Perfect for Dinghy Sailors – Continued

So, following on from my previous post (see here), you’ve launched your boat, now where to go?

There are 2 basic choices: Upriver through the harbour towards Totnes, or out of the mouth of the river and along the coast. In either case, it is essential to take account of the tide!

Tides and winds

Buy a tide table or look online at EasyTide. Heading out of the mouth of the river, the tidal flow can be pretty strong, especially when it’s falling and the tide and the river are working together. On the other hand, if you are heading out at that point then you can get carried out faster than you intended! Remember that tidal flow is strongest halfway between high and low tide. The same considerations apply heading upriver, where you can easily find yourself drifting into moored yachts. It is possible to take a small boat all the way to Totnes at almost any state of tide, except at the height of summer when the river is really low, but there are large mud banks to beware of and the deepest point is not always in the middle of the river. For weather information, I suggest you consult WindGuru, which gives far more information for the sailor than most websites.


The best trip, if you can time things right, is to head up river on a rising tide, then come back down to Dartmouth as, it falls again. The river is very picturesque, with narrow areas overhung with ancient Oaks and wide spaces where you can practice your points of sail, the shore is strung with pretty boatbouses, larger modern residences and a few mansions too. About 2 miles inland lies Dittisham, where you can moor up and enjoy a great fresh crab at the Anchorstone Cafe or a beer at the next door Ferryboat Inn. Dittisham makes a good place to meet non-waterborne friends. A mile or so further upstream is Stoke Gabriel (pretty, but with little to offer ashore besides the cafe), and just after that Bow Creek forks off to the left. If you can make it up the creek, you can enjoy a meal at Maltsters. I have sailed from the Pottery to the Maltsters in a little under 2 hours, had a gourmet burger and a beer, and still had time to get back to the main river to sail back. The last point of interest on the river is probably Sharpham House – a vineyard, cheese factory and a lovely cafe. They have a jetty for small boats. Past Sharpham, the river is a little less interesting; although Totnes is well worth a visit, you might be better taking the river taxi! One last point about sailing in the river: be prepared for the breeze to shift significantly as it funnels down valleys and over hills or disappear completely just when you thought you were doing well – the gap at the Greenway can be especially “entertaining”!

Out to sea

Turning right out of Warfleet creek towards the Castle, you can be out or the river in less than half a mile. Outside the river you will tend to find steadier winds – the prevailing winds tend to be offshore from SW, so the area just outside the river is often sheltered. There can, however, be quite a bit of traffic from fishermen’s trawlers to petrol-head mega-cruisers and even the odd minesweeper. Heading NE you can sail towards Brixham (around 6 miles). The coast is mostly cliffs, but there are various coves and beaches along the way, the largest of which is Mansands, a relatively safe place to beach your boat on a sandy beach (see below) – most coves tend to be rocky. Heading SW, you can sail towards the great the great sweeping shingle beach of Start Bay. The obvious place to stop is Blackpool Sands, about 4 miles from Dartmouth – the shingle is steep (making beaching a little tricky) but it is usually very sheltered and easy to anchor for refreshments at the excellent Venus Cafe. This is also a good place to meet up or swap places with your onshore friends. For a more secluded stop, there are also a number of coves and small beaches before you reach Slapton Sands.

Mooring in Dartmouth

There are several places to moor up in Dartmouth itself, but do take note of restrictions on length of boat and maximum stay. The places allotted to visitors do also change from year to year (see here for walk-ashore  locations). Indeed, the Dart Harbour website is a great source of information on the River Dart in general.


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