A Personal Guide to The Ports of the Channel

Nicholas Hill

Southampton Water

finding it

Really goes without saying: Southampton Water is a stretch of water 5 or so miles long from Calshot to the Docks.

getting in

Having said this, getting in to it from the Solent is not quite that straightforward. Due south of Calshot is the Bramble Bank, ready to trap the unwary - particularly those crossing from Cowes. Approaching from the west, there is the protusion of Calshot Spit and its associated shallows, and if you stick to the deep water channel, you are likely to be run over by ferries, tankers, container vessels, and car transporters.

If you follow the reds around Calshot Spit, you face another problem: if you keep to that side, you find a rather large oil terminal ahead of you. If you cross over to the other side, you have to make sure you pick a relatively quiet moment. The traffic at the corner should not be under estimated.

Only from the east, along the North Channel, is the approach relatively clear, but even so, be prepared to run the gauntlet of all the yachts, motor boats and dinghies coming in and out the Hamble.

It is very much an approach where you need to be watching the water rather than the chart: it is well marked, and too busy to be keeping your head down in the GPS or chart table.


Southampton Water itself is long, wide and relatively deep. The main hazards within are mainly:

- Hamble Spit and all the traffic in and out of the Hamble;
- the oil refinery and associated jetties at Fawley, plus the terminal directly opposite;
- the Cowes ferries, both the High Speed RedJets and and the slower car ferries;
- extremely large container vessels, car transporters, cruise liners and other assorted traffic. Be very wary of these as you come round Calshot.

At the top it begins to shoal again. If you are going up the Itchen, and the tide is low, then go close to Weston Ledge buoy and keep inside all the greens from there. You can go aground quite easily if you stray only a little way outside the channel.

It is not always a comfortable journey from one end to the other: the RedJets make a lot of wash, and there are usually powerboats of assorted sizes who also kick up a lot of wash.


Off to starboard as you come up Southampton Water is the Hamble, which nowadays is not much more than a gigantic boat park. Lots of parking - but very expensive. More for the people who rush round cans at the weekend than for the cruising sailor. Chaos when busy.

At the far end are the Southampton marinas.
Hythe Village is on the west bank, although again it is not really a place for visitors.
There is a marina at the Town Quay near the ferries.
Down the Itchen is Ocean Village, which at the present (2005) is being redeveloped with more flats etc.
Further under the Itchen Bridge is Shamrock Quay, which is a more 'boaty' place.
Finally there is Kemps, which does not really cater for visitors.


Southampton is very much mixed in terms of environment: a lot of it is quite rundown, although there is a lot of regeneration going on in the city centre. However, it is not a place to appeal to the casual visitor.

On the other hand, it is very much a 'marine' environment, with riggers and sailmakers in abundance. A good place for repairs and refurbishment.

charts and waypoints

Chart 2036: The Solent and Southampton Water

A very useful link for anyone who sails Southampton Water regularly is a yacht's guide from Southampton VTS.

Google Earth

Southampton Water

Clashot Spit and Calshot Castle:

Calshot Castle Calshot Castle

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Approaching from the North Channel

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Off HillHead .. Calshot and power station .. the tanker terminal .. ferry - refinery behind

the hamble

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.... Hamble S Cardinal mark .. .. in the approach channel .. .. and at the mouth of the river ....


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by Weston Shelf .. .. and looking down the Itchen

Ocean Village Marina:

Ocean Village Marina

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All photographs copyright CNH/COH. Please ask if you wish to use them and please acknowledge the source.