Despite the industrial nature of the area, cruising in Southampton Water is sheltered, fascinating and well worth a visit.
Southampton Water Cruising Guide
What do we think of when we look at Southampton on a chart? A busy container port, Europe’s leading turnaround cruise port, an oil refinery, certainly a very busy port with very large ships and best avoided. The extra care and attention needed to sail around the area is well worthwhile, there are some hidden gems and attractions that are easily missed.
Discover Southampton Water
As a very active commercial port you must keep clear of the main channel, using the small craft channel to the East of the main lane and remember that even under sail you do not have any rights over shipping in the main channel. It would be wise to monitor Channel 12 on your VHF which is Southampton Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) so that you know vessel movements and are forewarned.
As you approach Dock Head re-enter the main channel close by the starboard hand buoy “Weston Shelf” and be sure to bring your speed down to the six knot limit within the harbour area. Entering Southampton Water, as you pass between the BP Terminal and the Fawley oil refinery, on your starboard side you will shortly see the Great Dome of Netley. This is in the Royal Victoria Country Park and is the chapel which was attached to the hospital built in 1856, which treated the wounded from the Boer War and the two World Wars before being destroyed by fire in 1963. A short distance further on the remains of Netley Abbey will be seen. This is the most complete surviving abbey built by Cistercian monks, founded in 1239.
On the port side amongst a number of small craft moorings the long pier of Hythe will appear. This is where the ferry to Southampton Town Quay runs. Shortly after you will see the entrance to Hythe Marina Village, a locked marina with visitor berths and a waiting pontoon just seaward of the lock. It is necessary to call ahead (VHF CH80), a good stopover and convenient for access via ferry to Southampton Boat Show, which is held at Mayflower Park.
A choice now to turn right up the River Itchen or continue up past the cruise terminal. Continuing past the Ocean terminal, where the ‘Titanic’ left for its maiden and final voyage, you will see in front of you the long commercial docks leading up to the vast container terminal.
Just past the Ocean docks comes Town Quay Marina, this is the closest marina for the Boat Show at Mayflower Park. The entrance is busy with ferry movements to both Hythe and Cowes, small craft need permission from VTS (VHF CH12) to enter or depart Town Quay. The southwestern side of Town Quay has some derelict piers and buildings which are the remains of the landing stages for the Princess flying boats in the 1920s.
About the author
Through his company Doug Griffith Yacht Services (www.dgys.co.uk or phone 07885 636306) Doug, as a Yachtmaster Instructor motor and sail, can offer RYA training to Yachtmaster standard or uncertified refresher courses. DGYS also undertake deliveries, sea trials, expert advice and general consultation on all marine matters. DGYS has been in operation for about twenty years based in and around Chichester.