Stopping Places: The Needles to Plymouth

Be sure to check out a nautical almanac and / or the appropriate pilots for more detailed information and alternates, this is just an overview of likely candidates, but I have been to all of them. 

To see all visits to each anchorage check out the "Labels" the panel to the right or follow the individual links.

Updated 2022/23 to include Harbours and Marinas also some info on fuel & gas availability, I would not have checked at many locations. Also some info on phone services. The Solent is now on a separate page.

Further updated during a boring winter 2023/4 to include some information on access to and from marinas. See my page Marina notes (opens in a new window) for some general tips and the context (handling of my boat) in which I comment.

Red = anchorageBlue = Marina or pontoon


Usually a better option than nearby Swanage where the holding is iffy and avoids a long diversion to Poole. It is very popular as a passage anchorage, for day sailors from Poole and weekenders from the Solent but there is plenty of room. The downside is speed boats and jet skies until dusk. 

There is a newly established (2021/2) currently voluntary no anchor zone to protect seagrass beds and the Sea Horses that live there, this may become mandatory if the voluntary status does not work, some buoys to mark it would be a good idea. A few "eco moorings" are available free of charge, these are designed not to cause damage to the sea bed around the anchor point. Update 1: the number of buoys increased to 30 or more in early 2023 with significantly more hoped for after the initial investment from "Boatfolk" marinas was given a big boost by crowd funding. The rules are:
  • No vessels over 10 tonnes.
  • No rafting.
  • No mooring when the swell is greater than 1 metre.
  • Maximum stay 4 days.
Update 2, Feb 2024:  News report say that there will now be 87 eco buoys but they will no longer be free, £10 to be paid on line (by an App?!). The admiralty chart (2172-1 Swanage and Studland Bays @ 1:12,500) now shows the area, if you are north of  50° 39' N or in a small area south of there you are OK to anchor but not in the best shelter and go too far north it gets shallow.

Vodafone and O2 signals OK.

Watch out for strong tides off Handfast Point on the Ebb and over-falls off  Peveril Point and Durlston Head.


A pleasant spot but holding is poor (thin sand and mud over rock) and locals put nets, dead lines etc within the marked anchorage. Fair weather only, I was blown out of here in 2017 by thunderstorms aided by a back eddy which "unscrewed" the anchor from the poor holding. A better option is one of the visitor buoys (not tried), Studland or in an easterly wind possibly Chapman's Pool NW of St Alban's Head.

Swanage, September 2017.

Portland Harbour & Marina

Looking north from the anchorage.
Leaving the anchorage looking towards Portland.
A very useful anchorage if the tides are right to use the inshore route around Portland Bill but it is quite a long diversion if you have to use the offshore route skirting the Shambles that in practical terms can only be done with a favourable tide, even then it can be be quite interesting in strong tides and especially if a fog comes in which has happened to me more than once

Enter by the North Ship Channel for the anchorage or marina, you need permission to use the East Channel. The old S Channel is closed with a block ship. An area east of the marina can only be entered with permission.

Anchor off Wyke Regis or Small Mouth avoiding the moorings, note that anchoring is prohibited off Castle Cove, NW of the North Ship Channel entrance and in other areas. Good Holding in 3 - 5 m of water (at LAT) with only c 1m - 2m range, but watch out for a few solitary mooring buoys that are spreading out from the traditional mooring areas and boats without riding lights that may be on them.
With such a narrow window to get around the inshore route there
is often a queue of boats from Portland and Weymouth.
The inshore route is 300 yards wide on a good day and
there are pot buoys - check the pilot book, Reeds etc.!
There is a good fuel berth for diesel just inside the marina, given them a call on VHF before arrival, if there is no one there it is a long way from the office and they may not have a bike.

The official visitors berths are on 3 long pontoons just inside the entrance with part of the outer one being reserved for the fuel berth. There is room between to do a three (or multi) point turn.

Gas is from the chandlery a long walk from the fuel berth and may only be practical when staying in the marina. O2 and Vodafone signals are fine.

The marina has all the facilities of good quality but is expensive (£49 per night for Sancerre in 2024!!!) The café is quite good (2022) but not as good as it was before catering was bought "In house". Update April 2024 “The boat that rocked” has closed to be replaced by “Salt” that looks to be independent and more up market. “The Kitchen” a few yards away might be a better bet for more day to day food, a limited menu, good toasted sandwiches, have not tried the evening menu. The on site chandler has closed to be replaced by the in-house boat maintenance operation but there is another on the road out.

There is a Lidle supermarket within walking distance.

Visited many times, check "labels" on the right panel.

Lyme Regis & Beer Head

Both are only tenable in calm weather or after an extended period of offshore winds. Beer does get some shelter from south westerlies and is the better anchorage. Lyme has visitors moorings, taking up much of the traditional anchorage, but they will be bumpy in any sea, unfortunately the Cobb gives little or no protection to the anchorage as the water is too shallow close in. 

The busy beach at Lyme at 08:30 on a hot July morning.
Lyme Regis Harbour, it dries completely, the pontoons have been
full with local boats very time I have arrived recently and some have
little water. Back in the 60's and 70s when I sailed from there, the sailing
club had  the top floor of the building on the Cob, now they have
a newer building where the dinghy storage shed was.
Beer beach from the anchorage.
Neither are suitable places of refuge in a storm, although if you can dry out Lyme might be an option as a last resort:

Beer visited in 201920212022 , Lyme Regis in 20192021 twice

The River Exe

Part way up the narrow channel, the Exmouth harbour pier
left, the channel up the river left of that.
I went in once but it was not possible to get onto the visitor buoys single handed because of the strong tide even an hour or so from slack water; it would be straightforward with a crew and a decent engine. There are strong tides across the entrance to the harbour / marina and there are limited depths in anchorages further up the river. Unless well engined making progress against the full tide anywhere from Town Beach to Cockwood or even Starcross (both of which I fished from in the 60s) would be problematic or impossible, I saw 4 knots off Warren Point, and that was not at peak flow.

The entrance to the channel is shallow (c1m at LAT) and can be dangerous, also the banks inside and outside of the channel can change quickly during rough weather.

Tor Bay

In a westerly wind there are plenty of anchorages from Teignmouth to Tor Bay, Antseys Cove is my favourite.

The old quarry on the north shore of Antseys Cove.
Within Tor Bay the best bet is often Brixham.

Brixham Harbour

There is an expensive marina that I have not visited but doubt's have been expressed as to the efficacy of the wave screen in an easterly. If there is room the berths run by the Harbour Master are cheaper but can be exposed to wind rushing down the valley and you might be rafted onto one of the old gaffers based there. Pay at the Harbour office above the fish market - quite a walk. Some grocery shopping, a lot of places to eat in the busy tourist trap. Fuel from a berth at the entrance to the marina.

Contrary to my old 8th edition of the Shell Channel Pilot there are no visitors moorings, although I was allowed to stay on a buoy I had picked up before the office opened. There are some berthing on a pontoon by the YC but I have not tried to use it. Vodafone and O2 signals OK.

Sancerre rafted up on one of the Harbour masters pontoons,
May 2018. Pic by Roeland Vroon, Achilles owner.

Brixham - Fishcombe Cove / Churston Cove

Two coves in one, just NW of the harbour. There are now three mooring buoys inside to protect sea grass.  They take up all the room when occupied, the two innermost are close to shallow water, check carefully before using, in April 2024 I used the outermost which has plenty of water and rated at 9 Tonnes. There was a crab pot in the middle of the entrance with a pick up on a long line 🤬. There is plenty of room in c 10m of water just off the entrance with excellent holding and good shelter from offshore winds. Visited 2023twice and in 2024. Jet skies were a real pain in 2024.

Vodafone and O2 signals OK.
Looking into Fishcombe Cove from the outside anchorage.
But not a place to be in a strong onshore wind.


I have not stayed in the Dart for many years although I went in for Fuel in 2019, It is very popular its probably best to book a berth. Fuel is from a barge and like many of the berths the tide can run very strong that can be a problem singlehanded.

Start Bay

Again plenty of places to anchor in moderate westerlies, almost all the way from Pilchard Cove (which may be the easiest to get to from the east as it is north of the Skerries bank) to Hallsands but the later is much preferred if the wind is stronger or there is any sea running, I have laid there with reasonable comfort in a force 6 westerly. Look out for pots and an eddy that can be a little confusing when deciding which way to lay out the anchor, check one of the pot buoys. I have seen yachts anchor much closer to Start Point (Freshwater Bay?) but have not tried it. Vodafone and O2 signals OK.

Visited 2018, 2019 twice, 2021 twice


Very popular and busy, good shelter once in but the entrance can be very dangerous in on shore winds, a lifeboat and many others have been lost on the Bar. There is a significant wreck in the NW corner of the anchorage in Starhole Bay between Bolt Head and Salcombe Bar (not tried).

On the transit to pass the bar, pic from about a
mile out
You will be charged for anchoring once inside, with strong currents for piece of mind, especially if going ashore, it is often better to shell out a bit more for a mooring. Getting on a buoy single handed can sometimes be a bit of a challenge in the tide. Often noisy during the day close to town and with many boats moving about wash can be a problem. I have not been ashore here for years but have been in a couple of times for a night or two. Further pics from my 2021 visit including of the approach transit can be found here. 

Although not difficult care is needed going out in the dark with no moon as there are boats and buoys close to the channel, not so much of a problem coming in as you can see the leading lights without looking over your shoulder and light from the town etc. should silhouette obstructions. 

In 2023 I tried to get a mooring but boats were rafted up 3 to a buoy, even big catamarans, so I went to Plymouth - I don't like rafting at the best of times and certainly not with strong winds and tide. Vodafone and O2 signals OK.

Visited 2021, 2022 and 2023.

Hope Cove 

The first serious anchorage west of Portland sheltered from easterly winds but is likely to be uncomfortable if there is any remaining waves coming in from the south or west. Also, I suspect it would be uncomfortable if there is a particularly large swell coming from the SE so be prepared to move on the extra 13 or 14 miles to Jennycliff bay - crossing Salcombe Bar may not be an option with a SE swell. Vodafone and O2 signals OK.

Visited 2022, multiple time in 2023 and in 2024

Hope Cove.
The Yealm

I have not stayed in the Yealm as it gets very crowded and in season boats on visitors buoys and pontoons will be rafted up. The entrance can be dangerous in strong onshore winds - check the pilot! I visited for a look in 2023.

Plymouth Anchorages

Vodafone and O2 signals OK.

There are several anchorages in and around Plymouth, the most convenient are Cawsand (land on the beach for multiple pubs, places to eat and some groceries) or in easterly winds Jennycliff Bay both of which I have been to multiple times, check the post labels on the right..
Jennycliff Bay
Jennycliff Bay looking towards Drakes Island.
Cawsand Bay

Further North there is a good anchorage with better shelter than the others (except perhaps with the wind just north of east) at Sand Acre Bay at the lower end of the St Germans or Lyner River. 

Note that there is a patch of foul ground in the deeper water and several wrecks that may not uncover on a neap tide so a detailed chart or plotter with sufficient detail is needed.
Looking up river from the Sand Acre Bay anchorage. The blue
boat draws 8 ft and could not go much further in.



Rather cramped in places with some sharp turns required, but well sheltered and excellent facilities, at a price, on the site of the old RAF Mountbatten site where I sailed from occasionally in the 1970's. A long way from civilization. I have not fuelled there but it should not be a problem. I took shelter there in 2018 before I started the Blog.


Good marina with reasonable facilities and a good Café Bistro, a longish walk to Aldi and Lidle or a bit closer but up hill to a new COOP. 

Visitors berths seem to be spread around, getting in and out presents no special difficulties although I have been put across the end of an avenue which could be problematic depending on the wind and tide, the later is not that strong but does need to be taken into account, the berth master came down to take my lines without being asked which was nice.

Good fuel berth although I used cans, Gas available at the fuel berth.  Now the base for the start of Jester Challenges. Vodafone and O2 signals OK.

Leaving Mayflower Marina in September 2023.

Visited for the 2019 JBC and in 2023.

Anchorages, marinas and harbours:

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