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Deben, River (Woodbridge Haven)

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Courtesy Flag

Flag, Red Ensign


Woodbridge Haven Safe Water Buoy (Approx Position Only) 51:58'.55 N 001:24'.32 E


Admiralty, 2693, SC5607

Rules & Regulations

See Text


Entrance can be Dangerous, see text.

Tidal Data Times & Range

Entrance: Dover +0025, Woodbridge: Dover +0105 MHWS 4.0m MHWN 3.1m, MLWN0.9m, MLWS 0.4m   (links)

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General Description

The River Deben, or Woodbridge Haven as it is also known.....

..... offers around 9 miles of navigable water for any sailor intrepid enough to tackle the somewhat intimidating entrance. The River has no commercial traffic so could make a nice change when anchoring, not having to worry about passing ships.

There are historic towns and villages to be explored, several boatyards and many clubs. There are places where you can lie to your own anchor, pick up a mooring buoy, or one Marina at Woodbridge where the yachtsman or motorboater can remain afloat. For those able to take the ground there are untold places for drying out. There is much boating expertise in the area and plenty of marine specialists of all varieties.

Pub aficionados will find plenty of hostelries scattered around, even though shops and stores are very thin on the ground.

For stocking up there is a supermarket at Woodbridge, but in general this is not an area for grand provisioning, and if planning a couple of days exploration it would be wise to arrive fully stocked.

Unless you are staying in the Marina you will probably need a decent dinghy and outboard, as the tides run a hard. Likewise when anchoring you will need good gear well dug in with plenty of scope.


There are gloomy warnings on the charts about the approaches to the Deben, with it's shifting shingle banks and bar.

The area should not be approached in conditions of strong onshore winds or heavy seas, as it is a mass of breakers. Even in benign conditions the ebb can obtain rates of 6 kn out of the entrance making entry impossible. It is futile to give any firm directions about the passage through the shingle banks and over the bar, as virtually every winter storm changes things (sometimes dramatically).

The website (Eastcoastrivers.com) with downloadable instructions for entry to the River Deben has been discontinued. John White, the HM at Felixstowe Ferry has uploaded a new website to cover the River Deben Entrance and you should consult this if you intend visiting there. He has a downloadable chartlet showing this year's (2017) buoyage (which could be downloaded, printed and laminated?) That website can be found at


This information used to be obtainable in printed form from local chandlers, clubs etc. - so if you come across a copy you should check the print date as it may well be of only historical interest!

For first timers unsure of themselves can contact the harbour master or his assistant at Felixstowe Ferry (just inside the entrance). They will help guide you through the entrance. Call "Odd Times" on VHF channel 08, and speak to the harbour master John White ( 01394 270106 / 07803 476621 ), or his assistant Stephen Read  (07860 191768 ).

The following is general information about the approach and entrance, but entry shouldn't be attempted without local knowledge or help from the above sources. The Admiralty chart provided is up to date but is of limited use as it does not show the locally laid and maintained buoyage in the Deben.

The first stage in any approach will involve finding the Woodbridge Haven safe watermark which is a red and white spherical buoy (Mo(A)15s). Although this buoy is lit none of the others are.... entry at night is definitely NOT recommended. Timing of your entry attempt is important bearing in mind the strengths of the tide. At least a couple of hours after low water and well before high water is probably best for newcomers. (Probably the best time to leave outbound would be around high water, before the ebb really gets going...)

During the winter of 2012/2013 the Knolls (midway between the landfall buoy and the entrance) have moved westwards and the buoyage has been moved accordingly (so scrap last year's way points) and there's not quite as much water over the bar as there was in 2012. Follow the buoyage (West Knoll and Mid Knoll) and as you pass West Knoll line up a point on the land beyond the Mid Knoll and use that as a transit to avoid being pushed off track by the tide.  Pass close to the black basalt rocks on the seawall and stay close to that West bank until the red Deben Can Buoy when, if you maintain your course, you will start to close the east bank (where there is deeper water) to pass up the channel to the East of the Horse sand Bank

It is necessary to keep favouring the eastern side of the Channel to avoid the extensive drying Horse Shoal. On your starboard side are moorings and there is a deep water pool in this area... keep heading NNW for the red can Horse Sand buoy which you leave on your port hand side. You are now clear of Horse sand, and into the River Deben.

Not exacty pilotage, but this video from Dylan Winter shows entry to the Deben, and gives a feel for the place.

Berthing, Mooring & Anchoring

As you enter the River and clear Horse Shoal....

....you will notice on the other side of the river some moorings, fishing huts and boatyard. This area is called Felixstowe Ferry and once past the red can Horse Sand buoy, you can turn back on yourself leaving Horse Sand on your port side and approach these facilities from the North.

The boatyard at Felixstowe Ferry (01394 282173) may be able to find you a short-term vacant mooring where you can lay afloat. Alternatively it may be possible to find an anchorage to the north well clear of the moorings.

Dinghy landings can be made on the shingle beach at all states of the tide. Whether at anchor or on a mooring pay great attention to the strength of the tide which can run up to 5 kn, making dinghy work hazardous, and anchoring tricky. A water taxi operates in this area, callsign Deben Ferry, VHF channel 08. It also nips back and forth across the entrance from Felixstowe Ferry to Bawdsey.

If you do get ashore in this area you will find the boatyard has a chandlery where diesel can be obtained. Also on the spot is a cafe, a couple of pubs and the Felixstowe Ferry Sailing Club. The nearest place to obtain provisions would be Old Felixstowe a fair hike (2 miles) away to the south, but with both the pubs serving food plus the popular cafe the hungry crew will be well sorted on the spot.

Bawdsey Manor on the Eastern Shore was much used by the RAF in the development of radar during the Second World War. It is possible to land here in the dinghy where you will find Bawdsey Haven Yacht Club, and a watersports centre.

Moving up River, there is a speed delimited section from Felixstowe Ferry, through Sea Reach towards Ramsholt. (From there on the limit is 8 knts). In this area the scenery is low lying, with seawalls and plenty of mudbanks. The deepwater runs fairly centrally with the bias towards the western shore.

At Green Point the River turns northwards and changes character a bit, becoming more rural and less flat and marshy. Falkenham Creek, an indentation on the Western side marks the end of the de-restricted section, and the speed limit is now 8 Knts. On the eastern side you will see the pub at Ramsholt Quay. Landing can be made by dinghy on the sand near the old barge quay. There are no other services here, or public transport, but the pub does provide a freshwater tap (operated by tokens), and a public phone box will be found.

The River is thick with moorings in this area and you may be able to borrow one by getting in touch with the local harbourmaster George Collins, who is normally about during the days on his boat. Telephone 07930 304061, or try VHF channel 77.

Otherwise you may have to root around to find somewhere to anchor, either above or below the moorings, and maybe not that close to the pub.

Once through Ramsholt Reach, and past Prettyman Point on the eastern side, the deeper channel of the River swings to the north-east slightly in an area known as The Rocks. A series of red can buoys with even numbers are left to port and commence the marking of the channel that extends as far as Woodbridge. Where the deepwater makes a swing back to the North West you will find the first green conical buoy (No.1) which is left to starboard. And the tiny village of Waldringfield will be on your port side. The channel is narrow here, moorings proliferate up and down river.

Thanks to Richard Woolf of the Waldringham Fairways Association for the following:

"Although Waldringfield has no specific moorings for visitors we have been offering visitors vacant moorings for the last three years, and can cater for single hulled craft up to 36ft or 11m.  We do not charge for the loan of a mooring but suggest the yachtman makes a donation to the RNLI lifeboat in either the pub or sailing club.  I can be contacted on 07810233445 .  Empty moorings for visitors should be marked by a white and orange striped pup buoy with the words visitor on it.  On picking up the buoy we suggest that a call is made to either me or the harbour master John Smith, who can be contacted on 01473 736257 (home) or 07505 035456  (see picture of his hut in photo gallery)"

Busy summer weekends can be a bit frenetic in this spot, and you are unlikely to be able to find a spare mooring. A space is left in the moorings in front of the sailing club where a few yachts can find anchorage. Although possible this is difficult and can be fraught with problems when the tide turns or if windy due to the close proximity of moored boats. If dinghy racing is going on be careful not to obstruct their starting line.

The navigable channel is very narrow here, and you may well have to find your anchorage above or below the moorings, or at the Rocks.

Landings in the dinghy can be made at all states of the tide, and once ashore you will find apart from the The Maybush Inn, The Waldringham Sailing Club, and the boatyard there is not much else other than a cluster of houses. No shops, no transport.

The popular pub however is open all day seven days a week, serving food at lunchtimes and in the evenings. Water in Jerry cans can be obtained from the sailing club and the boatyard, while the latter can also provide diesel and some chandlery. Normal boatyard services are available here too and they have a 40 tonne crane. A public telephone near the Maybush completes the picture here.

Above Waldringfield the River narrows and shallows dramatically, the direction of the channel being marked by buoyage and moorings. It is best tackled on a rising tide. The aptly named Troublesome Reach will be guaranteed to give you trouble too. The River deviates in a "C" shape. It is well marked with buoys and beacons and shouldn't pose a problem if these are followed closely with a decent rise of the tide.

A short cut marked on the chart called Loders Cut is for very shoal craft around high water only.

Martlesham Creek branches off to the West at Kyson point in this "troublesome" area, and the intrepid creek crawler can make his way to the boatyard at the head of this Creek. Drying moorings are available (by arrangement) With electricity and some boatyard services are available. The Creek itself dries to a gutway.

Once past the interesting diversion in Troublesome Reach the view towards Woodbridge opens up. Any boats not able to take the ground will only be able to visit Woodbridge around high water, as apart from the Tide Mill Yacht Harbour, pretty much all dries out now.

The run of the channel is marked by buoyage and beacons and various drying moorings. It can be a bit confusing however... the deeper water favours the Western side as you pass the clubs with their pontoons and jetties and slipways. It then swings over to the eastern side running close under Ferry Cliff.

The white tide mill building is clearly recognisable and it is just before you get to it that the River swings violently to starboard... the way is marked by the red buoys 20, 22 and 24. This detour gives access to the Tide Mill yacht harbour, where vessels can lay afloat in a pond, the depth of which is maintained by a sill.

Tide Mill Yacht Harbour, Woodbridge.

Access is available in to the Marina about an hour either side of high water, and the Marina is virtually right on top of all the town facilities. The marina has very helpfully prepared a day by day reckoner of the depths available for entry, and here it is to download:


Contact them on VHF channel 80, callsign Tide Mill Yacht Harbour, or telephone 01394 385745. A link to their homepage is provided below:


All the usual Marina facilities are available here with water and electricity on the pontoons, toilets, showers and launderette ashore in newly built facilities. WiFi is available throughout. A berth for a 10m boat here will cost you (2017) £25.00 with a charge of £3.00 for electricity hookup

A good range of boatyard services are available, together with diesel alongside and a small chandlery. Bottled gas available.

For boats able to take the ground there are many more mooring opportunities in the Woodbridge area, many of the various boatyards can provide stagings, pontoons and quays. Try calling Everson's, Charter Marine or Robertson's, their details will be found in the directory.

For those that think the world ends at Tide Mill, a little surprise...the river continues and there is another useful little facility for those prepared to push on. The Melton Boatyard ( formerly the Granary Yacht Harbour) is a fully service boatyard, with pontoon, and swinging moorings, all drying.  A 30 ton travel lift and shoreside storage are available. The yard provides buoyage to help you get safely up the river, and a chartlet is available on their website:


They can be contacted on 01394 386327 and as this is only a small facility it would be wise to check with them before setting out to see if they will have room. In 2017 they are charging £17.28 per day for boats up to 30ft and £21.60 per day over that. There is also a 50p standing charge for shore power hook up with payment meter on the pontoons.

Coverage updated March 2017


Facilities available around the various anchorages and mooring places in the Deben have already been touched on, and this section deals more with the Woodbridge area.

Woodbridge is a decent sized town with a long seafaring history. With the various boatyards and marine specialists in the immediate area most boating needs can be taken care of. Of interest to classic boat owners will be Classic Marine who sell and even manufacture special parts. Check the directory for all Marine services available.

There is a good range of shops and most of the main banks are represented too. Transport is excellent with the station almost on the riverfront, connecting with Ipswich. From Ipswich there are good services to London.

The Woodbridge Cruising Club and the Deben Yacht Club are right on the waterfront.



Trailer Sailors can use the ramp at Robertson's Boatyard in Woodbridge by arrangement only. It allows access at half the tidal range, and charges are £10 per day. It is necessary to enquire in advance as the slipway may be blocked by other work in hand.

More Info

More video magic  from Dylan Winter   ...  The Deben in all it's glory.


The River Deben is a medium length river in Suffolk rising in Debenham, passing through Woodbridge, turning into a tidal estuary before entering the North Sea at Felixstowe Ferry. The mouth of the estuary is crossed by a ferry connecting Felixstowe and Bawdsey.

The Deben Estuary is a Special Protection Area and Ramsar Site and within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Its significance arises from it over-wintering population of avocets (Recurvirostra avosetta). The estuary features shifting sandbanks. Plant-life is dominated by the Common Reed (Phragmites australis). The saltmarsh and intertidal mud-flats that occupy the most the area have the widest range of saltmarsh flora in Suffolk.

There are many yacht and dinghy clubs on the river Deben. These include the Deben Yacht Club, the Waldringfield Club, Felixstowe Ferry Sailing Club and the cruising club.


Woodbridge is a town in Suffolk, East Anglia, England. It is in the East of England, not far from the coast. It lies along the River Deben, with a population of about 7,480 although this seems larger due to the number of surrounding villages. The town is served by Woodbridge railway station on the Ipswich-Lowestoft East Suffolk Line. Woodbridge is twinned with Mussidan in France.


The earliest record of Woodbridge is in the mid 10th century, when it was acquired by St. Aethelwold, Bishop of Winchester, who made it a part of the endowment of the monastery he helped to refound at Ely, Cambridgeshire in AD 970. Woodbridge did not acquire its own monastery until about 1193, when a small priory of Austin Canons was founded by Ernald Rufus.

It was a centre for boat-building, rope-making and sail-making since the Middle Ages. Edward III and Sir Francis Drake had Elizabethan era fighting ships built in Woodbridge.

Around the town there are various buildings from the Tudor, Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras. The town has a restored tide mill, one of only 4 in the UK, and one of the earliest - a mill was first recorded on this site in 1170, operated by the Augustinian Canons. In 1536, it passed to King Henry VIII. In 1564, Queen Elizabeth I granted the mill to Thomas Seckford. In 1577 he founded Woodbridge School and the Seckford Almshouses, for the poor of Woodbridge.

Sutton Hoo, a group of low grassy mounds famous for turning up Anglo-Saxon treasure of one of the earliest English kings, Rdwald, overlooks Woodbridge from the Eastern Bank of the Deben.

The so-called Rendlesham Forest Incident took place in nearby Rendlesham Forest in 1980. Unexplained lights were seen in the sky close to RAF Woodbridge, a United States Airforce base, and there were claims that a UFO had landed in the forest. The incident continues to interest ufologists and vigorous debates take place between those who believe that an alien spacecraft landed there and the sceptics who offer alternative explanations.

Woodbridge has its own Brass Band, the Woodbridge Excelsior Band, who were formed in 1846 and are the oldest community brass band in East Anglia.

There is a museum devoted to the Suffolk Punch, a breed of heavy working horse, in the Shire Hall on the Market Hill.

Local folklore has it that the route from the river to the top of Drybridge Hill (via Church Street, the Market Hill and Seckford Street) is the hill which was marched up by the Grand Old Duke of York in the popular Nursery Rhyme.

The text on this HISTORY page is covered by the following licence

Eating, Drinking & Entertainment

A wide range of restaurants and pubs will be found in Woodbridge, with up market tastes being catered for as well as the usual range of offerings. Suffice to say the crew won't go hungry here... or thirsty for that matter.

As usual it is not our habit to delve too deeply, and leave you with a couple of links below for further investigations:



Eating Out:



Your Ratings & Comments

Written by Don Thomson | 2nd May 2018
The link to the entry channel chart has been updated
Update 2015
Written by dononshytalk | 16th Apr 2015
These notes were reviewed by Don in April 2015. Prices have been brought up to date and the link to the Deben Estuary site has been updated by John White
2 of 2 people found this helpful
Further Update 2013
Written by dononshytalk | 22nd Apr 2013
There is a new website for the Deben River entrance - the URL has been added to the Approach section of the description above
2 of 2 people found this helpful
Deben and Ore entrances Spring 2013 (by Kay)
Written by Bryant | 14th Apr 2013
"I sailed out of the Deben at LW Springs yesterday morning (13/4/2013) with no problems, min depth 1.6m and buoyed. And sailing into the Ore was equally easy, with plenty of depth, the minimum was 2.6m at half tide. Again the seasonal buoys are in place. There does not appear to be much of a horse close to North Weir Point this year, but depths close to the inshore West bank are reduced. Staying in mid river was no problem and I've never known the bars to be so deep! In conclusion, both entrances are buoyed and depths good. So, assuming good visiblity and avoiding strong onshore winds, it's just a question of pilotage and basic allowances for the tidal streams. For those who have never entered either river before, the advice to cross the bars at around half tide on a rising tide would seem sensible advice. Kay"

Update 2013
Written by dononshytalk | 1st Apr 2013
These notes were reviewed by Don T on the 1st April 2013. I searched in vain for a replacement for the Eastcoastrivers website to no avail but it is hoped that the Woodbridge Crusing club may upload something later this year. It is understood that the entrance channel has moved a little to the West of the 2012 position and this is noted in the text. Note that Trinity House alter the entrance buoyage each year to suit the channel, so identify and follow the buoyage on the day. Prices where available have been updated for 2013.
Scary but safe!
Written by Giles Watling | 16th Jun 2012
Back in 2009 I took my 20' Vivacity over the bar. It was blowing 6/7. From Woodbridge Haven we had a ten minute white knuckle ride 1hr after LW. my depth alarm was set to .5 meter below the keels. In the steep seas it kept going off in the troughs scaring the shit out of me, I expected to see a keel coming through the bottom of the boat any time. I turned the alarm off - it was too scary... We made it and had a great ride up the river sailing all the way. When we got to the Tidemill the Harbour Master was very accommodating and helpful, he found it hard to believe we had crossed the bar in such conditions. The facilities were not quite finished. but they looked very good. - A great night followed by being scared shitless crossing the bar in worsening conditions the next day. Who needs a tame theme park rollercoaster... The buoys are very useful - stay very close to them until you enter the calmer waters in the river, then keep to starboard until you have passed Horse Sand safely. A great special place - well worth the effort and the weight loss.
1 of 1 people found this helpful
Deben Bar Pilotage
Written by windydick | 28th Dec 2011
Tip - treat the entry buoys as mid channel marks, pass them close. In particular, leave West Knolls PHB close to port - it really should be SHB. This advice particularly true last year, 2011, but likely to prevail indefinitely. Handage of buoys owes more to some kind of "tradition" than current reality. Dogleg close (30 metres) to Stone Banks between Mid Knolls SHB and Deben PHB.
2 of 2 people found this helpful
Tom Webb, around Britain on a 21' Beneteau 2011
Written by Tom Webb Sailing | 31st Oct 2011
7-9/7 – Woodbridge – I had to turn into Woodbridge after falling seasick leaving Harwich in rough conditions, the harbour master was incredibly helpful and guided me in on the phone, there’s horrendous shingle banks either side of the very narrow channel, there is also a huge rip tide that runs at its peak right at the entrance of the harbour but is a perfectly safe entrance in the right conditions. The river itself is very beautiful and is one of the gems of the East coast, if you sail up the river it gets much better. There is mooring buoys along the channel and a water taxi that runs to land which there is a pub and a fish and chips!
1 of 1 people found this helpful
Woodbridge reception and pubs
Written by Captain Pete | 15th Dec 2010
A small, privately owned, very friendly, minimum red tape marina. You’ll find a very helpful reception from “Mike the Pipe” or who ever else is on duty and having moored, and used the pretty new and very good shower block, pop along the old quay, past the barges to the Anchor Inn. Good real Ale, excellent food hospitably run by Vernon. You can’t go wrong.
2 of 2 people found this helpful
Up the Deben with visitMyHarbour.com
Written by Tolly Roger | 6th Sep 2010
Very informative, the need to knows and the nice to knows. Im planning on kicking off next season with a trip down from Lowestoft. These pages will be at the center of my planning.
1 of 2 people found this helpful
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