There are various good anchorages to be had for even deep draft craft, and untold places where shoal draft craft could take the ground. The whole area is very much in favour with traditionalists...sailing barges, smacks and all manner of gaff rigged craft will be seen. Combine this with the several yacht clubs in the area, plus the three marinas and numerous craft on swinging moorings, the result is an interesting stopover for the visitor with plenty to see.
Once past Osea Island the depths in the River dry up significantly and only boats that can dry out can stop at Maldon (if they can find somewhere to lay).
For cruising boats it should be possible to provision the boat, although it may involve a bit of a hike, while for any kind of anchoring afloat a decent dinghy with outboard will be needed for forays ashore.
Most boat needs can be met in the area including lifting and repairs, whilst those with wooden vessels will find a wealth of experience around here.
This video from Dylan Winter will give you a feel for Bradwell
If you find our free coverage of Blackwater River inc Tollesbury, Bradwell & Maldon useful, why not consider joining up ? Membership costs £25 for life, and you can download all our harbour coverage and official "Big Ship" sailing directions in PDF form to keep offline. Members also have access to 1667 charts and UK tidal flow atlases in full screen zoomable format, plus iPad format charts, and the ability to lay these charts over Google Earth satellite imagery with variable transparency. Membership is a great tool for those who move around at sea. Find out more, CLICK HERE
The visiting yachtsman or motorboater will find the problems in approaching the River Blackwater are pretty much the same as those involved approaching the River Crouch. At high tide the whole approach area is covered, and looks like one big grey expanse of water. Things are not as they seem and there are various channels and swatchways that need to be identified and be followed carefully.
This part of the world is extremely flat and featureless so you won't get much help from the lay of the land. The truly conspicuous Bradwell nuclear power station will probably be the only land feature you will see from a distance. All the channels are well marked by buoyage, but it is very easy to mistake one seamark for another with possibly serious consequences... the sands in this area (and the Thames estuary) are rock hard and unforgiving should you end up pinned on them by the wind. To make matters worse if you are approaching the Blackwater in the afternoon the sun will be in your eyes....Full pilotage details are now provided:
The best general advice for handling this kind of area is to have your passage plan well worked out in advance, with courses planned (taking into account tidal cross sets if required) and a clear list of the buoyage you are expected to pass in the order you will encounter it. When you are following your plan you will probably see plenty of other buoyage..... the best advice is to assume nothing, follow your preplanned course and tick-off the buoyage on your list as you pass and positively identify it. The other alternative is a set of carefully chosen and checked waypoints.
Approach from the north-east through the Wallet is straightforward enough, keep a safe distance offshore but not too far as to put you on Gunfleet Sands, then identify and approach the northerly cardinal Knoll (Q) Buoy. Head north west leave the green conical Eagle (Q.G) close to starboard, then continue on the same course and pass between the green conical buoy Colne Bar (Fl(2)G.5s) and the red can buoy NW Knoll (Fl(2)R.5s), with the green to starboard and the red to port. The course is then eased to the west, leaving the green conical buoy Bench Head (Fl(3)G.10s) on your starboard side. You now be in the deeper waters of the Blackwater proper, and a deep channel although unmarked by buoyage makes a gentle swing first to the WNW, then W, then WSW. The deepest water lies about midway between the two shores which you should be able to see by now.
If approaching from the Southend area via the Middle Deep or East Swin channels (which run parallel to one another, divided by a shallow patch) a swing northwards can be made once abeam the S.Whitaker green conical buoy (Fl(2)G.10s) which will bring you to the Swin Spitway Buoy (Iso.10s). Steering NNW from here will bring you to the spherical red-and-white Wallet Spitway buoy (Lfl.10s), and easing the course to NW will then bring you to the northerly cardinal Knoll buoy mentioned above. There is a least depth of 1.5 m at CD between the Swin Spitway Buoy and the Wallet Spitway Buoy, but with drying banks or either side so care in this area will be necessary.
In this approach you will be sailing across the tide, so you need to know which way the tide is pushing you, in or out, and apply suitable corrections to your course.
Shallow draught boats exiting the River Crouch and heading for the River Blackwater can take a short excursion across the Ray Sand Channel given a suitable rise of the tide. It is not proposed to describe this route here, but if tempted to try it you are probably much safer once past the Buxey northerly Cardinal beacon to make for Swire Hole before heading towards the Colne Bar area.
Going back now, entering the River roughly midway between the two shores, conspicuous power station to the South and the town of West Mersea to the North, you will notice buoyage leading into Mersea Quarters and Woodrolfe Creek. The outermost mark is a skinny pole beacon, The Nass Beacon (VQ(3)5s.6m.2M). Entry to Mersea Quarters and Tollesbury Marina are dealt with later.
On the other side of the river shortly after the power station comes the entrance to Bradwell Creek and Marina, again to be dealt with later.
The deepwater of the River continues in a south westerly direction and is very steep to on the northern side, while being more gently shelving on the southern side.... worth remembering if tacking.
When approaching The Stone and Osea Island be sure to leave the green conical Thirslet (Fl(3)G.10s) buoy on your starboard side as the deep channel lies close to the southern shore. Various small boat moorings will be seen and continuing in a westerly direction you will pass between another red and green buoy before coming to Osea Island.
Good anchorage can be had to the south of this island, and it has been used from time immemorial for this purpose... waiting for a tide to Maldon.
Branching off to the South in this area is Lawling Creek which leads to the drying Blackwater Marina (which can also provide all tide mooring buoys), with further details to come.
For deep draft yacht planning to remain afloat the area of Osea Island is probably about as far as you'd want to push before snuggling down to anchor.
For those wishing to push on to Heybridge Basin and Maldon a suitable rise of tide will be required....
The various berthing and anchoring possibilities you will come across are mentioned in the order you will pass them.
First up on your starboard side are the moorings of West Mersea, followed by Tollesbury Marina. On you port side will be found Bradwell Marina. Deeper into the river will be found Blackwater Marina and Heybridge Basin. In between are several possible anchoring spots. Drying berths may be obtainable in Maldon too. For full approach details and current visitors mooring prices plus details of the anchorage possibilities, expand this section:
A very busy area for yachts, with narrow channels crammed with moorings and no marina, or much in the way of alongside facilities for that matter. No real room to anchor either, and plenty of oyster beds to avoid. Extensive mud though !
Approach to this area is made through an area of deep water called Mersea Quarters, and the outermost entry mark is the already mentioned skinny pole Nass Beacon. From there a buoyed channel leads westwards and once the final green conical buoy (all unlit) has been left on your starboard hand all you will have to guide you are the lines of moorings in the deeper water channels.
The only chance you have of mooring here is if you can find a vacant mooring buoy and then take advice from the yacht club boatman, (who operates on VHF channel 37 (M) callsign YC1). He will generally know which if any moorings are available in the various channels.
Boating activity in the small town is centred around the landing stage and it is here you will need to land in the dinghy to sample the town's delights or fill up water carriers.
There are scrubbing posts that can be hired from the yacht club, and the town provides Chandlers, engineers, boatyards and even a sailmaker. Day-to-day provisioning is no problem while transport is covered by buses to Colchester (trains from Colchester to London). Fuel and gas can be obtained in the town. WiFi is available in the moorings area.
Various pubs and eateries together with two yacht clubs, the West Mersea and Dabchicks (who's details will be found in the directory)
All in all useful little spot if you can get moored up.
Tollesbury Yacht Harbour is initially approached by the same channel as West Mersea, but a branch off made to the West in the region of a small easterly Cardinal buoy, Quarters Spit (Q(3)10s) which is left well to starboard, before swinging west and following the new red can buoys (lit). The channel splits around Cob Islands, with the Southern channel that leads to the Marina now being marked by a green buoys which are left close to starboard. Next up comes a line or moorings in the center line of the creek, pass either side until you see the new buoys at the entrance to Woodrolfe Creek and the 2 tide gauges showing the height over the sill at the marina entrance. This area also has 4 visitors buoys marked "Tollesbury Marina", you can pick these up whilst waiting for the tide.
At high water springs there is about 3 m over the sill, but high water neaps only about 1.8 m. This Creek is first marked by pairs of red and green can buoys (lit), and once these expire keep central between the saltings leaving red light ship (see photo gallery) on your starboard side. You will soon come to the entrance of the Marina and have to swing to port to enter it and across the sill.
The Marina has now improved the buoyage from the South Channel through to the Marina entrance, and many of them are lit sharing the same characteristics Fl.R.5s for the red port hand buoys, and Fl.G.5s for the green Starboard hand buoys. They are all conical, including the red port hand marks. Check the Marina's website or telephone them for the latest information.
For first-time visitors it's probably worth consulting with the Marina before attempting entry, They can be contacted on VHF channel 80 or 37 (M) callsign Tollesbury Marina, or telephone 01621 869202 or 01621 868471. A link to their website is provided below and, if you visit their "Pilotage how to find us by sea" link there are some very detailed charts of the approaches:
All normal Marina facilities are available here with water and electricity (£2.50 per 24 hours) on the pontoons, toilets showers and laundry ashore. Diesel is available at the fuel berth and there is a Chandlers on-site. Calor gas and camping gas are available with provisioning 10 minutes away in the village.
Boats can be lifted up to 20 tonnes, together with three 30 tonne slipways, and full boatyard facilities are available.
It's worth noting that this Marina has achieved the Yacht Harbour Association 4 Gold Anchor award, and boasts an indoor swimming pool as well as other upmarket facilities at the connected Tollesbury Cruising Club, where visiting yachtsman from the Marina are made welcome. Prices here work out at £20 per night for a 10 m boat.
The club has a restaurant, and in the village there are further pubs. Transport is covered by buses to Colchester and Witham (both of which are connected to London by train).
Not only the marina can provide berths... this video from Dylan Winter shows
If you find the mudberths shown in this video attractive you could visit their website at
Bradwell is on the opposite side of the River to Tollesbury and West Mersea, and is entered via a Creek on your port hand side just after a wall structure running parallel with the with River and connected to the power station. Both ends of the structure are lit by a vertically orientated fixed red lights, whilst the power station is unmistakable.
Just to the South West of the end of this wall is a northerly Cardinal beacon/tide gauge (Q), and this shows the entrance to Bradwell Creek, and the tide gauge reveals the depth of water in the Marina entrance. Access is available approximately 4 hours either side of high water depending on draft. The beacon is left to starboard, the Creek entered with the way being shown by orange can buoys to port and withies to starboard.
When the banks are covered and tide is running hard these orange can buoys can be pushed off station either towards the mudbank into the channel itself, so caution is needed. The Creek makes a fairly sharp bend to starboard and the line of moorings shows the way to the Marina. There is no room to anchor in this channel.
The entrance to the Marina branches off to port and is clearly marked by red and green posts. The tide can run very strongly up and down this channel running parallel to the main river, so bear this in mind as turning into the Marina entrance channel.
Probably the best plan is to contact the Marina in advance for entry instructions, and they can be contacted on VHF channel 80 or 37, callsign Bradwell Marina, or telephone 01621 776235. A link to their website is provided below:
All the usual facilities are available here with water and electricity (free for overnight stop) on the pontoons, new toilets & showers and laundry (ready early summer 2013) ashore. A 30 tonne travel lift can handle most boats, and petrol, diesel and Calor and camping gas are available. Overnight prices (2013) work out at £18.80 for a 10m boat. Scrubbing posts are available through the Bradwell Quay yacht Club.
The two yacht clubs in the area are listed in the directory, both welcoming visitors and the one attached to the Marina serves food. There are also a couple of pubs within walking distance, and the local post office stores at Bradwell Waterside can provide basic provisioning.
Transport is covered by a bus service from Bradwell on Sea to Southminster or Burnham, from where train connections to London can be had.
For those pushing on upriver away from the facilities near the entrance, care needs to be taken approaching Stone Point and Osea Island. When the tide is in, the River looks wide, but in fact the deepwater lies closer to the southern shores, with the northern bank and Thirslet Spit being steep to and hard sand. Every season season sees an oblivious skipper sail straight into these banks...
Favour the southern shore and identify the green conical Thislet Spit Buoy (Fl(3)G), leaving it to starboard.
Thislet Creek and Goldhanger Creeks to the north of the fairway can provide anchorages with very good shelter when the tide is out. Once the banks are covered however you will find yourself in a very wide expanse of water... There are oyster beds laid deeper into Goldhanger Creek which need to be avoided, but boats able to take the ground could push right up the creek and dry out near the Goldhanger Sailing Club. Landing is possible here and there are a couple of pubs within walking distance. (Just keep an eye on those tide tables).
St Lawrence Bay is popular with speedboats and PWC's, but a little bit further on off The Stone there are moorings, and a couple of clubs, the Marconi and the Stone sailing clubs. Both of these maintain moorings and may have something available for a visitor. Check the directory for their contact details.
The tide runs had through these moorings so they are best avoided if sailing by.
If continuing to Osea Island and beyond, the red buoy shown on the charts off the Marconi sailing Club (funnily enough named Marconi (Fl(2)R.3s) but that may have changed to No3) is a very insignificant looking structure with a disk like base. This needs to be left to port for the best water.
The Anchorage off Osea has already been mentioned, and lies to the east of the rather dilapidated pier that carries 2F.G.(vert) lights. Deep draught vessels should sound carefully, to find good water. Landings can be made on the island and this is a popular spot in the summer.
Lawling Creek and Blackwater Marina.
The entrance to Lawling Creek lies pretty much to the South of the pier on Osea Island. The entrance to the Creek is marked by the red can buoy No.2 (Fl.R.3s).
The run of this Creek is marked by buoyage and by lines of moorings in the channel. The Marina dries out to soft mud but can be reached by most craft at around a couple of hours either side of high water. They also maintain mooring buoys where you can lay afloat at all times. In the closer approaches to the Marina you must keep going rather than aiming for it directly you see it. The turn to port is only commenced when you are abreast the first pontoon. Check the charts, and the photo on the marina's website.
Contact Blackwater Marina on VHF channel 37 or telephone 01621 740264, we provide a link to their website below:
If not wishing to dry out they will probably be able to allocate you a swinging mooring in the channel where you may lay afloat. Prices here are not being increased for 2015 and work out at £15 on the pontoons and £10 on a mooring for 10 m boats.
If on the pontoons you will find water and electricity, with toilets and showers ashore. The yard can handle all kinds of liftings (including a 200 ton dry dock), repairs and even rigging.
The marina has refurbished the bar and added a restaurant/bistro.
Day-to-day provisioning can be handled from a general stores in the village, while there are a couple of sailing clubs near the Marina. A nearby pub is only open in the evenings and at weekends, while a bit of rooting around will find you an Indian takeaway and a fish and chip shop that closes quite early.
From Osea Island onwards the Blackwater pretty well dries out, and also to complicate matters the channel twists and turns in a snakelike fashion. Just as well buoyage is laid to help you on your way. A suitable rise of tide will obviously be needed to proceed on.
Unless you can take the ground there will be no moorings to be had at Maldon, and even if you can take the ground you might not find anywhere other than perhaps to dry out on the foreshore.
At Heybridge, just after Colliers Reach the canal leading to Chelmsford is now in new hands after the closure of the old Chelmer Navigation Co. It is now owned by Essex Waterways. It is still possible for deep draft craft to enter the canal and moor within, but it is necessary to arrange this all in advance to avoid disappointment.
For those who still wish to explore on the tide it is a matter of following the buoyage starting from the South of Osea Island, and clearly shown on the chart. From the area of the Doctor, marked by a green conical buoy No.3 (Fl(2)G.6s), a generally north-westerly heading is made. The red can buoy Southey Creek is left to port and you pass between the red can buoy South Double No.6 and the green conical buoy North Double No.7, still heading north-west.
The channel does a 90° turn to the south-west (and into Colliers Reach), this is marked by a red can buoy Hilly Pool Point No.8.
About halfway down Colliers Reach you will see on your starboard side the entrance to the lock. The little channel leading to it is marked by withies on the port side and an unlit green buoy "Lock Reach" in Colliers Reach.
The lock is only available one hour either side of high water springs, or one hour after high water neaps.
To make advance enquiries about locking in and obtaining a berth contact the lockeeper on 01621 853506, or mobile 07712 079764. It gets busy on summer weekends so you would be well advised to do this. Listening watch is kept on VHF channel 80, callsign Basin Lock.
Entry to the lock is controlled by traffic signals. When there is enough water the first lock is always outwards so if coming up on the flood expect to have to wait and, as there may be boats coming out who need the whole width of the channel, you should wait in the vicinity of the green buoy at the beginning of the channel. The lock is manned during the day from 6 AM to 8 PM in the summer, although it can be opened outside of these times with a minimum of a day's notice. This is the only place you can lay afloat in this area. An overnight berth here will cost £20 (2015) which is inclusive of VAT and there is no extra charge for the lock.
The basin is popular with traditional wooden boats, and has been used for wintering. Water and shore power is available (metered and charged), and there is a toilet and shower block with laundry.
There are no shops or stores in the immediate offing, but a lengthy hike down the tow path will bring you to a large Tesco's open from 6 AM to 11 PM. Launches operate ferry services up and down the canal if you're not up for a walk.
There are a couple of pubs and sailing clubs in the immediate vicinity, plus a nearby boatyard and 6 tonne crane at the basin. They have a web page:
Onwards to Maldon.
The river narrows down even more and goes round a U bend at Herrings Point followed by a 90° bend to the West. It is all marked by buoyage. At high water watch out for the end of the concrete hard which comes up after green conical buoy No.17 has been left on your starboard side. It is marked by a red beacon.
You will now be approaching the town itself, the channel is narrow and a close eye needs to be kept out for sailing barges manoeuvring around the quay. Most of the barges based around Hythe Quay operate as charter vessels.
It will be difficult to find anywhere to moor up overnight here as the visitors pontoon is often full. You could try booking a space in advance with the River Baliff who is on 07818 013723, or 01621 875837. His office is in a hut on the Quay.
It has been reported that the Maldon Little Ship Club welcomes visitors to their pontoon but you would need to be able to take the ground and contact them to check on availabilty 01621 854139
If you don't have any luck here there are several boatyards further on before you reach a bridge that will arrest progress, but Maldon is not a place to linger as everything dries out very quickly after high water. It is unfortunate that there are not more moorings for visitors in this town as it is a very attractive place especially if you like heavy traditional boats (as opposed to racing yachting).
The little town can offer all kinds of boat repair facilities, especially geared towards traditional craft. Just about all kinds of specialists are available here including electrics and Electronics, Marine engineering, riggers, shipwrights and even uphostery.
It is popular with tourists in the summer who mill around the quayside watching the comings and goings.
The town provides all kinds of shops including supermarket together with banks and pubs/restaurants. Unfortunately it does not have a rail link, but frequent buses run to Chelmsford from where you can catch a train to London.
Not exacty pilotage, but this video from Dylan Winter will give you a feel for Maldon
Coverage updated March 2015
The facilities in and around the individual mooring places have already been covered, suffice to say that the Blackwater area can cope with just about any repairs or projects. You only have to have a quick look through the directory.
As the area is so spread out, and it is unlikely you will venture too far from your boat, you will probably miss much unless you choose to spend a bit more time exploring the whole area properly.
The trailer sailer will find a couple of launching options in the Blackwater area, with perhaps the marinas Tollesbury, Bradwell and Blackwater being the best options for launching larger boats.
For smaller craft the free slipway at Maldon town offers access at a quarter of the tidal range, but the maximum size engine permitted here is a 25 hp and no PWC's. There is an 8 Knt speed limit 250 m off the shore, while officials have radar speed guns and will prosecute.
Bradwell Power Station
Bradwell power station is a twin Magnox reactor nuclear power station now undergoing decommissioning following shutdown at the end of March 2002 after 40 years of operation. It is located on the Dengie peninsula at the mouth of the River Blackwater in Essex, England.
Construction of Bradwell power station began in December 1957 and electricity generation started in 1962. It was one of eleven Magnox nuclear power stations commissioned in the United Kingdom between 1956 and 1971. In 1966, twenty natural uranium fuel rods were stolen from Bradwell.
The station had 2 reactors, each rated at 121 MWe, and generated nearly 60 TW·h of electricity during its operational life. On a typical day it could supply enough electricity to meet the needs of three towns the size of Chelmsford, Colchester and Southend put together.
Bradwell was built on the edge of a former World War II airfield, one and a half miles from the Essex coastline. Its location was deliberately chosen as the land had minimal agricultural value, offered easy access, was geologically sound and had an unlimited source of cooling water from the North Sea. In 1999, it was announced that the station would cease operation in 2002 - the first UK station to be closed on a planned basis.
This is one of the sites being considered by British Energy for redevelopment in a new round of nuclear reactors.
Tollesbury is a village in England, located on the Essex coast at the mouth of the River Blackwater. It is situated nine miles east of the historic port of Maldon and 12 miles south of Colchester (Britain's oldest recorded town).
For centuries Tollesbury, the village of the plough and sail, relied on the harvests of the land and the sea, the main trade and export of Tollesbury has for a long time been Oysters which still thrives to this day.
The village sign
On the 'Plough' side of the carved village sign the ploughman and his team of horses are depicted working the land, agriculture goes on down to the waters edge. Pictured on the right of the sign are fishing smacks on the River Blackwater. The village church can be seen on the top left side of the sign. A mallard and a hare are pictured on the supports.
The 'Sail' side of the sign shows the weather boarded Sail lofts. The centre of the sign shows the yacht 'Endeavour II' which was the 1937 British challenger for the America's Cup, on the left is depicted the fishing smack 'Sallie'. Oysters and fish, harvests from the Blackwater, are shown on the supports.
Features of the village
At one time Tollesbury was served by six public houses, the village now has two: The Hope and The Kings Head. Built in 1923 the Hope Inn stands in the High Street on the site of the previous Hope Inn.
At the centre of the village is 'The Square', which was also known as 'The Green' but correctly called Church Street. On the west side of the Square is the Kings Head Public House, which was traditionally the seafarers public house. It was here that the Tollesbury Yacht Skippers Club was formed when the village was gaining a reputation as a yachting centre during the early part of the 20th century. Alterations were made to the pub in 1902 during which parts of a copy of the Great Bible of 1540 were found in the attic.
Cottages line either side of the Square, some of which have been built using bricks which were manufactured locally. On the east side of the Square is the Village Lock-up and Saint Mary's church. Tucked away in the south east corner of The Square, by the church wall stands the village Lock-up or Cage.
This wooden building would have been where drunks were held until they sobered up. With the village having six public houses at one stage, the Lock-up probably saw quite a bit of business itself.
Maldon's name comes from Mael meaning 'meeting place' and dun meaning 'hill', so translated as "meeting place on the hill". East Saxons settled the area in the fifth century and the area to the south is still known as the Dengie peninsula after the Dæningas. It became a significant Saxon port with a hythe or Quayside and artisan quarters. Evidence of imported pottery from this period has been found in archaeological digs. From 958 there was a royal mint issuing coins for the late Anglo-Saxon and early Norman kings.
It was one of the only two towns in Essex (Colchester was the other), and King Edward the Elder lived here while combating the Danish settlers who had overrun North Essex and parts of East Anglia. A Viking raid was beaten off in 924, but in another raid in 991 the defenders were defeated in the Battle of Maldon and the Vikings received tribute but apparently did not attempt to sack the town. It became the subject of the epic poem Battle of Maldon.
According to the Domesday Book there were 180 townsmen in 1086. The town still had the mint and supplied a warhorse and warship for the king's service in return for its privileges of self-government. There were strong urban traditions here with two members elected to the Commons and three guilds which hosted lavish religious plays until they were suppressed by Puritans in 1576. Then, until 1630, professional actors were invited to perform plays, which were also stopped by Puritans. From 1570 to about 1800 a rival tradition of inviting prominent clergy to visit the town also existed. In 1629 a series of grain riots took place, led by the wife of a local butcher.
In the seventeenth century Thomas Plume started the Plume Library to house over 7,000 books printed between 1470 and his death in 1704; the collection has been added to at various times since 1704. The Plume Library is to be found at St. Peter's Church. Only the original tower survives, the rest of the building having been rebuilt by Thomas Plume to house his library (on the first floor) and Maldon Grammar School (on the ground floor).
The text on this HISTORY page is covered by the following licence
The various pubs and eateries around the marinas and mooring places have already been touched on.
If you are lucky enough to get moored up at Maldon you will have much more of a choice than anywhere else in this area. A couple of links are provided below to show you what's available here and it's worth noting that the Blue Boar has got a very high rating, and brews its own beer on site.
While looking through the restaurants I can't help noticing that Maldon has a Pie and Mash shop... first time I've ever seen this in a harbour, and only of much relevance to Londoners. Apart from that there are the usual Indian restaurants, Chinese restaurants etc.
For families the Madison Heights entertainment centre nearby has bowling, snooker, and an indoor play area for young kids and as well as bars and restaurants.