South West England Cruising Guide

Books    Charts    Navigation

The South West of England incorporates the beautiful counties of Dorset, Devon and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and this area was just made for cruising.  There are a variety of ports, harbours and marinas within easy day sailing distances of one another and all with something unique to offer, as well as some interesting navigational landmarks to keep things interesting. 

Visit classic English seaside resorts such as Weymouth and Torquay and enjoy the freshest seafood in picturesque fishing harbours like Brixham.  Natural harbours abound such as Poole, Dartmouth and Falmouth with easy access and plenty to see and do ashore.  Delight in idyllic and peaceful moorings surrounded by natural beauty in the Helford River and the River Yealm, or visit the cruising paradise that is the Isles of Scilly and enjoy the mild climate and relaxed lifestyle.  No south west cruise would be complete without a stopover in Plymouth, historic 'City of the Sea', to brush up on some maritime history and enjoy the excellent marine facilities.

South West England Navigation and Pilotage Notes

The Lizard
The southernmost point of mainland England is a steep and conspicuous headland and is marked by a lighthouse.  Beware of dangerous rocks, mostly drying, just south west of the light house. 
A tidal race extends 2 to 3 miles south of Lizard Point and the worst conditions occur in westerly winds against a west going tide, producing short, steep seas.  Pass at least 3 miles south of Lizard Point to avoid the worst conditions.

Portland Race
Severe and very dangerous seas can occur south of the Bill of Portland due to two strong tidal streams running south down each side of the Isle of Portland meeting the main east to west Channel stream.  These effects are compounded by the sea bed shelving rapidly to 10m on Portland Ledge.  Conditions here may be dangerous for small craft even in settled weather and are even worse in wind over tide conditions, especially at Spring tides.  The race normally extends about 2 miles south of the Bill of Portland but can extend further south in bad weather. 
Avoid the area by passing well to seaward, at least 3 to 5 miles south of the Bill of Portland.  There is an inshore passage but this should not be used in onshore winds greater than Force 4 or 5, at springs with wind against tide or at night under power due to the proliferation of lobster pots.


South West England Charts

Both the Admiralty and Imray offer chart packs or folios covering the South West England cruising area, offering significant savings on the purchase of individual charts.

SC5601            East Devon and Dorset Coast Exmouth to Christchurch (Small Craft Folio)
SC5602            The West Country - Falmouth to Teignmouth (Admiralty Leisure Folio)
SC5603            Falmouth to Padstow including Isles of Scilly (Admiralty Leisure Folio)

2300                Dorset and Devon Coasts Chart Pack
2400                Imray Chart Pack: The West Country


Related Resources

Cruising Guides

UK Cruising Guide

South West England Destinations





Helford River

Isles of Scilly




Poole Harbour

Portland Harbour

River Exe

River Yealm




Recommended Books

West Country Cruising Companion
Mark Fishwick
With clear photos and directions, this is an essential cruising guide to ports and harbours from Portland Bill to Padstow, including the Isles of Scilly.