A sea kayaker's pilot to the coastline of the UK
The Tidelines Pilot is a sea kayaker's pilot to the coastline of the UK. At present, it includes the UK mainland and the Hebrides. It is hoped to extend it soon to cover the Northern Isles, the Isle of Man, Northern Ireland and Eire. The pilot draws on the same information as the Tidelines map, but some work is required to make the annotations suitable - for example, adding a geographic name to each annotation. This has been a substantial task, but has provided an opportunity to check, update and improve the information in the Tidelines database.
As a 'pilot', the Tidelines Pilot is intended to focus mainly on providing navigational information, although it does provide some briefly outlined trip suggestions in some areas. It is not a 'guidebook' and does not intend to provide the wealth of background information, wide range of trips and practical advice that make the Pesda Press sea kayak guidebooks such a worthwhile investment. Intended for sea kayakers, the Tidelines Pilot differs from an Admiralty or yachting pilot by omiting less relevant details (depth, buoyaye, routing...) and focussing on tidal information and launch points.
The Tidelines Pilot was originally created as a teaching resource - to provide pilot-type information for use in tidal planning exercises. It is hoped that it might also be of use to those using phones or lower bandwidth connections, and this part of the site has been designed with that in mind.
If you do find Tidelines useful, please consider making a small donation using the 'Buy me a beer' link at the top right of the page. I've never intended to make money from the site, but I do incur costs in running it. Many thanks for the generosity and kind words to those who have donated in the past!
To make the information usable, it is neccesary to divide it into geographical areas. Such divisions will always be somewhat arbitrary. The areas have been defined with the intention of being somewhat logical for sea kayakers, with dividing lines placed, where possible, in less interesting areas (e.g. long beaches). To make the Pilot more usable, information is occasionally included in more than one area. Finding sensible names for each area has not always been easy. Where names of counties or regions are used, it is often the case that the area boundaries are not coincident with those of the region.
Ordering of the information is a tedious task and one that is currently incomplete. In general, the intent is to order information in a clockwise direction around the UK. There are some areas where the shape of coastlines and islands mean that some subjectivity is required in ordering.
Each page in the pilot provides information under a number of section headings. Notes on each section are provided below.
A brief overview of the area, noting some of the attractions for the visiting sea kayaker. The introduction may also provide information on the boundaries of the area when these are not clear from the title.
A brief overview is sometimes given, especially when there are anomalies in the tide (e.g. a 'double high water'). A list of differences on standard ports for locations within the area follows. Where there are significant (and known) differences throughout the tidal cycles, the abbreviations Np for neaps and Sp for springs are sometimes used.
Tide times for standard ports can be found elsewhere on this website - although take note of the caveats around the longer-range predictions!
Information on tidal streams has always been the main focus of the Tidelines database, and this section is often the longest. An introduction is sometimes given with general information on the tidal streams in the area, and perhaps notes on other sources (e.g. tidal atlases) that are especially helpful. Being taken from a database, tidal streams are given in a standard format, although extra notes are often added.
Interpreting and using tidal stream data requires specific knowledge and skills. Franco Ferrero's Sea Kayak Navigation provides a great introduction for those not familar with these.
Tidal atlases can provide invaluable information on tidal streams in some areas. The Tidelines map cannot substitute for the richness of information available on a good atlas, nor can descriptions in the Tidelines Pilot. Admiralty tidal atlases for the UK can be found at VisitMyHarbour, along with tide tables for the year. This site also provides, for a small one-off payment, access to charts for the whole UK, some of which include really useful tidal stream diagrams as insets. Some tidal stream atlases are, sadly, only available in publications that you'll need to buy!
Sea kayakers often talk of tidal stream 'anomalies', where the stream does not follow a standard pattern, or where eddies etc. interfere with the expected flow. It has been notable in compiling the information for Tidelines that such 'anomalies' almost always seem to be present in areas that have been heavily studied by hydrographers (e.g. near Portsmouth) or which are well-used by kayakers or Yachtsmen. One can only conclude that 'anomalous' tidal flow is actually typical rather than exceptional! Whilst the Tidelines database contains many examples, kayakers paddling in less well-known areas will need to use their experience to guess where such things may happen and their eyes to observe where reality doesn't fit with what they have read.
Tidal stream information is often scarce and sometimes contradictory. Where this is the case, the author has provided his best guess of what might be going on from the sources availiable. Notes are sometimes provided when the ammount of guessing needed was particularly extreme, or where the disparity between different sources is severe.
A section that covers other useful information, both generally for the area or at specific locations. The notes may cover specific hazards such as ferries or firing ranges, but should not be relied on to be comprehensive!
Provides details of where to get on and off the sea. Note that inclusion in this list does not imply a right of access, although given they are points where the road comes close to the sea, problems should hopefully be rare.
Much of the information has been inferred from Google Streetview images, and so may not be current. In general, be suspicious of locations with no comments or vague comments. In particular, parking facilities and tolerance to sea kayakers using them can change with time - be flexible in your plans!
Information on parking of cars is given when this is known or can be inferred. Note that parking is often not ideal, so please park considerately, and consider going elsewhere if your preferred access point already has parking spaces filled. A wide range of options has been provided wherever possible to facilitate this.
Some access points are only usable at certain states of the tide. Where information on this is known, it is provided, but kayakers should check charts of the area to infer where this may be an issue.
Each location has a 6 figure OS grid reference, with a link to the Tidelines map. A link to the location on Google maps (g) is also provided. This can be useful for navigating to the location using GPS and sharing the location with others to increase the probability that everyone drives to roughly the same place.
A list of possible trips is sometimes, but not always, given. Trips are ones that the author has paddled and enjoyed. Sadly, I haven't yet had the chance to paddle extensively in all of the areas described. If you'd like to take me paddling and show me the highlights of your local area, please do let me know!
Trips are described briefly in outline - there is no intention to provide all the information that you'd need to plan the trip. No attempt has been made to 'grade' the trips or otherwise indicate how serious they are. Refer to the Pesda Press sea kayak guidebooks for (much) more information on specific trips, including a simple grading system.
The information provided should be treated with suspicion, as you would any information that you stumble across from an unknown source on the internet. It has been compiled mostly for the use of the author, although it is hoped that others will find it helpful too. None of the information has been carefully checked and you should verfiy it against a reliable source before use. Sea kayakers should seek further information about the areas they intend to paddle in e.g. from Pesda Press sea kayak guidebooks, VistMyHarbour, Admiralty pilots and Yachting pilots.
If you do notice any errors or ommisions, do let me know - RBownATCantabDOTnet. Many thanks to those that have contacted me in the past with useful information!
Sea kayaking is inherently a potentially dangerous sport and conditions on the sea can change quickly and dramatically. Anyone seeking an initial understanding of the hazards involved is referred to Gordon Browns books on sea kayaking and on sea kayak safety. There is no substitute for combining authoritative information (e.g. from Admiratly pilots and charts) with the ability to read and understand the conditions as they develop and the ability to make good decisions based on this understanding. This requires training, experience and good judgement. Anyone looking to acquire this is advised to join a good sea kayaking club and spend time with experienced sea kayak coaches. Decisions on whether and where to go sea kayaking, and any consequences arising from that, remain yours and yours alone.