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Milford Haven to Kilmore Quay

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What is the route?
This route takes a vessel from Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire, Wales, to Kilmore Quay in Wexford Ireland. It is optimised for a vessel that can make up to 5 knots through the water so that the arrival at Kilmore Quay has a favourable approach tide over St Patrick's Bridge, or if progress is delayed to pass in using Saltee Sound.

Why sail this route?
This is a popular cruising route for vessels crossing the Irish Sea from Wales to the cruising grounds of southern Ireland using Kilmore Quay as a stepping stone. The key components of the route are to make westing from Milford Haven when the south going tide is pushing southward, and away from the dangers out to The Smalls, making the best of the two tides encountered in the Irish Sea to arrive with a favourable tide to approach Kilmore Quay.

Tidal overview
Today's summary tidal overview for this route as of Thursday, December 7th at 17:38. This is the window around Stack Rock in which vessels in the general vicinity of Milford Haven can take advantage of the ebb tide, and then pass out south of The Smalls during the safer south-going Irish Sea stream.

Pass Stack Rock

(HW Dover -0400 to -0100)


(Tidal flow )

Ends in 00:21:58

(Thu 15:00 to 18:00)

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.


Stack Rock fort as seen from the northeast with Thorn Island fort in the backdrop
Image: Tom Bastin

The key objective of this route is to arrive in Kilmore Quay, when the tidal streams favour an easterly or southerly approach, and to make best the tides of the Irish Sea. The underlying components of this route are as follows:

  • • The window of passing Stack Rock in the window of HW Dover -4 to -1 that allows ample time to arrive at St Ann's Head at HW Dover when the Irish Sea's tidal streams turn southward. With Milford Haven's HW being Dover –0500 this leg also has the benefit of departing on the ebb tide.

  • • The waypoints keep on the southern perimeter of the main shipping channel. This avoids the harbour's large tankers and ferries that can move at high speed. It is important to note that it is prohibited for leisure craft to pass within 100 metres of any terminal or any tanker, whether at anchored or underway in Milford Haven.

  • • Giving St Ann's Head and its shoal a wide berth and passing clear of the Middle Channel Rocks. These are all subject a confused sea and swell in bad weather.

  • • Arriving on the 51° 40 line of latitude to make westing to pass out south of The Smalls when the Irish Sea tidal streams turn southward at High Water Dover. It is best to make this 20-mile leg of the passage with the tidal streams pushing a vessel south and away from the dangers leading out to The Smalls. But the helm should be mindful not to be pushed southward and into the Bristol Channel. Hence pressing westward along the line of latitude of 51° 40 makes for a single convenient number to monitor.
    • If the latitude starts to ascend, the vessel is drifting toward The Smalls.
    • If it starts to descend, it is being pushed towards the Bristol Channel.

  • • After passing south of The Smalls it is safe to steer a course for St Patrick's Bridge that is just under 45 miles across the Irish Sea. At High Water Dover +6 the tides will carry the vessel northward for 6 hours. Then when the tides reverse at HW Dover a westing element of the flow, around the southeastern corner of Ireland may be availed of. Those making the crossing at night will be able to see the lights on both sides of the Irish sea, The Smalls and South Bishop on the Welsh side and Tuskar Rock on the Irish side all have a range of 24 miles or more. 13 miles from the southeastern corner of Carnsore Point is where the shipping lanes are crossed off Tuskar Rock.

  • • A favourable tide over St Patrick's Bridge may be availed of up to HW Dover +0400. The bridge crossing waypoints aligns a vessel to track down on Kilmore Quay’s safe water marker where the initial fix for the approach to Kilmore Quay Click to view haven is located.

  • • If late for this window the stream in Saltee Sound turns adverse, southeastward, 2 hours later at HW Dover +0600. So if a vessel is set to miss the tide on St Patrick's Bridge alter course for the Sound. Several rocks need to be circumvented to the south of the Saltees but there are clear passages between them. Saltee Sound also requires some attentive navigation.

Kilmore Quay and the Saltee Islands
Image: Michael Harpur

Useful resources that should be read in advance are southeastern Ireland’s coastal overview for Rosslare Harbour to Cork Harbour Route location and the Kilmore Quay Click to view haven entry.


The complete course is 67.70 miles from the waypoint 'Stack Rock' to 'St. Patrick's Bridge West' tending in a west north westerly direction (reciprocal east south easterly).

Stack Rock, 51° 41.678' N, 005° 5.470' W
This is opposite Stack Rock Fort, close north of the starboard S3 buoy Q.G.

       Next waypoint: 1.62 miles, course 265.91°T (reciprocal 85.91°T)

Angle North Cardinal, 51° 41.562' N, 005° 8.076' W
Close north of 'Angle' North Cardinal (VQ)

       Next waypoint: 2.14 miles, course 223.08°T (reciprocal 43.08°T)

51° 40 Line of Latitude, 51° 40.000' N, 005° 10.430' W
This is on the intersection 51° 40 line of latitude and the 022.5° high-intensity light leading into West Channel.

       Next waypoint: 18.48 miles, course 270.19°T (reciprocal 90.19°T)

The Smalls, 51° 40.000' N, 005° 40.200' W

       Next waypoint: 43.84 miles, course 312.32°T (reciprocal 132.32°T)

St. Patrick's Bridge East, 52° 9.300' N, 006° 33.000' W
This is an eastern alignment waypoint for St Patrick's Bridge. It sets up a crossing of the bridge at the optimal point.

       Next waypoint: 1.04 miles, course 270.01°T (reciprocal 90.01°T)

St. Patrick's Bridge, 52° 9.300' N, 006° 34.700' W
The central optimal crossing point of St Patrick's Bridge, between the seasonal buoys and with 2.4 metres LAT.

       Next waypoint: 0.58 miles, course 270.01°T (reciprocal 90.01°T)

St. Patrick's Bridge West, 52° 9.300' N, 006° 35.650' W
This is a western alignment waypoint for St Patrick's Bridge. It sets up a crossing of the bridge at the optimal point.

What is the best sailing time?
May to September is the traditional Irish Sailing season with June-July offering the best weather. June and July’s statistical incidence of strong winds are however two days of winds up to force seven. As such, depending on personal sailing preferences, a vessel may expect to be held-up or enjoy robust sailing conditions. Ireland is not subject to persistent fog. Statistically complete days of persistent fog occur less than once in a decade.

With thanks to:
Burke Corbett, Gusseran, County Wexford, Ireland.

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