Falmouth is a fine deepwater natural harbour of some considerable size.
The town and the surrounding creeks and villages have a long seafaring history. Great sailing ships from every corner of the world have come to anchor in Carrick Roads, awaiting further instructions. The captains of these vessels were instructed " Falmouth for Orders", and the ships agents would then tell them where they had to take the cargo.
For the modern day yachtsman or motorboater the whole area is a delight to visit, and shelter is available in virtually all conditions in various parts of the harbour. Those looking for hustle and bustle, marinas, stores and repairs will find that the town of Falmouth provides all. For those looking for a bit of peace and quiet, there are numerous creeks, moorings, and anchorages to be had where the worst gales can be ridden out in complete peace.
Falmouth is still a busy commercial port, dealing with cargo and ship repairs. Anyone venturing deep up the River Fal, will find many large ships laid up awaiting cargoes or charters.
For those interested in traditional sailing craft this whole area is a delight, including a fleet of oyster dredgers that still work under sail. Traditional gaff rigged craft race several times a week in the summer.
Falmouth is a favourite setting off place for ocean voyagers, and for many it is the last sight of England for a considerable time. You are quite likely to see boats making last-minute preparations and stocking up for these long hauls, but also many with slightly less ambitious aspirations, happy to potter up and down the creeks, whilst making short coastal hops when the weather obliges.
For the purposes of this online guide, we have divided the area into four and links to them can be found below or in the Channel West menu to the left
1. Entrance to Falmouth, and the inner harbour including Falmouth Haven, Port Pendennis, and Falmouth Marina. This section covers the area where most visitors immediately make for, and includes the town of Falmouth with all its facilities and mooring options.
The entrance is between Pendennis Point with a conspicuous Castle
..... lying to the West, and St Anthony's Head marked by a 22 m high white tower, Lit Iso.WR.15s 16/14M, to the East.
Approaching from the South and West the Manacles buoy (an easterly cardinal mark) needs to be left to port. From the East, a set of overfalls sometimes builds up some 2 1/2 miles north-east of Zone Point. All dangers in the general approaches are well charted, and the approach is sheltered even in strong westerly blows. Easterlies can cause an unpleasant lumpy sea, not dangerous, but uncomfortable. More pilotage directions:
The entrance itself between Pendennis Point, and St Anthony's Head would be simplicity itself if it wasn't for the fact that there's a big black drying rock more or less right in the middle! The aptly named " Black Rock" covers at half tide and has a black conical beacon topped by an isolated danger mark (2 Black Balls, vertically), and is lit Fl (2)10s 3M. The main channel for shipping lies to the east of this danger, and it is further marked by a red can Buoy Fl.R.2.5s, which should be left to port as you enter. Note: this red can buoy has replaced the original cardinal buoy moored in roughly the same spot. Alternatively Black Rock itself can be passed on the western side by small craft, as there is around 6 m minimum depth. It should not be approached too closely as shallows extend to the north and south of it.
Once safely past Black Rock, one should make for the Governor Buoy, another easterly cardinal lit VQ(3)5s. This is left to port as it marks a shallow area radiating out from the headland and the Eastern Dock breakwater. Now on a north-westerly course the docks and Falmouth inner harbour will begin to open up.
Once the inner harbour opens up turn onto a westerly course, leave the docks well to port, watching for ship movements. The most likely hazards are small fast passenger ferries emerging at speed, heading for St. Mawes. The dock jetties are all lit with flashing red lights, see charts.
Most visitors make straight for the Falmouth Haven. Once clear of the docks you can see this lying to the South West and be able to identify it by the fuel berth at the end of the pontoons. But see our Members note about the Observatory/Church Tower transit which he finds more conspicuous.
The port authorities work on VHF channel 12, callsign " Falmouth Harbour Radio" as does the harbour master's launch "Killigrew".
In the area covered there are a few choices for mooring up,
...... an anchorage area, mooring buoys, the Falmouth Haven, Port Pendennis Marina, and Falmouth Marina. These are now described together with prices:
Falmouth Haven (Marina and moorings)
It is simply a matter of finding a vacant space and tying up, staff will appear to collect dues. There are around 60 visitors berths here. If going round to the inside, as opposed to mooring on the eastward facing pontoon (along from the fuel berth), don't stray far from the pontoons themselves in order to stay in the dredged area. The innermost pontoons have depths of 1.5 m, the outer pontoon having 2.5 m. Water and electricity are available on these pontoons, as is free WiFi Internet access. Security is good and the pontoons are accessed through a gate by the Falmouth Haven supervisor's office for which you will need a PIN number. There are showers, toilets and even a laundry in the ablutions block which is accessed by PIN number. Charges (April to October 2021) are £3.30 per metre per night with discounts for weekly stays. A short stay of two hours will cost you £1.00 per metre but anything over two hours is the daily rate.
At peak periods it would be wise to contact them in advanced for a berth 01326 310990 or VHF #12
There are mooring buoys available for visitors and they are organised by Falmouth Haven cost around £2.38 per metre a night (2021), and entitle you to use the shore-side facilities mentioned above also. The Haven has their own work boat (Arwenack) A link to a schematic of the mooring buoys can be found at:
If mooring, they offer a "Premium Mooring Service" which has various freebies attached to it (free water taxi, free use of their amenities ashore, fuel discount, and some discounts with local suppliers etc)
There is an organised anchoring area off Custom House Quay, keeping clear of the commercial docks. This is a secure and comfortable anchorage except in strong easterlies. Occasionally the harbour master will clear this anchorage to cope with shipping movements but in general you could not get closer to the town. The depths in this anchorage vary from 1.5 to 2.5 m (LAT), if in any doubts call the harbour master on VHF channel 12 " Falmouth Harbour Radio". There are charges, (£15.70 a night for 10 m 2021), but once you pay them you will be entitled to use the shoreside facilities mentioned in the paragraph above.
Shelter is quite good throughout the inner harbour except in strong winds with an easterly component, when it can become a bit rough due to the open fetch of water from St. Mawes. The Town Anchorage and Falmouth Haven are protected to a certain extent by the docks.
The Royal Cornwall Yacht Club, has one visitors mooring available at a reasonable cost and this is marked RCYC visitor. It is directly off its fine clubhouse which stands on its own quay along Greenbank, just up river of the Packet Quays development. (See charts). Contact the club on 01326 312126, or try calling the club boatmen on VHF channel M, callsign " Club Launch"
The other berthing options in this area are either Port Pendennis Marina (which has the facilities to handle superyachts) and Falmouth Marina a little bit further up the Penryn River, which we now cover.
Port Pendennis Marina Village is in the south-eastern corner of the harbour in a very sheltered spot, more or less opposite Falmout Haven. It has strong pontoon berths suitable for heavy vessels up to 70 m long. It also has a completely landlocked dock which may have space for visitors, and is entered through an automatic gate that opens a couple of hours either side of high water. Call "Port Pendennis" on VHF channel 80 or channel M for berthing availability, or berth on the outside of the breakwater pontoon that leads to the lock, and visit the reception office for the allocation of a berth. Telephone 01326 211211 during office hours. The charges (2021) are around £3.60 metre per night, with short stay berthing at £16 for three hours if available.
The Marina has all facilities, water, heavy duty electricity (£3.50 per night), etc, and has showers, toilets, laundry room, and car parking. Ashore one will find a lounge for yachtsman complete with telephone, fax and Internet. There is very tight security throughout Port Pendennis with the only access through PIN controlled entrances. The Marina is ideally placed for Falmouth Town railway station, and leaving your boat within the inner harbour for longer periods in complete safety is a real option.
www.portpendennis.com link to Port Pendennis Marina website
The Maritime Museum is based here too, on the waterfront site known as Discovery Quay.
Regrettably plans for a new marina in the docks have now (2016) been scrapped and, although the piers between the Queens Jetty and Dutchy Wharf have been removed, that area still lies within the Falmouth Docks remit and anchoring is not permitted there.
Falmouth Marina is about a mile further up the Penryn River, after having passed Greenbank Quay. This can be recognised as you will see the Royal Cornwall yacht club, and then the Greenbank Hotel sign in large lettering on the port side. From here you will pick up the red and green channel markers which lead up to the River, (see charts). The River shallows out here but the main channel has 2 m, be aware that the southern shore has drying banks extending well out, complete with oyster beds... anchoring and running aground are not allowed. Stick to the channel. The dredged approach to the Marina has up to 1.8 m at LWS.
Locate the Easterly Cardinal beacon (Fl (3) 5s) which is a black and yellow pole with top mark, and leave it on your starboard side. It has a white board with an arrow on it showing you which side to pass.
This is important; the green and red markers for the main channel are just outboard of the ECM; at low water you must ignore them and be on course to leave the ECM to starboard in good time or you will end ignominiously aground just short of the marina. Go straight to the fuel pontoon (J) for allocation of a berth. The port and starboard hand buoys just past the easterly Cardinal mark show the main channel to Penryn, they are not part of the approach channel to the Marina so do not be confused.
There are plenty of visitors berths available, but it is always advisable to phone ahead on 01326 316620 or call " Falmouth Marina" on VHF channel 80, especially if you have a larger boat. Below is a link to the Falmouth Marina website.
The Marina has all the usual facilities including toilets and showers, 24-hour launderette, water and electricity at the berths and WiFi throughout. Calor and camping gas, and diesel available 24 hours. There are Chandlers, Marina Electronics, charter operators, car hire company a brokerage and a hairdresser all on-site. The 30 tonne travel lift and 25 tonne mobile crane can get you onshore for full repair facilities.
The prices (2021) are £3.50 per metre per night, minimum charge £28.00 A short stay of up to 4 hours is charged at £1.60 per metre, minimum £12.80 (that's not charged if you are just taking on fuel)
Most of the main Marine business are located at Penryn, rather than Falmouth itself, and Falmouth Marina is close to all of them.
Water is available for yachts at the Falmouth Haven and all the marinas. If on a Haven mooring, water will be available at the Falmouth Haven.
Diesel is available 0800 to 1800 hours from the fuel berth at Falmouth Marina; outside these hours manning reception takes priority. Diesel & petrol are also available at the fuel station, Falmouth Haven. Fuel may also be available from the barge "Ulster Industry" moored opposite Trefusis Point but there are doubts as to whether it is servicing leisure vessels.
Calor and camping gas are stocked at The Bosuns Locker Chandlery,(this chandlery now has the distinction of being the oldest Chandlers in the UK since the closure of Capt OM Watts in London, and is delightfully old-fashioned.... I have used them myself to reliably post out obscure spares for a Taylors paraffin heater to North Africa). Gas is also available at Falmouth Marina.
There are any number of places to effect repairs, and haul out. If Falmouth Docks can dry dock ships up to 100,000 tonnes for repairs, it is quite likely that your boat can be handled in this area. Check out the business directory for potential leads. Just about any kind of work can be dealt with in the Falmouth area.
The Royal Cornwall Yacht Club was established in 1871 and possesses a fine clubhouse. It is open every day except Mondays during the summer months and visiting yacht crews are made welcome. Since 1975 it has organised the Azores and Back Race (AZAB). The facilities include showers, bar, and dining room with dinghy landing and dinghy storage. Freshwater may also be possible alongside the Club Quay by arrangement. Below is a link to the club's website:
Just about everything of interest to the boat owner will be found along the road to Penryn, and in the town there are three secondhand bookshops with good nautical selections. All the major shops are represented in the town or in an area known as the Moor, close to Prince of Wales pier. There is a Tesco Metro supermarket in this area and also the Post Office. Provisioning will be no problem with the Co-op, a Spar, and Tesco's.
For the trailer Sailer launching and recovery possible at Grove Place boatyard in Falmouth, with access at all tidal ranges. Telephone 01326 312285, and also at the village of Flushing which is opposite Falmouth. Here there is a cobbled ramp with access at one quarter of the tidal range. PwC's are banned at both these sites. Launching may be possible at the two marinas in Falmouth, contact details and websites have been previously mentioned.
Well connected for transport, a branch railway line leads to mainline rail connections at Truro. Telephone 08457 484950. There are daily bus and coach connections, call Traveline telephone 0871 2002233. Roads connects to the M5 via Plymouth or Bodmin, and Newquay Airport is about 45 minutes away by car. (Telephone 01345 222111).
Falmouth is famous for its harbour. Together with Carrick Roads, it forms the third deepest natural harbour in the world, and the deepest in Western Europe. It is also famous for being the start or finish point of various round-the-world record-breaking voyages, such as those of Sir Francis Chichester and Dame Ellen MacArthur.
Falmouth Docks Police provide policing for the docks.
Falmouth Parish Church, Church Street, dedicated to "King Charles the Martyr".See also: Miss Susan Gay's Falmouth chronology
Originally called Peny-cwm-cuic, which later became 'Pennycomequick', it was the site where Henry VIII built Pendennis Castle to defend Carrick Roads, in 1540. The main town was at Penryn. Sir John Killigrew created the town of Falmouth shortly after 1613.
In the late 16th century, under threat from the Spanish Armada, the defences at Pendennis were strengthened by the building of angled ramparts.
During the Civil War, Pendennis Castle was the second to last fort to surrender to the Parliamentary Army.
After the Civil War, Sir Peter Killigrew received Royal patronage when he gave land for the building of the Parish Church, dedicated to Charles I, "the Martyr".
The news of Britain's victory (and Admiral Nelson's death) at Trafalgar was landed here from the schooner Pickle and taken to London by stagecoach.
The Falmouth Packet Service operated out of Falmouth for over 160 years between 1689 and 1851. Its purpose was to carry mail to and from Britain's growing empire. In 1839 Falmouth was the scene of the gold dust robbery when £4,600 worth of gold dust from Brazil was stolen on arrival at the port.
19th & 20th Centuries
Falmouth Docks Main EntranceThe Falmouth Docks were developed from 1858.
The Cornwall Railway reached Falmouth on 24 August 1863. The railway brought new prosperity to Falmouth, as it made it easy for tourists to reach the town. It also allowed the swift transport of the goods recently disembarked from the ships in the port. The town now has three railway stations. Falmouth Docks railway station is the original terminus and is close to Pendennis Castle and Gyllyngvase beach. Falmouth Town railway station was opened on 7 December 1970 and is convenient for the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, the waterfront, and town centre. Penmere railway station opened on 1 July 1925 towards the north of Falmouth and within easy walking distance of the top of The Moor. All three stations are served by regular trains from Truro on the Maritime Line. Penmere Station was renovated in the late 1990s, using the original sign and materials, and is now a fine example of an early 20th century railway station.
During World War II, 31 people were killed in Falmouth by German bombing. It was also the launching point for the famous Commando raid on St Nazaire. An anti-submarine net was laid from Pendennis to St Mawes, to prevent enemies entering the harbour.
Economy, industry and tourism
Falmouth Harbour, National Maritime Museum, Cornwall and Pendennis Castle.While Falmouth's maritime activity has much declined from its heyday, the docks are still a major contributor to the town's economy. It is one of the largest ports in Cornwall. Falmouth is still a cargo port and the bunkering of vessels and the transfer of cargoes also keep the port's facilities busy. The port is also becoming popular with cruise ship operators with sixty-four cruise ship calls to Falmouth due in 2007.
Further up the sheltered reaches of the Fal there are several ships laid up, awaiting sailing orders and/or new owners/charterers.
With its fine Georgian town houses converted into guest houses and small hotels, often overlooking one of the beaches, Falmouth has proven a popular holiday destination and it is now primarily a tourist resort. The five main beaches starting next to Pendennis Castle and moving along the coast towards the Helford river are Castle, Tunnel, Gyllyngvase, Swanpool and Maenporth beaches. The National Maritime Museum Cornwall opened in February 2003. The building was designed by architect, M.J. Long.
The text on this HISTORY page is covered by the following licence
There is no shortage of places to eat and drink in Falmouth. For most visitors as they come ashore from the Anchorage or Falmouth Haven, Customs House Quay is the first place they see. Here you can sit outside a pub and take in the atmosphere, whilst keeping one eye on your boat. (Check the photo gallery).
From fresh Cornish pasties and fish and chips, right through to every grade of restaurant, you will find them all in Falmouth.
The following links will give you some idea of what's available.
Pubs and Eating Places
Comprehensive what's on guide
One "must visit" attraction is the Maritime Museum, which opened in 2003 and has rapidly achieved international acclaim. It is a joint-venture between the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and Falmouth Maritime Museum. It has a distinctive building with a prominent tower on the waterside site known as Discovery Quay. Inside you will find a diverse collection of approximately 140 boats, hands on displays and interactive entertainment as well as all the historical information. It also offers stunning views of the harbour.