A cruise along England's East Coast - Grimsby to Ramsgate

Recommended places to take your Cape Cutter 19 with details of anchorages, marinas etc

A cruise along England's East Coast - Grimsby to Ramsgate

Postby Runrig » Mon Nov 08, 2021 8:16 pm

A cruise along England’s East Coast – Grimsby to Ramsgate

This cruise was sailed during June and July 2021 as the UK was relaxing Covid restrictions. This meant that facilities and attractions available were limited in some places.

[b]Grimsby Fish Dock to Gibraltar Point YC (39nm)[/b]

The boat was launched using a boat hoist into the marina of the Humber Cruising Association in part of the old Fish Dock in Grimsby Docks (£110 including 2 nights mooring). No launching ramp is available. There are very good showers and a friendly clubhouse with bar. For supplies, a giant Tesco supermarket is a 10 minute walk from the dock gates.

There has been substantial investment in the centre of Grimsby to make the area more attractive to visitors. The Fishing Museum and its Grimsby Trawler are well worth a visit. Located on the edge of the town centre it is a 20 minute walk from the Fish Dock. If weather bound in Grimsby, Cleethorpes is a short train ride away and worth a visit.

The preferred time to leave Grimsby Fish Dock is HW and up to two hours after. The lock gates into the river are open for freeflow access for 2 hours either side of HW. The tide continues flowing up-river until 2 hours after HW. This means leaving before HW would be into a strong up-river current.

Before leaving the marina of the Humber Cruising Association it is required to radio the lock keeper (Ch 74 - ‘Fish Dock Island’) to obtain permission to enter the outer dock. The outer dock can be busy with supply craft and work boats using the lock. Impeding their progress is not appreciated.

Once through the lock and into the Humber stay south of the main shipping channel, leaving the even numbered port-hand buoys to port. The river and port authority area are left behind off Donna Nook and inside DZ no.1 buoy.

With a fair wind it is a clear run along the coast past the Theddlethorpe Gas Terminal. Be aware of the drying sandbank off the gas terminal and stay to seaward of the bank.

At the time of this cruise the beaches were packed with hundreds of seals and dozens came close to get a closer look and added to an enjoyable cruise.

Gibraltar Point lies at the northern outer corner of The Wash, the sailing club is tucked in behind the nature reserve on the spit. Having passed Skegness and its amusements the approach to Gibraltar Point is via the Wainfleet Road which lies between the nature reserve and the sands of Inner Knock.

Gibraltar Yacht Club advise that entry to the winding channel to the club moorings can be attempted, for boats up to 4’ draft, 1½ hrs either side of HW, with entry on a rising tide advised for new visitors.

Locating the Red and Green buoys which mark the entrance to the channel just S of Gibraltar Point the first attempt at entry was aborted because of the fierce current in the narrow channel. After anchoring off for one hour, with the entrance much calmer, the channel markers were identified and entrance gained to the twisting channel.
The local advice is to stay two boat lengths inside the channel markers as they are set on the higher ground above the steeped sided channel.

Having contacted the Yacht Club previously a member of the club was on hand to direct us to a berth and provide access to the simple club house facilities and showers. The berth provided was in the narrow channel against a long-moored steel hull. The channel dries to a trickle and it became evident that the mooring would be on a very steep mud slope. There was a concern that the boat would sit at an uncomfortable, and possibly dangerous, angle. To avoid this we poled off the hulk until the boat settled in the middle of the V shaped channel. It would be a consideration whichever available mooring is used that many have not been cleared to allow a vessel to settle level.

Arriving during the day there is a highly regarded café and visitor centre for the nature reserve. It is a long walk into Skegness but local taxis will come out to the reserve. Arriving after the café had closed and concerned about how the boat would settle we spent the evening on-board trying to stay mid-channel.

Gibraltar Point YC to Wells-next-the-Sea (24nm)

It is best to navigate the winding channel to leave Gibraltar Point Yacht Club on a rising tide in case of accidental grounding. We departed one hour before HW and reached the channel entrance in half an hour. A course is then set to pass N of the North Well fairway buoy toward Woolpack PHB. With the tide now ebbing progress across The Wash was slow. Once Woolpack was reached the tide became favourable along the North Norfolk coast allowing good progress toward the East Cardinal at the entrance to Wells-next-the -Sea across Holkham Bay.

If time allows, it is allegedly possible to enter Brancaster Bay after passing Woolpack and navigate the channel through to Burnham Harbour. Alternatively, Brancaster Bay makes an interesting harbour to explore in its own right.

Entrance to Wells-next-the-Sea is restricted to 2 hours before HW. The HM will advise on the radio (Ch.12) when boats waiting by the East Cardinal can enter the channel and begin the 2-mile journey up to the town quay. The harbour is a popular summer destination and it is advised to contact the HM at least the day before arrival to book a berth.

The channel up to the town is well marked by substantial buoyage. There is also a video on-line which shows the journey along the channel.
The tide runs very fast in the channel and it is well to be securely moored before the tide turns.

Once ashore it is easy to see why Wells is a popular destination. The harbour facilities for visiting yachts are excellent with clean, hot showers. There are many interesting shops and narrow streets to meander through. There is an excellent fish and chip shop on the quay and good refreshments and food can be found at the Golden Fleece pub on the quayside. Along Staithes St. at the side of the Golden Fleece are several take-away shops, a butcher, a baker and a Co-op at the top of the street.

Fuel is available from the petrol station 5-minutes walk from the co-op store, on Polka Rd.

Wells-next-the -Sea to Waxham (35nm)

One of the features which discourages cruising the North Norfolk coast in a small boat is the distance between sheltered harbours. The rock groynes parallel to the coast at Waxham provide shelter on an otherwise exposed long leg.

Leaving Wells one hour before HW gives a fair tide along the Norfolk coast. With a strong following wind the log recorded 12.5 knots surfing along the coast!
Staying close to the shore past Cromer and its pier the coast begins to turn S. The lessening wind and turning tide slowed progress but the 35 miles were completed in little more than one fair tide.

Approaching the groynes at Waxham navigation marks are set at the fourth opening. Once inside it is possible to anchor between the shore and the groynes without drying out. When we were there the conditions were perfect for a swim off the boat. The groynes would offer some protection from most wind directions but I cannot say what conditions would be like with strong easterlies.

Waxham to Lowestoft (18nm)

From the anchorage at Waxham it is possible to choose the best time to depart for a run with the tide along the coast. Lowestoft harbour is accessible at all states of tide so arrival time is not an issue.

After departing Waxham be mindful of the drying bank 1nm inshore of Cockle E Cardinal. It is safe to pass inshore of Cockle and then S along the coast keeping just inshore of the shipping channel past Caister and Great Yarmouth. Keep a watch for windfarm service vessels near the harbours of Great Yarmouth. They arrive quickly over the horizon or from the harbours.

Passing well inside Holm Sand, 2 Cardinal marks are seen on the approach to Lowestoft. Pass west of both of these and aim to pass midway between N Newcome PHB and the shore before turning west into the outer harbour once the harbour has opened up.

The best place to berth in Lowestoft is undoubtedly the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club. The entrance is accessible at all states of tide and lies in the SW corner of the outer harbour. The facilities are excellent and a phone call ahead of arrival usually secures a berth.

If a berth is not available in the RN&SYC it is necessary to wait for the road bridge to be opened to non-commercial traffic. The times of this are very restricted. Once through the bridge it is a 1.5 mile motor to the Lowestoft Cruising Club to starboard or Haven Marina to port, both usually able to offer a berth. There is a waiting pontoon in the Trawl Dock to wait for bridge opening. Be aware of ships leaving Trawl Dock. Port Control and Road Bridge can be contacted on Ch.14 for up to date information.

Berthing at the RN&SYC gives access to all the usual shops available in a town centre but there is little to beat the facilities available in the club itself.

Lowestoft to Southwold (12nm)

Departing Lowestoft around LW with a fair wind it is possible to arrive off Southwold before HW. The preferred time to enter the channel at Southwold is half an hour before HW. Arriving before the preferred entry time it is advisable to anchor off Southwold entrance in the Dunwich Bight S of the entrance and wait for the tide.

From Lowestoft harbour entrance a course is set SE toward S Holm South Cardinal to pass outside the Newcome Sands. From there a course west of S will bring up the entrance to Southwold harbour which lies south of Southwold town and its distinctive church tower and lighthouse in the town.

Currents run very strong in the channel. Contact HM Ch.12 before entry into the channel to be allocated a berth. It is convention to moor facing downstream to make departure easier in the fast flowing stream where ebb tides can reach 6 knots.

Keep mid-channel between the piers in the first part of the channel then close to the quay wall to starboard after the piers. Where the quay wall ends continue mid channel up to the allocated berth. My berth was on floating pontoons on the S side of the river opposite the Harbour Inn. A footbridge upstream gives access to the facilities, harbour office and route to Southwold town.

Due to Covid restrictions washroom facilities were not available at the harbour office. The very helpful staff at the campsite on the way into Southwold allowed use of showers and laundry facilities.

Southwold is a very attractive town with excellent cafes, pubs and shops. It is very popular on summer weekends and can be quite crowded. The Harbour Inn has good meals but booking is usual at busy times.

Southwold to Orford – River Ore (24nm)

Leaving Southwold with the last of the ebb tide, if there is sufficient water over the bar at the entrance, gives a flood tide down the coast toward the entrance to the River Ore.

Having cleared Southwold Harbour a course can be set S outside Dunwich Bay, past the distinctive Sizewell nuclear power stations, past Aldeburgh and inside the Aldeburgh Ridge. The route turns slightly west following the coast off Orford Ness. Pass inside NE Whiting East Cardinal and keep Whiting Hook PHB to port. Orford Haven fairway buoy marks the approach to the River Ore.

Two hours before HW is considered the best time for those new to the Ore to approach the entrance. The advice is to locate both the Oxley PHB and then the Weir SHB before commencing the approach. Identifying these marks will keep you clear of the South and North Shoals on the approach. Once past Weir SHB keep west of the centre of the river until near North Weir Point on Orford Ness. Then cross to the east side of the river staying close to Orford Ness. Once past the drying Barthorps Creek on the port side the best water is in the middle of the channel.

Continuing upstream the river splits in two around Havergate Island. The channel to port, the Lower Gull, passing the Butley River is reputedly the more interesting route. The river winds through Long and Short Gull until it rejoins Main Reach off Chantry Point. The channel then passes lines of boat moorings on the approach to Orford. Arriving on a quiet Monday morning it was possible to moor at the SC pontoon long enough to explore the town, lunch at the very fine Jolly Sailor and shop at the well-stocked village stores.

The town quay can be busy with boats taking visitors on the river and there is little space for visiting boats. The usual requirement at busier times is to anchor or obtain a mooring from the HM and row ashore.

To anchor overnight I retraced my steps to the Butley River and anchored above the old ferry landings. Anchoring further up, above Gedgrave cliffs, is discouraged because of the presence of oyster beds above this point.

River Ore to Titchmarsh Marina on the Walton Backwaters (15nm)

The pilot book, the HM at Orford and local boatmen all expressed concern about leaving the River Ore with a small engine craft in strong currents near the river entrance. Following discussions with a Drascombe owner who had recently sailed the coast I settled on leaving the river in the middle of the ebb when there was still plenty of water in the channel and the current was favourable. In the event the departure presented no problems.

Retracing the route out of the River Ore as far as the Orford Haven buoy a course is then set W of S toward Woodbridge Fairway buoy off the River Deben. From there a course to Platters S Cardinal brings you to a suitable point to cross the main shipping lane into Felixstowe at right angles, straight across the channel toward Pitching Ground SHB. Keep a sharp lookout for large container ships and fast-moving ferries.

Once clear of the shipping lane a course S of W will bring up Pye End Fairway marker which marks the approach to the Walton Backwaters. The PHBs marking the channel to Island Point N Cardinal lie very close to the edge of the channel and in the current it is easy to stray unless concentration is maintained. Approaching Island Point Cardinal leave it to starboard and PHBs 10, 12 and 14 to port. The course then doglegs to starboard past SHB No. 9. The current runs fast through this section and entry on a rising tide is preferable. This is one of my favourite entrances, made special by the line of abandoned Thames barge hulks on the sands to starboard.

Walton Channel has many moorings and the channel is easy to follow. At the end of the channel the masts in Titchmarsh Marina will be visible off to starboard. Follow the channel round into Twizzle Creek and keeping the pontoon moorings to port the marina entrance opens up.

In times past the marina has an excellent restaurant attached. During this visit it was still closed due to uncertainty about Covid restrictions. There are some basic food supplies in the chandlery. It is a 30 minute walk into Walton which has a large Aldi, a M&S Foodhall and great tapas at the Victory Inn, near the seafront.

Titchmarsh Marina to Ramsgate (48nm)

Crossing the Thames estuary in a small boat is a challenging undertaking. The Imray ‘East Coast Pilot’ considers 3 approaches.
1) Coastal – following the Essex coast to Brightlinsea and the River Crouch then crossing from outside Maplin Sands towards the River Medway or The Swale. Then along the Kent coast to North Foreland.
2) Across the Middle – from the Crouch or Blackwater north of East Barrow Sands and then through Fisherman’s Gat and on toward North Foreland.
3) Outside – Out towards Long Sand Head N Cardinal and then staying west of the shipping lane to Kentish Knock E Cardinal and then on to North Foreland.

I opted for a combination of the Middle and Outside routes. The route across was from Medusa SHB off The Naze to N of the Gunfleet Sands, passing Wallet No.2 PHB to starboard whilst heading East.

From N of Gunfleet Sands a course was set S to Black Deep No. 5 E Cardinal. Heading then toward Black Deep No.8 W Cardinal it is possible to turn SE passing between the London Array Windfarm to port and the Fisherman’s Gat shipping channel to starboard. The shipping channel can then be crossed heading S between Fisherman No.1 SHB and Fisherman No2 PHB. Finally, the crossing was completed heading to E Margate PHB then well inside Elbow N Cardinal past North Foreland and Broadstairs to Ramsgate.

I left Titchmarsh Marina HW+2. This gave plenty of water in the channel through the backwaters. Once well past Crab Knoll No.3 SHB I steered SE toward Wallet No2 PHB. The tide was heading NE across the route but was lessening by the time The Naze was cleared. The bulk of the crossing was then completed with a fair tide. Only by the last miles off Broadstairs had the tide turned foul. The crossing was helped by a N f4/5 wind which gave a following breeze for most of the leg and enabled a good average speed to be maintained. The wave height increased as the shore was left behind and the fetch lengthened.

The entrance to Ramsgate Harbour opens up once No.5 S Cardinal is reached. The harbour entrance is between two breakwaters. The recommended entrance for yachts is to cross the entrance channel and enter near the south breakwater. Once inside the outer harbour the entrance to the marina berths is along the N Breakwater to the channel into the inner harbour. Be sure to pass outside the SHB at the entrance to the inner harbour. It guards a sandbank from those wanting to cut the corner. The visitor berth are then the first pontoon berths seen to port inside the west breakwater.

The Royal Temple Yacht Club above the harbour is renowned as a welcoming place for visiting sailors. Unfortunately, its opening times were restricted and it was closed for the duration of my stay. There are many places to eat along the side of the marina and on into town. There is a full range of boat facilities available at the marina including laundry, chandlers, boat hoist and slipway.
CC19 Association Member
Posts: 38
Joined: Mon Nov 18, 2013 2:13 pm
Location: Bewdley, Worcestershire

Re: A cruise along England's East Coast - Grimsby to Ramsgat

Postby Malcolm Sadler » Thu Nov 18, 2021 10:41 pm

Thanks so much for posting this detailed passage report. A really useful resource, and a testament to your seamanship!

Also a spur to me, at least, to plan some more ambitious cruises.

All the best

Malcolm Sadler
Honorary President
Posts: 223
Joined: Sat Oct 10, 2015 9:58 am

Return to Cruising Areas

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest