South East Channel Coast

Ramsgate to the Solent

The passage Ramsgate Dover Eastbourne

The coastline

The Seven Sisters chalk cliffs

The Seven Sisters

The coastline is quite varied, from the chalk cliffs of North and South Foreland, to the shingle of Dungeness, the flat hinterland of Rye, then Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters, before the coast subsides again to the lowlying land around Selsey Bill.

There are very few off-lying hazards, except around Selsey Bill, which needs to be treated with caution since there are a lot of off lying shoals. Perhaps the Dover ferries also count as a hazard, and you should call Dover Port Control on VHF Channel 7 before passing the harbour - and certainly before entering.

There are, however, several tidal gates which, if you get them wrong, you will regret it! This means the timing of your journey will be governed very much by the tides. The main 'gates' are Selsey Bill, Beachy Head, Dungeness and South Foreland. Between these headlands you can move in close to the coast where an adverse tide may be a little less.

There is a tidal oddity around Dungeness, which unfortunately only works going east. If you take the flood from Brighton or Eastbourne up to Dungeness, then you can take the ebb towards Dover and Ramsgate, getting around ten hours of favourable tide!


Some harbours are more accessible than others. Ramsgate, Dover, Newhaven and Brighton can be entered on all states of the tide. Eastbourne can also be accessed at all states of the tide, but only via a lock. Rye, Shoreham and Littlehampton are very much tidal harbours.

Also beware Brighton in a brisk southerly or southwesterly. The entrance will not necessarily be dangerous, but may well be distinctly uncomfortable.

Travelling west from Dover, there is Folkestone, which doesn't cater for yachts, then the headland of Dungeness, with its nuclear station. Then you are into Rye Bay (beware the ranges at Lydd; you may be hailed by a range boat and asked to keep clear, but any diversion would be small). Rye harbour itself is very tidal, and not a place to venture into unless you are prepared to dry out at low water.

Going west from Eastbourne means rounding Beachy Head. This really needs to be done with an ebb or west flowing tide, and with any wind from the west, there can be some very nasty overfalls. There isn't much of an inshore passage; instead, you are best heading out to sea for a couple of miles. You will also get a better tide that way.

Beachy Head

Beachy Head from the east.

Past Beachy Head we come to Newhaven and Brighton. Newhaven is accessible at all states of the tide. Newhaven Marina website can be found here.

Brighton entrance is to be treated with care if there is any swell or sea. The walls are very good reflectors and the result can be some confused and lumpy seas as you approach. Plenty of shelter inside, and plenty of room to park. Call up the marina before entry on Channel 80 to be allocated a berth. Excellent supermarket just a short walk away.

West of Brighton there is only Shoreham and Littlehampton, both very much tidal harbours. Selsey Bill needs some careful navigation to find the Looe Channel - there are drying patches quite close to the channel on the shore side.

And then you are in the Solent.

All photographs copyright CNH. Please ask if you wish to use them and please acknowledge the source.