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  • #4584

    After a few years abroad (sailing on an alpine lake) it looks like I shall be in UK for 4 days of cruising in the Dartmouth area later this month. The plan is sketchy at the moment and dependent upon the weather could include a foray to Salcombe, if not can anyone recommend good points of call in the Dartmouth Estuary? We aim to launch from Blackness Marine between Cornworthy and Dittisham.

    Cuillin Peri

    Dave Barker

    Hi Adrian,

    Good to hear you’re still Wayfarering.

    In my limited experience the Dart can be frustrating to sail on because of the steep sides, so the wind isn’t always what you would call reliable or steady, but it’s a very attractive place to be, so enjoy it. (It’s worth exploring upstream as well as down.)

    Dartmouth itself is of course very busy with holidaymakers at this time of year, so space to tie up is limited, particularly close to the centre, and you may have to make a flying visit. Mark Fishwick (W Country Cruising Companion) lists showers at the rear of public conveniences on the North Embankment, also at both Dartmouth Yacht Club and at Royal Dart Yacht Club, the latter also having a handy dinghy (tender) pontoon with fresh water tap.

    If you manage to get outside the Dart there are attractive coves for a picnic lunch stop (and bathe) in both directions, but as with much of this coast the farther flung destinations tend to be separated by some serious headlands and miles of coast with no easy shelter in the wrong wind direction.

    I hope it goes well for you.


    Thank you Dave,

    How far upriver can you get? Is Totnes possible and are there any good anchorages for overnight elsewhere in the estuary if you choose to stay away from the madding crowd?


    Dave Barker

    Totnes is possible (I haven’t been that far up). The Baltic Wharf (left bank, just before the town) has a pontoon for visitors overnight, but note that it dries (mud), and is only accessible for about 2 hrs either side of HW. £15/night, with hot showers, toilets and water available (check first, 01803 867922).

    I would be tempted also to look at Tuckenhay, depending on the tide, with the Maltsters Arms beside the Quay. Don’t expect a quiet pint though, not in August. Stoke Gabriel on the opposite side looks feasible for a spot to dry out overnight, but stoney in places. Watch for the dam across the creek (old tide mill), submerged at HW. (All these are worth looking at on Google Earth/Maps.)

    Between Dittisham and Stoke Gabriel the W Country Cruising Companion shows a number of possible anchorages in the wider reaches away from moorings. Above Stoke G the river is narrower and I think steeper sided, but as I say I haven’t sailed that bit.

    In theory the whole tidal river is subject to payment of daily dues, but a Wayfarer may slip under the radar?

    Take a look at Jonathan Jenkins’ write-up in a fairly recent Wayfarer News – can’t remember which one offhand – and don’t forget to post some useful actual information here afterwards!


    Dave, as ever very helpful, thank you. I shall try and track Johnathan’s report down.




    We launched at Totnes a few years ago – it’s an interesting place to visit, but as Dave mentioned, best to visit over high water. The upper reaches of the river, in fact pretty much as soon as you get past Dartmouth, are very quiet and feel very remote and rural. Dittisham is a nice spot with a dinghy pontoon which I think doesn’t dry out – not sure if you can overnight there but great for going ashore for a selection of pubs/tea-shops. We haven’t anchored in the river but as Dave mentioned the pilot book suggests some options which I’m sure would be good for getting away from the crowds.

    We visited the Dart again at Whitsun (charter yacht, not Wayfarer) and the first night we opted for one of the mid-river visitors pontoons and then used one of the river taxis to get ashore (there are signs on the pontoons giving you VHF call signs and mobile no’s for the water taxis) which was very convenient. The second night we picked up a visitor mooring off Dittisham – there were plenty available – for a very quiet night. As we were entering the Dart, exactly between Kingswear and Dartmouth Castles we were shot at by a canon on the Dartmouth side, which the boys thought was just fantastic – so take care, you have been warned!

    In terms of venturing out of the Dart, Salcombe is perfectly possible if the current and forecasted conditions are ok but there’s little in the way of refuge on quite a long stretch of exposed coast plus of course Start Point to go round. Heading north towards Berry Head and Torbay could be an option to consider if the conditions are a bit uncertain and its a lot closer – should be an easy half day. We recently visited St Mary’s Beach (by land) which looks a good possibility for a quiet anchorage or going ashore. Torbay has the full range of facilities – the larger harbours of Brixham and Torquay with marinas, good launching/recovery etc, the busy tourist beaches of Paignton and Torquay plus quiet anchorages such as Fishermens Cove and Elberry Cove. If you are looking for something a bit more like a wilderness experience then there are a few remote coves/bays along the coast between Dartmouth and Brixham – Pudcombe Cove, Scabbacombe Sands, Man Sands. I’ve been wanting to investigate some of these but haven’t done so yet.

    Hope that might be of some help, let us know how you get on!



    Adrian – forgot to add, I guess you may have already found the Dart Harbour website? If not, then its well worth checking out, particularly the harbour river guide –



    I never followed this up but I had an excellent cruise in the Dartmouth area last year. We launched from Blackness marine just up river from Dittisham, which was an excellent launch place with space to prepare the boat and park, although someway up the estuary and thus tide dependent. The first day we sailed down to Dartmouth, grateful for the strong ebb that countered the light and very variable airs, after poking our nose out the estuary entrance we moored overnight in the Darthaven Marina, who were very helpful and allowed us to stay on the small boat jetty overnight – good for the showers. The 2nd day we sailed down the coast and around Start Point to Salcombe, a somewhat challenging day as the wind did not behave as forecast. After some strong winds (5-6 not the 3-4 of forecast) and large overfalls the crew was relieved to make the Salcombe Quay for a comfort stop! We overnighted on the pontoon in the Bag (alongside the refuse barge I think – the harbour was full but the harbour master was very helpful) before the return leg to Dartmouth in much more benevolent conditions. After another night at the Darthaven (same pontoon) and a little maintenance we then returned to Blackness on day 4 and after waiting for the tide pulled out and cleaned up. A very satisfying trip. In summary: Dartmouth is a great estuary but with challenging winds (the twists and side valleys mean there is no one wind direction). The fun is definitely outside the estuary entrance, but there are strong tides about.

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