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Chichester Approach, Entry, General Overview, Sparkes Yacht Harbour

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Courtesy Flag

Flag, Red Ensign


Eastoke Point 50:46'.69N, 000:56'.07W Approximate Position of West Pole Beacon: 50:45'.45N 000:56'.59W


Admiralty 2045, 3418, SC5600

Rules & Regulations

8Knt Speed Limit, Harbour Auth. hot on daysignals eg. Cones and Balls


Entrance Unsafe in Strong Onshore Winds (see text) Spring Ebbs can reach 6 Knts
Submerged Barrier between Portsea and the Horse Sands Fort. Dolphins mark the safe passage.

Tidal Data Times & Range

HW +0027 Dover, MHWS 4.9m, MHWN 4.0m, MLWN 1.9m, MLWS 0.9m Tide tables:   (links)

This site is designed for slower, roaming broadband connections, like you would get at sea, so it needs JavaScript enabled to expand the text.

General Description

Chichester Harbour is a large area of winding channels and drying mud flats with access to the sea through a fairly narrow entrance with a shifting shingle bar.


The Harbour Authority patrols the waters and they are particularly hot on the speed limit of 8 kn, and it has been mentioned that they insist on daysignals, in particular displaying a cone while motorsailing and a black ball when anchored. 

This Article..... Chichester approach and entry, general overview and Sparkes Yacht Harbour.

This article covers the approach and entry to Chichester Harbour, and also the very first mooring facility available for visitors close on the Western side of the entrance.

Harbour Dues Update 2020.

Chichester Conservancy have clarified the position on Harbour dues and Marina fees.  If stopping overnight at a marina the fees you pay the Marina will include the harbour dues.  A subsequent  overnight stop in the harbour outside a marina is not covered by that payment and harbour dues would have to be paid

All in all providing entry can be made in suitable conditions, this beautiful cruising ground in its own right is well worth making a detour for if time is available.


For the yachtsman or motor-boater, the first thing that needs to be noted about entry to Chichester Harbour is that this cannot be considered a harbour of refuge...

 ...........and the same applies to Langstone next door.  It is not a good idea to try and enter with strong onshore winds especially from the South and South-East when the tide is ebbing.  The Spring Ebb can reach up to 6 kn and combine that with the shoal waters and a strong onshore wind.... conditions could be dangerous.  In onshore weather it is best to enter with the flooding tide.

In an onshore gale the entrance must not be attempted, or even considered. Pushing into the shelter of the Solent would be wiser. Occasionally boats come to grief in the close approaches by chancing their luck, and it is essential not to underestimate how far offshore the sands protrude.

Having given all these gloomy warnings however, if the small craft skipper makes his first approach to this harbour during settled summer weather, with due care and attention there should be no problems.

The ideal first-time approach would be during neap tides with light offshore winds.

If approaching from the East or the West the mistake to avoid is aiming for the entrance too soon. The ideal approach involves putting the West Pole Beacon on a heading just east of North, say about 005°, and approaching it from at least a mile offshore. Cross tidal sets will be an issue until closer in, at which point the tide tends to run in and out, rather than across.

The beacons have recently been upgraded and moved significantly, check our chart and the insert provided for details. The light characteristics have also been changed, with the West Pole Beacon now showing Fl.R.5s14m.7M. The West Pole Beacon is mounted on a tripod structure, and the Bar Beacon on a single pile. Further pilotage details:

Conditions and depths on the bar are continuously monitored in real-time on the following site:


If you have difficulty identifying the entrance to Chichester and it's beacons from a distance, the very conspicuous Nab Tower can provide guidance. If you proceed towards shore with the Nab Tower on a back bearing of 184°, this will bring you in safely closer until you can identify the Chichester Beacons.

The East Pole Sands radiate out seawards of these beacons, and if approaching from the East it is essential not to approach the West Pole Beacon unless it is bearing more than 330°.

A night entry is possible.... the old sectored light has been discontinued, and new much brighter lights have been fitted to the beacons, and a new red can buoy established in the entrance. Perhaps the best night time method would be to line up the Fl.R.5s of the West Pole Beacon with the Fl(2)R.10s of the Chichester Bar Beacon and use the latter together with the Eastoke Q.R. in the closer approach. Once past the Chichester Bar Beacon ease over to starboard slightly, aiming for the gap between Eastoke (Q.R) and West Winner (Q.G).


In the closer approach leave the West Pole Beacon 50 m or so to port, and likewise with the Bar Beacon  (Fl.(2)R.10s.10m.4M), noting as you pass the tide gauge. Watch the tidal cross set.

The direct approach can now be made on a course of about 013° towards the gap between the Eastoke Buoy (Q.R) and the West Winner Beacon (Q.G) leaving the former at the least 50 m on your port side.

Once inside a bit further three green conical buoys will be seen on your starboard side marking the edge of the Winner shingle bank. Do not be tempted to cut to starboard, these must be left on your starboard side.

More or less dead ahead you should see a southerly cardinal buoy, "Fishery" (Q(6)+LFl.15s) marking where the channel splits up. To your port side once the entrance is cleared, having passed the very conspicuous Hayling Island Sailing Club premises, you will come to an unlit easterly Cardinal beacon that marks the entrance channel to Sparkes Yacht Harbour.

This yacht harbour is covered in within this article, but all other areas of Chichester Harbour are subject to separate articles.

Berthing, Mooring & Anchoring

Sparkes Marina is located just within Chichester Harbour on the Western side. As it is so close to the entrance it's details are included in this particular article, including visitors mooring prices.

The Marina is approached by a dredged channel with 1.5 m minimum below chart datum, and the entrance to this channel lies just to the south of the unlit easterly cardinal beacon mentioned in the approach and entry section.

This beacon is left on your starboard side and on your port side you will find the yacht club pontoon jetty. A generally westerly course is now followed, and try and pick up the two yellow X leading marks which will guide you in. At the end of the pile moorings the channel swings to the SSE, and there are red channel posts marking the port side of the run in to the Marina.

This MDL Marina has up to 2 m at MLWS available at many of the berths. Dedicated visitors berths are maintained here, call the Marina on VHF channel 80 or telephone 023 9246 3572, link to website below:


Prices (2022) are £4.40 up to 12.5m per metre per day and £5.60 over 12.5m per metre per day, with short stays for boats at £10.45 up to 4 hours.

Unless you are staying at the marina for more than a month Harbour Dues are not applicable

Updated March 2022 for the 2022 season


This short article only covers the facilities in and around Sparkes Marina.

Water and electricity are available on the pontoons, and there is 24-hour access to the showers and toilets. A launderette is on-site, there are waste oil disposal facilities together with rubbish disposal and recycling facilities. WiFi Internet is available for customers.

For the boat nearly all services are available including lifting out, hardstanding, repairs etc. This is not surprising as this was originally a working boatyard as a opposed to a marina. Check the directory for full details.

Petrol and diesel are both available at the fuel pontoon which is open seven days a week. An on-site chandlery sells nautical essentials including camping and Calor gas exchanges. Basic provisions are also available here.

Although there are some small shops within walking distance, including a newsagents and a farm shop, this is not an area to indulge in a major stock up. Mengham offers the nearest town facilities and is a bus or taxi ride away. Here the major banks will be found, some with cashpoints and a Sainsbury's supermarket is located here too.


 Verbal or written reports delivered in plain English at the level you require, in a pragmatic way. We work with private owners, yacht brokers, charter companies, insurance companies, finance companies, and also coding organisations.
 We specialise in surveying FRP and steel vessels, charter yachts and all small marine craft. With 25 years in the marine industry, www.marinesurveysuk.com are members of BMSE and YDSA Call Matt on   07798 554535   or email [email protected]


Chichester Harbour is a large natural harbour to the south west of the city of Chichester on the Solent. It straddles the boundary of West Sussex and Hampshire. Geographically it is a ria. It is one of four natural harbours in that area of the coastline, the others being Portsmouth Harbour, Langstone Harbour and Pagham Harbour. The harbour and surrounding land is managed by Chichester Harbour Conservancy.


Chichester Harbour is one of the few remaining undeveloped coastal areas in Southern England and remains relatively wild. Its wide expanses and intricate creeks are at the same time a major wildlife haven and among some of Britain's most popular boating waters.

The massive stretch of tidal flats and saltings are of outstanding ecological significance. Very large populations of wildfowl and waders use the mudflats feeding on the rich plant life and the huge populations of intertidal invertebrates. More than 7,500 Brent geese overwinter on the intertidal mud-land and adjacent farmland and more than 50,000 birds reside in or visit the Harbour throughout the year.

The harbourside villages are; West Wittering, Itchenor, Birdham, Dell Quay, Fishbourne, Chidham, Prinsted, Thorney Island, Emsworth, Langstone and Northney. The nearest towns are Havant, Chichester and Hayling Island. The harbour lowlands contain high quality arable farmland and boatyards, marinas and commercial fishing are important elements of the local economy.

This is one of the south coast's most popular sailing waters with as many as 12,500 craft regularly using the harbour, with competitive racing taking place among the 14 sailing clubs of the Chichester Harbour Federation. The villages, sea walls and footpaths are a popular leisure area for residents and tourists alike.

Set up by Act of Parliament in 1971, Chichester Harbour Conservancy has the duty to conserve, maintain and improve the harbour and amenity area for recreation, natural conservation and natural beauty. As well as being the statutory harbour authority, the Conservancy manages the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

To the south west of the entrance to Chichester Harbour is Chichester Bar, a shallow spit which can present a significant navigation hazard at all states of the tide. The entrance to the harbour is deep with a fast tidal stream and to the east of the main harbour entrance channel is a gravel bank known as The Winner.

The east side of the harbour entrance is an area of geographical, recreational and conservation interest known as East Head. It is a large sand dune linked to land by a narrow area known as The Hinge. In recent years The Hinge has been breached by several storms and then repaired. There is much debate about whether and how it should continue to be repaired.

Chichester Harbour has three main channels. The Emsworth Channel, the Thorney Channel and the Chichester Channel, which also branches off into the Bosham Lake and Itchenor Reach.


Chichester Harbour is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The harbour is of national and international importance for nature conservation. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a wetland of international importance,a Special Protection Area for wild birds and a Special Area of Conservation. The harbour is of particular importance for wintering wildfowl and waders of which five species reach numbers which are internationally important.

There are a number of habitats including a large area of saltmarsh habitat and mudflats which are exposed at low tide. These areas are particularly important for wintering birds. Chichester Habour is a designated Bass Nursery Area.


Chichester Harbour is used for a wide variety of sailing, from dinghy racing to yacht marinas. It was the place where the renowned 'Itchenor Gallon' race for the International 14 was held. It is also used for fishing.

Harbour tours depart year round from Itchenor in either a traditional boat or in Solar Heritage - a solar powered boat. During the summer regular trips depart from Emsworth on Solar Heritage and on the Victorian oyster boat Terror.

The harbour is very popular area for birdwatching, guided bird walks and boat trips are offered during the winter months by Chichester Harbour Conservancy.

There is a good network of footpaths for walkers and a cycle route from Chichester to West Wittering which passes through harbour countryside.

West Wittering Beach and East Head is the only sandy beach on the West Sussex coast and is a very popular family and tourist destination on warm weekends.

Eating, Drinking & Entertainment

The Marina boasts its own bar and restaurant, Marina Jaks specialising in seafood.

Within a 15 minute walk it is possible to find various takeaways including fish and chips, Indian and Chinese.

This just about covers the immediate area, unless you want to bus it to Mengham.


Your Ratings & Comments

Update March 2022
Written by Don Thomson 3 | 17th Mar 2022
I reviewed these notes in March 2022. There are no significant changes. I've uploaded a Marina diagram for Sparkes Marina in the Nav images (top right). It's worth clicking or tapping on the Sparkes Marina chartlet in the berthing section for the close in buoyage of the approach to the Marina

Written by Don Thomson | 12th Mar 2018
Sparkes have raised their prices slightly and we have uploaded a new chart
We have had information on Harbour dues from the Conservancy Board which says that "as a visitor, if you are paying one of the Chichester Harbour marinas an overnight visitor fee this will include our visitor harbour dues fee for up to one month. You can visit numerous marinas within this first month."
4 of 4 people found this helpful
Update Spring 2016
Written by dononshytalk | 30th Mar 2016
These notes were reviewed by Don in March 2016. There has been a price increase at Sparkes Marina
1 of 1 people found this helpful
Update March 2014
Written by dononshytalk | 26th Mar 2014
Reviewed in March 2014. Small price increase at Sparkes
Update 2013
Written by dononshytalk | 10th Jan 2013
The only changes are the 2013 prices. Don T
2 of 2 people found this helpful
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