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Coastal Overview for North Foreland to the Isle of Wight

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What is the route?
This is the Coastal Overview for North Foreland to Selsey Bill. The waypoints are sequenced from east to west as follows

  • • Close east of Foreland

  • • Passing Inside the banks through the Ramsgate Channel

  • • Standing a mile off Port of Dover

  • • Standing a mile off Dungeness

  • • Standing a mile and a half off Beachy Head

  • • Approaching The Isle of Wight via The Looe Channell

Detailed coastal overviews are intended to be read alongside local area charts so that the key considerations may be noted and pencilled in well in advance. The intention is not only to make passages safer, by highlighting coastal dangers, but also to make them more enjoyable by unveiling all the Havens along the way so that the occasional coastal gem might not be overlooked.

Why sail this route?
This is the primary coastal overview for vessels between the North Sea and the English Channel or vice versa, and the directions to visit the many havens along this sailing area.

Tidal overview
Today's summary tidal overview for this route as of Thursday, December 7th at 16:42. These are the tidal streams between South Foreland and Deal where the east-going stream becomes north-going and the west-going stream becomes south-going. The streams set strongly along the coast attaining a Spring rate of 2¼ knots.

In the Channel, the east-northeast tidal streams off the head of Folkestone Mole turns 10 minutes earlier (HW Dover -0155) and the west-southwest going stream begins 1 hour earlier (HW Dover +0320).

South Foreland (North Going)

(HW Dover -0145 to +0415)

Starts in 00:32:15

(Thu 17:15 to 23:15)

South Foreland (South Going)

(HW Dover +0415 to -0145)


(Tidal flow )

Ends in 00:14:15

(Thu 10:32 to 16:57)

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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Please zoom out (-) if all of the waypoints are not displayed.
The above plots are not precise and are indicative only.


Sailing along the southeast coast of England has a wide range of delights and challenges. Home to the unofficial confederation of defensive coastal settlements called Cinque Ports this coastline's maritime history runs deep, but today the Cinque Ports are mostly the domain of those that can take to the mud. For deeper draft vessels there are also several places to visit such as the cosmopolitan city of Brighton, Dover with its tunnels and historical castle, and some of Britain’s most notable natural landmarks which are best seen from seaward, such as Beachy Head and the White Cliffs of Dover.

Spectacular chalk cliffs form the backdrop to this coastal area
Image: CC0

Tidal planning for this length of the coast is key as the streams are particularly unusual in favouring an eastbound passage whilst being disadvantageous for those westbound. The reason for this is that an eastern Channel tide and that of the North Sea always run in opposite courses, meeting and separating in the Strait of Dover. This means that the Strait of Dover never has slack water at any time as in the strait the stream obeys first one and then the other of these tides. Likewise, the constriction of the straits cause streams to attain the maximum rates of up to 4 knots here whereas elsewhere the streams only run strong off headlands but in open water they rarely exceed 2 to 2¼kn.

Outside of the straits, the limits of these two streams range to and fro as the tide rises and falls at Dover, travelling to the eastward on both tides, and at high and low water suddenly shifting sixty miles to the westward, to recommence their easterly courses with the next tide. The meeting and separation oscillate between Beachy Head and North Foreland, a distance of about sixty miles. When the water on the shore at Dover begins to fall, a separation of the streams begins off Beachy Head. As the fall continues, this line creeps to the eastward. At two hours after high water, it has reached Hastings; at three hours Rye; and thus it travels on until at four hours, by the shore, it has arrived nearly at North Foreland. East of Dungeness and as far as South Foreland there is little change in the times at which the streams change.

Tidal streams favour eastbound passages
Image: Martin Hesketh

The to and froing of the tide is highly advantageous for an eastbound vessel. Fast vessels that can maintain a mean speed over the ground of 7kn can make a passage from Selsey Bill to Dover with a fair tide almost all the way. To do this, a vessel should transit The Looe at slack water just when the east going stream commences at Portsmouth +0430 or High Water Dover +0500. From this point onward the run of just under 90 miles to Dover is supported with 11 hours of a favourable tidal stream. Unfortunately, the same system serves to disadvantage westbound vessels where a fair tide passage requires a stop somewhere in the vicinity of Beachy Head.

The Strait of Dover is the busiest international seaway in the world
Image: CC0

Another unusual aspect of this coastline is the density of commercial shipping encountered, as the strait is the busiest international seaway in the world. Used by over 400 commercial vessels daily, traffic safety is a critical issue, with HM Coastguard and the Maritime Gendarmerie maintaining a 24-hour watch over the strait and enforcing a strict regime of shipping lanes. Coastal cruisers should be watchful of the limits of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) as the southwest-bound TSS lane from the Dover Strait is only 4¼ miles off the entrance to Dover Harbour and as little as 3½ miles off Dungeness. A watchful eye should also be maintained along the coast for fast ferries, traversing back and forth to France, inshore fishing vessels, and lobster pots.


North Foreland and the Isle of Thanet
Image: Christine Matthews via CC BY-SA 2.0

The coast either side of the Thames Estuary is low. North Foreland forms the southern entrance point and the seafront of the northeast side of the Isle of Thanet. Its promontory of nearly perpendicular chalk cliffs, which vary from about 20 to 37 metres in height, is usually the first point of land seen when approaching Dover Strait from the northeast. The coast, to Ramsgate Harbour, is characterised by chalk cliffs, but none as high as those in the vicinity of North Foreland.

North Foreland Lighthouse
Image: David Anstiss via CC BY-SA 2.0
North Foreland can be identified by an octagonal white light tower, 26 metres high, which stands on rising ground about 300 metres within the edge of the cliff and behind buildings overlooking the sea. It exhibits a light Fl (5) WR 20s at 57 metres above mean high water that is visible in clear weather from a distance of 19 miles. A conspicuous radio mast stands close northward of the lighthouse. Vessels should stand well off North Foreland in strong easterly winds, because confused seas build up inshore.

A ½ mile northward of the lighthouse is Kingsgate Castle, a building of flint standing close to the cliff edge on the south point of Kingsgate Bay. A very conspicuous building stands 1½ miles west by northwest of the light and, when viewed from the north, is the highest landmark in this area.

The cliffy coast in the vicinity of North Foreland is fringed by rocky ledges, which extend up to about 400 metres offshore and is best given a berth of a ½ mile. The Elbow is a sandy ridge that forms the northeast extremity of the shoal bank extending seaward from North Foreland. It is marked by the ‘Elbow’ north cardinal marker, Q, moored about 3 miles east by northeast of the lighthouse. The bank is however deep and presents little concern to leisure craft in normal conditions.

Broadstairs pier extending from the northern side of the cove
Image: Bob Jones via CC BY-SA 2.0

A mile southward of North Foreland and two miles northeast of Ramsgate lies Broadstairs, a coastal town that is one of Thanet's primary seaside resorts and is known as the ‘jewel in Thanet's crown’. The seaside town is fronted by a drying boat harbour, formed by a pier extending from the northern side of the cove that exhibits a light 2F.R (vert)7m4M. The approach lies close south of its head, and it is completely exposed to a sea driven in by easterly winds. It has 4.5 metres at the pier end at high water springs, and 3 metres at neaps but the harbour dries out at low tide. Broadstairs HM 861879.

Offshore the Broadstairs Knolls, with a least charted depth of 3.2 metres, are the outermost shoal patches on the flats that front the coast between Ramsgate and North Foreland. They extend up to about 1½ miles seaward and are marked by a lighted ‘Broadstairs Knoll’ port buoy, Fl. R.2.5s, moored 1.8 miles east by southeast of Broadstairs. These should not pose any concern for leisure craft in normal conditions.

Outfall pipelines extend up to a mile east-northeast from Foreness Point in the vicinity of North Foreland. Numerous submarine cables, some disused, extend seaward from the coast in the vicinity of the lighthouse and may best be seen on the chart.

Ramsgate Harbour
Image: Michael Harpur

Ramsgate Click to view haven is an artificial harbour that consists of a vast outer harbour area formed by substantial breakwaters, East Pier and North Breakwater projecting into the sea. Within these enclosing arms there is an inner harbour or basin divided from the outer harbour by stone walls, and on the western pierhead, there is a notable pretty granite lighthouse, F.R.12m7M. The harbour contains the Western Marine Terminal the cross-channel ferry harbour, Royal Harbour the old commercial port, and the Inner Harbour. The inner harbour is now entirely occupied by a marina that is accessed approximately ± 2 hours of high water. In the outer harbour, there are two further marinas accessible 24 hours.
Please note

The recommended crossing track is at right angles to the channel on the west side of the approach channel's No.3 and 4 buoys.


The shoreline lowers south of Ramsgate, turns abruptly west for 2 miles and is bordered by a beach of shingle mixed with sand. Pegwell Bay, lying 1½ miles west by southwest of Ramsgate, is fronted by a drying coastal bank, which extends up to about 2½ miles seaward. The bay shelves gradually to provide a serviceable anchorage as the fetch from the west is too great when the flats cover at high water.

The chimneys of the disused Richborough Power Station at sunset over Pegwell Bay
Image: Hazel Nicholson

Inshore the River Stour runs into this bay through drying flats of mud and sand. The historic city of Canterbury is situated on the river, as are the former Cinque Ports of Sandwich and the railway town of Ashford. The three conspicuous cooling towers, with an elevation of 135 metres, of the disused Richborough Power Station stand prominently about 0.8 miles west-southwest of the river mouth, and 3 miles west-southwest of Ramsgate. A drying channel, marked by buoys and beacons, leads through the coastal bank to the river mouth. Richborough Port, with a drying wharf, lies close inside the river mouth. Sandwich Haven, used by pleasure craft, is located about 3 miles above Richborough Port. Commercial shipping does not use the river today.

River Stour in Canterbury
Image: Diliff via CC ASA 4.0
A coastal fairway lies across the front of Pegwell Bay, between Ramsgate and the Small Downs, called the Ramsgate Channel. The Ramsgate Channel is situated about a mile off the shoreline and to the west of the drying sandbanks of Brake and Cross Ledge. It has about 3 metres of water on it for a distance of about 4 miles and is marked by three fairway buoys. From Ramsgate Roads, the first marker is the ‘West Quern’ west cardinal, Q(9)15s, located ½ a mile southward of Ramsgate’s breakwater. The ‘B2’ starboard mark, Fl(2)G.5s, located 1¼ miles southeast of Pegwell Bay, is the next mark and this then leads on to the port ‘Downs’ buoy, Fl(2)R.5s, at the southern end that also marks the Gull Stream. Vessels using this channel should pass all the buoys on their western sides.

Seafront buildings of historic Deal
Image: CC0

The small town of Deal is situated 6 miles south of Ramsgate. It extends along the shore for about 1½ miles and is marked by the ruins of Sandown Castle to the north, and Walmer Castle, surmounted by a flagstaff, standing close to its south end, which was a possible location for Julius Caesar's first arrival in Britain. The town is fronted by Deal Castle, a hospital, and a barracks, which are all prominent. A T-headed pier, alongside which berthing is prohibited, extends seaward from the shore about 0.2 miles north of the castle. A red light, 2F.R(vert)7m2M, is exhibited from the outer end of the pier. Vessels intending on anchoring in the vicinity of the pier should take note of the position of a wreck located in 4.4 metres and ⅓ of a mile northeast of Deal Pier.

The foreshore at Deal with Deal Pier in the backdrop
Image: Ulrich Zink

Formerly a 'limb port' of the Cinque Ports, a fishing, mining and garrison town, in 1278 Deal was the busiest port in England. This was because of The Downs area of sea, that lies immediately between the town and the Goodwin Sands, and which was a very important anchorage for merchant shipping during the age of sail. Ships would lie at anchor, sometimes for weeks, sheltered from the East by Goodwins and from the North by the mainland between the North and South Forelands, as they waited for a favourable wind to carry them down the English Channel to the West. The Small Downs, a mile to the north of Deal Pier and off Sandown Castle, offers a good anchorage today with shelter from the south-southwest through west to the north with good holding and moderate stream.

South of Deal the coast begins to rise close south of Walmar Castle where it presents chalk cliffs to Dover.

South Foreland Lighthouse
Image: Archangel12 via CC ASA 3.0

South Foreland is a bold headland faced with irregular chalk cliffs having layers of flint, in horizontal lines. A conspicuous disused white light tower, 21 metres high, stands on the summit of this headland. On its summit are two lighthouses 400 metres apart, an old lighthouse and the disused and prominent South Foreland Lighthouse. A white windmill, prominent in strong sunlight, stands 0.2 miles northeast of the disused light tower. The conspicuous Dover Patrol Memorial stone monument stands on high ground above the cliffs about 1.2 miles to the northeast of the disused light tower. Saint Margaret’s Bay, with a beacon standing at the head, lies about midway between the memorial and the lighthouses.

Dover Patrol Memorial
Image: Nilfanion via ASA 4.0

At South Foreland the coast trends to the southwest for 1½ miles to Dover. The extensive harbour of Dover Click to view haven is easily identified by its breakwaters and Dover Castle surmounting the cliffs above. The harbour is enclosed by Admiralty Pier, Southern Breakwater, and Eastern Arm, which together form the west and east entrances to the port.

Port of Dover
Image: Port of Dover via CC BY 2.0

The port is primarily used as a cross-channel terminal for ro-ro ferries but also has a very good marina. It is also possible to anchor in the outer harbour provided direct permission is obtained from Port Control, and the vessel is well clear of the extensive seasonal swim zone along the north shore in the vicinity of the Price of Whales Pier. The anchorage is exposed to winds from northeast through south to southeast. Dover Marina comprises a tidal Harbour and two non-tidal basins, Granville Dock and Wellington Dock.
Please note

Vessels passing Dover should stand a mile off the entrances as the many ferries leave at speed and there can be considerable backwash. It is advisable to make your intentions known to Dover Port Control on VHF Ch. 74 before passing the harbour entrances.

Dover Marina
Image: Michael Harpur


The primary off-lying danger along this coast is the legendary Goodwin Sands. This is a 10 mile long shifting mass of drying sandbanks, which is 5 miles wide from west to east at its widest part. It extends up to about 7 miles offshore between North Foreland and South Foreland. The area surrounding the sands is littered with the wrecks of numerous vessels, including the South Goodwin Light vessel that came upon them in 1954. Some of these wrecks are visible depending on the state of the tide. The extent of their danger has been reduced by the bank's limits being marked by an excellent suite of buoys in combination with the ‘East Goodwin’ light vessel.

Dover Castle
Image: Chensiyuan via CC ASA 4.0

Large patches of the Goodwin Sands dry at low water and some areas dry up to 3 metres offering fine expanses of firm ground. Particularly so along their eastern and northern edges, that are relatively steep-to and remain uncovered for some time. When covered, the sands are in motion and are carried by the prevailing tides, which at times considerably alter the form of the shoal, though its general outline, best seen on a chart, does not greatly change. Except for The Downs, where an area of deeper water exists, all the deep water lies to the east of Goodwin Sands.

Cruise ship passing outside the Goodwin sands
Image: © 54 North

The sands are divided into two divisions, each tapering to the southward. The northern division named the Goodwin Knoll is an irregular semi-circular shape, the northern or outer edge forming the curve, and the southern the base. That portion of the southern division which lies to the east is named the South Goodwin and South Calliper, and that to the west is named the Bunt and Fork. The northern part of each division is dry in many places up to 0.5 metres above low water. The bank's principal seamarks are the ‘East Goodwin’ light vessel, Fl. 15s,12m15M with a red hull, moored about 7.5 miles east of Deal, and the ‘NE Goodwin’ east cardinal marker moored about 5½ miles east of Ramsgate.

Seals on Goodwin Sands
Image: © 54 North

Between the South Goodwin and the Fork is the deep inlet named Trinity Bay, from which there is a passage bordered by drying patches, called Kellet Gut, that leads 4.5 miles north-eastward between Trinity Bay and Goodwin Knoll. This deep and ½ mile wide channel is unmarked and subject to frequent changes. It should only be used by leisure vessels with the benefit of local knowledge because it is not regularly surveyed and is liable to change. The flood current sets north-eastward out of Kellett Gut while the ebb current sets into it. The north-eastward current is dangerous within Kellet Gut because it sets a vessel toward the sands near the time of high water.

A freight passing outside East Goodwin Lightvessel as seen from the Goodwin

Image: © 54 North

The well-marked Gull Stream leads north-eastward from The Downs, inside Goodwin Sands and outside Brake Sands to the South of Ramsgate and onward to the North Sea or the Thames Estuary. The inshore route has the least depth of 5.8 metres, close west of ‘Goodwin Fork’ south cardinal marker buoy, Q(6) +LFl.15s, at its southern entrance. For the remainder of the channel, the minimum depth is about 8 metres. This fairway frequently changes and its navigational aids, best seen on a chart, are often moved without prior notice.

A watchful eye should be kept to the tides in this area, especially near high water. The tidal currents run strongly along the coast between South Foreland and Deal. East of Goodwin Sands the flood current sometimes sets north-westward with considerable velocity. Care is required south of South Sand Head where the flood current sets toward and across the southern portion of the Goodwind Sands, from about 1 hour before to about 3 hours after HW at Dover. In the bay, formed between Deal and Ramsgate, the currents are weak, mostly rotary clockwise, although the degree of rotation varies over the area.

Varne Lightvessel
Image: NAC via CC BY-SA 2.0

8 miles south of Dover, and in the Traffic Separation Scheme is The Varne shoal that is 7 miles long, less than 400 metres wide, steep-to, and has a least depth of 2 metres. There are strong ripples over The Varne both at springs and neaps and during tempestuous weather a heavy sea, which would endanger any vessel attempting to cross it. Lying almost in the middle of the international Traffic Separation Scheme of the English Channel, the bank is also a constant concern for shipping. It is marked by five cardinals and the ‘Varne’ Lanby, Fl.R. 5s12m15M.


The coastal route from Dover to Dungeness is 18 miles leading in a south-westerly direction. The track passes through an Inshore Traffic Zone close north of the Dover Strait Traffic Separation Scheme.

The coast between Dover and Folkestone, 5 miles southwest, is formed mostly by chalk cliffs of which Shakespeare cliff is the first chalk cliff westward of Dover. Situated about a mile southwest of Dover, it stands 103 metres high, and when seen from the east presents a conical appearance; but when seen from the south there is nothing remarkable in its features. Abbot’s Cliff, standing 2½ miles southwest of Dover, is also prominent. A conspicuous radio mast, with an elevation of 382 metres, is situated near Hougham, about 0.7 miles north of Abbot’s Cliff.

East Wear Bay
Image: Marathon via CC BY-SA 2.0

East Wear Bay lies between Abbot’s Cliff and Copt Point, 2 miles southwest. Copt Point, with a conspicuous Martello Tower standing above it, is located 4½ miles southwest of Dover and is the first cliff eastward of Folkestone. Copt Rocks, formed by drying ledges of sandstone, front the point and extend up to a ⅓ of a mile eastward into the bay. The ledge uncovers to almost 2 metres at low-water springs. The Mole Head Rocks are a continuation westward of the Copt Rocks, to the vicinity of the entrance to Folkestone. They uncover at 1.1 metres. A submarine outfall extends south of the ledge and is marked, close southeast by a port light buoy, Fl. R.5s.

East Wear Bay is overlooked by a conspicuous Martello Tower on Copt Point
Image: Kenny Milton Freeland via CC BY-SA 2.0

The shore of the bay is flat and covered with large stones, which complicates landing at low water. There is good holding ground in East Wear Bay from the west, by Copt Point and Copt Rocks, and around through north. This makes it serviceable as a temporary anchorage for vessels waiting for the tide. Between this bay and Shakespeare Cliff, there is no good anchorage off the coast, as the water is deep and the ground foul. Yacht racing marker buoys are moored during the season (April to November) about 0.6 miles west-southwest of Abbot’s Cliff.
Please note

Numerous wrecks, which may best be seen on the chart, lie offshore between Dover and Folkestone. Several submarine cables, which again may best be seen on the chart, extending seaward from the vicinity of Copt Point.

Folkestone Harbour
Image: Michael Harpur

The port town of Folkestone Click to view haven lies on the southern edge of the North Downs at a valley between the two cliffs of Sandgate and Copt Point, 13 miles northeast of Dungeness and 5 miles westward of the Port of Dover. Folkestone was an important harbour and shipping port for most of the 19th and 20th centuries when it was a terminal for cross-channel ferries, including high-speed craft. The harbour's use has diminished since the opening of the nearby Channel Tunnel and the cessation of local ferry services, but it remains in active use. It is now used mainly by small fishing vessels and recreational craft.

Folkestone's elegant granite breakwater light
Image: Pharma Mike via CC BY-SA 2.0

The harbour area is divided into two parts, named outer and inner harbours, by the railway which crosses it over a swinging bridge. A ¼ of a mile-long pier runs out in a southeast direction from the extremity of the horn to shelter the entrance from westerly gales. At the head of the breakwater stands the 13 metres high elegant granite Folkestone Breakwater Light, Fl(2)10s.14m22M. The harbour’s entrance dries at low-water springs, but the breakwater has depths of up to 5 metres on its outer end.

All this part of the coast to Mill Point, situated ¾ of a mile eastward, is bordered by a series of rocky ledges that extend from 200 to 600 metres from the shore. Those off Mill Point and abreast Folkestone church cover at 0.5 metres flood, when they are dangerous to vessels hugging the coast, as it is not easy to estimate the correct distance from the shore. South Foreland's high lighthouse open of Shakespeare cliff, clears all these rocks.

Folkestone to Dungeness
Image: Andrew Gustar via CC BY-SA 2.0

Near Folkestone, where the interior hills join the coast, it is cliffy. After this, the coast between Folkestone and Dungeness, 13 miles southwest, forms a bay of which the shore is low and flat. Sandgate is situated about 2½ miles west of Folkestone. Sandgate Roads provides a sheltered anchorage in offshore winds with good holding ground, mud and clay. Two conspicuous green domes, surmounting hotels, are situated about a mile west of Folkestone and about a mile to the east of Sandgate.

Hythe beach with Martello towers 14 and 15 in the backdrop
Image: Michael Coppins via CC ASA 4.0

Hythe is situated about 2 miles west of Sandgate. It is fronted by Hythe Flat a shallow bank extending from the shore between Dymchurch and Sandgate. Depths of 2 metres are available about a ½ mile off Hythe, and a mile off Dymchurch. An outfall sewer pipeline extends 1½ miles south by southeast across the flats from Hythe. A conspicuous radio tower, with an elevation of 268 metres, stands on the North Downs Tolsford Hill, about 2 miles north of the town of Hythe. To the southwest of Hythe, the shore is low and flat with only embankments to hold the marshland in place.

Dymchurch Beach
Image: Nilfanion via ASA 4.0

Dymchurch is situated 4 miles southwest of Hythe and 7 miles north of Dungeness. Dymchurch Wall, an embankment protecting the pasturage of Romney Marsh, extends along the coast and terminates in Dymchurch Redoubt, 2 miles northeast.
Please note

A rifle range, with a danger area extending 2 miles seaward, is situated close southwest of Hythe. When firing is taking place, red flags are displayed by day and red lights are exhibited at night between Dymchurch Redoubt and Hythe. Range safety craft also patrol the area.

Napoleonic War Martello Tower along the beach
Image: Oast House Archive via CC BY-SA 2.0
Six prominent Martello Towers stand along the shore between Dymchurch and Hythe. A conspicuous red brick tower is situated at Littlestone-on-Sea, 2½ miles south-southwest of Dymchurch.

East of New Romney deep draft vessels should note the Roar Bank. It is a ridge of sand with depths of 2.7 metres, runs nearly parallel with and about 1½ miles off the shore and 2 miles north of Swallow Bank. Otherwise, there are no off-lying dangers apart from Hythe firing range.

The dark grey Dungeness water tower stands a mile inland at Lydd-on-Sea and 2 miles north of Dungeness. When approaching from the east it, it is important not to confuse the water tower with either of the two light towers at Dungeness.

Dungeness Light
Image: Neil 2 via CC BY-SA 2.0

Dungeness is an enormous flat of sand and shingle which has been a hazard to shipping for hundreds of years. It is the southeast extremity of a large area of marsh, and is a very low point. It is steep-to on the southeast side but fronted elsewhere by a shingle beach which is progressively advancing seaward.

Dungeness Lighthouse with the French coastline in the backdrop
Image: Karen Roe via CC BY-SA 2.0

Dungeness Light is shown from a conspicuous slender tower, 43 metres high, standing on the point, Fl 10s and visible for 21 miles. This tower, white with black bands, is floodlit at night. The prominent black Dungeness Old Lighthouse is situated a ⅓ of a mile west of the light. Dungeness Nuclear Power Station, with several prominent buildings, stands ½ mile west of the light and is marked by red lights at night.

Dungeness Old (disused) Lighthouse
Image: David Evans via CC BY-SA 2.0

The roads on either side of Dungeness afford an excellent and extensive anchorage, according to the state of the wind, with good holding ground, consisting of fine sand over clay and mud. In north-easterlies Dungeness’s West Road provides a good anchorage 1.3 miles west of the lighthouse, off the Lydd Range (see below) danger area and out of the stream, but it can be subject to an uncomfortable scend from east winds. The East Road, or more appropriately Swallow Bank, provides a good anchorage sheltered from southwest through west to north, east of the old Victorian water tower at Littlestone-on-Sea.

Dungeness Nuclear Power Station
Image: Nilfanion via CC BY-SA 2.0


Lydd Ranges lookout and fire station
Image: N Chadwick via CC BY-SA 2.0
Rye Bay lies open to the south between Dungeness and Fairlight, 12 miles west. It has low marshy shores which are marked on the east side by several concrete observation towers. Some banks, including Boulder Banks, Tower Knoll, and Fairlight Knoll, lie in the west part of the bay on which the sea builds in bad weather. Fishing nets, marked by small buoys, may be encountered within Rye Bay. With northerly winds it is possible to anchor in Rye Bay slightly over a mile northward of the lighted ‘Rye Fairway’ buoy, LFl.10s, moored about 2 miles south-southeast of the harbour entrance.

The Ministry of Defence operates the Lydd Firing Range to the east of Rye Harbour and in the area that extends 3 miles along the coast to Dungeness. The prohibited/danger area extends to seaward, varying in distance from 1½ miles to 2½ nautical miles, and mariners sailing to and from Rye Harbour must pass south of the Stephenson Shoal to avoid it. The area has been used for military training for over 150 years and firing occurs about 300 days a year. A low square building with a radar scanner, just seaward of several white houses, marks the western extremity of the range. When firing is taking place, red flags are displayed by day, and red lights are exhibited at night from two observation towers. Range safety craft also patrol the area when firing is taking place. The patrol boats give advice to mariners on VHF channel 73 or 13. Firing times can be obtained from the Rye Harbour Master’s office, +44 1797 225225.

Rye 1½ miles northwest of Rye Bay
Image: Michael Harpur

Rye Harbour Click to view haven is formed in the channel of the River Rother, at the point where it enters the sea after receiving the waters of the Tillingham and Brede, two small rivers which unite with it near the town of Rye. The town stands about 1½ miles northwest of the river mouth, near the head of the bay.

Boats alongside at Rye with the water away
Image: Michael Harpur

It is built on sandstone rock and rises above the surrounding marshes. The Port and its approaches, that shoal out to a ½ mile from the entrance, dry. The town is one of the oldest ports in England, which declined due to siltation but has since revived.

River Rother entrance and the No. 2 Light Beacon
Image: Michael Harpur

The entrance, which lies between two training walls, has a sandbar close to the heads of the piers that dries to 1.4 CD. But the large tidal ranges experienced here provide ample depth for leisure boats to pass over the bar with up to 4.7 metres of water. The No. 2 Light Beacon lies off the western training wall exhibits a light, Fl.R. 5s 7m 6M, and the No. 2 starboard beacon within has a tide gauge. The land on either side of the river mouth is flat with no landmarks. The main commercial quay, 180 metres long, is situated a mile above the entrance. Vessels take to the muddy ground at Low Water. Because it is difficult to enter and dries, the harbour is mostly used by pleasure craft that can take to the mud.

Fairlight as seen from the River Rother entrance
Image: Mark Seymour

Fairlight, 5½ miles west-southwest, marks the western extremity of Rye Bay. Fairlight Down, located about 1½ miles west of the village of Fairlight, is the highest land in the area and is often the first landfall made by vessels crossing the channel. To its east, the ground falls gradually in undulating fields and wooded hillocks to Rye. It may always be identified by a square stone tower built near the summit of green pasture land at an elevation of 172 metres, the tower of the nearby Fairlight Church, and the face of the grey sandstone cliff.

The eastern approaches to Hastings
Image: Michael Harpur

About 3 miles westward of Fairlight and standing on the high ground is the town of Hastings, and the town of St. Leonards located close west. The two resort towns are separated by a prominent valley with buildings on each side. Hastings is fronted by a pier that exhibits a light at its head Fl.R.2.5s5m4M. St. Leonards is the continuation of Hastings in a westerly direction and consists of well-built terraces with a prominent hotel fronting the town.

Hastings Castle with town in the background
Image: Kreepin Deth via CC ASA 3.0

The coast extending close east of the town is composed of steep yellow-brown cliffs broken by grassy slopes. It is possible to anchor off Hastings during very settled weather. The best berth lies in sand and mud south of the pier. The landing stages at the pierhead may be used to land, and there are steps on the east side near the pierhead. A dangerous wreck, whose position is approximate, lies 500 metres southeast of the pierhead.

Hastings seafront as seen from the pier
Image: Michael Harpur

Between Hastings and Beachy Head, the foreshore is composed of coarse shingle studded here and there with small rocky heads, particularly in the vicinity of Hastings and Cliffs End Point. Hastings Shoal lying about 0.8 miles south of the town, and Four Fathoms Sand Ridge lying 4 miles south of the town, are deep, but the sea builds in bad weather.

St. Leonards as seen from Galley Hill
Image: Mark Seymour

The coast west of St. Leonards rises gradually to form two whaleback-shaped sandy cliffs, the second of which and the nearest cliff to the east of Bexhill is called Galley Hill. Between these hills, an outfall pipeline, marked at its outer extremity by a lighted buoy, extends about 1.7 miles from the shore.

Bexhill Seafront
Image: Dr-Mx via CC BY-SA 2.0

Along the coast approaching Pevensey Bay, there are drying rocky ledges or shoals extending ½ a mile offshore in places. Directly north of the outfall marker buoy are the Bopeep Rocks off St. Leopards. Several rocks rising to 0.5 metres above water lie offshore of Galley Hill. A little westward of these, at a ⅓ of a mile offshore, are several rocks awash, named Bexhill Reef, having 0.6 metres of water CD between them and the shore. To the westward of Galley Hill, and two miles westward of Bexhill Reef and off Cooden, at a ⅓ of a mile from the shore, is a reef named the Oyster that dries in several spots at low tide.

Beachy Head as seen from Bexhill
Image: Vicki Burton

Bexhill stands on the first rising ground westward of St. Leonards, 4½ miles west by southwest of Hastings. It is made conspicuous, from seaward, by having numerous red brick houses. The old town, surrounded by trees, stands on a hill, about a ½ mile inland.

Beach near Pevensey Bay Sailing Club
Image: Julian P. Guffogg via CC BY-SA 2.0

Pevensey Bay is a slight indentation in the coast extending between Bexhill and a low projection, marked by a light, known as Langney Point. The shore of this bay is mostly flat and desolate, except for a line of Martello blockhouse towers standing along the west side. It is best not to anchor here as the wind tends to back south in bad weather and the sea rises rapidly, and the completely protected Sovereign Harbour, available 24x7x365, provides a much better option.

Sovereign Harbour
Image: Michael Harpur

Sovereign Harbour Click to view haven is a modern, large-scale artificial development situated at the southwest end of Pevensey Bay and close north of Langney Point. It has a tidal Outer Harbour that is protected by two breakwaters, each about 250 metres long. Within this are four inner basins reached through either of two locks that offers a well-protected marina with at least 2 metres of water. However, with the wind to the north of west by southwest, a settled weather anchorage is available over sand and mud outside the entrance.

Eastbourne and Langney Point seen from the southwest
Image: CC0

The coast from Pevensey towards Beachy Head trends southwards and the land here is little above the level of the sea. An outfall pipeline extends about 1.8 miles south-southeast from the vicinity of Langney Point. A prominent gas storage tank stands about a mile west of Langney Point. Further inland, 5 miles north of Langney Point, the conspicuous dome of the Isaac Newton telescope (observatory) is visible at Herstmonceux. A conspicuous building, 81 metres high, is situated near the shore at the south end of Eastbourne, 2.7 miles off Langney Point.

Eastbourne and Langney Point seen from the southwest around Langley Point
Image: Ian Stannard via CC BY-SA 2.0

The resort town of Eastbourne extends about 3 miles southwest from close west of Langney Point to within 1½ miles of Beachy Head. It is fronted by promenades, large buildings, and hotels. A pier, 295 metres long, extends seaward from the town exhibiting a light 2F.R.(vert).

Easbourne Pier
Image: debs-eye via CC BY-SA 2.0

An anchorage, sheltered from winds from west through north to northeast, may be found, in good holding ground of sand and mud, to the east of the pier. Stay clear of a dangerous wreck ½ a mile southeast of Eastbourne Pier. South of the pier is foul and dries and includes Boulder Bank, near Wish Tower on the shoreline, which dries to 0.2 metres.

Royal Sovereign Light
Image: Oast House Archive via CC BY-SA 2.0
The primary off-lying danger in this area is the Royal Sovereign Shoals that acquired its name from H.M. Ship of that name that grounded on it in 1756. These are some rocky banks lying directly in the track of vessels proceeding between Beachy Head and Dungeness. Composed of rocky patches of sandstone the group has a least depth of 3.5 metres that lie centred, about 7 miles east of Beachy Head and directly in the path of vessels heading for Dungeness. Strong eddies develop over these shoals at springs, and the sea breaks heavily on the heads during bad weather.

The port buoy ‘Royal Sovereign, Q.R, is moored at the south side of Royal Sovereign Shoals. A mile south of the shoal and 5.8 miles south-eastward of Eastbourne is the Royal Sovereign lighthouse that also marks the shoal. The remarkable 28-metre-high light structure’s distinctive form comprises a large platform supported by a single concrete pillar that rises out of the water. Standing upon the head of the pillar is a helicopter deck. Royal Sovereign Fl.20s is visible for 12 miles.


Beachy Head as seen from the southeast
Image: Ian Stannard via CC BY-SA 2.0

The steep cliffy headland of Beachy Head stands 39 miles east of Selsey Bill. It is a remarkable headland rising to 162 metres above sea level and is the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain. It is most striking when seen from the west by the uniform long line of white segmented cliffs close west called the Seven Sisters. When seen 15 miles off from an east-southeast direction, it appears like an island, the left side being chalk cliffs, with a house on it, and the middle and right side covered with verdure, terminating in the fall of the South Downs.

Beachy Head Lighthouse
Image: CC0

Beachy Head Lighthouse is situated 165 metres seaward from the base of the cliffs standing on drying rocks. It shows a light from a prominent tower, 43 metres high, with a red band and head. A conspicuous watchtower (radio) is situated on the head, about a ½ mile east-northeast of the light. It exhibits a light, Fl(2) 20s at an elevation of 31 metres that is visible from a distance of 8 miles. During bad weather, vessels should keep at least 2 miles from Beachy Head to avoid the overfalls.

The disused Belle Tout lighthouse
Image: CC0

The prominent 14 metres high Belle Tout lighthouse, Beachy Head’s original light and now disused, stands near the summit of the second cliff about a mile west of Beachy Head. A prominent hotel stands at Birling Gap a little over a ½ mile northwest, and a conspicuous water tower is situated about 1.3 miles north of it.

Seven Sisters
Image: CC0

From Birling Gap, 1.3 miles west of the Head, the Seven Sisters front the coast of the valley of Cuckmere, formerly a haven for ships, but through which only a small stream now runs.

A mile westward the striking Seaford Head is often mistaken for Beachy Head by vessels proceeding eastward up the Channel when within 4 or 5 miles of the land. It rises to 83 metres 1.3 miles west of the Cuckmere River and 2.5 miles SE of the entrance to Newhaven. The heads may be distinguished by a small building on the highest part of Beachy Head; whereas on Seaford Head there is nothing on it except for a conspicuous barn that stands 0.8 miles east on South Hill. Seaford Head chalk is rust-streaked, and also has a large and conspicuous green patch on the face of the cliff just under the summit, whereas Beachy Head always has a clean white face.

Dusk at Seaford Head
Image: Tom Lee via CC BY-SA 2.0

The town of Seaford is situated close west of Seaford Head. The coast abreast of the town is fronted by numerous groins, the larger of which is marked by beacons. The foreshore between Beachy Head and Seaford consists mainly of rocky ledges and shingles, strewn with boulders fallen from the cliffs above. Seaford Road off the village offers an anchorage a ¼ mile offshore abreast of the channel. It is sheltered from east-southeast to north-northwest with a little stream, good holding and clear of the track of cross-Channel ferries using Newhaven.

Yacht leaving Newhaven with Seaford Head visible behind the East Pier
Image: grassrootsgroundswell

About 8½ miles westward of Beachy Head is the town of Newhaven Click to view haven with a commercial port and ferry service to Dieppe in France. Situated at the mouth of the River Ouse the harbour is formed by the lower reaches of the river and fronted by two concrete breakwaters. Lying about midway between The Solent and the Downs, and in the track of vessels working up or down the Channel, it is a useful harbour with a marina that is accessible with care in all weathers.

Newhaven Harbour entrance from south
Image: Michael Harpur

The harbour’s entrance is in the northwest extremity of Seaford Bay, close to the east of Burrow Head, the last of the range of chalk cliffs to the east of Brighton. The harbour may be easily identified from seaward by its outer breakwater curving from the western shore. A light is shown from a prominent tower, 14 metres high, standing on the breakwater head. A conspicuous television mast stands on high ground about 1 mile west-northwest of the harbour entrance. The harbour is used commercially, and as a cross-Channel passenger ferry terminal with services to Dieppe. Note that high-speed craft may be encountered in the approaches to the port.

Newhaven Lighthouse on the head of Newhaven Breakwater
Image: CC0

An outfall pipeline extends about 1½ mile south from a point on the shore ½ mile east of the harbour entrance. Another extends about 1½ mile southward from Friars Bay, about 1½ westward of the entrance and is marked by a port buoy Q.R. at its extremity. A sewer outfall pipeline, the seaward end of which is marked by a lighted buoy, Fl.Y.5s, extends about a mile south-southwest from a point on the shore about 2 miles westward.

Newhaven at the mouth of the River Ouse
Image: Ian Stannard via CC BY-SA 2.0

Immediately offshore in this area vessels sailing the inshore waters should keep a sharp eye out for lobster pots that are frequently placed up to a ½ mile offshore between Brighton and Newhaven. Several lighted buoys (special), which are used as recreational racing marks, are moored up to 3 miles offshore between Newhaven and Shoreham. Other temporary buoys may be moored close off Brighton, from March to October.

Rampion Offshore Wind Farm seen from the shore at sunset
Image: Les Chatfield via CC BY-SA 2.0

Located between Worthing and Newhaven, at about 8 to 14 miles offshore, stands the Rampion Offshore Wind Farm that is expected to have up to 195 wind turbines generating 400 MW. Lighted buoys are anchored marking the limits around these wind farm areas.

Brighton Marina
Image: Michael Harpur

The seaside resort city of Brighton Click to view haven is situated 8 miles west by southwest of Newhaven. The extensive Brighton Marina, protected by two curved breakwaters, fronts the shore at the east end of the town. Roedean School, a rambling building and two spires, is situated 0.4 miles east of the marina and is prominent from seaward. A television tower stands on a hill at the east end of Brighton, about 0.8 miles northwest of the marina, and is highly conspicuous. A prominent black windmill stands near the shore at Rottingdean, about 1.3 miles east-southeast of the marina.

Brighton Palace Pier
Image: Ian Stannard via CC BY-SA 2.0

West of the marina the houses fronting the sea present an almost continuous line of handsome buildings, churches, hotels, and other large buildings for about 4 miles westward to Shoreham. Two piers fronted Brighton, but only one remains today. Little is left of The West Pier, formerly known as Brighton Pier, which was left derelict to be eventually destroyed by a storm and a fire. The east pier, known as Brighton Palace Pier, extends about 0.3 miles seaward and is marked by a light at its head flashing 2F.R(vert) that is visible for 2 miles.

Seafront buildings of Brighton and Hove
Image: Hassocks5489 via CC BY-SA 2.0

Shoreham is a small commercial port situated at the mouth of the River Adur, about 20 miles west by northwest of Beachy Head. The town is bordered on the north by the South Downs, on the west by the Adur Valley, and on the south by the River Adur and fronted by Shoreham Beach. It lies in the middle of the ribbon of urban development along the coast, approximately equidistant from the city of Brighton and Hove to the east and the town of Worthing to the west.

Shoreham as seen from the south
Image: Michael Harpur

The approach shoals to a least depth of 2.4 metres, with 1.9 metres on the entrance range. The harbour is protected by extensive breakwaters and divided into two parts. A western and largly drying River Ardur arm, and an eastern arm with quite busy commercial wharves and a non-tidal basin, approached through locks, with a small marina which may have a visitor's berth. The maximum size vessel the harbour can handle by prior arrangement, is 30 metres LOA with 2 metres draught and a maximum beam of 5.5 metres for the lock.

Shoreham Eastern Arm and the locks that give access to the marina
Image: Michael Harpur

Shoreham’s Click to view haven three-mile sea frontage is conspicuous from seaward. A power station, with a 103 metres high chimney, located on the seaward side of the canal, about a ½ mile east of the entrance, is highly conspicuous and it exhibits lights 3 F.R(hor) at the top and 3 F.R (hor) midway up. Likewise, about a mile to the west of the entrance, the Tower and flagstaff of Saint Mary's Church stands prominent.

Twilight over the Western Arm and the River Adur
Image: Adam Tinworth via CC BY-SA 2.0

Being about midway between The Solent and Dungeness it offers a good berth for wind-bound vessels to run for shelter with a sufficient rise in the tide to make an entrance. An anchorage can be had anywhere south of the harbour, according to draft. There is good holding ground of sand and gravel over clay, south of the entrance.

A sewer outfall pipeline, the seaward end of which is marked by a lighted south cardinal marker, Q(6)+LFl.15s, extends about 1½ miles south from a point on the shore about ¾ of a mile east of the entrance.


The coast between Shoreham and Littlehampton is low and backed by the South Downs. Chanctonbury Ring, a clump of trees standing on the highest part of the downs, is prominent and often the first landmark sighted when approaching the land in this vicinity. The towns of Lancing, Worthing, and Goring by Sea stand along the shore, with no break between them. Some prominent buildings stand near the shore, about 3 miles west of Shoreham. A sewer outfall pipeline extends about 3½ miles south from a point on the shore about 2½ miles west of Shoreham Harbour entrance. A conspicuous gas storage tank is situated about 4½ miles west of Shoreham, at the east end of Worthing.

Worthing Pier as seen at low water
Image: Martin Robson via CC BY-SA 2.0

Worthing is fronted by a pier, with a pavilion at its outer end, that exhibits a light 2F.R(vert). The town is low-lying, distinguishing it from Brighton, which stands on a cliff. A church with a prominent spire, is situated at Goring by Sea, 4½ miles east of Littlehampton, and a gas storage tank stands a ½ mile northeast of it.

Worthing seafront as seen from the pier
Image: CC0

Highdown Hill rises to an elevation of 80 metres about a mile northwest of the church. It has two chalk pits on the west slope and one larger pit on the east slope. Rackham Hill, with a conspicuous clump of trees, rises inland about 6 miles north-northeast of Littlehampton. A deep break in the downs, formed by the valley of the River Arun, is located 2 miles west of this hill and is prominent from seaward.

A sewer outfall pipeline, the outer end of which is marked by a lighted buoy, extends about 2 miles south-southeast from a point on the shore 0.6 miles east of Littlehampton harbour entrance. Buoys (special), used as racing marks, may be moored offshore between Shoreham and Littlehampton from April to October.

Littlehampton's approaches at high water
Image: Michael Harpur

Littlehampton is a seaside resort, commercial port and pleasure harbour that lies at the mouth of the River Arun and was the ancient haven of Arundel. The harbour is formed by the lower reaches of the river, and the town lies on the eastern bank centred about a mile north of the entrance. The entrance, 33 metres wide, lies between two pile piers. A low training wall, covered at half-tide, extends seaward from the east pier and is marked at its outer end by a beacon. The bar fronting the entrance dries up to 0.9 metres. The entrance channel dries abreast of the east pier, where there are depths of 1 to 2 metres. There are berths for recreational craft and a marina along the west bank of the river.

Littlehampton Town Quay on the east side of the river (right)
Image: Michael Harpur

Littlehampton Click to view haven is a small resort town and harbour located on a coastal plain where the River Arun empties into the sea. It is readily identifiable from seaward by a prominent gas storage tank that stands just under a mile northwest of the harbour entrance. Closer in a conspicuous high-rise building, 38 metres high, with a white structure on top at its western end and another conspicuous building, are situated 0.3 miles east-northeast and 0.8 miles east, respectively, of the harbour entrance.

Littlehampton Town Quay
Image: Michael Harpur

At low water, the sands dry off the harbour entrance up to a ½ mile offshore. The approach dries to about ⅓ of a mile southward of the head of the West Pier. It reaches its highest drying height of 0.9 metres CD on the entrance leading line about 70 metres southeast of the pierhead. The channel above this also continues to dry, or to be very shallow, until abreast of the East Pier where depths of 1.5 to 2 metres will be found. It is best that a newcomer should arrive from High Water -2 to +1 hour. Vessels can anchor in stiff blue clay, south of the harbour entrance.


The coast between Littlehampton and Bogner Regis, 5 miles west-southwest, is low. Bognor Regis, a prominent coastal resort, is fronted by an iron pier. The pier extends from the centre of the esplanade fronting the town and dries well beyond its head. It exhibits a light 2F.R(vert), and the lights of the town are conspicuous at night.

Bognor Regis Pier
Image: Paul Hudson

Bognor Regis is fronted by several dangers. Shelley Rocks lie 1½ miles off Middleton-On-Sea, on the east side of Bognor Regis and have only 0.7 metres over them in detached patches. A mile westward the Bognor Rocks form a high and dangerous ledge, extending in a southeast direction a mile from the shore a little westward of the town. They dry sometime before low water in large detached blocks of conglomerate or pudding stone that are bold on their sea face.

Their outer end, Bognor Spit, is one mile from the shore, and dries at five hours ebb, with 1.5 to 2.7 metres of water on its northeast side. In offshore winds, an anchorage can be obtained on the northeast side of Bognor Rocks, between them and the shore. South-easterly winds bring in a heavy sea. An outfall pipeline extends 1½ miles south from a point on the shore at the west side of Bogner Regis.

Aldwick Beach between Bognor Regis and Pagham
Image: Jeff Gogarty via CC BY-SA 2.0

The entire coast between Bogner Regis and Selsey Bill is fronted by an area consisting of foul ground, rocks, and shoals. This area extends up to about 2 miles seaward and vessels should keep well clear of it. The shore consists of a shingle beach with numerous groins.

Pagham Harbour, an area of saltings intersected by drying creeks, lies 3 miles southwest of Bognor Regis and 2½ miles northeast of Selsey Bill. Most of this area is a nature reserve where anchoring and landings are prohibited.

The Park, an anchorage area, lies between the Owers Shoals and the foul ground fronting Pagham Harbour between Selsey Bill and Bognor Regis. It is well-sheltered from westerly and south-westerly winds, but dangerous with winds from east to south. The holding ground is good, being a thin layer of gravel over stiff clay. However, a watchful eye is required because of frequent and sudden shifts in the wind and the rapidity with which the sea gets up here.


Selsey Bill with the Isle of Wight in backdrop
Image: Phillip Capper via CC BY 2.0

From a cruising perspective proceeding westward from Selsey Bill, opens one of England’s most spectacular cruising grounds. Selsey Bill is a low projection of the coast and shows as a remarkably sharp low point when seen from the east or west. Immediately to its west, between it and Gilkicker Point, the entrance to The Solent is marked by a lighthouse, and the mainland shore is broken by 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.

Selsey Bill Lifeboat
Image: Tim Simpson CC BY-SA 2.00 Selsey Bill
Selsey Bill 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 of a 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

  • • Pass to seaward and go south around the entire group

The most efficient approach to passing Selsey Bill is to utilise The Looe. The Looe is a 1 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 port buoy, Street Q.R., and starboard 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 have 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.
Please note

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.

Boulder and Street buoys with the low-lying Selsey Bill in the backdrop
Image: Michael Harpur

The Looe Channel should only be made use of in daylight so as to identify the marks and avoid any 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

Portsea Island, Hayling Island and Selsey Bill as seen from the west
Image: John Armagh via CC0 1.0

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 a large number of shoals and dangers off the point, it is best to stand well out of Bracklesham Bay to round Selsey Bill securely 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, and 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 and Chichester Harbours. 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 an uninterrupted line of shingle. About 10 miles inland behind this is a range of chalk hills.

Chichester's West Pole with a yacht approaching the bar beacon
Image: Michael Harpur

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 that it marks, 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.

The entrance channel to Chichester Harbour
Image: Michael Harpur

Once inside the harbour, it is a beautiful area with several berthing opportunities for visitors. The inlet is used exclusively by pleasure craft, and it is an important yachting centre and conservation area. During summer months, up to 5,000 yachts may be moored in the vicinity of the harbour.

Upon entry, and passing through the narrows of the entrance, Chichester Harbour opens out above to present itself as low lying, marshy, and made up of tidal flats with deep channels running through them. At the head of the narrows of the entrance, the harbour divides into its two primary arms the Emsworth and Chichester channels.

Northney Marina in the upper reaches of the Emsworth Channel
Image: Michael Harpur

The Emsworth Channel continues northward along the eastern shores of Hayling Island. It leads to the Hayling Island Yacht Company Click to view haven, Emsworth Click to view haven before branching off into Sweare Deep for Northney Marina Click to view haven to which it is marked by lit buoys and perches all the way. At the commencement of the channel, immediately around Black Point and close north of Hayling Island Sailing Club, is the approach to Sparkes Marina Click to view haven that is accessed through a dredged channel marked by beacons.

Chichester Harbour's East Head
Image: Michael Harpur

The Chichester Channel forks eastward to pass north of The Winner Bank and then past the popular East Head Click to view haven anchorage. It then proceeds south of the Thorney Channel that provides access to Pilsey Island Click to view haven anchorage and the small rural Thorham Marina Click to view haven is situated on the northeast side of Thorney Island.

Image: Michael Harpur

After rounding Chalkdock Point, it passes the Chalkdock Point Click to view haven anchorage situated a ½ mile west of Itchenor Click to view haven that provides details on the run-up eastern side of the harbour. If the harbour has a headquarters, then it's probably here at Itchenor. It is home to the Harbour Master's office, and the Chichester Harbour Conservancy which runs Chichester Harbour as a nature reserve, and the run up the harbour is detailed in this entry.

Historical Bosham
Image: Michael Harpur

From Itchenor the Bosham Channel leads up to Bosham Quay Click to view haven and the west end of Itchenor Reach.

Chichester Marina is entered through a lock from Chichester Lake
Image: Michael Harpur

Beyond Itchenor the Itchenor Reach channel continues east by southeast to round Longmore Point into Chichester Lake. Within this largely drying expanse of mudflats are the tidal Birdham Pool Marina Click to view haven, Chichester Marina Click to view haven and finally Dell Quay Click to view haven that is situated within 2 miles of the cathedral city of Chichester and was once its port. The town of Chichester, located near the head of the inlet, has all the facilities of a Cathedral City.

Dell Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


The western shore of Chichester Harbour which is the eastern side of Hayling Island is fronted to the south and seaward by Hayling Bay. The area has the extensive East Winner, locally known as The Woolsener extending along the eastern side of the entrance to Langstone Harbour. Formed of sand it extends out almost 2 miles from the shoreline and dries off at LWS for more than half that distance. East Winner is steep-to on its western, or Langstone Harbour entrance channel, facing side. The southern end of this is marked by the unlit 'Winner' south cardinal.

The sandbanks fronting Chichester and Langstone harbours from the air
Image: M J Richardson via CC BY-SA 2.0

Between East Winner and West Winner, known together as The Woolseners, is the approach path to Langstone Harbour Click to view haven. The banks extend from either side of the mouth of the harbour and run out south by southeast from the entrance.

The entrance to Langstone Harbour
Image: Michael Harpur

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. Charts cannot be entirely relied upon as the banks shift over time and are subject to height alterations according to the preceding winter’s gales.

Langstone Fairway Pile
Image: Michael Harpur

The approach to the harbour is marked by the 'Langstone Fairway' pile, LFl.10s7m5M. Situated a ¼ of a mile west of the head of the West Winner sandbank's steep too western edge, and approximately a mile to the south of the harbour's entrance that lies between Gunnen Point and Cumberland Fort. Langstone Bar is situated a ⅓ of a mile south-southwest of this fairway mark. It has a least depth of 1.8 metres over it. The harbour is the entrance. 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 the ½ mile long channel.

Southsea Marina
Image: Michael Harpur

West of the entrance to Langstone Harbour is Spithead, an area within the east part of The Solent. It is bounded 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 is an extensive shoal comprised of coarse sand mixed with gravel and minutely broken shells. It is very flat and has from 2 to 4.5 metres as an average depth over its shallowest parts, and it affords valuable protection to the harbour area.

Horse Sand Fort
Image: Michael Harpur

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, offers an excellent sea bearing for this shoal and also the commercial shipping fairway that runs between the forts. Horse Sand Fort can be seen standing approximately 1.5 miles offshore at the outer edge of the shoal. Passing to the west of this avoids any shoal areas. No Man’s Land Fort has a port hand buoy situated close northeast Iso.R.2s.

Main Passage through the submerged barrier
Image: Michael Harpur

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 ‘Horse Elbow’ buoy where the bank is steep-to. This, along with the port ‘Whis Warner’ buoy, marks the narrowest part of the channel into Spithead. From the ‘Horse Elbow’ buoy, the shoal alters its direction to approximately 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 pair of convenient shortcuts may be made use of by cutting through one of the two passes in the submerged barrier that exists between Horse Sand Fort and the mainland at Southsea.

This pass, along with all the approaches into The Solent and all the interesting sailing destinations within The Solent and the Isle of Wight are covered in the The Solent and Isle of Wight Coastal Overview Route location.


The complete course is 118.14 miles from the waypoint 'North Foreland' to 'Horse Elbow' tending in a west south westerly direction (reciprocal east north easterly).

North Foreland, 51° 22.496' N, 001° 27.622' E
This is located ½ a mile eastward of North Foreland Light Fl(5) WR 20s at 57 metres above mean high water that is visible in clear weather from a distance of 19 miles.

       Next waypoint: 0.97 miles, course 187.88°T (reciprocal 7.88°T)

Broadstairs, 51° 21.535' N, 001° 27.409' E
This is located about ½ a mile off Broadstairs pier that exhibits a light 2F.R (vert)7m4M

       Next waypoint: 2.16 miles, course 194.75°T (reciprocal 14.75°T)

Ramsgate No. 4 - Channel Crossing Point, 51° 19.451' N, 001° 26.531' E
This the recommended crossing point for the Ramsgate Approach Channel close west of Ramsgate No. 3, Fl.G.2.5s, and the No. 4 port buoy Q.R. Cross at right angles to the channel on the W side of No.3 and 4 buoys. Take great care crossing the approach channel and if in doubt, check with Port Control [Ramsgate Port Control] on VHF Ch. 14 before doing so.

       Next waypoint: 2.01 miles, course 239.32°T (reciprocal 59.32°T)

Ramsgate Channel, 51° 18.428' N, 001° 23.774' E
Inside the Cross Ledge bank and t00 metres north-northwest of B2 starboard buoy Fl(2)G.5s

       Next waypoint: 4.10 miles, course 163.16°T (reciprocal 343.16°T)

Downs Bell, 51° 14.510' N, 001° 25.668' E
A ⅓ of a mile inshore of Downs Bell port buoy Fl(2)R.5s

       Next waypoint: 5.12 miles, course 183.76°T (reciprocal 3.76°T)

Dover Patrol Memorial, 51° 9.400' N, 001° 25.133' E
¾ of a mile offshore of the Dover Patrol Memorial

       Next waypoint: 3.25 miles, course 188.65°T (reciprocal 8.65°T)

South Foreland, 51° 6.190' N, 001° 24.355' E
1¼ southeastward of South Foreland Lighthouse

       Next waypoint: 20.25 miles, course 232.64°T (reciprocal 52.64°T)

Dungeness, 50° 53.866' N, 000° 58.856' E
1 mile south of Dungeness Lighthouse a conspicuous slender tower, 43 metres high, standing on the point, Fl 10s and visible for 21 miles.

       Next waypoint: 30.19 miles, course 248.34°T (reciprocal 68.34°T)

Beachy Head, 50° 42.589' N, 000° 14.573' E
1½ miles south of Beachy Head Lighthouse, Fl(2) 20s at an elevation 31 metres that is visible from a distance of 8 miles. Stay at least 2 miles off in bad weather.

       Next waypoint: 40.29 miles, course 269.04°T (reciprocal 89.04°T)

The Looe Channel, 50° 41.629' N, 000° 48.984' W
Mid way between the Looe Channel's port Street buoy, Q.R., and starboard Boulder buoy, Fl. G 2.5s. 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.

       Next waypoint: 9.80 miles, course 286.02°T (reciprocal 106.02°T)

Horse Elbow, 50° 44.317' N, 001° 3.863' W
Close north of Horse Elbow starboard buoy, Q.G., that leads into Spithead.

What is the best sailing time?
May to September is the traditional UK Sailing season with June-July offering the best weather. The British Isles weather is highly variable, and the amount of bad weather varies quite widely from year to year. This is because they are islands positioned between the Atlantic Ocean and the large landmass of continental Europe. As a result, the entire area lays under an area where five main air masses meet and alternate:

  • • Tropical Maritime Air Mass - from the Atlantic

  • • Polar Maritime Air Mass - from Greenland

  • • Arctic Maritime Air Mass

  • • Polar Continental Air Mass - from central Europe

  • • Tropical Continental Air Mass - from North Africa

Depending on the movements of the jet stream, any and all of these air masses can come in over the isles, creating weather fronts where they meet, and bringing with them all types of weather.

The prevailing winds for the British Isles as a whole are from the western quarter which generally blows for two-thirds of the year predominantly from the southwest. 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 to be the most powerful system. The winter period is largely characterised by wind and rain.

The fine summer weather of the sailing season is typically punctuated by the passage of Atlantic depressions that bring periods of strong wind and rain, and sometimes poor visibility. These gales rarely cause surprises as they are usually forecasted well in advance. Good weather windows of 48 hours are easy to predict but any longer than that there's an increasing chance of change.

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 northeast which makes the mist free coastline highly distinctive from a great distance.

With thanks to:
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