just open of The Hoe, to clear Cuckold’s Ledge that dries to 1.4 metres.




Yacht rounding The Hoe and Hakestone
Image: Michael Harpur


The Cove is then entered between the 2-metre high Hakestone and the anchorage's primary hazard of Little Hakestone. Little Hakestone is situated on the southwestern corner of the entrance 300 metres southwest of Hakestone on the opposite side. It covers and uncovers to 3 metres and may be easily avoided by keeping to the Hakestone side of the entrance which, like the Hoe, is also steep to.


The Cow over the middle of The Bar leads north by northwestward up through The
Cove

Image: Michael Harpur


A useful leading line is provided by the prominent The Cow rock, located 0.8 miles north by northwest off the entrance to Porth Conger. Keeping this more or less in the middle of The Bar provides a clear line through the entrance, passing about 50 metres or so east of Little Hakestone, and straight up the middle of the cove past its fringing rocks.


Yacht proceeding up The Cove
Image: Michael Harpur


Initial fix location The initial fix is set outside the entrance on The Cow rock alignment. Steering in on this, a course of about 335°T or north by northwest, carries the boat in through the entrance and up to the anchorage. Depths reduce gently all the way over a bottom of mostly sand and weed. The shoreline is fringed with rocks that covered in weed which makes them easy to see. The head of the bay, leading up to The Bar, is clear of rocky ledges and made up of fine sand.


Yacht anchored near the head of The Cove
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location Anchor towards the centre and near the head of the cove. There will most likely be several other boats but ample room nonetheless. 2 metres will be found closer to the head with deeper waters, of about 7 metres, toward the centre of the bay.


Prominent diamond warning mark on the west side of The Bar
Image: Michael Harpur


A prominent warning diamond on the rocks above the beach indicate the position of telegraph cables which are well charted. These are well buried in the deepwater not usually present any problem, but, closer in and in the shallower waters, it is advisable to use a tripping line.


Land by tender on The Bar or on the beach below
Image: Michael Harpur


Land on The Bar or on the beach or just below on the beach. An alternative is the small, sheltered Cove Vean located within a St Agnes bight but it is rocky and dries almost to its mouth on big
tides.


Why visit here?
The aptly named cove is a wonderful anchorage and one of the easiest to access by vessels arriving into the group from any southern quadrant. A good easily accessed anchorage like this is a useful asset in an island group such as Scilly. For laying in open water, at a junction of five international shipping routes and in an area subject to poor visibility, Scilly's two hundred or so islands, islets and rocks, many of which cover, have taken their toll on vessels down through the centuries.

Sir Cloudesley Shovell (1650–1707)
Image: Public Domain
The recording of the loss of ships at sea only commenced in 1599 with the introduction of Lloyd's List. Little or nothing is known of the prehistoric and medieval periods and possibly even postmedieval prior to that and Lloyd's List is understood to be notoriously inaccurate and incomplete. Nevertheless, during its 258 year period, it recorded 420 vessels foundering on rocks around Scilly. After 1857 the government got involved and records became reliable and it proceeded to record another 400 wrecks to the present day. When added to the list the estimated total amounts to an estimated total of 900 losses for the combined period. As such Scilly has one of the highest concentrations of shipwrecks in the UK.

But these records could never be complete as the most prolific area for shipwrecks on Scilly is on the Western Rocks where vessels lost at night or in fog would have gone down both unseen and unheard. Ships wrecked in this area in early times would have no means of signalling distress and the tide would most likely have carried the wreckage and bodies out to sea. So Scilly probably has a vast number of unrecorded ship losses and the disasters still take place in recent times. On 26 March 1997 MV Cita a German-owned cargo shipwrecked at Newfoundland Point, St Mary's. She was en route to Ireland and on automatic pilot whilst the nine Polish crew slept. Fortunate for them, St Mary's lifeboat took then all ashore.


The deadly Western Rocks to the southwest of St Agnes
Image: Michael Harpur


Sadly very few of these, if any, ended so well for the crew of the MV Cita as Scilly’s worst disaster amply illustrates. This occurred in 1707 when the British Mediterranean fleet, under Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, was returning to England from Gibraltar after an attack on the French port of Toulon. Shovell was the hero of many naval battles, including an attack on Tripoli and the capture of Gibraltar and Barcelona. Because of a combination of the bad weather and the inability to accurately calculate longitude at the time, the fleet of twenty-one ships thought they were sailing safely west of Ushant off the coast of Brittany. Sadly they were some hundred miles north of that position, so when Shovell issued the command to alter course to a northeasterly direction for the English Channel, the fleet was then steering directly for the Isles of Scilly and one of the greatest maritime disasters of British Naval history was about to occur.

18th-century engraving of the disaster, with HMS Association in the centre
Image: Public Domain


At 8 pm on the 2 October, under the commanded of Captain Edmund Loades with Admiral Shovell on board, HMS Association ran up on the Gildstone. The rock is located a little over three miles southwest of The Cove in the Western Rocks and is also known as Outer Gilstone to distinguish it from the hazardous rock on the approaches to St Mary's Sound. The catastrophy then proceeded at a breathtaking pace. Observed by those on board HMS St George, HMS Association was seen to 'go down in three or four minutes' time' taking all its hands with it. This would have been a full crew of at least 800. Eagle, Romney were just as quickly lost. Firebrand struck the rocks but managed to get off again. Leaking badly, she made for the beacon of St Agnes lighthouse and foundered in Smith Sound close. HMS St George also struck rocks and suffered damage but eventually managed to get off, as did HMS Phoenix which ran ashore between Tresco and St Martin's but could be kept seaworthy.


The Cove as seen from Gugh with St Agnes lighthouse in the backdrop
Image: Michael Harpur


All that remained was for the 1,450 bodies, of the estimated 2,000 that were lost, to wash up ashore over the following weeks. Of the three ships, HMS Association, Eagle, and Romney there was only one survivor between them. Shovell's body, Captain Loades and both his stepsons were found later in St Mary's Porthellick Cove, almost seven miles northeast from where the wreck site. It was thought that Shovell and the captain, along with Shovell’s two stepsons, left his flagship in one of its boats only to be drowned whilst trying to get ashore.


The Cove as seen from St Agnes
Image: Michael Harpur


The colossal loss of life led to several myths being attached to the tragedy. At that time, Scilly had a wild and lawless reputation and local legend has it that Shovell struggled ashore only to be murdered by a woman for the sake of a priceless emerald ring he wore. Shovell was then buried on the beach where he was found. Several historians doubt the murder story as there is no indication that the ring was recovered and the legend stems from a romantic and unverifiable deathbed confession. Shovell's body was subsequently exhumed by order of Queen Anne and he was given a state funeral. He was finally interred in Westminster Abbey and a large marble monument was set into the south choir aisle in his honour. His two stepsons were buried in Old Town Church on St Mary's.


Cove Vean tucked into a bight in the eastern side of St Agnes
Image: Michael Harpur


Another more pervasive myth alleged that a common sailor on the flagship was a Scillonian who recognised the waters as being close to home. Legend has it he tried to warn Shovell that the fleet was off course and heading for the island group. The Admiral took great offence to his suggestion and had him hanged at the yardarm for suggesting he had superior navigational skills to the officer class something that was tantamount to inciting mutiny. While it is possible that a sailor may have debated the vessel's location and feared for its fate, such debates were more than common upon entering the English Channel during this period. Naval historians have repeatedly discredited the story, noting the lack of any evidence in contemporary documents. The myth was unfortunately given new life in 1997 when author Dava Sobel, seems to have decided to not let the lack of any evidence get in the way of a good yarn and presented it as an unqualified truth in her book Longitude.


Cove Vean provides an alternate landing beach
Image: Michael Harpur


Regardless of the veracity of the myth, the tragedy was one of the worst disasters in British naval history becoming known as the 'Scilly naval disaster of 1707' and it would lead to navigation changing forever. The horrific loss of life brought the problem of measuring longitude at sea into sharp focus and it was directly referred to in the subsequent 1714 Longitude Act where large prizes were offered for a practical method of fixing longitude at sea. The act would bring John Harrison, the self-educated English carpenter and clockmaker, to invent the marine chronometer. His chronometer finally solved the problem of calculating longitude while at sea and the transformation seagoing navigation.


The Bar, with The Cove in the backdrop as seen from Porth Conger
Image: Michael Harpur


Although The Cove may be the nearest anchorage to the site of this terrible disaster it is a perfect pocket of bliss during the season. It is the ideal location from which to explore the totally unspoilt and astonishingly peaceful St Agnes and the tiny island of Gugh. Moreover and unlike the islands primary harbour of Porth Conger, on the north side of The Bar, it is deep and spacious and much more accommodating to deeper craft.


The Bar as seen from Porth Conger
Image: Burke Corbett


From a boating point of view, it is truly a beautiful anchorage and one of the easiest to address in a complicated island group. What may be easily overlooked is just how serviceable it is for passage making. For those approaching St Mary’s, it makes an ideal easy initial set down point to rest and square away the vessel before making a final approach on St Mary’s Harbour and Hugh Town.

St Mary's Sound is not without its problems. The flanking landmasses can serve to make it more challenging than other approaches because of its effects on tidal streams. These can attain significant velocities in the narrow channel making St Mary's Sound a rough and unpleasant body of water at times. Heavy southwest round through west to northwest winds can create a rough sea over the shoals over its northwest end. If St Mary's Sound should be temporarily ugly or has a foul tide running, The Cove may prove the perfect location to await more accommodating conditions.


The Cove as seen from Gugh
Image: Michael Harpur


Likewise, it is an ideal staging point to set up an exit from the group to the south, west or east after escaping the clutches of St Mary’s Harbour. However, it does require a measure of visibility to safely exit. But keep an eye to the weather and be ready to up anchor at the slightest hint of southerlies.


What facilities are available?
Waste disposal above the jetty at Porth Conger and Public toilets opposite. Wi-Fi at the Turk's Head public house.

St Agnes Post Office and general store
Image: Michael Harpur


The Post Office, Near Middle Town, about 10 minute's walk, provide basic provisions including frozen food, wines, occasionally bread and general tourist fare. St Mary's Boatmen's Association provide ferry services to St Mary's as well as trips to other islands from Porth Conger quay.


With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, eOceanic.


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Please zoom out to see the 'initial fix' for this location.
The above plots are not precise and indicative only.


About The Cove

The aptly named cove is a wonderful anchorage and one of the easiest to access by vessels arriving into the group from any southern quadrant. A good easily accessed anchorage like this is a useful asset in an island group such as Scilly. For laying in open water, at a junction of five international shipping routes and in an area subject to poor visibility, Scilly's two hundred or so islands, islets and rocks, many of which cover, have taken their toll on vessels down through the centuries.

Sir Cloudesley Shovell (1650–1707)
Image: Public Domain
The recording of the loss of ships at sea only commenced in 1599 with the introduction of Lloyd's List. Little or nothing is known of the prehistoric and medieval periods and possibly even postmedieval prior to that and Lloyd's List is understood to be notoriously inaccurate and incomplete. Nevertheless, during its 258 year period, it recorded 420 vessels foundering on rocks around Scilly. After 1857 the government got involved and records became reliable and it proceeded to record another 400 wrecks to the present day. When added to the list the estimated total amounts to an estimated total of 900 losses for the combined period. As such Scilly has one of the highest concentrations of shipwrecks in the UK.

But these records could never be complete as the most prolific area for shipwrecks on Scilly is on the Western Rocks where vessels lost at night or in fog would have gone down both unseen and unheard. Ships wrecked in this area in early times would have no means of signalling distress and the tide would most likely have carried the wreckage and bodies out to sea. So Scilly probably has a vast number of unrecorded ship losses and the disasters still take place in recent times. On 26 March 1997 MV Cita a German-owned cargo shipwrecked at Newfoundland Point, St Mary's. She was en route to Ireland and on automatic pilot whilst the nine Polish crew slept. Fortunate for them, St Mary's lifeboat took then all ashore.


The deadly Western Rocks to the southwest of St Agnes
Image: Michael Harpur


Sadly very few of these, if any, ended so well for the crew of the MV Cita as Scilly’s worst disaster amply illustrates. This occurred in 1707 when the British Mediterranean fleet, under Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, was returning to England from Gibraltar after an attack on the French port of Toulon. Shovell was the hero of many naval battles, including an attack on Tripoli and the capture of Gibraltar and Barcelona. Because of a combination of the bad weather and the inability to accurately calculate longitude at the time, the fleet of twenty-one ships thought they were sailing safely west of Ushant off the coast of Brittany. Sadly they were some hundred miles north of that position, so when Shovell issued the command to alter course to a northeasterly direction for the English Channel, the fleet was then steering directly for the Isles of Scilly and one of the greatest maritime disasters of British Naval history was about to occur.

18th-century engraving of the disaster, with HMS Association in the centre
Image: Public Domain


At 8 pm on the 2 October, under the commanded of Captain Edmund Loades with Admiral Shovell on board, HMS Association ran up on the Gildstone. The rock is located a little over three miles southwest of The Cove in the Western Rocks and is also known as Outer Gilstone to distinguish it from the hazardous rock on the approaches to St Mary's Sound. The catastrophy then proceeded at a breathtaking pace. Observed by those on board HMS St George, HMS Association was seen to 'go down in three or four minutes' time' taking all its hands with it. This would have been a full crew of at least 800. Eagle, Romney were just as quickly lost. Firebrand struck the rocks but managed to get off again. Leaking badly, she made for the beacon of St Agnes lighthouse and foundered in Smith Sound close. HMS St George also struck rocks and suffered damage but eventually managed to get off, as did HMS Phoenix which ran ashore between Tresco and St Martin's but could be kept seaworthy.


The Cove as seen from Gugh with St Agnes lighthouse in the backdrop
Image: Michael Harpur


All that remained was for the 1,450 bodies, of the estimated 2,000 that were lost, to wash up ashore over the following weeks. Of the three ships, HMS Association, Eagle, and Romney there was only one survivor between them. Shovell's body, Captain Loades and both his stepsons were found later in St Mary's Porthellick Cove, almost seven miles northeast from where the wreck site. It was thought that Shovell and the captain, along with Shovell’s two stepsons, left his flagship in one of its boats only to be drowned whilst trying to get ashore.


The Cove as seen from St Agnes
Image: Michael Harpur


The colossal loss of life led to several myths being attached to the tragedy. At that time, Scilly had a wild and lawless reputation and local legend has it that Shovell struggled ashore only to be murdered by a woman for the sake of a priceless emerald ring he wore. Shovell was then buried on the beach where he was found. Several historians doubt the murder story as there is no indication that the ring was recovered and the legend stems from a romantic and unverifiable deathbed confession. Shovell's body was subsequently exhumed by order of Queen Anne and he was given a state funeral. He was finally interred in Westminster Abbey and a large marble monument was set into the south choir aisle in his honour. His two stepsons were buried in Old Town Church on St Mary's.


Cove Vean tucked into a bight in the eastern side of St Agnes
Image: Michael Harpur


Another more pervasive myth alleged that a common sailor on the flagship was a Scillonian who recognised the waters as being close to home. Legend has it he tried to warn Shovell that the fleet was off course and heading for the island group. The Admiral took great offence to his suggestion and had him hanged at the yardarm for suggesting he had superior navigational skills to the officer class something that was tantamount to inciting mutiny. While it is possible that a sailor may have debated the vessel's location and feared for its fate, such debates were more than common upon entering the English Channel during this period. Naval historians have repeatedly discredited the story, noting the lack of any evidence in contemporary documents. The myth was unfortunately given new life in 1997 when author Dava Sobel, seems to have decided to not let the lack of any evidence get in the way of a good yarn and presented it as an unqualified truth in her book Longitude.


Cove Vean provides an alternate landing beach
Image: Michael Harpur


Regardless of the veracity of the myth, the tragedy was one of the worst disasters in British naval history becoming known as the 'Scilly naval disaster of 1707' and it would lead to navigation changing forever. The horrific loss of life brought the problem of measuring longitude at sea into sharp focus and it was directly referred to in the subsequent 1714 Longitude Act where large prizes were offered for a practical method of fixing longitude at sea. The act would bring John Harrison, the self-educated English carpenter and clockmaker, to invent the marine chronometer. His chronometer finally solved the problem of calculating longitude while at sea and the transformation seagoing navigation.


The Bar, with The Cove in the backdrop as seen from Porth Conger
Image: Michael Harpur


Although The Cove may be the nearest anchorage to the site of this terrible disaster it is a perfect pocket of bliss during the season. It is the ideal location from which to explore the totally unspoilt and astonishingly peaceful St Agnes and the tiny island of Gugh. Moreover and unlike the islands primary harbour of Porth Conger, on the north side of The Bar, it is deep and spacious and much more accommodating to deeper craft.


The Bar as seen from Porth Conger
Image: Burke Corbett


From a boating point of view, it is truly a beautiful anchorage and one of the easiest to address in a complicated island group. What may be easily overlooked is just how serviceable it is for passage making. For those approaching St Mary’s, it makes an ideal easy initial set down point to rest and square away the vessel before making a final approach on St Mary’s Harbour and Hugh Town.

St Mary's Sound is not without its problems. The flanking landmasses can serve to make it more challenging than other approaches because of its effects on tidal streams. These can attain significant velocities in the narrow channel making St Mary's Sound a rough and unpleasant body of water at times. Heavy southwest round through west to northwest winds can create a rough sea over the shoals over its northwest end. If St Mary's Sound should be temporarily ugly or has a foul tide running, The Cove may prove the perfect location to await more accommodating conditions.


The Cove as seen from Gugh
Image: Michael Harpur


Likewise, it is an ideal staging point to set up an exit from the group to the south, west or east after escaping the clutches of St Mary’s Harbour. However, it does require a measure of visibility to safely exit. But keep an eye to the weather and be ready to up anchor at the slightest hint of southerlies.

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:
Porth Conger - 0.2 miles NNW
Green Bay - 2.2 miles N
New Grimsby - 2.6 miles N
Old Grimsby - 2.6 miles N
St Helen's Pool - 2.8 miles N
Coastal anti-clockwise:
St Mary's Pool - 1.1 miles NNE
Porth Cressa - 0.8 miles NE
Old Town Bay - 1.1 miles NE
Windmill Cove - 1.9 miles NE
Higher Town Bay - 2.8 miles NNE

Navigational pictures


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















































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Please note eOceanic makes no guarantee of the validity of this information, we have not visited this haven and do not have first-hand experience to qualify the data. Although the contributors are vetted by peer review as practised authorities, they are in no way, whatsoever, responsible for the accuracy of their contributions. It is essential that you thoroughly check the accuracy and suitability for your vessel of any waypoints offered in any context plus the precision of your GPS. Any data provided on this page is entirely used at your own risk and you must read our legal page if you view data on this site. Free to use sea charts courtesy of Navionics.