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South Coast (clockwise); westbound from Selsey Bill to Start Point

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What is the route?
This is a coastal description for vessels planning to sail along the coast between Selsey Bill and Start Point. The sequence of description is from east to west or coastal clockwise.

Why sail this route?
Cruising encompasses a combination of long passage runs, to move between coastal sailing grounds, and more detailed inshore navigation withing the sailing areas. Coastal descriptions strive to meet both these needs by providing a combination of the key coastal characteristics for the passages passage and immediate offshore area dangers to assist in local approaches. They serve to provide the overview information to lead a vessel to the initial fixes of the desired havens.

What are the navigational notes?
Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the route. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Clicking the 'Expand to Fullscreen' icon opens a larger viewing area in a new tab.

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The above plots are not precise and are indicative only.

Selsey Bill, with its area of foul ground extending up to about three miles southward, stands at a prominent point on the low lying Sussex coastline. Immediately to its west, between it and Gilkicker Point marked by a lighthouse, the mainland shore is broken by a deep inlets. In these inlets are the islands of Portsea, Hayling and Thorney, between which are Chichester, Langstone, and Portsmouth harbours. 11 miles westward from Selsey Bill is the Isle of Wight’s Foreland Point, its easternmost extremity. Between Selsey Bill and Foreland Point are the approaches into The Solent’s Spithead and all the interesting sailing destinations within The Solent. From a cruising perspective proceeding westward from Selsey Bill, towards Start Point, opens one of England’s most spectacular cruising grounds.

In terms of distances Selsey Bill is located on the mainland just 11 miles east from the Isle of Wight’s Foreland Point. Bembridge at the east end the Isle of Wight is 11 miles southwest and a further 11 miles will is Saint Catherine’s Point, at the south end of the Isle of Wight. The Needles, at the western extremity of the Isle of Wight where The Solent may also be entered, is situated 13 miles north westward. From The Needles to Anvil Point, it is 15 miles west by southwest. Enclosed within this area is the entrance to the extensive Poole Harbour, set into the northeast corner, and the sweep of the bay is almost entirely fronted by the resort town of Bournemouth’s many buildings. Between Anvil Point and the Bill of Portland, with Weymouth Bay tucked into the northeast corner, it is a distance of 18 miles. From the Bill of Portland to Start Point, it is 50 miles southwest and the coast curves inward into the broad sweep of Lyme Bay. Finally Start Point, known as 'The Start' by mariners of old, is a significant English Channel transition point. At about Start Point the seaway takes on the long deep Oceanic wave of the lower Channel as opposed to the short ‘chop’ of the channel.

The prevailing winds for the entire area are from the western quarter, which generally blow during two-thirds of the year. Gales from the westward are felt in all seasons, but from November to March, inclusive, they are most frequent and generally last three or four days. Of these a southwest gale is considered the most dangerous in the eastern part of the Channel. Fogs are frequent in all parts of the Channel, and are formed both on the English and French coasts. In summer they only obscure the land in the morning and are readily dispersed by heat or a light breeze. But the moist haze, driven in by westerly winds from the sea, tends to linger and is only dispersed by strong winds. In the eastern part of the Channel it is rare for the land to be completely free from mists. The only exception is when the wind is from the north east which makes the mist free coastline highly distinctive from a great distance.

The Tides in the English Channel will be a central planning feature for all cruisers. Expect fairly strong tidal currents off all headlands with very strong and even overwhelming tides off Bill of Portland and at The Needles. Between headlands or further offshore the current is relatively moderate and abating down-Channel. The area between Start Point and Selsey Bill plays host to a Channel tidal peculiarity. To the west of Start Point the stream turns progressively later as the tide advances up the Strait. But in the vicinity of Start Point these progressive stream changes cease. After this the Ocean’s outer stream contends with the weight of a body of water contained between the Oceanic stream and the Strait of Dover. These two bodies run in contrary directions for most of the tidal cycle. They oppose each other in the area between Start Point to Selsey Bill and as far southward as the Gulf of St. Malo.

In all events the tidal flows should be closely examined carefully to make best progress. There are a host of useful harbours and bays to wait out a foul stream along this coast or indeed run for cover in the event of the advance of foul weather. Fast passages can be had along here and it is possible to traverse the coastline in as little as two tides. A boat capable of maintaining 6 knots could leave Cowes, exit The Solent and make Weymouth Bay just as the ebb turns foul. Start Point from Weymouth Bay in also possible in one tide.


Selsey Bill is a low projection of the coast, and shows as a remarkably sharp low point when seen from the east or west. It is entirely foul all round out to a mile and a half with further dangers out to six miles. The tower of the coast guard station, situated 0.7 mile northwest of the point, is conspicuous from seaward. Several buildings stand on the point but they can be difficult to identify. The spire of Chichester Cathedral, standing about 7 miles north of the point, is reported to be conspicuous from seaward.

Selsey Bill is fronted by dangerous shoals that are collectively named The Owers. These dangers extend up to about 3 miles south, 6 miles southeast and 4 miles east of the point. It stands very much in the way of vessels passing along the low lying Sussex coastline. There are two ways to pass The Owers, cut through the middle, via The Looe channel, or go south around the entire group.

The most efficient approach to passing Selsey Bill is to utilise The Looe. The Looe is a mile long and 1.25 miles wide channel that runs east-west through the centre of The Owers. It has a channel marked by a porthand buoy, Street Q.R., and starboard hand buoy, Boulder Fl. G 2.5s on its narrower western entrance. It provides a convenient cut that is best addressed on a fair tide as currents within the channel attain rates of up to 2.5 knots on Springs and its shallow waters has many lobster pots. Tidal streams in The Looe are straight-lined with the west going stream commencing at High Water Dover -0115 and the east going stream Dover + 0445. The helmsman should note that the east going stream sets onto the Outer Owers. A useful waypoint for the narrower western side of the channel is as below.

The Loo waypoint - Between Street, Q.R., and Boulder, Fl. G 2.5s, buoys: 50° 41.628' N, 000° 48'.946' W

Vessels passing westbound through The Looe should pass close north of the East Borough Head east cardinal. Then continue west for the western entrance buoys, Red port hand buoy Q.R. and green starboard hand buoy Fl G 2.5s, situated six and a half miles away. This path passes just under a mile to the south of The Mixon beacon, 9 metres with a square cage Fl. R. 5s. The Mixon marks The Looe channels northern drying dangers situated 1.2 miles south of Selsey Bill.

The Looe Channel should only be made use of in daylight, to clearly identify the marks and avoid the pots, and in good conditions. In bad conditions the sea breaks heavily on the shallows of The Owers and the western entrance is subject to overfalls. Likewise the buoys indicating the channel cannot be relied on and the leading marks are difficult to identify. At night, or in rough conditions, the best course of action is to pass south of The Owers. This is best achieved by passing south around The Owers South Cardinal Buoy moored half a mile south of the Outer Owers and just over 6 miles southeast of Selsey Bill.

Owers – South cardinal buoy Q(6)+LFl.15s position: 50° 38.585’N 001°41.100’W

The Coast from Selsey Bill to the entrance to Chichester Harbour runs nearly in a straight line for six miles, and forms a low earthy bank, which is seriously encroached upon by the sea. This area is fronted by Bracklesham Bay that is foul with the drying Hounds Rock in its southeast end two miles northwest of Selsey Bill. When heading for Selsey Bill, due to the large amount of shoals and dangers off the point, it is best to stand well out of Bracklesham Bay to round securely Selsey Bill with a wide berth being mindful of all marks and buoys.

The mainland shore from Selsey Bill extending out 10 miles west by northwest to Horse and Dean Sand at its head, with its prominent round stone fortress, is low-lying and has many identifying features. On Portsea Island there is the highly distinctive Southsea Castle, the lit South Parade Pier, the water tower and clock at Eastney, the two lit towers near Fort Cumberland. From Langstone the coast is fronted by an area of shallow sands and consists of an extensive inlet occupied by Hayling Island and Thorney Island. These islands are intersected by Langstone Harbour and Chichester Harbour. Hayling Bay resides between Chichester and Langstone harbours. The shoreline at the head of the bay is the southern face of Hayling Island and is one uninterrupted line of shingle. About 10 miles inland behind this is a range of chalk hills.

Chichester Harbour Click to view haven has its entrance six and a half miles northwest of Selsey Bill. The entrance is encumbered by Chichester Bar that is an area of shoaling commencing half a mile south of the harbour's entrance and extending seaward for a further half a mile. The Bar is periodically dredged to achieve a depth of 1.5 metres below Chart Datum. However, shoaling often occurs after strong winds and depths over the bar may vary by up to 0.8 metres. The outer West Pole, situated 1.25 miles south by southwest of the entrance, has a tidal gauge which indicates the depth of water above Chart Datum. After severe gales depths can change and it is then prudent to assume a least depth of 0.7 metres below Chart Datum. The dredged channel across the Bar is approximately 200 metres wide with the western edge marked by the transit between West Pole Beacon and the Bar Beacon. Great care must be taken to enter the channel along the track of the West Pole and Bar Beacon, or Middle Pole, passing both marks about 25 metres to port.

Once inside the harbour it is a beautiful area with several berthing opportunities for visitors. The inlet is used only by pleasure craft and it is an important yachting center and conservation area. During summer months, up to 5,000 yachts may be moored in the vicinity of the harbour. The town of Chichester has all the facilities of a Cathedral City.

Langstone Harbour Click to view haven separates Hayling Island from Portsea Island and its entrance is between Gunnen Point and Cumberland Fort. It is entered between two flats locally known as The Woolseners that extend from either side of the mouth of the harbour. These are called the East Winner and West Winner and both run out south by southeast from the entrance. The banks shift over time and are subject height alterations according to the preceding winter’s gales.

East Winner, formed of sand, is the largest of the banks extending out almost two miles from the shoreline. It dries off at LWS for more than half that distance and is steep-to on its western or entrance channel facing side. The southern end of this is marked by the unlit Winner south cardinal. The corresponding West Winner bank, formed of gravel, has largely washed away over the past decade. It is now a flat with 1.1 chart datum available 200 metres out from the shoreline. From there a plateau, with depths from 1.1 to 1.8 metres, stretches out southward for three quarters of a mile.

A quarter of a mile off the head of the West Winner is the Langstone Fairway Pile, situated approximately a mile to the south of the harbour entrance. Langstone Bar is situated one third of a mile south by southwest of this fairway mark. It has a least depth of 1.8 metres over it.
Within the entrance to Langstone Harbour is Southsea Marina Click to view haven. It lies behind a tidal gate that is approached from the harbour via ½ mile long channel.

West of the entrance to Langstone Harbour is Spithead, an area within the east part of The Solent. It is bound by Spit Sand, on the north side, Horse and Dean Sand, on the northeast side, and Ryde Sand and No Man’s Land, on the south side.

The Horse and Dean Sand shoal. This is an extensive shoal is composed of coarse sand mixed with gravel with minutely broken shells and it affords a valuable protection to the harbour area. It is very flat and has from 2 to 4.5 metres as an average depth over its shallowest parts.

The shoal commences on its west side at Southsea Castle, marking the eastern side of the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour, and continues southwest for nearly two miles. The round stone structure of Horse Sand Fort, corresponding with No Man’s Land Fort on the opposite side of the channel, offer an excellent sea bearings for this shoal and also the commercial shipping fairway that runs between the forts. Horse Sand Fort can be clearly seen standing approximately 1.5 miles off shore at the outer edge of the shoal. Passing to the west of this will avoid any shoal areas. No Man’s Land Fort has a port hand buoy situated close northeast Iso.R.2s.

From the Horse Sand Fort the shoal trends rather abruptly to the south by southeast at the distance of nearly three-quarters of a mile is the starboard hand ‘Horse Elbow’ buoy where the bank is steep-to. This along with the port hand ‘Whis Warner’ buoy marks the narrowest part of the channel into Spithead. From the ‘Horse Elbow’ buoy the shoal alters its direction to about east and continues straight for 2 miles when it gradually disappears. This part of the bank is known as the Horse Tail, and four buoys mark its edge and the channel to the south of it.

With sufficient rise a convenient short cut may be had by cutting through one of the passes in the submerged barrier that exists between Horse Sand Fort and the mainland at Southsea. The submerged barrier is made up of concrete pedestals that vary in height and partially uncover at LW. The defensive barrier, set in place in 1905, joins the Horse Sand Fort with the site of the former Lumps Fort that existed on the shore above the beach. The barrier is marked by yellow beacons with yellow top marks along its length. There are two passages through the submerged barrier.

In the middle, about a mile south from the shore and north from the fort, is the well-used Main Passage. The cut is 55 metres wide, marked by a lit dolphin Q.R on its southern side and a lit green top-marked pile Q.G.2M on the north side.

The dolphin is readily identified in daylight from a great distance. The pass between the pile and the dolphin has a depth of 1.2 metres chart datum. Unless a vessel is enjoying a favourable tack the pass can be considered the preferred route. It can save some considerable sailing and especially so for vessels moving in and out of Portsmouth Harbour.

Main Passage – Dolphin Q.R. 6m2M position: 50°46.005’N 001°04.105’W

Another smaller boat passage lies 200 metres from the shoreline at the north end of the barrier. The passage is 12 metres wide and has a depth of 0.6 metres chart datum and is located a quarter of a mile west of the head of South Parade Pier. The north side of the passage is marked by a starboard beacon and the south side by a port beacon. On the top half of the tide this is also a valid option for most leisure craft making for a nice cruise along the beach and off the head of South Pier.

Once through the submerged barrier’s cut it is possible to steer across the outer edge of the sands. A course can be cut to and fro to the black/red/black Roway Wreck isolated danger marker for Langstone; but do not drift northward as 1.3 metres (LAT) patch is situated close north of this track. Likewise vessels transiting to and fro between Chichester will find ample water to cut across the shoal to the ‘Winner’ south cardinal.

The Isle of Wight is a large island situated off the Port of Southampton and Portsmouth, on the south coast of England. It is separated from the mainland by a stretch of water known as The Solent that lies between the Isle of Wight and the mainland. This stretch of water provides access to the ports of Southampton, Portsmouth, Cowes and a host of other berthing opportunities. The Solent may be entered between Selsey Bill and Foreland, via several channels lying in the vicinity of the Nab Tower, and from the west via Needles Channel. Both these paths, including the run up through The Solent and Southampton Waters, are detailed in the Itchen River’s Shamrock Quay Click to view haven entry.

The Isle of Wight’s northeastern extremity is Nettlestone Point located 2.5 miles northwest of Foreland. The seaside resort of Seaview Click to view haven stands on Nettlestone Point. The shore is shoal but the welcoming Sea View Yacht Club provide visitor moorings well offshore beyond which it is also possible to anchor.

The primary hazard for all vessels approaching the north eastern part of the island, is the great expanse of Ryde Sand. Ryde Sands must be approach with great caution as it has left many a leisure craft standing. From Nettlestone Point the sands uncover and dry to 2 metres at low water springs. This drying area extends nearly a mile northward, towards Spithead, and then turns away west by north towards the head of Ryde Pier. This northern edge, that arches out between its northeast point ‘Ryde Sands’ red port beacon, by night Fl.R.10s, and Ryde Pier, is very steep-to and its most dangerous part. Keep at least 200 metres outside the Red Piles.

This prominent Ryde Pier, with a railway on it, extends 0.4 of a mile north from the shore. At its root is the town of Ryde located 2 miles west by northwest of Nettlestone Point. On the east side of the pier is a hovercraft terminal and 400 metre's eastward is the small drying Ryde Harbour Click to view haven that is used by pleasure boats. At night the head of the pier is lighted. Vessels should stand well off the head of the pier so as not to hamper the high-speed ferry service and keep a sharp eye out for fast moving hovercraft crossing back and forth to Portsmouth from the pier's east side.

Between Nettlestone Point and Saint Helen’s Fort, just under a mile to the southeast, is Priory Bay that is shallow near to the shore and out to three quarters of a mile off shore. Yellow buoys set in approximately 4 metres of water, from March to October, mark the outer edge of the shallow patch. This shallow area continues to Nettlestone Point beyond which it increases to a mile offshore at its widest point.

The conspicuous round stone structure of Saint Helen’s Fort stands at the eastern extremity of the bank extending off the shore to the north of Foreland. The fort stands 0.6 of a mile offshore 1.2 miles northwest of Foreland.

At night it exhibits a light. Immediately offshore is Saint Helen's Road, off the east end of the Isle of Wight. It is well sheltered from all but southeast winds, with excellent holding ground of mud and stiff blue clay. Vessels may anchor in suitable depths avoiding the area marked as foul on the chart.

Saint Helen’s Fort – fortress Fl(3)10s16m8M position: 50°42.300'N, 001°05.046'W

Within Saint Helen’s Fort is Bembridge Harbour Click to view haven. The harbour lies close northward of the easternmost point of the Isle of Wight, immediately west of Bembridge Point, and is accessed through a channel. It is tidal and bordered by the twin villages of Bembridge and St. Helens that lie opposite each other across the harbour.

Foreland, the low eastern extremity of the Isle of Wight, has numerous prominent buildings standing at the point. The coast is fringed by one unbroken rocky shelf. This uncovers at low water to extent out nearly one third of a mile from the shore. These rocks are high and steep-to at their outer edge, and over many parts there are not more than 1 to 1.5 metres at high-water springs. Outside their edge the depth increases to 3.5 metres very quickly.

Three-quarters of a mile off Foreland is the Bembridge Ledge that has only 1.2 metres of water over its northern parts and 4 to 5 metres on its outer edge. A considerable part of this ledge dries at half-tide, and terminates in a high sharp point named Sharpus Rocks situated about one third of a mile off shore. Close outside of this are the Dickey Dawe Rocks, with 1.8 metres over them, and the dangerous Cole Rock that dries. These dangers are all clearly marked by the Bembridge Ledge East cardinal a third of a mile eastward. Once this has been rounded look out for the yellow seasonal buoys offshore of Bembridge. Keep St. Helen's Fort at least 200 metres to port and leave all the various spherical seasonal buoys to port to clear the rocks and shoals that lie along the shoreline between Nodes Point to Nettlestone Point.

The Nab Tower is situated 4.6 miles east by southeast of Foreland. It marks the eastern approach to The Solent and is responsible for guiding shipping nationalities into the deep water channel for Portsmouth and Southampton. It is constructed of steel and concrete, and stands 28 metres high. The lighthouse guides the way into Nab Channel entered about a mile north by northeast of the Nab Tower. It leads two miles north by northwest and then northwest into The Solent. The channel, which is marked by buoys, is dredged to a depth of 13.3 metres and is intended for use by inbound deep-draft commercial vessels.

Nab Tower – Lighthouse Fl.10s27m16M position: 50° 40.075' N, 000° 57'.155' W

South around the Isle of Wight

From at the low Foreland the land gradually increases in height as it tend south westward to the 65 metres high Culver Cliff. Culver Cliff, located about 10 miles northeast of Saint Catherine’s Point, is conspicuous. From the pitch of Culver Cliff the land gradually rises to the crest of Bembridge Down where there is an old derelict fort. The Culver Down Monument or Yarborough monument, a notable object from seaward, stands on Culver Down above the cliff, at an elevation of 100 metres. Culver Cliff can be easily identified by the marked contrast between the white chalk bluff and the land in the vicinity.

Culver Spit, carrying 7.5 metres of water over a rocky bottom, extends nearly a mile southeast from Culver Cliff, and within it, close to the east of the cliff, is Whitecliff Bay. The bay almost entirely dries and has a limited amount of clear ground. But it can afford tolerable shelter out of the tidal stream with an offshore wind. Stay well away from the Culver Cliff end as a small Whitecliff Ledge reef, the outer part of which dries at low tide, extends nearly 250 metres from the base of Culver Cliff. A large rock, named Shag Rock, which covers only at high water springs, lies at the point of the cliff. White Cliff Bay terminates on its northern side at Black Rock Ledge about half a mile northeast from Culver Cliff.

Between Culver Cliff and Dunnose, five miles southwest, is Sandown Bay in which are the villages of Sandown and Shanklin. The steep cliffs continue on from the southern side at Dunnose towards Sandown, where they decrease in height, and the shore is low and sandy. They then gradually rise to Culver Cliff, close to the west of which is a cliff of red clay, which contrasts strongly with the chalk of Culver Cliff. Dunnose is the southeast most point of the island, above which Saint Boniface down rises 234 metres.

A low cliff extends along the shore between Dunnose and Saint Catherine’s Point situated about 5 miles west by southwest. At its back are large masses of rock, named The Undercliff. This is again backed by a wall of precipitous rock nearly 152 metres above the sea, with downs rising still higher behind. The resort town of Ventnor Click to view haven stands three and a half miles northeast of Dunnose. Its lights are conspicuous at night. Several conspicuous radio masts and radar scanners are situated on the downs in the vicinity of the town and are noticeable objects when sailing along this part of the coast.

This stretch of coast may be approached to half a mile, as the rocks bordering it do not extend above half that distance. The overfalls off Saint Catherine's Point and Dunnose are partly caused by the various sudden transitions from deep to shoal water in that area. They are not dangerous except in bad weather when no open boats should attempt to pass through either. The race off Saint Catherine’s Point varies in proportion as the wind is with or against the tide. In gales from the westward, and during spring-tides, the sea breaks to the southeast of the point as violently as in the race of Portland.

Saint Catherine’s Point, the southern extremity of the Isle of Wight, is a low rounded point at the foot of Saint Catherine’s Hill. Saint Catherine’s Point Light is a prominent castellated tower and dwelling 26 metres high and standing on the point. This light structure stands out boldly when viewed from east or west. The hill, which is the highest part of the island, rises to the height of 236 metres about a mile north of the point. On its summit are the remains of an old lighthouse now disused. Hoy’s Monument, also conspicuous from seaward, will be distinct a mile to the north of the hill. Conspicuous television towers stand on the heights at Chillerton Downs, about 4.8 miles north by northwest of the point, and at Rowridge, about 6.8 miles north by northwest of the point.

St. Catherine’s Point - Lighthouse Fl.5s41m25M & F.R.35m13M position: 50° 34'.539 N 001° 17'.873 W

The land on the south side of the island gradually descends westward from Dunnose. About a mile from Saint Catherine’s Point the land begins to rise; and one mile west of the point is Blackgang Chine, between which and Atherfield Point is Chale Bay. The coastal area between Atherfield and Hanover points are fronted by the dangerous Brook and Atherfield Ledges and should be most cautiously approached.

This is especially the case in thick weather and during the flood as that stream sets directly towards them. Leisure craft should keep at least half a mile off this part of the island. A safe mark for small vessels working up inshore, is to keep the Priory Church at Christchurch open of the Needles lighthouse.

Hanover Point can be found 4.7 miles east by southeast of Needles Point. Precipitous white chalk cliffs extend east from the Needles Point to within a mile of Hanover Point, where they merge into a shore of clay and sand. These cliffs, up to about 120 metres high, are conspicuous in contrast to the dark ground behind them. Steep clay cliffs of moderate and nearly equal height extend from Brook to beyond Atherfield Point, and there are several beautiful chines and villages, at the back of which are high and extensive downs.

Freshwater Bay is located between the Needles and Hanover Point, about 3 miles east of Needles Point. The Needles have high and precipitous chalk cliffs that continue on to the middle of Freshwater Bay, where they are lower, and about 1 mile beyond merge into a shore of clay and sand. On the shore and the head of the small cove of Freshwater Bay is a noticeable hotel. Tennyson’s Cross, a prominent monument, stands near the top of the cliffs, 1.2 miles west of Freshwater Bay.

The Needles lighthouse is situated 12 miles northwest from Saint Catherine' Point lighthouse. Needles Point, a narrow chalky peninsula that rises perpendicularly from the sea from jagged rocks to form 120 metre cliffs, mark the western extreme of the Isle of Wight. The Needle Rocks are three very distinctive rocks jutting out from the south western point of the Isle of White. Composed of white chalk they are a remarkable sight from seaward when contrasted with the dark-coloured ground behind them. This is set off by a striking red and white striped lighthouse positioned on the outermost rock.

The Needles – lighthouse Oc.(2)RWG.20s24m17-13M position: 50° 39.734'N, 001° 35.500'W

A reef called the Bridge Reef extends upwards of three-quarters of a mile, west by south, from the Needles Rocks and it has a least depth of 5.5 metres. It narrows the Needles Channel between its western extreme and the southwest prong of The Shingles to a third of a mile. On the ebb tide the position of the reef is distinctly marked by great overfalls. In quiet moderate weather by the ripple and during southerly gales by a well-defined line of broken water. With much groundswell, that always accompanies southerly winds and even rises with an impending breeze from that quarter, the sea will be seen to breaks with great violence for a considerable distance from the lighthouse. The western extremity of The Bridge is marked ‘The Bridge’ west cardinal buoy. The three Needles rocks in one, lead along the backbone of this dangerous reef, which is very narrow towards the western end, and steep-to on both sides.


In the southwest side of Christchurch Bay, extending out more than four miles to the west by southwest from Hurst Point, is a very dangerous collection of shoals called The Shingles. Due to the wash of the sea and the scour of the currents, this bank is subject to constant changes. The northeast extreme of these shoals commences, about half a mile out from Hurst Beach and then they extend west southwest for 3 miles, terminating west of The Needles. This is marked by the port hand southwest Shingles Light-buoy. The northern side of the shoals, except near the western or outer end, is of gradual slope. Its southeast side, that forms the northwest side of Needles Channel, is steep-to dropping at once from a dry bank to a depth of several metres. With the least swell the sea breaks violently on The Shingles’ shallower parts.

The Shingles bank is marked by several lighted buoys on the southeast side or channel side. Nevertheless great caution is required approaching either side of these dangerous shoals. Add the numerous shallow patches, the rapidity of the tides, the great violence with which the sea breaks on it in boisterous conditions and all the ingredients are in place for the destruction on any vessel which might have the misfortune to come up on them.

The Needles Channel is bounded on the western side by the Shingles and on the eastern by the west end of the Isle of Wight. It provides access to The Solent and is readily apparent from all directions. It is marked by Hurst Castle, the batteries plus a lighthouse on Hurst Point on the north side and the corresponding lighthouse on The Needles upon the opposite southern side. The channel is clearly marked with the outermost buoy being the Bell Fairway LFl.10s marking severe overfalls that can occur in heavy weather. It should also be noted that the tide can run very fast in the channel and it is important to be mindful of the proximity of the Shingles at all times. As mentioned above approaches to Needles Channel are covered in the Itchen River’s Shamrock Quay Click to view haven entry.

Vessels intending to cross Christchurch Bay will find it possible to use the North Channel to round Hurst Point. This pathway passes northwestward between northeast end of The Shingles and Hurst Beach before passing to the north of the North Head bank's shallow area. It is marked by two buoys, the starboard hand North Head Buoy and the NE Shingles east cardinal. The channel is a quarter of a mile wide and has a least depth of 6.5 metres at low water. The North Channel is preferred in any developed south westerly conditions as it entirely avoids the steep breaking seas that can be encountered off The Needles.

In settled conditions with good visibility it is possible to cut between North Head bank and The Shingles by keeping a back baring of Hurst Castle open of its own width of Fort Victoria, located inside the entrance on Isle of Wight’s Sconce Point. The least depth of three metres of water will be found along this sight line, but a keen eye should be maintained upon the sounder as the Shingles Bank is subject to change.

Those taking the North Channel should note the position of a ledge called The Trap that causes rougher water immediately south of Hurst Castle. The Trap is a small spit of sand and gravel that varies considerably in height and extent but should be entirely avoided. Vessels have grounded on the ledge and others have struck it with such force, in the run of the current, that they have been irreparably damaged and subsequently sunk. On the ebb it causes a very strong back-eddy that can attain such velocity that it is strong enough to throw a small vessel up onto Hurst Point. Although near the beach, deep and steep-to, The Trap is very much in the path of vessels taking the North Channel. Especially those making use of the back eddy on the west side of Hurst Beach, then hugging the point in to avoid a foul tide.

The Trap is situated to the southeast of the Hurst Castle's original circular tower, the so—called Round Fort, that can be seen to rise slightly above the level of its wing batteries. Therefore it is advisable to decisively head out into deeper water before the central circular part of Hurst Castle is abeam, when entering, or well out before the east wing of the castle is abeam when exiting The Solent. Once past The Trap it is simply a matter of converging with the Needles Channel and proceeding into the Solent.

At Hurst Point the coast curves to the east, wrapping around Poole Bay on its way to Poole Point. The land fronting Christchurch Bay is low and especially so in the vicinity of Hurst Point the eastern most point of Christchurch Bay. It is a distinctive spit of land with a castle and lighthouse on the point. It is located at the southeast end of a low-lying narrow neck of land on the north side of the Needles Channel. Hurst Point Light, a directional sector light, is shown from a prominent round tower, 26 metres high, standing on the point. A conspicuous castle is situated in the vicinity of the point the base of which is only just above high water.

Hurst lighthouse - Fl(4)WR.15s23m13/11M and Iso.WRG.4s19m21-17M position: 50°42.476’N 001°33.020’W

Fourteen miles to the northwest of The Needles, three quarters of a mile northeast from Hengistbury Head, is the entrance to Christchurch Harbour Click to view haven with an anchorage immediately outside in Christchurch Bay Click to view haven. The harbour was once an important commercial port but is now badly silted up. It is today very shallow and only accessible to shoal draught vessels.

The 35 metres high Hengistbury Head is situated, three quarters of a mile southwest from the entrance to Christchurch Harbour and six miles east of Poole Head. It divides Poole Bay from Christchurch Bay. The coast here is composed of dark reddish-looking ironstone, and being of harder material than the coast to the west, gives way more slowly to coastal erosion. There are several identifying features near Hengistbury Head.

A distinctive coastguard station is situated on a hill near the shore about half a mile west of Hengistbury Head. Before this, standing at an elevation of 52 metres, is a water tower further inshore two miles to the westward from the head. A mile and a half northwest of Hengistbury Head is the highly conspicuous tower of Christchurch Priory. Closer in to the head a long Victorian stone groyne extends southward from its southernmost point. It has a port maker perch at its head and is called The Long Groyne.

The immediate coastal area around Hengistbury Head is foul and a narrow rocky ledge called Christchurch Ledge runs two miles in a south by southeast direction from the head. Depths vary so much across the ledge that it is best to pass more than ¾ of a mile off the coast. This keeps a vessel in at least 3 metres of water to ensure a safe crossing. It may however be necessary to go further to the southeast to clear any breakers encountered if a big sea is running.

The line of bearing 333°T of the tower of the Priory Church at Christchurch, open southwest of the coastguard lookout station on Warren Hill, a little over a mile southeast, leads along the west side and outer part of the ledge. When passing offshore this clearing mark may be used to position the ledge and pass clear to the southwest of it. The ledge also has a large numbers of fishing floats over it that serve to provide a good indication of its outer limit.

West of Hengistbury Head is Poole Bay with Pool Harbour situated in its western corner behind Poole Head. Two miles eastward of Poole Head is the large coastal resort town of Bournemouth, the largest settlement in Dorset. The shore of Poole Bay is almost entirely occupied by Bournemouth’s many buildings that stretch along the whole length of Poole Bay. These are fronted by a succession of earthy cliffs intersected by deep ravines. These ravines, known as chines, are worn by the action of small streams. The entire shoreline is subject to erosion and frequent landslides occur along this stretch of shore. Close offshore there are numerous outfalls marked by buoys.

In the southern part of Poole Bay the ground is clear, however in the northwest part of the bay, there are some patches of rocks. The shallowest head has 2.6 metres of water and is called the Inner Poole Patch or Woodbury Rock. It lies half a mile off Poole Head. The Middle Poole patch or Lobster Rock has 4.6 metres of water and the Outer Poole Patch, has 4.3 metres on it, nearly a mile from the Bournemouth shore, but present little issue to leisure craft. Following the shoreline westward there is some foul ground to the west of Bournemouth. Nearly half a mile off shore are Bournemouth Rocks, with 3.7 metres, and within them is Durley Rock with 2.7 metres water. Between Bournemouth and Christchurch ledge there are no outlying dangers, and the shore may be approached to one third of a mile. An anchorage can be obtained in Poole Bay but it is exposed and can become uncomfortable in southerly quadrant conditions.

From Poole Head to Studland there is a range of hills of drift sand, and between them is the entrance to Poole Harbour. Poole Harbour is one of the most extensive natural harbours in England. Punctuated by five small wooded islands its spacious estuary resembles an inland lake at high water. It has creeks and mudflats on its southern and western sides with development on its northern and eastern side. The harbour is home to a busy cross channel ferry service and an annual fleet of 5,000 leisure craft that makes it an extensive centre for yachting. The Swash Channel that leads into Poole Harbour has a maintained depth of 6 metres and is well lit. Entry from Poole Bay and run up through Poole Harbour are covered in the Poole Town Quay Click to view haven entry.

The harbour contains several marinas including Poole Quay Yacht Haven Click to view haven situated on the town quay along with its adjacent sister marina Port of Poole Marina Click to view haven on the east side of Port of Poole. About a mile above Poole Town Quay and on the west side of Holes Bay is Cobb's Quay Click to view haven. Marina’s past on the approach to Town Quay, in the east side of the harbour but addressed from the North Channel, are Salterns Marina Click to view haven and Parkstone Yacht Club Click to view haven and beyond the Port of Poole is Lake Yard Marina Click to view haven and Ridge Wharf Yacht Centre Click to view haven on the River Frome.

Anchorages can be found off Brownsea Click to view haven, off Shipstal Point Click to view haven in the western side of the harbour and Goathorn Point Click to view haven addressed via South Deep on the harbour’s south-eastern shore. Shallow draft vessels are free to lie alongside the historic town quay of Wareham Click to view haven up the River Frome five miles west of Poole Harbour. Clubs that receive visitors include Poole Yacht Club Click to view haven and Redclyffe Yacht Club Click to view haven.

Off the conspicuous Handfast Point, marking the southern extremity of Studland Bay, is the remarkable 18 metre high pinnacle chalk rock called Old Harry with a flat grassy top and another Old Harry's Wife. Studland Bay Click to view haven, on the north side of Handfast Point, affords good shelter for leisure vessels during westerly winds. The shore between Handfast and Ballard Points, lying 0.8 miles south by southwest of Handfast Point, is fronted by steep chalk cliffs. This stretch separates Swanage and Studland Bays, and in rounding them it is best not to approach the shore nearer than one quarter of a mile.

Swanage Click to view haven offers good protection from westerlies. The bay is entered between Peveril Point and Ballard Point, 1.5 miles northward.

The resort of Swanage occupies the south part of Swanage Bay and is fronted by a pier. The best point to anchor is just over 0.5 a mile north of Peveril Point on the south side of the bay, over good holding ground of mostly sand and clay, but well clear of the pier. The shores of the bay rise with a gradual slope from the sea and at the north point is the east end of the chalk range that extends across the coast from White Nothe to Ballard down, where it terminates in white cliffs, which re-appear again at the Needles.

Peveril Point, lying 2.5 miles southwest of Handfast Point and 1.5 miles north of Anvil Point, is foul up to 300 metres from the shore. Outside of this is Peveril Ledge that extends some distance off Peveril Point and over which a tide race runs with considerable strength. A port hand buoy, by night Q.R, is moored on the 10 metre contour on the outer extreme of Peveril Ledge. Vessels rounding the point should not come within a third of a mile of the point and not turn in until Swanage Church comes well open of the northern shore of Peveril Point.

Between Durlston and Saint Alban’s heads the coast has a clear bold shore of dark-looking limestone cliffs. At Durlston Head forms the western shore of the deep inlet between Saint Alban’s Head and Saint Catherine's Point on the southern end of the Isle of Wight. Between Peveril Point and Durlston Head is Durlston Bay and at Durlston Head the coast bends abruptly to the west.

Less than half a mile northeast of Anvil Point light is Durlston Head. A conspicuous castellated building is situated on Durlston Head, 0.3 of a mile inland. The shore off Durlston Head, unlike Peveril Point, is steep-to.

Anvil Point, located a third of a mile southwest of Durlston Head and 3.5 miles east by northeast of Saint Alban’s Head, is low and cliffy with higher land close within. Anvil Point lighthouse, standing on the point, comprises a conspicuous dwelling and tower 12 metres high. It provides a clear line from Portland Bill, from the west, and guides vessels approaching from the east away from the Christchurch Ledge.

Anvil Point Lighthouse Fl.10s45m19M position: 50° 35.514' N 001° 57.600' W

Saint Alban’s Head, also known as Saint Aldhelm’s Head, is a bold headland 107 metres high, on the summit of which is an ancient chapel and coastguard station. Saint Aldhelm's Head Coastguard maintain a light on the headland. From Saint Alban’s Head the Bill of Portland bears west by north 15 miles, and Saint Catherine's Point, on the southernmost point of The Isle of Wight, east by south 28 miles.

St Alban’s Head Coastguard - Iso.R.2s(occas)position: 50°34.750’N, 002°03.403’W

Care should be taken when rounding this point as Saint Alban’s Ledge, with depths of 8.5 to 16 metres, extends up to 2.5 miles southwest of the headland. It has generally a race running off it, particularly in blustery weather caused by the unevenness of the ground. The overfalls here are dangerous to leisure craft. They extend about one mile offshore and are sometimes found more westerly and sometimes more easterly depending on whether the wind and tide are with or against each other. The current runs continuously southeast along the west side of the headland and, during the flood tide, a race forms to the southwest. Lit buoys associated with this range are moored in the vicinity of the ledge.
Please note

Expect crab pots to be moored up to half a mile of the shore in the vicinity of Saint Alban’s Head during the sailing season.


From Saint Alban’s Head to Worbarrow Tout the coast consists of a succession of dark-looking cliffs. The two coves along this stretch of coast named Kimmeridge Bay and Chapman’s Pool afford no safe anchorage. The coastline is dangerous here being fringed by the Kimmeridge Ledges. These are long flat ledges, some of which extend half a mile off shore. The entire area should be avoided and a line of bearing provided by keeping Arish Mell Gap, open west of Worbarrow Tout, on 302° T, clears all dangers.
Please note

A firing range area resides between Saint Alban’s Head and Lulworth Cove extending 12 miles seaward. When the range is in use, red flags and red lights are displayed from a hill close northeast of the cove and from above the coast guard station on the headland.

Six miles northwest of Saint Alban’s Head is the open bight of Worbarrow Bay. It is entered between a group of rocks on the west side and Worbarrow Tout Point situated on the east side of the bay and surmounted by a conical hill. It is about a mile wide, and half a mile deep, encompassed by high cliffs being cleft in the centre by Arish Mell Gap.

The bay is lined by cliffs divided in the center by Arish Mell Gap. This gap is fronted by a white sandy beach that makes it conspicuous from seaward. Worbarrow Bay affords anchorage in fine sand within its eastern part known as Mupe Bay during all but south winds.
Please note

An outfall pipeline extends about two miles south by southeast from Arish Mell Gap, marked at its seaward end by a lit buoy.

A mile and west of Worbarrow Bay, and three miles eastward of White Nothe Point, is the beautiful Lulworth Cove. This is a small circular basin encompassed by high cliffs of chalk that forms an anchorage over sand for leisure vessels. The entrance, that can be difficult to identify, is about 100 metres wide, between ledges of low-water rocks running off from each point. The longest ledge being on the western side with a shallow patch close off the end with 1.4 metres of water. In entering keep one third over from the eastern cliff. Within the cove there is 2.4 to 3.1 metres at low water springs. A prominent radar scanner is reported to stand close northeast of the cove.

The coastline to Weymouth passes westward then abruptly curves round to the southwest at Redcliff Point. The north shore of Weymouth Bay is low and flat to. Jordan Hill, in the northern part of the road, rises with an even slope to 49 metres, and east of the hill commences a series of low cliffs intersected with steep ravines. Redcliff Point, the westernmost of these cliffs, is 30.5 metres high and the western extremity of a line of cliffs that gradually increase in height to White Nothe Point that rises just over three miles east, that is chalk over green sand, where the cliffs are 168 metres high.

Situated between the Nothe and Redcliff Point, Weymouth Bay is free from foul ground and open only to winds between south and east. A fort stands on the east end of The Nothe and the resort of Weymouth, is situated along the west side of the bay. It is frequently visited in the summer and fine weather offering an anchorage over sand and gravel. Vessels should not anchor within three quarters of a mile of the northern shore of the road as the ground there is foul.

Between Worbarrow Tout, the eastern head of Worbarrow Bay, and White Nothe Point the shore is generally bold but there are a few outlying rocks. These can be avoided by keeping half a mile offshore. From Lulworth Cove to about half way to the White Nothe, the shoreline is foul. Keeping half a mile off the shore also avoids all foul ground from White Nothe Point to Bran Point.

White Nothe can be positively identified by two beacons, in line bearing 048° T, standing on the high ground about 0.6 mile to the east. Along this stretch of coastline there are low flat ledges off Bran Point that extend one third of a mile from the shore with only 2.1 metres water over their outer end.

The land rises from the cliffs to the downs, and on Osmington Down, a mile from Redcliff Point, is the ‘Osmington White Horse’. This is the large figure of a man on horseback cut out of the chalk, showing white on the green slope of the hill, and visible for many miles seaward. Redcliff Point, also has a conspicuous hotel with a white tower, standing near the shore of the bay, half a mile northwest of the point.

The small commercial port of Weymouth Harbour is situated at the mouth of the little River Wey in the southwest part of Weymouth Bay. The little river divides the towns of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, and falls in the Weymouth Bay on the northern side of The Nothe Point, from which two concrete piers run out. The harbour, long and narrow, is entered between the two stone piers both of which are lit at night Q.9M and 2F.G. The entrance is 137 metres wide and provides a channel fairway, 76 metres wide to the long, narrow and well protected harbour. The controlling depth for the harbour is 4.8 metres between the head piers and 2.2 metres within 60 metres of the Town Bridge.

Situated less than a mile south of the entrance to Weymouth Harbour and at the north end of the Portland Peninsula is Portland Harbour. This was a naval base until the middle of the nineteen nineties and is now a thriving commercial port. The port's close proximity to the English Channel shipping lanes makes it an ideal drop in location for all vessels, from small yachts to large cruise ships.

The inner harbour is well protected from the south and south westerly winds by the Isle of Portland and Chesil Beach, and is circled by four extensive breakwaters that protects it from adverse easterly weather conditions. The breakwaters are 4 metres above high water and apart from Fort Head, situated at the head of the Outer Breakwater, the remaining breakwater heads are designated with letters that are well charted. The breakwaters have three entrances between them of which only two are usable. These are (i) the Ship Channel, between Fort Head and A Head, used by commercial traffic (ii) and the North Ship Channel, between B Head and C Head, that leisure craft should use to avoid commercial traffic. The South Ship Channel, between D Head and the Inner Breakwater, is closed by a sunken vessel and overhead cables.

Within the breakwaters the harbour is clear of dangers and deep, but shelving towards its western boundaries. The inner harbour breakwaters of Portland Port are situated within the south part of the harbour and fronting the north side of the Isle of Portland. Portland Marina is situated close west by northwest of Portland Harbour with fairway buoys leading in from the Northern entrance to the marina. The marina can always accommodate visiting vessels likewise it is possible to pick up moorings from harbour's many clubs. As much of the harbour has been allocated to the local yacht clubs and individuals on a permanent basis anchoring possibilities are reduced. Visiting yachts will most likely be directed to an area to the north of the Marina entrance and off the New Channel east from Small Mouth, where a bridge connects the isle to the mainland. Vessels anchored in Portland should be vigilant as the harbour is large enough body of water to allow a fetch to develop unless anchored off the weather shore.
Please note

Anchoring outside the harbour is restricted by a submarine cable area and testing areas which may best be seen on the chart.

Bill of Portland, bearing east 48 miles from Start Point, is the southern extreme of the Portland Peninsula. The Isle of Portland presents a remarkable wedge-like appearance and is a highly familiar landmark for vessels sailing up or down the channel. It is three miles long and lies in a northeast alignment. The peninsula is connected with the adjacent coast by a narrow isthmus of coarse shingle, the eastern end of a remarkable raised beach known as Chesil beach. The isthmus is 12 to 14 metres above low water, and 200 metres across from West Bay to Portland Road. A 158 metre high hill called The Vern, lies near the north end of the peninsula from which the land slopes gradually to the southwest, terminating in the Bill. On the southeast side of the Bill stands the conspicuous 41 metre high tower Portland Bill Light. It marks the Shambles sandbank a red sector light at night.

Portland Bill – Lighthouse Fl(4)20s43m25M & F.R19m13M Dia(1)30s position: 50° 30'.848 N 002° 27'.384 W

Another light is exhibited from the west face of the island 250 metres northwest of the lighthouse Oc.(2)Y.10s10M.

There are a number of identifying features on the Isle of Portland. There is an 18 metre high stone beacon on the southern shore, meant to warn small vessels of a rock shelf with several loose boulders that fronts the point. From the east there is the prominent structure of a former light Old Low Light situated 0.4 of a mile north by northeast of Portland Bill Light. 2.5 miles northeast of Portland Bill Light there is the conspicuous Grove coast guard station close to Grove Point on the eastern side of the peninsula. Another old lighthouses, Old Higher Light, is situated half a mile north of Portland Bill lighthouse on the westward side of the peninsula. On The Vern, near the north end of the peninsula there is a conspicuous radar dome, lit red by night.

There is a fierce tidal race round the southern point of the Bill of Portland and over the ledge. This is caused by the south currents from both sides of the Isle of Portland meeting the east and west currents off the Bill and it precipitates fearful whirls and eddies. There is generally an eddy of still water, a quarter of a mile wide, between the Race and the land. In northerly winds, the race extends southward from the Bill for nearly two miles and there are great overfalls even beyond that distance. With southerly winds, it scarcely exceeds half a mile. During the north-eastern stream of tide, the overfalls takes place to the east, and during the southwestern stream to the west.

Care must be taken in this vicinity especially when the wind is against the current. In fine weather even the noise caused by the Race may be heard a considerable distance. During spring tides, which run at the rate of 5 or 6 knots of the Bill, the sea state becomes so violent as to render it dangerous for leisure vessels to pass through the Race. In heavy weather, during the north-eastern stream, the whole space between Portland and The Shambles is one sheet of broken water.

Situated about two and a half miles east by south of the Bill and made up of coarse sand, gravel, and broken shells The Shambles is a dangerous bank. The depths on this bank are irregular, as there are several shoal heads with the shallowest having only from 5.7 metres on it. The least water is near the middle of the shoal, and it would be inadvisable to attempt to cross it. The bank is marked by west and east cardinals on either end. The position of the Shambles is clearly shown, except at slack water, by a ripple or overfalls either on the north or on the south side depending upon it being on the flood or ebb. The sea breaks furiously over it when the wind is blowing hard and it could easily overwhelm a small leisure vessel. The full tide sets over the shoal from 3 to 4 knots in an east by north, and west by south direction, making to the eastward at 3.15 hours, and to the west at 10.45 hours.

The offshore passage leads from south of the Bill of Portland east by northeast for 45 miles to south of St. Catherine’s Point, the southern extremity of the Isle of Wight. Vessels proceeding to Portland or Weymouth may pass between the Bill and The Shambles. This channel is navigable but should only be availed of in good settled conditions. Anvil Point seen just clear of Saint Alban’s Head, east by south, will lead a quarter of a mile to the north of The Shambles.


From the Bill of Portland the coast curves in a north-westward direction for 24 miles to Lyme Regis. Then it curves inward in a broad sweep trending westward for 15 miles to Exmouth. Within this area between the extreme points between Bill of Portland and Straight Point, situated 35 miles to the west, is Lyme Bay. Straight Point the western entrance point, is formed of earth cliffs. From it the coast then trends two miles northeast to Otterton Point.
Please note

A firing range area, marked by two lighted buoys, extends up to 1.5 miles east of Straight Point as best indicated on the chart. Red flags are displayed when the rifle range is in use.

From the north end of the Portland Peninsula to Bridport the coast is almost straight from its low extended point of the southern extremity of the Bill of Portland. The southeast part of this stretch is formed by Chesil Beach. This beach consists of a steep-to narrow isthmus of shingle, about 200 metres wide and 13 metres high. Lagoons lie between the inner side of this isthmus and the land.

The deep bight of West Bay, particularly so Chesil Cove on the northwest side of the Isle of Portland, are sheltered from winds between south by southeast and north by east. They therefore make a good location to wait for a favourable tide to get round the Bill. But it should be used with some caution as it is far from ideal. The water is deep and steep to the shoreline and the holding ground, of loose gravel and shells, is poor. If a sudden, but not uncommon, shift of wind takes place, to the west, a heavy sea soon gets up. So vessels should be watchful and ready to immediately vacate the anchorage.

Bridport Harbour lies 15 miles north by northwest of Portland Bill, 3 miles east by southeast of Golden Cap and 6.5 miles east by south of Lyme Regis. It is known locally as West Bay and its town is situated 1.4 miles north of the harbour. It is used by fishing boats and pleasure craft. It has a recently redeveloped canal-like entrance, about 230 metres long and 22 metres wide, formed by two piers 4.5 metres apart with about 0.2 metres between the pier heads at low tide. This then expands into a secure basin that mostly dries, 160 metres long and 42 metres wide, at the north end of the entrance channel. The entrance is fronted by a bar which dries. The clear space for entrance or egress is only 12 metres wide. During gales the sea breaks so heavily at the entrance rendering the harbour unapproachable. There are said to be two berths with depths of up to 2 metres alongside the inner harbour.

West and southwest of Bridport Harbour are the two rocky shoals of High Ground and Pollock. The shoals lie about three-quarters of a mile apart, with 11 metres of water between them. The High Ground, the westernmost shoal, lies west by north 2 miles from Bridport and about half a mile off shore. High Ground is half a mile in length, and has only 3 metres of water near its southeast end. The Pollock is a smaller shoal, and nearly circular; it lies west by south three-quarters of a mile from Bridport. It has 3.7 metres over its shallowest part. An outfall pipeline extends about 0.8 miles south by southwest from close east of Bridport Harbour entrance. It is marked by a lit buoy at the seaward end and situated on the contour that resides immediately outside both the shoals.

Twenty two miles from the Bill of Portland is the small pier harbour of Lyme Regis that dries at low tide. At Lyme Regis the coast trends east and the cliffs continue along this section except near the mouth of the River Char, 1.8 miles east by northeast of the harbour. Golden Cap, where the cliffs rise to a height of 187 metres, is located 3.5 miles east of Lyme Regis.

Lyme Regis Harbour is used by small fishing boats and pleasure craft. The harbour is protected from southwest by The Cobb rock and a sizable stone pier. A lit range indicates the approach to the harbour. During strong south winds, the sea breaks heavily around its piers. The inner pier presents a light, Oc.WR.8s6m9/7M. Another light F.G.8m9M on a bearing of 284°T provides a leading mark with the pierhead light 250 metres apart. A south cardinal Q(6)+LF.15s is situated a quarter of a mile east of the outer pier head of Lyme Regis Harbour marking an outfall.

Twenty six miles west by northwest of Portland Bill is the precipitous 130 metres high chalk cliff of Beer Head. This is the westernmost chalk cliff in England and the cliffs extending to the west of the point consist of red sandstone. Seven miles north of Beer Head a conspicuous radio mast will be seen standing at an elevation of 445 metres on Stockland Hill.

On the eastern side of the head is the confined Beer Roads anchorage off the village of Beer 0.7 mile north by northeast of Beer Head. The anchorage provides shelter from northerly winds over a sandy bottom. A prominent water tower stands 1.2 miles north by northeast of the village. All the rocky ledges between Exmouth’s Straight Point and Beer Head may be avoided by keeping half a mile off shore. It is also possible to anchor off these resorts in settled northerly quadrant winds.
Please note

Keep a sharp eye out for crab pots that are often laid from 2 to 4 miles offshore close east of Beer Head.

Between Beer Head and Haven Cliff, is the broad and fertile valley of the River Axe, apparently the ancient bed of a large river, though at present only an insignificant stream flows into the sea. At the entrance of the River Axe there is a small pier and landing quay. Haven Cliff forms a prominent object from seaward.

Sidmouth, a resort town, is situated five miles westward of Beer Head in a valley between two hills. It is fronted by two offshore rock breakwaters and in a valley running nearly at right angles to the coast. The valley is bound by the 175 metres high Salcombe Hill, to the east, and the 154 metres high Peak Hill to the west.

The River Sid, a mere streamlet, flows close to the east side of the town but its entrance is choked by the shingle beach. The water simply percolates through the bank to the sea. A light Fl. R5s2M is shown near the beach on the west side of creek.

The village of Budleigh Salterton, another resort town four miles southwest of Sidmouth, stands about three-quarters of a mile westward of Otterton Point, in a narrow dell running obliquely to the shore.

Between the village and the point is the River Otter, a small rivulet, whose mouth, is barred by an accumulation of shingle. It is about 18 metres wide at high water springs and has then a depth of 1.8 metres.

Vessels hugging the shoreline or approaching the anchorage off the village should be careful to avoid Foot Clout Rock. It has only 0.5 metres of water over it and is situated half a mile southeast by south of the chapel. Vessels hugging the shore should also avoid Otterton Ledge that runs off one quarter of a mile southwest by west from Otterton Point.

Exmouth Harbour lies in a coastal bight between Straight Point and Langstone Point situated about three miles southwest. Between these points the River Exe falls into the sea. The town fronts the shore on the east side of the entrance to the River Exe. It is approached through a narrow channel, which is fronted by a bar with a least depth of 0.2 metres. Numerous drying shoals and sand banks obstruct the entrance. The channel, which is subject to frequent change, is buoyed and lies close to the north shore. Holy Trinity Church, with a tower and flagstaff, and the Catholic Church with a green spire, stand in the west part of the town and are prominent. There is a clear channel marked into the River Exe but it would be wise to enter only on a rising tide as there are several shallow patches to look out for.

Between Exmouth and Teignmouth about 5 miles to the southwest the coast is bordered by low sandstone cliffs and numerous rocks. The small, but fashionable Dawlish, has a railway line fronting the sea along with Victorian houses and beach huts. Located at the outlet of the small River Dawlish Water, also called The Brook, between Permian red sandstone cliffs it is fronted by a sandy beach. During the 18th century, it grew from a small fishing port to become a well-known seaside resort. The town is in one of the numerous valleys for which this coast is celebrated. Parish churches and a few villas will be seen standing half a mile from the sea.

Nearly half a mile offshore east and abreast of the town, 0.8 of a mile south by southwest of Langstone Point is the Dawlish Rock with 1.8 metres of water. An outfall pipeline extends from the shore in the vicinity of this rock. With the exception of Dawlish Rock the coast from Teignmouth to the River Exe is clear of outlying dangers but care needs to be taken when approaching Exmouth Harbour.

Half way between Exmouth and Torbay and, 39 miles northwest by west from the Bill of Portland and 4.5 miles north by east from Hope’s Nose, is Teignmouth. The town is set at the mouth of the River Teign and it falls into the sea through a narrow channel obstructed by a bar. The bar nearly dries at low water springs and is ever changing from the effects of southerly gales. From the Ness, on the south side of the entrance, to The Point, on the north side, the distance across the entrance at high water is only one quarter of a mile.

The Ness is a beautiful headland of red sandstone clothed with verdure, rising boldly from the water's edge to the height of 50 metres. The town is situated largely on the small peninsula at the north side of the entrance. It is a tourist resort servicing the sandy spit at its southern end that fronts the town. Saint Michael’s Church, with a tower and flagstaff, stands in the NE part of the town and is conspicuous from the approaches. Teignmouth has an outflow buoy situated 1.3 miles east by southeast of The Ness and closer in the channel is marked by port and starboard buoys. Due to this shifting nature of the fairway vessels considering approaching the harbour should seek out current local knowledge.

Diffusers - Fl.Y.5s position: 50°31.969’N 003°27.783’W

Just over three miles south of Teignmouth and a mile to the north of Hope’s Nose is Babbacombe Bay. The bay affords a good anchorage in westerly winds over a sandy bottom. From Portland Bill to this point the anchorages off all the small coastal towns are largely only sheltered from northerly winds. From Babbacombe Bay there is a good measure of protection from the prevailing south westerlies.

Hope’s Nose is a sloping headland rising to a knoll, 105 metres high, about half a mile inland. To the south of Hope’s Nose lies Tor Bay, entered between it and Berry Head situated 4 miles to the south. Two prominent radio masts stand at the west side of the bay, about 5 miles west southwest of Hope’s Nose. Tor Bay affords good shelter from westerly winds, but it should be quickly vacated should a south or south-easterly gale be forecast as they throw a heavy sea into the bay. Within Tor Bay are the major yacht harbours of Torquay at the north end of the bay, Brixham at the southern end and the smaller pier at Paignton.

Near Hope’s Nose there are three rocky islets. The outer is the Ore Stone that is a conspicuous peaked rock located about half a mile southeast of the point. It is 32 metres high and forms a good mark especially from the south. The Ore Stone has the small straggling and awash The Sunker situated 90 metres from its southern point. The 41 metre high Thatcher Rock lies about 0.8 miles west of Ore Stone closer in to the shoreline. It is conspicuous and more rounded than the Ore Stone. On some bearings these two rocks could be mistaken for one another. Lead Stone or Flat Rock lies 250 metres southeast of Hope’s Nose.

To westward of these and in the north end of Tor Bay are the Morris Rogue with 0.8 metres of water over it, and the high East Shag and West Shag rocks. Above these rocks on the shore stands a conspicuous white block of flats, 0.7 miles west by southwest of Hope’s Nose. A prominent hotel is situated about 0.5 miles west of this block. Apart from these rocks in the north end of the bay Tor Bay is clean beyond the 5 metre contour.

Torquay Harbour is situated in the northwest corner of Tor Bay. It consists of an outer and an inner harbour protected behind the arms of two south facing piers. The harbour is entered via a west facing offset in its piers and is a major yachting centre during the summer months. Torquay Yacht Marina is situated immediately within in the northwest part of the outer harbour. Paignton Harbour is a small drying harbour used by small pleasure boats. It is formed by two jetties on the North side of Roundham Head.
Please note

Brixham, Paignton, and Torquay should not be run for with onshore gales.

Brixham Harbour is situated a mile west of Berry Head and consists of an outer and inner harbour. The outer harbour is protected from seaward by a large breakwater which extends half a mile northwest from the shore. Tucked behind a wave screen in the southeast corner of the enclosed area is Brixham Marina. There are numerous moorings for fishing craft and yachts in the outer harbour area that leaves no space for a vessel to anchor. Those choosing to anchor should do so 400 metres west by southwest of the breakwater head well clear of the harbour fairway. A promenade pier will be seen 600 metres north of Paignton Harbour.

Berry Head marks the southern entrance point of Tor Bay.
It is a steep-to and nearly vertical limestone cliff surmounted by a 55 metre high table top summit. Berry Head Light is shown from a structure, 5 metres high, standing on the flat top of this headland. A coast guard station is situated close to the light structure as well as a radio mast.

The headland may be seen in clear weather from a distance of 20 miles. It is especially prominent from the southeast, the head forms an excellent landmark because of the whitish appearance of the cliffs in relation to the surrounding land.


From Berry Head the coast trends in a southwest direction four miles to with high undulating land to the Mew Stone. To the north it rises to a height of 150 metres at Southdown Cliff one mile within Sharkham Point, the summit of which is 66 metres high. At Scabbacombe Head the summit of the cliff is 130 metres high. Again at Downend Point, where the cliff is 60 metres high, the land rises to 155 metres, half a mile inland. Several steep-to and dangerous rocks lie up to half a mile offshore along this coast. These present vessels passing south from Tor Bay with the option of some light inshore pilotage or a more relaxed passage by giving the shoreline a berth of more than half a mile.

A mile south by southwest from Berry Head and about half that distance eastward of Sharkham Point is the Mudstone Ledge. This is a deep ledge ranging from 5.4 to 9.4 metres and is of little concern to leisure craft. Cod Rock and Mew Stone, 19 and 17 metres high, are two steep and rocky islets with the higher Cod Rock being the outer of the two. It bears south one third of a mile from Berry Head, and is one quarter of a mile off shore. The area between the rocks and the shore are foul and should not be approached.

The most prominent outlying rock is East Blackstone Rock that is always visible. It is made up of two adjacent rocks with the highest being 3 metres above high water. It lies about half a mile east from Outer Froward Point at the entrance to Dartmouth and has no outlying dangers.

About three quarters of a mile to the northeast of East Blackstone Rock is Nimble Rock with only 1 metre water over it. Nimble Rock is steep to and lies about one third of a mile offshore. Start Point lighthouse seen open either side of East Blackstone clears Nimble Rock.

800 metres north by northeast of East Blackstone Rock and about 370 metres from the shore is Boatfield Rock, with 2.4 metres of water over it.

Dartmouth Harbour lies close to the mouth of the River Dart that exits into the sea 7.5 miles northeast of Start Point and 5 miles southwest by west of Berry Head. The town of Dartmouth is situated on the west bank, about half a mile above the entrance. The smaller town of Kingswear stands on the east side of the river. The town’s position may be recognised from seaward by the granite peaks or tors, which break the outline of the Dartmoor Range. The most remarkable of these are the 457 metres Haytor and 473 metres high Rippon Tor. The latter Rippon Tor is easily distinguished from the Haytor by its single culminating point or cairn, whilst Haytor on the contrary presents a forked or jagged appearance. Rippon Tor bearing north leads to the entrance of the harbour, which, as the land is approached, will be more distinctly recognised by the tall square tower of Stoke Fleming Church. This stands conspicuously on high ground about two miles west of the entrance. Off the eastern side of the entrance is the 35 metres high and remarkably rocky islet of the Mew Stone laying immediately offshore of the eastern side of the entrance.

The entrance to Dartmouth has several dangers. Most all of these dangers such as the East Blackstone, the Mew Stone, the high rock south of the visible Shooter, the Verticals, the West Rock, the Homestone, and the rocks off Combe Point lie almost in a line. In daylight a good clearing mark for all these outer dangers can be had by keeping the 16 metre high East Blackstone, 3 metres above high water and situated about half a mile east from Outer Froward Point, well open of the Mew Stone, east by north. This provides a clearing line that will lead to the south of all the dangers off Dartmouth.

Those sailing within the entrance should particularly note the following rocks fringing the western shore, Combe Rocks, Meg Rocks, Homestone Rocks. The Combe Rocks group lie immediately off Combe Point, and many of them are at all times above water, and all of them show at low tide. The outermost rock of the group, Outer Combe, lies about 200 metres from the shore and dries at half-tide. The rock dries to 3.5 metres above high water and when seen it may be freely approached as it has deep water all around it. Even when covered its position is readily discernable in daylight as it is situated scarcely 100 metres to the east of Old Combe rock that is always above water.

One quarter of a mile north east by north from the Outer Combe Rock, a succession of high heads show themselves from half ebb to low water. These are called the Meg Rocks, inside of which lies Combe Bay.

Further offshore are the patch of rocks called Homestone Rocks that are marked by Homestone port hand buoy. The Homestone Rocks lie one quarter of a mile east southeast from Combe Point, leaving a safe deep-water channel between them and the Combe Rocks. The highest head of the patch is named the Homestone, over which there is 0.9 metres at low water. Kingswear Castle open east or west of Blackstone Rock, clears it on either side, and Stoke Fleming Church in line with the extreme of Combe Point, leads to the south.

Except for the Western Blackstone Rock nothing dries off Blackstone Point at low water and Western Blackstone Rock should be passed on its outside. Local leisure craft occasionally run between Blackstone Rock and Blackstone Point. It is possible to use this channel but not at low water as there are two shoal heads within its immediate area. The first is on the southern approach with only 1.2 metres over it and the latter, with 1.5 metres of water, lies nearly in mid-channel. As there is a rise of 5 metres, a vessel may use this channel at or near high water, taking care in doing so, to be centre channel between the rock and the point.

Kingswear Castle open of Blackstone Point, northeast, leads to the east of all the dangers of the western shoreline as well as the Outer Combe, and all dangers between Combe and Blackstone Points.

Dangers on eastern shore at the mouth of the River Dart include the Mew Stone, The Verticals, Bears Tail Rock and Old Castle Rock. The rocky 35 metre high Mew Stone islet lies about 300 metres offshore, a little to the east of Outer Froward Point. It is steep-to on its eastern side, but the channel between it and the land should be avoided as it is full of boulders and rocky shelves drying up to 2.1 metres. If for any reason a vessel is carried through by the tide keep as near as possible in mid-channel as the rocks dry off either side for a considerable distance.

Beyond the many high rocks extending from the Mew Stone in a westerly direction, are The Verticals. This is a ledge of dangerous rocks, running parallel with the coast a full quarter of a mile west of the Mew Stone. Some of these rocks, that take their name from their high and precipitous sides, show at low water. The West Rock of The Verticals are awash only at the lowest tides and it is best to give this locality a wide berth. A south cardinal 200 metres to the southwest marks West Rock.

West Rock – South Cardinal Q(6)+LFl.15s position: 50° 19.861’N, 003°32.471’W

The Bears Tail Rock lies approximately 90 metres south of Inner Froward Point, and dries at low water. It is well out of the normal harbour track but small craft intending to run between the Mew Stone and the shore should note its position. The highest peaks of the Shooter and Mew Stone in line set a line of bearing that leads directly over it.

A more dangerous patch of sunken rocks that skirts the harbour fairway is Old Castle Rock. It lies about a quarter of a mile to the west of Inner Froward Point with a good channel inside it. On this patch, however, there are several shoal heads, two of which require particular attention. The inner head, named Old Castle Rock, has only 1.2 metres of water over it. Close southwest of Castle Rock is Castle Ledge, the outer head of the rocks off Inner Froward Point, that has 2.5 metres water. Castle Ledge is marked by a porthand buoy.

Castle Ledge – Fl.G.5s position: 50°20.001’N, 003°33.114’W.

From Dartmouth towards Start Point the coast is generally low, rising gradually in the interior. In the northern part of the bay there is the sunken Earlstones Rock. Lying about of half a mile west by south from Combe Point it has from 3.7 to 4.3 metres over it and presents no danger to leisure craft.

Between 0.7 of a mile and 4 miles northeast of Start Point is the Skerries Bank. This is a dangerous bank of ground down shell and fine gravel. It extends for three and a half miles northeast by east with an average breadth of half a mile. Near its southern end there is only 2.1 metres of water and other parts have from about 3 to 8 metres. The shoal terminates to the northeast in a sandbank, nearly one mile in length, with 4.6 metres on its shallowest part. In boisterous weather the sea breaks heavily on all parts of the Skerries but especially so upon its southwest end. A passage more than half a mile wide leads between the southern end of the bank and Start Point. It is more than navigable but should not be used during periods of heavy weather. By night the Skerries Bank is covered by Start Point red auxiliary light between the bearings of 210° - 255° T.

Between the Skerries and the shore lies Start Bay which runs from Start Point and Combe Point, 7 miles north by northeast. This is bordered by a five mile long beach extending from Hallsands to Strete Head. A church, with a conspicuous tower, stands at Stoke Fleming, about a mile west by southwest of Combe Point. Start Point shelters Start Bay, with the wind to the westward of southwest, and in offshore winds, except within half a mile of Start Point where the ground is rocky, the whole of this bay provides a good anchorage over sand and gravel. It would be best to anchor out as the tide runs to the south nine hours out of the twelve and it might set a boat on the shore if too close in. But should the wind veer to the south of south southwest weigh anchor and run for Dartmouth or Torbay, as a heavy sea is thrown in by south-easterly gales. Likewise in strong easterly winds the Skerries Bank provides no shelter to the bay and the broken water reaches to the shore.

Start Point may be recognised by its rugged appearance and conspicuous white lighthouse that stands 130 metres inside of its eastern extreme. The five hillocks on the ridge near the lighthouse are each about 60 metres high. Within a mile of the point the land rises steeply to 120 metres. Two prominent radio masts stand on the heights, about a mile west by northwest of the point. The only dangers in the vicinity of Start Point are the Black Stone and Cherrick Rocks that lie about 500 metres south by east from the Start Point.

Start Point Lighthouse Fl(3)10s 62m 25M, F.R. 55m 9M, Horn (1) 60s position: 53° 02.797'N, 009°31.613'W

Those making a fast passage along the coast between Berry Head and Start Point may keep outside all the dangers by utilising three alignments. Hope's Nose, bearing less than 359°T, and open of Berry Head passes to the east of all dangers south of Berry Head. Approaching Dartmouth, keep Hope's Nose well open of Berry Head, north by east, to pass east of all the dangers between Dartmouth and Berry Head. Berry Head open of Scabbacombe Head, bearing northeast, to pass to the east of the Skerries. Alternatively, just keeping over half a mile out or outside the 20 metre contour makes for a pilotage free passage.


The complete course is 116.37 miles from the waypoint 'Close south of the 'Owers' South Cardinal south of Selsea Bill' to 'Clear Water Start Point' tending in a west south westerly direction (reciprocal east north easterly).

Close south of the 'Owers' South Cardinal south of Selsea Bill, 50° 38.500' N, 000° 41.090' W
This is close south of the Owers South Cardinal Selsea Bill. The cardinal marks the southern extreme of the dangerous shoals surrounding Selsey Bill that are collective known as The Owers.

       Next waypoint: 116.37 miles, course 256.95°T (reciprocal 76.95°T)

Clear Water Start Point, 50° 10.000' N, 003° 38.000' W
This waypoint is in deep water and situated 3.3 miles south of Start Point.

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