Dover Port Control tel 01304 206063 VHF #74
Dover Marina tel 01304 241 663 VHF #80
Dover is well know for being the busiest port in England....
...anyone that has sailed past it will confirm this. Constant ferry traffic, including fast cats, enters and leaves in a steady stream. Nevertheless this is not a yacht unfriendly place.
UPDATE SPRING 2021 The West side of Dover is still being totally redeveloped. The basic plan is to eventually fill in everything from the Dunkirk Jetty and build a new marina out side on the East side of the Prince of Wales Pier. The new marina is now complete and for 2021 it is planned that visiting boats be directed to the new Marina which is on the East side of the old Inner Harbour and can be seen on this years Admiralty Chart. Grenville and Wellington Docks will still be available for the moment but for the use of resident and long term berths. The traffic routings have not been decided as I write this in March 2021 but it is hoped that they will be published by the time they are accepting visiting boats.(which is tentatively planned for early this July for boats inbound from UK harbours and a bit later for Foreign boats)
For the moment there will not be provision for yachts to anchor in the Outer Harbour
If you intend visiting Dover (as opposed to entering because of the force of circumstances) it would be a very good idea to have a look at the videos and news letters available on the www with loads of up-to-date videos and photos on the DWDR website
Since the Channel Tunnel ferry traffic has declined a little, and purpose-built marinas have been developed and established since the early 90s.
Dover is most certainly a harbour of refuge, and anchorage was available within to wait out foul weather. Access to the New Marina will be so easy that ducking in there out of the Westerlies is probably a better option than lying to anchor in the Outer Harbour and it is not clear whether they are going to continue to allow anchoring in the Outer Harbour
If not planning to enter the harbour it is very wise to give the place a wide berth, preferably 2 miles or more. If you do wish to enter it is essential to communicate with Port Control who's control tower is located at the end of the Eastern Arm. Trying to slip in quietly unannounced is not an option.
My first visit to Dover was made in the early 90s in horrendous conditions and fully illustrate what a useful harbour of refuge this is:
" We'd set out from Gillingham on the River Medway, destination NW Spain. We were planning to call at Brighton to stock up and collect more crew, and thence onto Penzance to fuel up.(This was a 60 Ton converted MFV). The forecasts were for Sw F4, conditions that this boat could easilly push through at a good 7 knts.
Once past North Foreland and approaching Dover, it became clear that the forecast we had received was optimistic to say the least. We pushed on through the dark and made for Dungeness, but it was clear we would miss the tide we were hoping to catch the tail end of around this headland. The rapidly increasing winds and seas were starting to slow the boat down.... indeed it was starting to behave more like a submarine. The late shipping forecast was still only offering SW F4.
Tucked up in the wheelhouse it was easy to underestimate the forces we were up against. We were listening to chat on VHF regarding a tow that was in progress, a couple of tugs towing a rig in the shipping channels heading windwards. Originally progressing at 4 knts, this tow was now stationary.
After a few of hours smashing into it, fate stepped in with the cold light of dawn. A large propane bottle, which had been securely lashed by the mast broke free and threatened to take charge and smash up the bulwarks. My first mate, had his oilies on in a flash, but there was no way I could let him go out on that foredeck in these conditions. We turned the boat around stern to the wind and waves and peace reigned, the bottle was retrieved.... and we made our minds up not to try and push into it again.
From a frenetic smashing motion to an altogether more gentle lilting run... what a relief. We retracked our course. The decision was made to enter Dover and wait it out. We gave the place a wide berth and then turned around and lurked off the Eastern Arm, well clear of the entrance and under the Port Control. Radio contact was made and permission given to enter and anchorage instructions given. The wind speed readings being given by the Port Control were 45 Knts, from the SW. A good force 9 !
We anchored and waited out the rest of all that day and the following night before setting off again. On inspection we found areas on the bows of the boat that had had the paint completely stripped off by the shingle stirred up by the seas off Dungeness."
This goes to illustrate how handy Dover can be in furious weather.
Dover is unmistakable whichever direction you approach it from.
It lies about 2 miles south west of South Foreland. If you can't spot the castle and the huge breakwaters, you will certainly spot the constant ferry traffic.
The port consists of a large outer harbour where the cross-channel car ferries have their lair in the north-eastern corner. There are two entrances East and West, with the car ferries tending to use the Eastern entrance. Anchorage can be had in this outer harbour area.
If you think you can escape the commercial traffic by using the Western entrance think again because the fast catamarans use this one...
Dover have issued a Youtube video covering the entrance, passage to and from the marina and thence to the exit. This video can be viewed below at the end of this section (This video may not be available until later in 2021)
Pleasure craft can use either entrance (after obtaining permission). In thick weather from the West and South West the seas can get very bad in the area of the Western entrance, particularly at high water. In these cases it may be wiser to use the Eastern entrance.
You MUST Call Dover port control on VHF channel 74 when 2 miles away if planning to enter. They will generally tell you to approach closer and call in again when about a cable off.
International IALA port signals are displayed at both entrances and control traffic. Lights are arranged so that they show either outwards to sea, or inwards to the harbour as required. The three high-intensity lights are arranged vertically and have the following meanings:
RRR flashing: Emergency, entrance prohibited.
RRR fixed: Entry or exit prohibited from the direction indicated.
GWG: Ships may proceed to or from direction indicated
Do not under any circumstances attempt to enter or leave the harbour if you can see either three red flashing lights arranged vertically, or three red fixed lights arranged vertically. The position of these lights, SS(INT), is indicated on the charts.
Once closer to your chosen entrance radio in again at the distance off specified, and Port Control will either give you permission to enter or will tell you to wait clear of the entrance. We used to warn about passage inside the harbour between the NCM (51 06.85N 001 19.70E) and the Southern Breakwater; be advised that that NCM has been removed and the least depth over the original wreck is 7 meters.
Once inside the Outer Harbour, you should proceed along the Southern Breakwater towards the West Entrance and then cut across to the entrance to the New Marina or into the Inner Harbour located between the Admiralty and Prince of Wales piers. The entrance to the New Marina is straightforward and you now pass through it to the lock into the Wellington Dock. Now, from 2018, for the Tidal Basin or Granville Dock you will have to go through a right/left dog leg to enter the dredged channel and then proceed up that as before. There are traffic lights on the end of the Dunkirk pier and the end of the tug Haven pier to control entry into that channel. As you enter the Tidal Harbour,(after passing through the dredged channel) switch to VHF Channel 80 to communicate with Dover Marina staff, who will arrange a berth allocation.
Alternatively, you can choose to proceed direct to the Marina Reception pontoon on the Crosswall Quay. Please note that the Marina VHF Channel should only be used in the Tidal Harbour and Marina. If outside of this area use channel 74, for Port Control.
You will see on the chart a dredged channel leading to the Marina. At low water it is essential that you do not stray out of this as it is cut out of chalk and has steep hard edges.
2018 Note. Land reclamation projects still underway. No anchoring allowed at present
The reason for this may be seen in the new image in the navigation images top right
If some reason you do not have VHF it may be best to use the Eastern entrance where you can wait clear of the entrance underneath the Port Control tower. A quick flashing light directed at you from the Port Control, means keep clear of the entrance you are approaching. The same signal from the harbour master's launch may also be displayed. A series of short flashes from either source also means stop and wait. A launch will probably be sent to shepherd you in or give directions. You could telephone the Marina Office if you have a mobile in these circumstances who will help...01304 241663.
If you have any engine problems also inform the Port Control (on VHF channel 74) who will stand by to assist with their launch.
When you see for yourself the volume and frequency of big ship and fast ferry traffic you will understand why entrance to and exit from this harbour have to be controlled with such vigilance.
When planning to leave Dover, Port Control will once again need to be consulted.
A night entry or exit is possible for the experienced mariner. It is best to study the light characteristics directly from our charts. In particular when approaching the Marina waiting pontoon after passing through the dredged channel use the white sector of the sectored leading light to guide you in. Don't make your turn to starboard to soon (you will see the red sector), wait until you see the white sector (324°- 330°), see the chart.
Yachtsmen and motorboaters normally make straight for the New Marina, located in the inner harbour.
Entering the inner harbour has already been described and is straightforward, bearing in mind what has already been said about the excavated channel at low water, (And, from 2018, the dog leg into that channel) and not cutting corner when turning to starboard into the tidal harbour. Anchoring is prohibited anywhere within the inner harbour.
The Marina operates on VHF channel 80 or telephone 01304 241663. A link to their website is provided below and from here you can download a very useful visitors guide:
Marina Yearbook 2020 MarinaGuide_2020.pdf (doverport.co.uk)
It is hoped that they will go to print with a 2021 guide but for the moment all their publications (digital and hard copy) do not include anything about the New Marina.
Where you berth within this complex will depend on how long you are staying. Short stays are probably best accommodated within the New Marina, which means you can come and go at will. It is also more expensive at £3.00 per metre per day.
Other options involve passing into Granville Dock, £2.70 per metre, or into Wellington Dock (through the New Marina) which can work out the cheapest for leaving your boat at £2.50 per metre per day or £1.75 with no electricity. A stay of less than 4 hours will cost you £12.10. Wherever you end up the first stage involves stopping off at the tidal harbour and dealing with the paperwork and arrangements. Ed Note: A quick look at our harbour entries for places further west where the "group" marinas hold sway show that these are very competitive.
When planning to leave see the Marina staff who will help organise locking times etc. to suit. Before leaving the inner harbour you will have to call port control for permission and departure instructions, on VHF channel 74.
Information checked March 2021
The Marina holds five 'Gold Anchors' under the Yacht Harbour Association's code of practice - the top quality award. Security is tight with CCTV, and WiFi Internet is available throughout the Marina.
All normal Marina facilities are available here. Water and electricity on the pontoons (included in the berthing charge), showers, toilets and launderette ashore.
Fuel is available in Wellington Dock and a 24-hour fuel service is available opposite the Marina in the tidal harbour. Calor and camping gas are available either from the nearby chandlers or the fuel station. The interesting and old-fashioned chandlers "Sharp and Enright" across the road from Wellington Dock has been recommended....
For the boat there is a 50 tonne travel lift, plus all the specialists you could need to effect repairs, including divers etc.... check the directory. There is also a scrubbing berth in the tidal harbour, for cleaning off and small repairs... book through the Marina office.
Holding tank pump outs can be organised at the fuel berth.
Just opposite the Marina is a large BP fuel station incorporating cashpoints. This establishment also sells provisions of all kinds, as well as newspapers, magazines etc. It's also open 24 hours a day.
For more serious stocking up Dover offers proper supermarkets and all the normal stores, banks and High Street names likely to be found in a town this size.
The Royal Cinque Ports Yacht Club nearby offers temporary membership to visiting yachtsman, and allows them to use the facilities including the bars and a range of hot and cold food. The clubhouse is located on Waterloo Cresent, and overlooks the harbour. A link to their website is provided below:
All in all Dover is a very useful stopping place either for abandoning the boat for a while, stocking up, or arranging repairs. On top of all this it is a first-class harbour of refuge, that is strategically positioned.
As would be expected of a major cross-channel port, transport connections are excellent. by road, bus or rail.
Dover is a town and major ferry port in the county of Kent, in South East England. It faces France across the narrowest part of the English Channel. The town is the administrative centre of the Dover District.
Its strategic position has always been evident throughout its history: archaeological finds have revealed that the area has always been a focus for peoples entering and leaving Britain, and this continues to this day.
Services related to the Port of Dover provides a great deal of the town’s employment, although many of the former ferry services have declined, meaning that unemployment tends to be higher than other parts of Kent. There was a military barracks in Dover, which was closed in 2007. Dover has a strong tourist base.
Dover’s name originated with its river - the River Dour, deriving from the Brythonic Dubras ("the waters"), via its Latinized form of Dubris. The Romans called it ’’Porte Dubris’’; the modern name was in use at least by the time Shakespeare wrote 'King Lear' (between 1603 and 1606), in which the town and its cliffs play a prominent role.
The town gives its name both to the surrounding chalk cliffs, which a form a gateway to the port; and to the narrow sea passage - the Strait of Dover - on which it stands. The cliffs also gave Britain its ancient name of Albion ("white").
One measure of the importance of Dover's links with France is that only a few English towns/cities have names in French different from their English names: these are Dover (Douvres), London (Londres) and Canterbury (Cantorbéry).
Dover’s history, because of its proximity to France, has always been of great strategic importance to Britain. Archaeological finds have shown that there were Stone Age people in the area; and that by the Bronze Age the maritime influence was already strong. Some Iron Age finds exist also, but the coming of the Romans made Dover part of their communications network. Like Lemanis (Lympne) and Rutupiae (Richborough) Dover was connected by road to Canterbury and Watling Street; and it became Portus Dubris, a fortified port. Forts were built above the port; lighthouses were constructed to guide ships; and one of the best-preserved Roman villas in Britain is here.
Dover figured largely in the Domesday Book as an important borough. It also served as a bastion against various attackers: notably the French during the Napoleonic Wars; and against Germany during World War II.
The Dover Harbour Board is the responsible authority for the running of the Port of Dover.
The English Channel, here at its narrowest point in the Straits of Dover, is the busiest shipping lane in the world. Ferries crossing between here and the Continent have to negotiate their way through the constant stream of shipping crossing their path. The Dover Strait Traffic Separation Scheme allots ships separate lanes when passing through the Strait. The Scheme is controlled by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency of HM Customs, whose headquarters is at Langdon Battery in Dover.
The text on this HISTORY page is covered by the following licence
Dover has never really been considered a holiday destination in its own right, merely a place to pass through on the way to somewhere else.
Nevertheless if you're going to be here a few days you will find a fair bit to keep you occupied in and around the town.
For starters how about the hike up to the Castle and explore it's underground chambers used as a control centre during World War II.
For eating out all kinds of restaurants can be found ranging from fish and chips through to Italian and specialist seafood eateries. A quick glance at the links will show there is a plethora of Indian restaurants for those with spicy tastes. If you ever wonder why in this visit my harbour guide series Indian restaurants always get a mention it is simply this..... some people of refined tastes like to quaff lightly chilled wines and settle down for a exquisite gourmet meal experience. Others prefer 6 pints of Guinness followed by a decent plateful of tasty curry.... this reviewer falls into the latter category.
As usual it is not our habit to delve too deeply into these matters so we provide a few links for your further investigation: