Solent and Isle of Wight

Introduction

Times of high water

Keyhaven: High water is 1 hours and 15 minutes before high water at Portsmouth (Sp) 5 minutes before high water at Portsmouth (Np)

Bembridge Harbour: High water is 20 minutes after high water at Portsmouth (Sp) at high water at Portsmouth (Np) Low water is 1 hour after low water Portsmouth at springs and 20 minutes after at neaps.

Portsmouth: Is a standard port

Langstone Harbour: High water is at high water at Portsmouth

Tidal streams

The tidal stream atlas to the Solent and Isle of Wight is very useful, showing the details of the flows and inshore eddies clearly. The version produced by Reeds and found in their almanacs is easier to use and much more compact than the Admiralty atlases.

Hurst point race: A race forms off Hurst point, setting to the W on the ebb. The race breaks in SW winds.

Between Hurst Castle and the Isle of Wight: The north-east going stream begins at 4 hours and 45 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The south-west going stream begins at 1 hours before high water at Portsmouth. The north-east going stream reaches a speed of 3.9 knots at springs. The south-west going stream reaches a speed of 4.4 knots at springs. On the ebb, near Hurst Castle, the flow sets to the west, making crossing from downstream of the point towards the Isle of Wight difficult.

South of Hurst Beach: The east south-east going stream begins at 4 hours and 45 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The west north-west going stream begins at 1 hours and 15 minutes before high water at Portsmouth. The east south-east going stream reaches a speed of 3.2 knots at springs. The west north-west going stream reaches a speed of 3.5 knots at springs. Note that the stream around Hurst Point turns to parallel Hurst Beach

Eddies at the needles: Eddies form behind the Needles on both the ebb and the flood, forming jets of flow.

A mile WSW of The Needles: The east going stream begins at 5 hours and 30 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The west going stream begins at 30 minutes before high water at Portsmouth. The flow reaches a speed of 2.8 knots at springs.

Off Freshwater Bay: The east going stream begins at 4 hours and 30 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The west going stream begins at 1 hours and 30 minutes before high water at Portsmouth. The east going stream reaches a speed of 1 knots at springs. The west going stream reaches a speed of 1.1 knots at springs.

North of Yarmouth: The east going stream begins at 4 hours and 50 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The west going stream begins at 1 hours and 15 minutes before high water at Portsmouth. The east going stream reaches a speed of 2.4 knots at springs. The west going stream reaches a speed of 2.8 knots at springs. The flow is mostly slack close to the shore, but there can be a marked eddy line not far off the beach. The flow runs strongly past Sconce Point.

In the middle of the Solent off Lymington: The north-east going stream begins at 4 hours and 30 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The south-west going stream begins at 1 hours and 30 minutes before high water at Portsmouth. The north-east going stream reaches a speed of 2.2 knots at springs. The south-west going stream reaches a speed of 2.5 knots at springs.

Atherfield Point: The south-east going stream begins at 4 hours and 15 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The north-west going stream begins at 1 hours and 30 minutes before high water at Portsmouth. The south-east going stream reaches a speed of 1.8 knots at springs. The north-west going stream reaches a speed of 2.1 knots at springs. East of Hanover Point, the stream gains strength, especially on the east-going stream, and runs strongly across Atherfield Ledges and Chale Rock.

Inshore near St. Catherine's Point: The east going stream begins at 5 hours after high water at Portsmouth. The west going stream begins at at high water at Portsmouth. The flow reaches a speed of 5 knots at springs. Races form for several km around the point. Waves can be above head height on springs and worse with ground swell. Can be avoided close inshore in eddy currents.

Offshore St. Catherine's point: The east north-east going stream begins at 5 hours and 20 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The west south-west going stream begins at 50 minutes before high water at Portsmouth. The east north-east going stream reaches a speed of 3.7 knots at springs. The west south-west going stream reaches a speed of 3.8 knots at springs. Flows persist long after the race has calmed.

Foreland: The tidal flow begins flowing north into the Solent from 2 hours before high water Portsmouth and ceases to flow at high water Portsmouth

Around No Man's Land and Horse Sand forts: The south-east going stream begins at 3 hours after high water at Portsmouth. The north-west going stream begins at 2 hours before high water at Portsmouth. The south-east going stream reaches a speed of 1.4 knots at springs. The north-west going stream reaches a speed of 1.8 knots at springs.

Central solent, between Gosport and Ryde: The east south-east going stream begins at 3 hours and 20 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The west north-west going stream begins at 2 hours before high water at Portsmouth. The east south-east going stream reaches a speed of 1.7 knots at springs. The west north-west going stream reaches a speed of 2 knots at springs.

Cowes Roads: Around 1 km north of the entrance to Cowes harbour: The east going stream begins at 4 hours and 20 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The west going stream begins at 1 hours and 20 minutes before high water at Portsmouth. The east going stream reaches a speed of 2.8 knots at springs. The west going stream reaches a speed of 3.8 knots at springs.

Cowes entrance: An eddy here flows west starting 2 hours before high water at Portsmouth.

River Medina: The north north-west going stream begins at 15 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The south south-east going stream begins at 5 hours and 30 minutes after high water at Portsmouth.

A mile north of the Newtown River entrance: The east north-east going stream begins at 4 hours and 50 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The west south-west going stream begins at 1 hours before high water at Portsmouth. The east north-east going stream reaches a speed of 3 knots at springs. The west south-west going stream reaches a speed of 3.2 knots at springs.

Western Solent NW of Gurnard Ledge: The east north-east going stream begins at 4 hours and 55 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The west south-west going stream begins at 1 hours and 10 minutes before high water at Portsmouth. The east north-east going stream reaches a speed of 3.4 knots at springs. The west south-west going stream reaches a speed of 3.5 knots at springs.

East of Stansore Point: Around a mile east of the point, which is just east of Lepe: The north-east going stream begins at 4 hours and 50 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The south-west going stream begins at 1 hours and 20 minutes before high water at Portsmouth. The north-east going stream reaches a speed of 2.1 knots at springs. The south-west going stream reaches a speed of 2.6 knots at springs.

Calshot spit light float: The light float is around a mile south east of the spit. The north north-east going stream begins at 5 hours after high water at Portsmouth. The south south-west going stream begins at 45 minutes before high water at Portsmouth. The north north-east going stream reaches a speed of 1.8 knots at springs. The south south-west going stream reaches a speed of 1.4 knots at springs. Flows are irregular.

By Southsea Castle: The south-east going stream begins at 1 hours and 45 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The north-west going stream begins at 5 hours and 40 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The south-east going stream reaches a speed of 2 knots at springs. The north-west going stream reaches a speed of 1 knots at springs.

Langstone Harbour entrance: The south going stream begins at at high water at Portsmouth. The north going stream begins at 6 hours after high water at Portsmouth. The south going stream reaches a speed of 3.1 knots at springs. The north going stream reaches a speed of 3.4 knots at springs.

Around a mile south of Langstone Harbour entrance: The south south-east going stream begins at 30 minutes before high water at Portsmouth. The north north-west going stream begins at 6 hours before high water at Portsmouth. The south south-east going stream reaches a speed of 2.4 knots at springs. The north north-west going stream reaches a speed of 0.9 knots at springs.

North part of Solent, between Southampton Water and Gosport: The east south-east going stream begins at 2 hours and 40 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The west north-west going stream begins at 2 hours and 30 minutes before high water at Portsmouth. The east south-east going stream reaches a speed of 1.2 knots at springs. The west north-west going stream reaches a speed of 1.5 knots at springs.

Langstone Harbour channel: Just north of the harbour entrance: The north-east going stream begins at 5 hours and 15 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The south-west going stream begins at 30 minutes before high water at Portsmouth. The north-east going stream reaches a speed of 1.3 knots at springs. The south-west going stream reaches a speed of 1.6 knots at springs.

Entrance to Portsmouth Harbour: The south south-east going stream begins at 20 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The north north-west going stream begins at 5 hours and 10 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The south south-east going stream reaches a speed of 4 knots at springs. The north north-west going stream reaches a speed of 2.5 knots at springs. Strong eddies form close to the edges of the narrows. The streams are irregular, being especially strong around 3 hours after high water. Flows are very strong throughout the channel between Southsea Castle and the location of HMS Victory. Extremely detailed tidal stream atlases are available for this area.

Within Portsmouth Harbour: Streams are less strong north of the location of HMS Victory than they are in the narrows south of here. In the area around the north end of the Naval dockyard: The south south-east going stream begins at 50 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The north north-west going stream begins at 5 hours and 30 minutes before high water at Portsmouth. The flow reaches a speed of 1.5 knots at springs.

Ports creek: The tidal stream here flows west starting 1 hours after high water at Portsmouth reaching a maximum speed of 0.5 knots at springs.

Chichester Channel, Chichester Harbour: The north north-east going stream begins at 6 hours after high water at Portsmouth. The south south-west going stream begins at 25 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The north north-east going stream reaches a speed of 1.7 knots at springs. The south south-west going stream reaches a speed of 1.6 knots at springs.

Emsworth Channel, Chichester Harbour: The north north-east going stream begins at 6 hours after high water at Portsmouth. The south south-west going stream begins at 45 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The flow reaches a speed of 1 knots at springs.

Chichester Harbour entrance: The north going stream begins at 5 hours and 45 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The south going stream begins at 30 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The north going stream reaches a speed of 2.8 knots at springs. The south going stream reaches a speed of 6.4 knots at springs.

In Sandown bay: Flow is weak inshore

East of Cowes: The east south-east going stream begins at 3 hours and 30 minutes after high water at Portsmouth. The west north-west going stream begins at 1 hours and 50 minutes before high water at Portsmouth. The east south-east going stream reaches a speed of 2 knots at springs. The west north-west going stream reaches a speed of 2.2 knots at springs. The tidal streams closer inshore, within Osborne Bay are less than a knot. Streams remain mostly below 1 to 1.5 knots inshore along to Ryde.

Between St. Catherine's Point and Dunnose: The east north-east going stream begins at 5 hours after high water at Portsmouth. The west south-west going stream begins at at high water at Portsmouth. The stream can reach 5 knots in each direction close offshore, but eddies occur inshore.

Compton Bay: Between Needles Point and Hanover Point, the streams are generally weak.

Eddies to the west of St. Catherine's point: During the west-going stream

Eddies in Colwell, Totland and Alum Bays: An eddy forms here, with the following flows: The north-east going stream begins at at high water at Portsmouth. The south-west going stream begins at 3 hours and 30 minutes before high water at Portsmouth. The speed of flow is not known, but estimated to be up to 2 knots. Inspect tidal stream atlas carefully for details of the flows in this area.

Notes

Ports creek: Ports creek, the channel to the north of Portsmouth linking Portsmouth and Langstone Harbours, is navigable 3 hours either side of high water. There may be limited clearance under the railway bridge at high water springs.

Portsmouth Harbour: Portsmouth Harbour is subject to the regulations of the Queen's Harbourmaster. QHM uses VHF channel 11, and it is well worth monitoring this when in the area. It's also worth checking the website for planned shipping movements and events - exclusion zones around some Navy vessels can effectively shut the narrows around the entrance to other traffic. Obviously, paddlers must stay well clear of Navy vessels, and it is best to stay on the west side of the channel in the narrow part of the channel. Less obviously, you should not cross the channel (and must stay on the west side of it) in the area between the Ballast Pile and 4 Bar marks. This means heading out into open water in the area south of the harbour entrance. For this reason, and to ease navigation more generally, having a nautical chart on your deck is very useful in and around the Harbour.

Ryde Sands: There is a large area of sandbanks north of Ryde, which dries at low water. Fast moving and large hovercraft operate in this area. Better to stay well offshore, perhaps heading for No Man's Land Fort.

Rifle Range east of Newtown Bay: The Newtown Rifle Range is between Newtown bay and Burnt Wood (holiday park). Stay away from the coast, outside both a yellow buoy and a green channel marker. See chart for details.

Brook ledges: Shallow ledges from 2.5 km to 6.5 km east of Freshwater can break well offshore.

Atherfield Ledge: A shallow ledge extends from Atherfield point, which can break well offshore.

Whitecliff Bay Cafe: A beach cafe at Whitecliff Bay serves a fine breakfast.

Yarmouth: High water is 1 hours and 5 minutes before high water at Portsmouth Sp, 5 minutes after high water at Portsmouth Np. Low water 30 minutes before low water Portsmouth.

Precautionary Area in Central Solent: A large 'precautionary area' is marked off the chart to the north of Cowes in which large ships make their turns into and out of Southampton water.

Access/Egress

Keyhaven sailing club: (SZ 307 915) g Launching possible at all states of the tide at slipway near sailing club, leaving cars in pay and display car park. Prior contact with the river warden is a good idea for large groups: 01590 645695. A charge may be made to launch.

Freshwater Bay.: (SZ 347 857) g Car park set back from the beach, from which launching is straightforward.

Ventnor: (SZ 561 773) g Ventor sea front offers the first easy landing east of Freshwater. Burger shop on seafront!

St. Helens beach: (SZ 637 892) g Plentiful parking and an easy carry across the beach. A much easier put in than over Bembridge Ledge.

Yarmouth: (SZ 353 894) g Slipway a short carry to the west of a large, free car park. The public slipway just to the north of here, by the bridge and sailing club, has few options to park nearby. Both options are likely preferable to attempting to use the busy slipway into the harbour to the north.

Lepe Country Park: (SZ 457 985) g Easy Access and plentiful parking. The tide can flow rapidly close to shore. Parking can get busy on summer weekends - worth arriving early to avoid a carry from the more distant parking areas.

Lymington: (SZ 334 950) g Slipway by the Bath Road car park (pay and display) and lifeboat station. Fee of £3.20 (2021) to launch.

Tanners lane: (SZ 365 952) g Space to park one or two cars near the end of a narrow road running down to the beach. It is possible to park on the beach too, but there are reports of vehicles getting stuck in the gravel. This area will dry at very low water, although likely less so just to the west where a stream runs out of a lake, and probably only around or below MLWS.

Hamble-le-Rice: (SU 485 067) g Pay and display car park next to a yacht pontoon and beach.

River Itchen - Woodmill: (SU 439 152) g Small parking area by a gravel beach by the Woodmill outdoor centre. Much larger car park, with a height barrier, just to the east. Southampton canoe club are based at the centre.

Langstone Harbour entrance west side: (SZ 685 999) g Parking by the road and beach.

Portchester Castle: (SU 626 046) g There are 2 launch options here, both of which dry at low water. Parking for both at the Portchester Castle car park. To the east of here is the Portchester Sailing Club slipway. This is privately owned, so keep well out of the way and be courteous if you launch here (there are steps and access to foreshore just to the south, but these may be less ideal at low tide). To the south west, Hospital Lane terminates at a small slipway. it may be possible to drop boats here before reversing out.

South Parade Pier: (SZ 649 981) g Plentiful roadside parking a short carry from the beach around 250 m west of the Pier.

Haslar Lake: (SZ 620 994) g Large pay and display car park, with access to water via a rough slipway in the parking area for a boating shop. May dry at low water.

Langstone Harbour entrance east: (SZ 688 997) g Plenty of parking by the water. There is a slipway to the north, but less parking and a charge to both launch and park. Small cafe.

Hayling Beach west: (SZ 705 988) g Parking by the beach near the Inn on the Beach.

Langstone, Ship Inn: (SU 720 049) g Slipway at the Ship Inn with some parking. Usable in top half of the tide.

Emsworth: (SU 749 055) g Small beach. South Street car park a short walk to the north. Usable 3 hours either side of high water.

Prinstead: (SU 766 051) g Parking area with easy access to the foreshore. Usable 2 hours either side of high water.

Bosham: (SU 803 038) g Slipway usable at all states of the tide. Free to launch if you do not take your car onto the slipway. Car park in the village.

Dell Quay: (SU 835 029) g Usable 3 hours either side of high water. Limited parking by the end of the road.

Keyhaven lagoon: (SZ 301 909) g Launching is possible at high water and perhaps somewhat below (near footbridge). Limited parking, some of which can flood. The 'long stand' of high water in the Solent gives a wider window for launching here.

River Yar at Freshwater: (SZ 349 872) g It is possible to launch onto the Yar downstream of the bridge just SE of the church in Freshwater at high water. Limited on-road parking. Launch on river right by the footpath.

Beaulieu River - Buckler's Hard: (SU 408 002) g The river is, unusually for tidal water, private. Fees for paddling and launching can be paid at the office here. Large car park and easy access to the water.

Portsmouth Square Tower: (SZ 630 992) g It would be possible to park in the Grand Parade car park and carry boats down steps to put in on the small beach behind the Square Tower. However, this is an awkward carry in a busy area, and putting in here may cause challenges in complying with the harbour regulations, as you should really be on the west side of the channel here and aren't permitted to cross it. Southsea common to the south seems a far better alternative.

Southsea Common: (SZ 636 987) g The best point to get in here is likely just south of the hoverport, parking either on the seafront or at the southern corner of The Esplanade car park. Paddlers heading north into the Harbour will need to cross out to the 4 Bar buoy. Beware the hovercraft, which moves rather quickly.

Portsmouth Eastney: (SZ 657 982) g It is possible to park and launch all along the Eastney Esplanade. Additional parking at the Canoe Lake car park. All of this is now rather expensive pay and display (£12 a day in 2021 - may be cheaper further east?)

Gosport IRB: (SZ 600 980) g Large car park and easy access to the water by the lifeboat station.

Gosport Alverbank: (SZ 589 988) g A number of car parks by the beach.

West Itchenor: (SU 800 014) g Launching possible at all states of the tide. Pay and display car park nearby.

East Wittering: (SZ 805 963) g Small car park on the beach.

Hardway, Portsmouth Harbour: (SU 611 019) g Slipway at the end of a short stay car park. Long stay parking available in a large car park 200m to the south off St. Helier Road. Slipway needs 2.5 metres tidal height to be usable.

Suggested trips

The Needles: The dramatic chalk pinnacles of The Needles provide an iconic destination for a trip on a fine day. Any paddling in this area will require careful tidal planning and good conditions. From the mainland, Keyhaven is a logical starting point. On the Isle of Wight, it is possible to launch from either Yarmouth or Freshwater. By arranging to be at the bridge over the Yar in Freshwater around high water, it is possible to make this a circular route with a short walk, mostly on footpaths (or perhaps a trolley push). Coming from the north, the tide becomes strongly evident at Sconce Point, if not earlier. The tide runs rapidly in the narrows near Hurst Castle, especially near the Castle itself. In this area, the stream splits, with part of it running strongly to the west into The Trap tide race - to avoid this if coming from Keyhaven, ferry out well into the flow ideally from a location north of Hurst Point. Unusually for sea kayaks, passage to The Needles lighthouse can be made using the lighthouse's sector lights. If paddling north to Keyhaven from The Needles, a direct line will take you through the turbulence at The Trap race - a nervous group may wish to aim a little east. Scratchells Bay to the east of the needles is a steep pebble beach - good for lunch on a flat day, but likely awkward in any swell. Inshore between The Needles and Freshwater sees little flow.

Around Portsmouth: Surprisingly, it is possible to paddle completely around the City of Portsmouth, as Langstone and Portsmouth harbours are linked by a channel known as Ports Creek. The trip is usually and varied, with the open sea south of Portsmouth, the quiet of Langstone Harbour, the urban river of Ports Creek and the bustle and history of Portsmouth Harbour. Tidal planning needed to ensure that Ports Creek is navigable and to anticipate the fast flow at the harbour entrances. A chart is near essential. The trickiest part is entering or leaving Portsmouth harbour. Regulations stipulate that small boats take an open water route here, following the buoys to the west of the channel - check you understand the QHM regulations. Flow at the entrance can be strong and turbulent at the edges of the channel. Just south of the entrance can be busy with yachts cutting in from a channel that leads south west.

Solent Forts: The Palmerston Forts that encircle Portsmouth were built in response to the 1859 Royal Commission dealing with the perceived threat of a French invasion. 3 of these: Spitbank, Horse Sand and No Man's Land Forts are built in the middle of the Solent, with St. Helen's Fort to the south on a drying outcrop of rock. Landing on these Forts is impossible, illegal and ill-advised, so visiting them effectively involves a substantial open crossing across strong tidal streams. On a fine day, this is a great paddle to practise chart reading and transits. A chart is useful, if only to better keep clear of the large vessels that use the main channel. Launching points, and indeed the rest of the plan, will depend on the tide, but options include Bembridge on the Isle of Wight, Gosport, Portsmouth and Hayling Island.

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