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Sailing Tidal Europe

Tidal Europe coasts offer some of the most demanding and rewarding cruising in the world. More sailing skills are needed than when cruising the Mediterranean and Baltic. Careful planning must take account of tidal heights and streams, occasional poor visibility, and heavy commercial traffic. Each region offers its own distinct charms, and all together there is superb variety. The North Sea, the Irish Sea, and France south of Royan have less to offer cruisers, except as passage routes.

Boat size and type make a difference. Choosing will be a trade-off - sacrificing boat space or performance to access more destinations:

  • Ability to "take the ground" (lifting keel, bilge keel or legs) adds a great variety to your channel and estuary destinations.
  • Over 2m draft - big tidal ranges make a few destinations in-accessible at high water. Windward voyage performance is marginally improved.
  • Over 12m LOA - older marinas which haven't been kept up to date have fewer 12m berths.
  • Over 10 tons displacement - gives a more comfortable ride. But handling heavy ropes and chains under high stresses may mean new techniques, skills and equipment. 

Weather and tidal challenges split Tidal Europe broadly into the hardy north, and the softer south. The Raz de Sein is our dividing line. It rains less south of the Raz, and tidal planning changes from "go with the flow" to "arrive with the tide". If you're new to the challenges of tidal mooring, have a look at these diagrams.

Chartering is popular in W Scotland, SW Ireland, from the Solent, from several ports in the SW of England, and from French ports south of Ushant. These are, of course, also the most popular cruising regions.

Learning "Colregs". The prize for the most dense and chaotic traffic in UK goes to the Solent, with its unique mix of commercial juggernauts, whizzy ferries, sail boat races, dinghy races, flotillas of novice skippers, roaring RIBS, drying sand banks and 3kt tidal streams. The only challenger for this prize I'm aware of is "Tranquil Bay", Nidri, Greece.

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