The bay provides a good anchorage in conditions from southeast round to east. Access to the open bay is straightforward at all stages of the tide, night or day.
Keyfacts for Totland Bay
SummaryA good location with straightforward access.
Position and approaches
Haven position50° 40.855' N, 001° 33.000' W
This is on the 2 metre contour about 400 metres southwest of the pier that exhibits a light 2F.G(vert)6m2M.
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
The Solent and Isle of Wight Coastal Overview.
- From south of the ‘Bell Warden’ starboard buoy steer toward the head of the pier.
- Make certain that there is no cross tide pushing the vessel toward Warden Ledge.
- Break off and anchor according to draft clear of local moorings to the southwest of the pier.
Not what you need?
How to get in?
Totland Bay is a large northwest facing bay that lies between the Isle of Wight’s Hatherwood Point and Warden Point, situated about a 1.3 miles to the northeast. The bay is fronted by a concrete seawall, groynes and a disused pier that are set at the foot of a steep coastline. It lies ¼ of a mile west of the village of Totland that may be reached via a road, leading up from the pier, or steep steps leading up from behind a prominent seafront café.
Totland Bay is a popular anchorage that is clear of outlying dangers for most vessels. However deeper draft vessels should note there is a large field of rocks, named ‘Tinker Shoal’, in the outer middle section of the bay. The shoal extends out a ½ mile north-westward from the pier and ranges in depths from about 2.2 metres to 1.9 metres LAT. Its least depth is located near its south-western limit about ¼ of a mile out from the pierhead. No other dangers will be encountered by staying in reasonable soundings and well clear of the dangerous Warden Ledge that divides Totland and Colwell bays.
The Solent and Isle of Wight coastal description provides approach details.
Vessels approaching from the northeast must give the dangerous Warden Ledge a wide berth. This is a rocky reef that extends nearly a ½ mile north by northwest from Warden Point. At spring tides it is dry for about half its length and the outer edge has 1.8 metres of water over it. Beyond this it drops into deep water about 800 metres east by northeast of the ‘Bell Warden’ starboard hand buoy. It is essential to stay well clear of the Warden Ledge as the north-eastward running flood tide runs onto it with some velocity. Many a boat has been pinned to the ledge by the flood. The ebb, though setting towards The Shingles, will only then serve to strand a vessel on the reef.
Vessels approaching from the southwest are cautioned against hugging the Needle's Lighthouse too closely to avoid the wreck of the ‘Varvassi’ and the ‘Goose Rock’ that dries at low water springs. Stand well off Hatherwood Point as it has small rocky patches that extend 150 metres offshore both south and north of the head. A reef then extends along the foot of the cliffs of Totland Bay’s southern shore stepping out about 100 metres from the cliffs. Further within, in the southeast end of the bay, the 2 metre contour is about 400 metres out. Needles Point lighthouse and Hatherwood Point aligned will keep a vessel in excess of 2 metres.
The initial fix is set about 350 metres south of the ‘Bell Warden’ starboard buoy Fl.G.2.5s. Steer toward the head of the pier ½ a mile to the southwest that exhibits a light 2F.G(vert)6m2M. Make certain that there is no cross tide pushing the vessel toward Warden Ledge.
The best anchoring location in Totland Bay is on its southern side. Anchor about 200 to 400 metres southwest of the head of the pier in 2 to 5 metres clear of any local moorings. Little or no ebb tide will be felt, and the flood is not strong enough to impair the bay’s good holding in sand and mud.
Land on the beach which is predominantly made up of stone and shingle. The tide covers most of it at high water.
Why visit here?Totland received its named beacon with its name being made up of tót and land meaning ‘lookout’ on ‘cultivated land or an estate’. The defensive measure is believed to date back to Anglo-Saxon times but during the 14th century beacons were a dominant feature of coastal hilltops. The lookout, from which the bay takes its name, dates back to this latter period. The beacon was located on the chalk ridge of Tennyson Down where the Tennyson monument now stands.
Totland Bay’s history of human inhabitation goes back 10,000 years. Headon Hill that overlooks the bay from the south has Bronze Age round barrows, and urn fragments from that period have been found at Totland. A Bronze Age axe hoard was also discovered at nearby Moons Hill located on the side of Tennyson Down. Assorted Roman burials, coins and pottery have also been uncovered in the area and it is believed that a Roman villa must have existed there.
By the first half of the Victorian period this agrarian idyllic remained largely intact. This rural West Wight enchanted Alfred, Lord Tennyson who came to live here, at nearby Farringford, in 1853 when the area only consisted of a few farms. He wrote of his home here:
“Where, far from noise and smoke of town
I watch the twilight falling brown,
All round a careless-ordered garden,
Close to the ridge of a noble down.”
Little did he know that militarisation and the advent of tourism was about to transform his sequester retreat during his lifetime. By 1869 Tennyson was forced to decamp to West Sussex during the summers in order to escape the awestruck Victorian tourists that were beating a path to his homestead.
The military imperative came when France declared the second republic and Louis Napoleon became its first president as Napoleon III. After years of peace England was suddenly vulnerable again and defensive steps had to be taken to protect the vital ‘Needles Passage’. Following the 1860 Royal Commission of Defences, Palmerston, the then prime minister, pushed through the construction of the Needles Old Battery, Hatherwood Point Battery and Warden Point Battery. Further inland, deep within the rural landscape of the area, the Golden Hill Fort was also constructed. The imposition of the military structures did little to change the nature of the area. It was the tourism that took off during the latter part of the 19th century that would completely transform Totland Bay.
The 1873 construction of the road between Yarmouth and Alum Bay linking Totland and Colwell bays, literally paved the way for these coastal bays to develop into small Victorian holiday resorts. Tennyson had already placed the area on the map amongst artists and the word was getting out. The catalytic event for Totland Bay was the arrival of the Totland Bay Hotel & Pier Company with the singular intention of turning the bay into a holiday resort.
In 1880 the company opened the large 450 ft. long iron pier that could receive steam packets. This was the second pier built in Totland Bay. The first was a small wooden pier built in 1859 to assist the construction of the Needles Lighthouse, and to serve local fisherman. The Totland Bay Hotel & Pier Company pier was built to bring in Victorian tourists. Above the pier the large Totland Bay Hotel was constructed along with holiday villas to receive the visitors. Bathing machines and rowing boats for hire fronted the beach. The pier originally received steamer traffic from Lymington and Yarmouth but services were later extended to include excursions around the island and local mainland ports.
From the 1960s Totland Bay, along with all Britain’s seaside towns, slid into a breathtakingly fast decline. Ironically it was the same reason that caused the Victorian destinations to first flourish that was to undo them: advancements in transport, rising wages, higher rates of employment and better weather. Ferry services to the bay finally ceasing in 1969, the Hotel closed in 1970 and was demolished soon after. Totland’s economy is now mainly based on agriculture and tourism, with a small number of manufacturing and service companies.
Today the sea front promenade has a traditional feel and is a popular local place to enjoy a leisurely stroll especially at sunset. It remains the reserve of the genteel tourist and has grown to become the ideal location for retirement. The disused Totland Bay Pier remains in private hands. There are current rumours that it will be repaired and made operational again.
From a sailing perspective Totland Bay is the best anchorage outside the entrance to The Solent: Alum Bay can be exposed to swell and Colwell Bay is so choked with rocks that it cannot be recommended. It also makes an ideal tide wait location for vessels avoiding the full run of the tide between Hurst Point and Fort Albert. The Bay also warrants a stop of its own. Especially so for walkers who can enjoy a 6.6 km (4.1 miles) hilly walk that takes in and provides rewarding views of The Needles, Hurst Castle, Fort Albert and Tennyson’s Monument.
What facilities are available?Toilets are available on the promenade as well as a cafe and bar. Small provisions can be had up the steep hill in Toteland village where there is a petrol station.
Any security concerns?Never an issue known to have occurred to a vessel anchored in Totland Bay.
With thanks to:Peter Lemonius of Needles Pleasure Cruises. Photgraphy with thanks to Michael Harpur.
An overview of Totland Bay
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