How To Find Us By Water

The reaches of the Tamar above Plymouth are amongst of the prettiest estuarine waters in the West Country and once through the Devonport Dockyards (look out for the sinister black shapes of a couple of subs in for maintenance) you begin to leave the bad world behind and after the bridges at Saltash the river enters a landscape of rolling, green, patchwork hills and pretty waterside villages with Dartmoor brooding away to the north. A seal might pop up to see what all the fuss is about.  A gig might be training for the weekend’s race. Sea birds will be arguing over some offal at the waters edge.  Relatively few boats venture this far which is a shame because this really is a treat in waiting. Perhaps one thing to note is that the Tamar has strong tidal streams so to make efficient progress it might be best to ‘go with the flow’. 

Plymouth is an easy entrance.  Very little swell gets into the Sound which is protected by an almost-mile-long stone breakwater.  This was started in 1812 to safeguard the Channel Fleet from the ravages of the French and even Napoleon, who passed it on his way to exile on St Helena, remarked, ‘it really is a grand thing’. 
 
The only word of caution here is to say that Plymouth is a busy commercial and naval port. There are frequent ship movements.  The warships are mostly accompanied by a Harbour Police Rib.  They’ll soon be alongside to er, advise you, if they think you’re in the way.  There are also regular sailings by Brittany Ferries.  At either end of the breakwater are wide entrances. The deep water channel goes through the west side but there is plenty of room and depth outside the buoyed channel if you’re coming in that way. The shipping channel proceeds from the western entrance, diagonally across the sound, around the east side of Drakes Island and then back though the Narrows towards the Dockyards.  There’s a reef running from the west side of Drake’s Island to the west shore of the Sound but there’s an easy shortcut for moderate draft vessels clearly marked by two red and two green beacons just to the south west of the island. 

From here there are no real hazards - the deep water channel is clearly marked – and you pass by pretty Edgecombe Manor on your port side and Mayflower Marina, and the beginning of the Devonport Dockyards, to starboard.  As you round the corner you’ll spot three chain ferries running between Devonport and Torpoint on the Cornish side.  These tend to slow down for yachts (whether under sail or power) although I’m not sure I’d push it to any extent.  A little further on to port you’ll see the entrance to the lovely River Lynher (sometimes call the St Germans river).  This river winds and coils for miles into the Cornish countryside – a must for another day (don’t forget to take the dinghy!)  The Tamar itself now turns to starboard and you’ll soon see the tracery of the 1961 suspension bridge just behind the Royal Albert rail bridge built by Brunel in 1859 to carry ‘mails’ to Falmouth.  Do not be tempted to cut the corner here as there are shallows someway out from the Devon shore. 

The rail bridge is supported by a pier in the centre of the river. Pass either side and beyond the bridge the river takes on a more relaxed, rural air. Pilotage from here is pretty straightforward except perhaps for an hour either side of LW springs.  Look ahead and spot four starboard hand cans slightly towards the Devon side. Head for the first of these.  To starboard you’ll see the River Tavy (under the low railway bridge). Leave all four buoys to starboard and then shape your course just to port of the yellow buoy off Weir point. Say about one third between the yellow buoy and Weir point (favouring the yellow buoy). The shallowest patches of the whole passage to Weir Quay are between the last pair of green cans and between the last green can and the point where the yellow buoy is abeam. There’s high tension cables overhead but with a minimum airdraft of 19m they are unlikely to hinder any yacht capable of navigating these waters.

There’s a port hand mark off Weir Point.  Leave well to port and from then on stay within the trots of moorings as you head up through Cargreen.  Leave the starboard hand mark off the village well clear and, keeping within the moorings, chug or sail all the way up to Weir Quay.  There’s a bit of a gap between the last of the Cargreen moorings and the first of Weir Quay’s but the riverbed is pretty flat here so the old adage, stay in the middle, works fine. You’ll pass under another set of high tension cables but again the airdraft [   m] is way above the mast height of any vessel realistically able to visit Weir Quay.

Weir Quay’s white visitors’ mooring is just off the pontoon. If proceeding further upstream note that the channel hugs the outside bend – under the hill beyond Holes Hole. The best water is just 5 yards from the shore and there is easily 5m.

Please call us on 01822 840474 if you require further advice.

 To download a version of the nautical chart please click here.