That the waters of the greater Wash are far from overpopulated by cruising boats is undeniable. The Solent it is not. The reasons are not hard to identify but two in particular stand out. It’s off the beaten track and its harbours, being tidally constrained, in turn dictate local cruising habits.
What is also undeniable is the charm of an area known to some as the last marine wilderness. An area with just about every designation where scientific, ecological and conservation interests are deemed important, the greater Wash is internationally renowned.
Teeming with wildlife on sea and adjacent land and with beaches disappearing over the horizon, this coast is in all senses, far away from the bustle of our traditional cruising grounds.
But of late, cruising destinations with all the modern facilities now generally expected have been developed here. This makes the greater Wash ports and harbours a user-friendly option for those leisure sailors with a desire for a different if not unique experience. How though to make best use of it?
Marina hopping in these parts, save for those with cruising speeds in double figures is not possible. Leave one river on a tide and it could be the next high water before a different destination can be reached. But need destinations be the just next marina along? Why not make the most of what the greater Wash offers which surely is the chance to get away from it all?
There are features here unique in the UK. The Wash is Britain’s largest embayment with the second largest expanse of inter-tidal sands and mud flats. North Norfolk has this country’s only example of a classic barrier beach system with vast areas of saltmarsh behind sand and shingle bars.
And while this is subject to many protection schemes, sharing in it from the perspective only possible from a small boat will not disappoint.
Sounds like a plan
Two clear possibilities present themselves and each can easily make for an extended local itinerary, offering something for everyone on board.
Opting for one haven, then leaving the boat while skipper and crew explore inland opens up much to the tourist from seaward. From cathedral cities to coastal villages. From Hanseatic heritage to traditional seaside attractions, this region is a gem on many fronts. But if being at sea is the preference, the scope for day sails does exist.
Destinations around the Wash abound, many offering good shelter especially over a low water period. And they have been serving the small craft mariner for centuries. They are the anchorages in the gats, channels, roads, sleds and bays tucked behind sands, providing natural harbours for the want of some light exercise with anchor and chain.
And with a little planning, taking into account tide times and weather direction, leaving one river with an anchorage in mind, waiting there, even overnight, with just the sea birds and seals for company cannot fail to delight the discerning mariner.
Many such anchorages have been recently surveyed as part of the Sail the Wash initiative and are reflected in the UKHO 1200 chart The Wash Ports edition dated 16th September 2021. The UKHO chart 108, Approaches to the Wash is due for a new paper edition late in 2022 but meantime the recent local survey data is included in the updated electronic version.
Possible anchorages for the cruising fraternity include:-
|Gat Channel||52 deg 56.00N||000 deg 12.75E|
|Outer Westmark Knock||52 deg 52.70N||000 deg 13.15E|
|Lower Road, Boston||52 deg 57.95N||000 deg 08.83E|
|Boston Deep||53 deg 00.45N||000 deg 15.22E|
|Clay Hole||52 deg 57.13N||000 deg 07.43E|
|Outer Dogs Head||53 deg 03.80N||000 deg 22.28E|
|The Bays||52 deg 59.65N||000 deg 32.04E|
|Holkham Bay||52 deg 59.55N||000 deg 48.04E|
|Old Hunstanton||52 deg 57.60N||000 deg 28.33E|
|Daseley’s Sled||In the vicinity of No.7 SHM||Clear of the King’s Lynn buoyed channel.|
|Cork Hole||52 deg 53.23N||000 deg 23.90E|
|South Sunk Sand||52 deg 57.41N||000 deg 25.99E|
All positions are approximate. Mariners should satisfy themselves as to the suitability of any anchorage based on their own evaluation having conducted appropriate topical assessments.
Several tide gauges serve the greater Wash area and the use of the most suitable data predicting rise and fall should inform decisions over where to anchor, especially if remaining over a low water period.
While marine traffic around the Wash is not dense, displaying day shapes and anchor lights as appropriate is highly recommended.