Cruise Navigation Information

On all cruises the Cruisemaster will check the local weather report on the morning of the cruise and there will be a briefing in the clubhouse at 0930hrs.

The "BUDDY BOAT" system will be enforced and the wearing of buoyancy aids is mandatory.

Care must be taken when crossing the deep water channels of which there are two. The north channel, which is used by smaller ships, and the main channel which is used by larger vessels usually heading to or from Southampton. In the eastern Solent the two channels run from Calshot out through the forts towards the Nab tower. The North channel branches off of the main channel at Calshot and runs North of the Brambles bank before rejoing the main channel to the east at Gilkicker. The main channel runs south from Calshot paralleling the main land coast before turning to the east off of Cowes. The main channel then parallels the island coast east to Gilkicker.

Just be aware that the bigger ships are limited to the channels and they have little or no room to manoeuvre. They will not stop for a dinghy even if they can see you ! Five hoots from a ship technically means "I do not know what you are doing" but what it really means is "Get out of the way".

The golden rule is "If in doubt get out of the way as fast as you can".

The channels are marked with buoys which aren't very frequent but from one buoy you should be able to see the next one, or the previous one ! They can be confusing as both the North channel and the main channel have their own buoys so there are quite a lot of them. All the buoys are named so by referring to a chart it is straight forward to work out roughly where you are in terms of the channels. The main buoys to look out for are:

Starboard hand channel marker buoy.
Port hand channel marker buoy.
Cardinal buoys mark hazards. There are 4 types (North, East, South and West) and they are all coloured black and yellow. They have different top shapes and the bands are black and yellow vary according to type. The picture show is a Notherly cardinal. Cardinal marks can also mark a channel edge if placed to warn, say, of a bank or shallow area. In the Solent there are few hazards marked by cardinal buoys that would concern a dinghy. The cruise master would warn of any such hazard on the course of a proposed cruise.

What may be confusing about the channel, or to give them their correct name, lateral buoys are their designation as port and starboard as this obviously depends on the direction of travel. In the areas in which the cruises take place the channels are buoyed for travel into Southampton.

If you have a VHF radio then two channels to monitor are 11 for Portsmouth QHM and 12 for Southampton VTS as ship movements are announced on these channels either directly or by communications with the ships. If the cruise should take you into the river Medina then channel 69 should be monitored.

Note:All distances listed for the destinations are "as the crow flies" and are accurate to a few hundred yards.

Ashlett Creek

Distance - 3.8 nm.

When sailing west towards Calshot you will be passing close to the northern deep water channel so a good look out needs to be kept for ships using this channel. Keep a lookout for the green port hand and red starboard hand lateral buoys which mark the northern edge of the channel.

When approaching Calshot, and in particular, crossing the deep water channel keep a good lookup for ships, the Isle of Wight ferry and the Red Jet fast passenger catamaran. The sea area close to Calshot is often busy as vessels are heading to or from the Hamble and navigate to keep clear of the shallows over Calshot Spit.

There are two channels that can be used to access Ashlett Creek. The North Channel the South channel. The South channel can only be used when there is sufficient water. Boats will rendezvous off the "Fawley" red buoy and then proceed to the public slip and quay in a convoy (but maintaining several boats length spacing). The Creek may be busy with many craft navigating the channel. Try to keep away from them, even if they are under power, as it is restricted water.


Distance - 9.5 nm.

The harbour is an expanse of water at high tide but most of it dries and the channel is quite windy but well marked. The section with the least depth is near the entrance. Sailing from the club look for Saint Helen's fort which is just off the entrance. Keep well to seaward of Ryde sands as this area is very shallow.

On approaching the Fort look for the tide guage which is a little to the north of the Fort. Turn South West using the white sea mark on the shore as a target to initially head for. This will lead you into the buoyed channel. From here on in it's just a matter of following the buoys past Bembridge Spit to the east and the Duver to the west. Not far past the end of the the Duver spit the channel turns sharply to the west. Note that there is an channel heading east at this point which leads to Bembridge Sailing Club. Proceed to the landing as described by the Cruise Master at the briefing.

Bucklers Hard

Distance - 8.7 nm.

Bucklers Hard is located some distance up the Beaulieu river. The entrance to the river is shallow as there is a bar that only has 1m water at LWS. The entrance channel runs almost North, bearing 334 degrees true but after a short distance turns sharply to the West. The channel then runs along the shore inside Beaulieu Spit parts of which are covered at high tide.

When approaching the river entrance keep clear of the northern shore around Stone Point as it is shallow. Look for the lighthouse on the shore. Do not be tempted to try and cross into the channel over Beaulieu Spit even at high tide. The channel is marked with piles coloured to indicate port and starboard. They are also numbered. The first port hand pile is actually a dolphin (a structure of more than one pile) with a speed limit sign on it. Just follow the piles in until you reach port hand pile number 6 where the channel turns sharply to the west.

The channel is then pretty straight until the last two piles which are port hand pile number 24 and starboard hand pile number 19 which is farther on. At this point the channel turns in a more north westerly direction and the boundaries of the deep water channel are marked with small lateral buoys and withies.

Keep to the side of the channel and make room for larger vessels but do not stray too far from the channel as it shallows quickly and your centre board will get very muddy.

The river now meanders gently so proceed until reaching Bucklers Hard on the port shore of the river. The cruise master will have briefed you on where to land.

Corf Scout Camp

Distance - 10 nm.

Corf Scout Camp is situated at the top of the very popular Newtown Creek. The entrance to the creek is narrow and shallow. The passage will take you across the deep water channels and then past Cowes towards the Needles. Watch for ships in all the channels including the Needles channel which is used by smaller ships.

There is a cardinal buoy just to the east of the entrance. It is very shallow along the shore here so do not get too close in. Leave the cardinal buoy marking the entrance channel to port. There are two leading marks which you can line up to put you on the correct course through the deeper water. The forward Mark consists of a post with a red V top Mark, and the rear post which is higher and mounted on dry land has a white circle. Keep these two roughly in line and approach. Bear in mind that the forward post with the V is not in deep water and does dry on some tides. The leading marks will steer you to the start of the marked channel. Some marks are buoys but most are piles.

The creek has several arms and the first one, which goes off to port is just inside the entrance. Keep to the starboard channel past this and the next channel off to port. You should see Shalfleet Quay ahead and the channel to the camp site is to the left/port of the quay.

The cruise master will have briefed you about where to land.


Distance - 6 nm.

Lying to the South West of Cowes the passage to Gurnard takes you across both the Northern Channel and the deep water channel used by the larger ships. A sharp lookout must be kept and do not under estimate the closing speed of the larger ships. They close at a surprising speed.

The tidal stream past Cowes can be very fast and is stronger close to Egypt point unless you get very close to the shore; close enough to order an ice cream !

The entrance to Cowes is often busy with Yachts and Power boats but pay particular attention to the Isle of Wight Ferry and the Red Jet fast ferry as they travel to and from Southampton.

Once past Cowes and Egypt point watch for ships using the Needles channel.

Island Harbour Marina

Distance - 6.6 nm.

Island Harbour Marina is located some way up the Medina river past Cowes. The first part of the passage to this destination is across the Solent and the two shipping channels so keep a good lookout for any ships using these channels.

Cowes is a busy port with two ferry services to and from Southampton. One is car ferry and they are large vessels and do not leave a lot room once into the Cowes harbour entrance. The other is a smaller passenger catamaran ferry known as the Red Jet which, as it's name implies, is a fast service. The catamaran service docks in west Cowes nearer the harbour entrance and the car ferry docks farther into the harbour on the east side of the river.

The tidal stream around the entrance to the harbour can be quite furious during spring tides. There are also a large number of day sailing craft, such as Dragons and Etchells, moored on buoys to the east of the harbour entrance.

The cruise master will brief you about entering Cowes but it is advisable not the sail amongst these moored boats.

Once into the entrance there are three marinas on the west side so keep a lookout for vessels leaving these marinas. They may not see a dinghy as the visibility is limited. Further on you will see the ferry terminal to the east and just beyond this is the chain ferry. If you are close to where the ferry crosses it may wait for you to pass but do not rely on this. The chain ferry will display a flashing white light when it starts moving.

Once past the chain ferry the worst is over. There is one more marina to pass on the east side as well as numerous pontoons and river moorings so keep a sharp lookout for vessels moving off of these moorings.

The Lock Control Tower for the marina is quite distinctive and is on the east side of the river. It is useful to review the entry information on the Island Harbour Marina.


Distance - 7 nm.

The passage to Seaview crosses just about all the main shipping and ferry routes in the Solent. The deep water channels are wider at the eastern end of the solent and crossing them can therefore take longer. When passing Ryde lookout for the Wight Rider fast catamarans and the Hovercraft.

Do not get in too close when passing Ryde as it is shallow.

There are usually a number of boats on fixed moorings off of Seaview and care should be taken when passing through them. There is a Sailing Club at Seaview so there may be races in progress.

The Battery

Distance - 6 nm.

Located just to the east of Ryde you will cross both deep water channels and the track of the IOW ferries travelling between Wootton Creek and Portsmouth. Ryde is known for its sandy beaches and the sand extends some way out to sea so the sea area around Ryde is quite shallow. An additional hazard as you past Ryde are the fast Wight Rider passenger catamarans which travel between Ryde pier head and Portsmouth. There is also a Hovercraft service between Ryde and Southsea. The Hovercraft "lands" at Ryde just to the east of the pier.

When navigating the area around Ryde pier keep a sharp look out for both these passenger services.

The Folly Inn

Distance - 5.8 nm.

The Folly Inn is located on the river Medina to the south of Cowes but North of the Island Harbour Marina. Please review the navigation inform for the Island Harbour Marina as it is virtually the same except for landing which the cruise master will brief you about.

Wootton Creek

Distance - 4.6 nm.

The main hazard when entering Wootton Creek are the ferries. If one is seen to be leaving there is usually one waiting to enter the creek. Once the ferry has docked there is about a 20 minute window in which to enter or leave.

When approaching stay away from shallow water off western shore unless high water when there is enough depth to sail over the shallows. Look for the land fall beach on the east side of the creek north of the ferry berth.