What is the route?
- • Passes East of Angus Rock
- • East of Meadow
- • West of Routen Wheel
- • West of the Seagen Isolated Danger Marker
The preceding east coast set of waypoints and coastal description is available by clicking 'Previous', above, and vessels planning on continuing southward, beyond Dublin Bay, can find the following set of waypoints and coastal description by click 'Next'.
Why sail this route?Up until about the 18th century, the main body of the loch was better known by its Irish name Loch Cuan, meaning ‘sea-inlet of bays/havens’ which is entirely fitting. For Strangford Lough provides cruisers with all-weather, all-tide shelter and at least seventy islands, along with many islets called pladdies, bays, coves, inlets and headlands to explore. All of which lie peacefully within a natural Marine Conservation Zone with a handful of pretty County Down villages around its rural shore. It is the finest sheltered sailing area in Ireland and it offers 60 square miles of pure cruising delight to all who come here.
Tidal overviewToday's summary tidal overview for this route as of Wednesday, October 5th at 15:25. Best exit lending itself to northbound passage is at the start of the ebb, best exit leading itself to a southbound passage is at the end of the ebb.
Best Exit (ebb)
(HW Belfast +0140 to -0440)
(Tidal flow )
Ends in 00:07:05
(Wed 09:28 to 15:33)
Best Entry (flood)
(HW Belfast -0420 to +0120)
Starts in 00:29:05
(Wed 15:55 to 21:35)
What are the navigational notes?
Image: Michael Harpur
The name 'Strangford' comes from Old Norse Strangr-fjörðr, meaning 'strong sea inlet which refers to The Narrows that link the upper Lough to the sea between the entrance and villages of Strangford and Portaferry. With a maximum Spring Rates attaining 7.6 knots in the Narrows, timing is everything when it comes to entering Strangford Lough.
Trying to enter with any ebb running out of the Lough could have a vessel buffeted by standing waves and stood still in currents that attain 7.5 knots in various parts of the Narrows. As a minimum, all vessels should plan to enter with the flood and leave with the ebb, preferably at slack water. Likewise, and although well marked and lit, local knowledge is required to negotiate the Narrows at night so a first visit should be in daylight. This limits the approach to daylight, at around the turn of the tide which will most likely only happen once in daylight, which all makes advance tidal planning essential.
Image: Michael Harpur
Admiralty Chart 2159 Strangford Narrows or a reliable plotter at the helm should be considered essential. Strangford Lough should be avoided in any strong onshore winds. Heavy breaking seas will be encountered one and a half miles southeast of the entrance. Worst of all is a southeasterly on an ebb or rise where furious standing waves and overfalls will result.
- • The flood starts in The Narrows at HW Belfast -3½ hours and runs for 6 hours.
- • The ebb starts in The Narrows at HW Belfast +2½ hours.
- • 15-minute period of slack water, as the tides reverse, and the streams run at 3 kn ± 1 hour.
East Channel, in-going 5 kn; out-going stream 7.5 kn at springs. Streams are almost simultaneous throughout the narrows and the period of slack water is very short as the tides reverse. The stream runs in line with the Narrows except to the north of Angus Rock where the flood and ebb run north-west and south-east respectively.
Best entry time: Between Belfast High Water -0420 and +0120. The best time for newcomers to arrive and make an entry is at the end of the ebb so as to make an entry at slack water or on the young flood before the flow really gets going. This keeps the speed over the ground nearer what a helmsman is accustomed to. The last hour of the ﬂood is best avoided in the event that there is not enough time to complete the passage through the narrows before the tides reverse.
Best exit time - lending itself to southbound vessels : Be south of Angus Rock by Belfast High Water -0440. Normally a boat capable of achieving 5 - 6 knots should leave Strangford, or the Portaferry pontoons, about 30 minutes earlier and take the strong ebb tide down the Narrows. The ‘best exit time’ facilitates a southbound voyage as, upon exiting the Narrows, the flood tide in the Irish Sea will flow southwestward for about 5 hours afterwards.
Good exit time, lending itself to northbound vessels : Be south of Angus Rock by Belfast High Water +0140. This normally means leaving Strangford or the Portaferry pontoon at BHW +0040 and fighting the last of the flood tide down the narrows. This exit time better suits northbound vessels as, upon exiting the Narrows, there is a favourable northward flowing ebb tide in the Irish Sea for about 4 hours. But there cannot be any delay with this exit or it could lead to an encounter with the significant overfalls off the entrance to the narrows. These are created by the ebb tide flowing south-eastward out of the narrows and colliding with the Irish Sea’s north-eastward flow. A way to evade the worst of this is to steer to pass close to Bar Pladdy South Cardinal Mark and out eastwards where the water to the north of the overfalls will be found to be calmer.
Vessels approaching from the north will find Bangor Marina an ideal tide wait location. The best time to depart the marina is about two hours before low water. This enables a vessel to pick up on an early starting back-eddy in Donaghadee Sound and then to continue with the benefit of the southerly flood tide that commences at HW Belfast / Dover +0500 hours. Departing at this time provides about nine hours of a fair tide for the 25-mile passage to the Strangford Lough fairway buoy.
This should provide most boats with ample time to pass a couple of miles outside the off laying rocks and islands and arrive in time to pick up a favourable tide at the Narrows. Good waypoints would be the buoys of Donaghadee Sound, Skullmartin Light, South Light, Butter Pladdy Cardinal and then to the first of our sequence but do not cut the corner at Ballyquintin Point as the dangerous Quintin Rocks extend out a ¼ of a mile from the point. This route can be found in the Northeastern Ireland Coastal Description Malin Head to Strangford Lough . Those who would like some coastal pilotage can choose to pass inside the South Rock, and then pass close east of the Butter Pladdy East Cardinal.
Vessels approaching from the south will find routeing information in the Easter Ireland Coastal Description Strangford Lough to Dublin Bay . Optimised tidal for the passage are covered in the Bangor to Dublin, either way, with 12 hours of favourable tide .
Those arriving at an inconvenient time will find Ardglass Harbour (Phennick Cove Marina) , 5 miles south-westward of the entrance, offers the ideal tide wait location to perfectly time an approach.
The East Channel is the principal approach to Strangford Lough. It passes in approximately midway between the entrances Killard and Ballyquintin points, then to the east of Angus Rock Lighthouse before taking a central path after passing Kilclief Castle on the western shore.
The complete course is 6.15 miles from the waypoint 'Strangford Narrows Approach' to 'Strangford Lough' tending in a north north westerly direction (reciprocal south south easterly).
Strangford Narrows Approach, 54° 18.615' N, 005° 30.000' W
This is just over a ½ mile east of St. Patrick’s Rocks, that is located 600 metres to the south-east of Killard Point. It is on the bearing of 323.7° T of Angus Rock Lighthouse, south and about midway of a line drawn between the Bar Pladdy South Cardinal light and Strangford Safewater buoy.
► Next waypoint: 1.06 miles, course ⇓ 324.14°T (reciprocal ⇑ 144.14°T)
East Channel, 54° 19.470' N, 005° 31.060' W
This aligns the 341°T leading light beacon off Dogtail Point, front; Oc(4)G.10s, 2 metres high red beacon, and Gowland Rocks, rear; Oc(2)G.10s 5 metres high white stone beacon, green top, to pass Angus Rock Lighthouse about 300 metres to port. It is 'Track A' on Admiralty 2159.
► Next waypoint: 0.83 miles, course ⇓ 341.03°T (reciprocal ⇑ 161.03°T)
Meadows Shoal, 54° 20.250' N, 005° 31.520' W
This is when Kilclief Castle will be seen on the western shore, bearing 260°T, and the vessel will be north of Meadows. The course now turns slightly westward, 'Track B' Admiralty 2159, on the line of bearing of 330° T of the Salt Rock Light beacon an 8 metre white stone, with a red top Fl. R.3s.
► Next waypoint: 0.78 miles, course ⇓ 330.13°T (reciprocal ⇑ 150.13°T)
Cross Roads, 54° 20.930' N, 005° 32.190' W
This is between Cross Roads and Dogtail Point. The course now turns slightly northward, 'Track C' Admiralty 2159, 343° T up the centre, passing west of Gowland Beacon, Routen Wheel and the Seagen.
► Next waypoint: 1.47 miles, course ⇓ 342.77°T (reciprocal ⇑ 162.77°T)