East Coast Rivers: A Summer Cruise Itinerary


The East Coast rivers are rich cruising ground. Local sailor Dick Durham shares the best places to explore this season

It has often seemed to me a bit of a geographical oversight to name the Thames Estuary the “East Coast”.

What about the rest of England and Scotland north of Lowestoft?

But then, if you consider that there are 14 rivers, over 60 creeks, an unlimited number of passages, four all-tide ports – and one half-tide port – an inland sea and more anchorages than you can shake a stick at. a bar between Lowestoft and Dover, you can see why.

Most moorings are free and within dinghy distance of a waterside pub.

If you prefer a visitor’s mooring, there are plenty, too, mostly free.

If, after such a welcome, you still prefer a berth on foot, there are also some in the approximately 16 marinas that have grown over the years.

Plenty to see in Aldeburgh, moor below the yacht club. Credit: Paul Williams/Alamy Stock Photo

Take a classic passage from Queenborough on The Swale in Kent to Aldeburgh on the River Alde in Suffolk.

Cast off at high tide and carry a low tide out of the River Medway and into the final stretch of the Thames at Sea Reach.

Working north across the river, cruise down the coast from the Blacktail Spit buoy which will give you the best part of six hours of low tide.

This will be more than enough to take you across the critical point of this coast between Buxey and Gunfleet Sands – the Spitway, well marked with the Swin and Wallet Spitway buoys.

With luck the ebb will continue to flow and you can transport it to The Wallet and into Harwich Harbor taking the first of the Young Floods to Pin Mill on the River Orwell.

Shingle on one of the east coast rivers

Strong tides and shifting banks make sailing through Shingle Street a thrilling ride. Credit: Clynt Garnham Suffolk/Alamy

Take a visitor buoy here and disembark for the Butt & Oyster pub which serves real ale and great food every night.

As the crow flies you will have traveled 45 miles.

In the morning, set off mid-stream and back down the river and head north towards the Ore entrance buoy.

By the time you arrive the new flood will be flowing and, being careful to sail close to the channel buoys, enjoy the thrill of running through Shingle Street and into the river, after sailing 10 miles further north.

You will now have an additional lift from the flood as you head towards Aldeburgh, an additional 18 miles uphill as HW is an hour and a quarter after entry time.

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Moor below the Aldeburgh Yacht Club, a good place for a pint, but don’t miss the High Street fish and chip shop which is always in line.

It is a passage to be done ideally by wind from the southwest, from the west or from the northwest.

When the wind is blowing hard from anywhere to the east, Shingle Street should be avoided – shelter can be sought in the Crouch, Blackwater or Colne rivers where there are many anchorages, visitor buoys and a few marinas .

A chart showing the East Coast rivers

Credit: Maxine Heath

If you have to leave your boat due to bad weather, Burnham Marina is a good place with a local train station that connects Liverpool Street to London.

Titchmarsh Marina is also served by Walton-on-the-Naze resort and is probably the most sheltered location on the East Coast, in the heart of the Walton Backwaters.

The beauty of the east coast is that there is so much to see and in a fortnight or three weeks you can explore all the rivers including Lowestoft harbour, Southwold mid tide harbor with all the rivers between including the Thames – lock in St Katharine Dock in the heart of the city!

People line up outside a fish and chips shop

The fish and chips in Aldeburgh is worth the wait. Credit: Mark Mercer/Alamy

For seclusion and the maze-like world of marshes then Tollesbury, Mersea and Bradwell on the Blackwater; Paglesham and North Fambridge on the Crouch and Roach, or Erwarton and Wrabness on the Stour are for you.

Probably the most scenic river, often compared to Devon’s River Dart, is the River Deben, with its tide mill at Woodbridge and the Saxon burial site at Sutton Hoo, the ‘first page of English history’.

Navigating the East Coast Rivers

Time taken: 2 weeks

Queenborough to Swin Spitway – 25M
Swin Spitway at Pin Mill – 23M
Shotley Spit at Deben Bar – 6.5M
Deben Bar at Orford Haven Buoy – 5.5M
Buoy Orford Haven at Aldeburgh – 9.5M

The trains: Queenborough, Burnham-on-Crouch, Harwich, Ipswich, Walton-on-the-Naze

Dangers when navigating the rivers of the East Coast

Thames Estuary sandbanks, high tides and shipping.

Offshore wind farm developments require frequent updating of charts and careful attention to notices to mariners for ongoing exclusion zones.

Many rivers have shallow entrances which are dangerous in strong easterly winds.

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