Once every few months we'll email you about site additions and cruising news - unless you unsubscribe, of course!
The coast from Selsey Bill to Weymouth is convenient and accessible to large populations. As a result, this sheltered 65nm stretch of deep inlets, muddy tidal lakes and lovely day anchorages under chalk cliffs is one of the most crowded sailing areas in the world. It's a place for wintering, keeping a boat, for weekend cruising to visit some rather nice pubs and coves, and for dodging enormous ships. Also, a place to escape from.
See Channel Overall for information which applies to all Channel regions.
Boating Features. Every possible yachting facility is available in the coasts around the Isle of Wight, with over 20,000 marina berths, many expensive by world standards. Moorings and piles fill the banks of deeper water creeks, leaving little room for anchoring. Provision for visitors is good, but they often have to raft alongside each other. Over weekends, even in winter, fleets of yachts and dinghies race around the buoys adding further chaos. West of the Solent there's more space, with less commercial traffic and some attractive day anchorages in coves and below chalk cliffs.
Tidal Heights. Tidal heights are unusual, with a "stand" around high water in many parts. Spring ranges are around 4m, and low water exposes areas of mud in the tidal lakes, whose channels are well marked. Deep water channels in the E Solent are busy with commercial traffic. Areas outside the channels have many shoal areas, some of which dry at low water, regularly catching leisure craft unawares. You'll need detailed charts to interpret and track the buoys marking shoal areas - also to find the gap in the submarine barrier between Portsmouth and Horse Sand Fort.
Tidal Streams. Spring streams reach 4 kts off headlands, and in the W Solent out to the Needles - the pituresque chalk cliffs projecting west of the Isle of Wight. Overfalls in these areas are dangerous in rough weather. Streams also run strongly in the channels to the tidal lakes of the E Solent. Patterns of the streams are complex, with areas of reverse eddys. A detailed tidal atlas is essential for boats which cannot make more than 5kts, and highly desirable for faster boats too.
Ancient forts guard the East Solent entrance, which is where all the heavy commercial traffic enters for Portsmouth and Southampton docks. Access to channels used by large vessels constrained by their ability to manouevre is controlled. On the north shore, narrow channels with brisk tidal streams lead to three large tidal lakes, each with many mooring areas and marinas. From the east, these are Chichester Harbour, Langstone Harbour and Portsmouth Harbour. Opposite, on the Isle of Wight, are three small ports with limited access at low water.
Chichester harbour is superbly sheltered, and a great area to explore. It's guarded by an entrance bar which should give 2m at MLWS, but this does vary. Once inside, there are four well marked deep water channels which weave through extensive areas exposed at low water. There are many shallow offshoots from these channels. Boats which can take the ground have a big advantage. Bigger channels lead to attractive small villages and a delightful range of pubs. Water taxis serve some moorings. The area is crowded, and policed strictly by the harbour authority. Hoist your motoring cones and keep to the speed limits. Harbour dues are payable, and cover Langstone as well.
Chichester itself is a very attractive small town at the head of the drying east creek. Chichester marina is about 3 miles SW of the town, and is one of the biggest marinas in UK, but with a lovely rural setting. The smaller Birdham Pool marina is next door. Both have locks, with access limited at low tide. Canal walk into town, or buses every 15 minutes to Chichester or the Witterings, on the coast. Bikes for hire too. Go 1.5nm west to:
Itchenor, small village, nice pub. Deep water pontoons and visitor's mooring buoys, water taxi.
Bosham, very pretty, up its own drying creek, pub but no shops. Muddy at low water!
Emsworth has shops, pubs and a marina with yacht lift and shore hard. Limited space for visitors. Tidal sills limit marina access.
Hayling Island forms the western boundary of Chichester harbour. This is very much a holiday resort, with a couple of small, tidally restricted harbours, and Northney Marina at the north end of the island, accessible at all tides, yacht lift and shore hard.
Langstone Harbour is an important wild life site with otherwise limited attractions. Strong tidal steams run through the narrow entrance channel. Southsea marina, west of the entrance, has limited access at low water, but has visitor's berths. Nice bar and restaurant, yacht lift and shore hard.
Between Langstone Harbour and Portsmouth harbour, a submarine barrier lies between the shore and Horse Sand Fort, nearly 2nm off the coast. There are two marked small boat channels through this barrier, which is otherwise unsafe to cross.
Portsmouth harbour offers many berths to base a boat for a season or six, and it's a place to drop in and visit the superb Portsmouth Historic Dockyard - a "must see" (10/10) for anyone fascinated by maritime history and old ships.
The large area of the inner harbour, excepting the mud flats, is crammed full, every metre occupied by berths or moorings. Shallow shoals guard the deep entrance, 200m wide. Large commercial vessels charge through this about ten per hour. Vessels under 20m LOA must motor through, keeping well west within the small boat channel. The first mile into port is dense with activity; ships to the right, leisure boats and marinas to the left, ferries shuttling back and forth. The channels then split, 3nm NW to Fareham, and 2nm north to Portchester and Port Solent marina
The Portsmouth side (east) starts with the old town, then the superb maritime historic centre, passes what's left of the Royal Navy, and then the ever growing RoRo ferry berths just beyond the navy areas.
The Gosport side (west) is a wall to wall maze of leisure marinas and moorings, too many to list, outer berths rather exposed to big ship wash. There are plenty of visitor berths here, and frequent ferries for visiting the Historic Dockyard.
The Tidal Lake. Further in, a tidal lake opens up. Keep left for Fareham, an undistinguished town at the head of a drying creek, lined with moorings and trots. Keep right for a deep water channel leading to Port Solent marina all mod cons, travel lift, shore hard and a leisure development with even more mod cons, including cinemas, restaurants and apartments.The channel to Port Solent is also lined with trots and moorings.
Many large ships of all types enter and leave Southampton Water, constrained by their draft, showing appropriate signals (black cylinder or 3 red lights). Port regulations define a zone to be avoided around vessels of 150m LOA or more.
Hamble River. All year round, streams of leisure vessels pour in and out of the Hamble river, with its extensive marinas, boat parks, piles, pontoons, and boat yards offering world class yacht support. Saturday morning and Sunday evening "rush hours" are chaotic at times.
Southampton. Turn right up the Itchen river to find four more marinas and yards. Top quality yacht support services are available. Ocean Village marina (first on the left) hosts "Round the World" race starts and finishes, and is a centre of entertainment. Turn left for Town Quay marina, home to the Southampton Boat Show in September each year, and walking distance from the city centre. Beyond are the major commercial quaysides.
Wooton Creek - pilotage
Cowes - pilotage
Christchurch - http://www.christchurchsailingclub.co.uk/?page_id=21
For some spots to visit around the solent, see: