Today's local tide estimates
LW 01:49, HW 08:02
LW 14:20, HW 20:41
SE Force 2, Partly Cloudy, 12°C
Direction SE, height 0.0 metres, period 7.7 seconds, significant wave height of 0.1 metres.
A completely protected location with safe access.
2.8 metres (9.19 feet).
Shelter See it »
Marina, moorings, sailing club, watched over, urban, edifying, strong tides, fees due.
Tap, diesel alongside, petrol alongside, gas, slipway, electricity, laundry, extensive shopping, supermarket, toilets, showers, hot food, public houses, cashpoint, post office, internet café, wireless access, doctor, pharmacy, chandlery, marina cart , sanitation pump-out, haul-out, hard-standing, marine engineering, rigging services, electronic repair, sail repair, bus, rail connections, airport within 25 km, car hire, tourist information, walks, handicapped access, family recreation.
Haven position? See it »
54° 40.033' N, 005° 40.330' W
Where is that position? See it »
The North Breakwater pierhead at the entrance where a large red pillar beacons stands Iso R 12s 9m 14 M
What is the initial fix? See it »
The following Bangor Harbour Initial Fix waypoint will set up a final approach:
54° 40.230' N, 005° 40.330' W
400 metres north of the North Breakwater pierhead at the entrance where a large red pillar beacons stands Iso R 12s 9m 14 M. A bearing of due south leads into the harbour entrance from here.
Why visit here?
Bangor (originating from Beannchar, the old Irish name, itself thought to be derived from a combination Beanna, the Irish for cliffs, and ancient Norse for 'horned bay', as the shape of Bangor Bay resembles the horns of a bull) is a large residential town. With a population in excess of 75,000 it is the third most populous settlement in Northern Ireland.
Close to the Irish Sea cruising routes and host to Bangor Marina, one of the largest and most well run in Ireland, plus the Royal Ulster and Ballyholme Yacht clubs, it offers a well known safe berth for a visiting boatman to attend to repairs, provisioning and explore the highly attractive towns of Bangor and Belfast.
The town has a long and illustrious history dating back two millennia. There has been a history of settlement as a fishing port and swords were discovered in 1949 providing evidence of Bronze Age people. It was however in the Christian period where Bangor became renowned throughout Europe as a location for learning and scholarship.
Saint Patrick, the patron Saint of Ireland, had a vision filled with angels whilst resting here and the location became named ‘The Vale of Angels’ thereafter. In AD 555 Saint Comgall, a solider who layed down his sword, made that vision real by establishing Bangor Abbey on the site. It quickly became one of the most eminent of Europe’s missionary institutions in the Early Middle Ages sending out Celtic missionaries to mainland Britain and Europe. The missionaries of Bangor appear throughout medieval literature as a force for good.
As with all western European coasts, the abbey and town fell victim to the violent Viking incursions in the 8th and 9th centuries where the Danes sacked and razed Bangor. Later in 1542 the English dissolved the monastery and the current abbey seen today was built from the stones of the former in the 15th Century adding the spire in 1693. Despite the decline of the monastery, its influence can still be observed in the modern town; streets names such as Abbots Close, Abbots Walk etc, the three church towers that greet boatmen on seaward approach long before the navigation aids: the Abbey, the First Bangor Presbyterian Church and St Comgalls, and Bangor Parish Church. All speak to the town's illustrious ecclesiastical past.
The Old Custom House, that hosts the tourist information centre alongside the marina, is a 17th century tower and adjoining tower house, were built in 1636. It is a visible reminder of the new order introduced the Scottish and English planters during the Plantation of Ulster. However Bangor prospered and became an important port and centre of cotton production in the 18th century. The seafront area had several large steam-powered cotton mills employing hundreds of people
By the middle of the 19th century the cotton mills were in decline but by then a railway had been layed. This brought inexpensive travel from Belfast making it possible for working class people to holiday upon the sandy beaches of Bangor and nearby Ballyholme Bay. The town became a fashionable Victorian and Edwardian holiday resort where tourists could take in the sea air. Indeed the seafront was named ‘Queen's Parade’ after Queen Victoria herself who drove along the front during a visit. It also became a highly desirable location to own property.
Today Bangor is a commuter town for Belfast and large retail centre where the remnants of the town's varied past make for a very interesting visit.
How to get in?
Directions are provided for northern and southern coastal approaches plus a final location approach. If coastal guidance is not applicable, skip directly to the ‘for the final approach’ section.
FOR A NORTHERN COASTAL APPROACH
Those approaching from Larne Harbour and following the coastline should give Skernaghan Point, the northern most point of Islandmagee, a berth of 500 metres to avoid a rocky outcrop that stretches out northward from it. Upon rounding Skernaghan Point, continue southeast alongside Islandmagee’s 3 miles of precipitous cliffs that range from 15 to 31 metres high as the Isle of Muck and the little harbour of Portmuck will be seen on the starboard bow.
The Isle of Muck is 37 metres high and is a bare, green island presenting perpendicular sea facing cliffs to the east. The island is attached to the shore by a narrow neck of shingle beach. Round the eastern seaward side of the island and keep at least a hundred metres off the north-most point. Please note the island is attached to the shore by a narrow neck of shingle beach that exposes at low water. It is possible to achieve up to two metres at high water springs over the narrow connecting ridge and pass between the islet and Islandmagee shore. However one would need to be paying attention to tides and timing plus a vessels draft to be certain of the requisite depth. Hence we recommend that the island is rounded on the outside.
South of the Isle of Muck to Black Head the coast of Islandmagee presents a steep perpendicular cliff, composed of black basaltic rocks, that at ‘The Gobbins’ is 45 metres high, again with deep water close in to Black Head. There Blackhead lighthouse resides marking the northern extremity of Belfast Lough.
Blackhead Lighthouse - Fl 3s 45m 27M position: 54° 46.016’N, 005° 41.338’W
South of Black Head the entrance to the Lough opens 6.75 miles wide between the headland and Orlock Point on the south. Its navigable area is free of dangers with an average depth of 11 metres.
Bangor is six miles south of Black Head and the final length of the journey will take the vessel across the unimpeded waters of Belfast Lough. Cloghan Jetty will be passed on the starboard beam two miles to the south. This jetty extends out from the north shore for more than half a mile and is lit at the end Fl G 3s 2M. Half a mile beyond the end of the pierhead a green buoy resides QG. 0.5M.
From here Bangor’s dominating steeples will be highly visible as the vessel tracks down onto the Initial Fix.
FOR A SOUTHERN COASTAL APPROACH
Vessels arriving from the south or east will find the Copeland Islands of moderate elevation and distinguished by a lighthouse on the westernmost Mew Island. The approach options are to either come up outside the Copelands group or through Donaghadee Sound that resides between the mainland and the Islands.
Those approaching outside Copeland Islands should leave Mew Island well to Port and the run into the initial fix is straightforward across Belfast Lough’s open navigable waters that are free of dangers.
Mew Island Lighthouse - Fl (4) 30s 37m 24M position: 54° 41.923’N, 005° 30.824’W
Please note the ‘Northern Race’ and ‘Ram Race’ that occur at various stages of the tide to the east of Mew and Copeland Islands may be highly uncomfortable in strong conditions and should be avoided.
Donaghadee Sound is the normal route for leisure craft making along this coast when tidal streams are favourable. Although the sound is almost a mile wide, between Copeland Island and the mainland to the southwest, foul ground called the ‘Magic Rocks’ extend nearly half way from Copeland Island’s southwest side. Then Deputy Reef, marked by a red buoy, is situated nearly in the middle of the southern fairway. These contract the channel through the sound to a quarter of a mile in width. This however is well marked for vessels entering and exiting Belfast Lough by the buoyed shipping channel. The key southern entry buoys as follows:
Governor Red Can Buoy - Fl R 3s position: 54° 39.360’N, 005° 31.991’W
Deputy Green Can Buoy - Fl G 2s position: 54° 39.513’N, 005° 31.944’W
Foreland Red Can Buoy - Fl R 6s position: 54° 39.640’N, 005° 32.307’W
Donaghadee Sound streams achieve 4.5 knots in places so tidal planning is essential and great care should be taken during the approach. Pass between the Deputy and Governor buoys and from there to the Foreland Buoy. Once inside Belfast Lough pass the South Briggs Red Can Buoy to port as it marks a dangerous reef extending from the shore.
South Briggs Red Can Buoy – Fl (2) R 10s position: 54° 41.182’N, 005° 35.732’W
From South Briggs keep a watch out for Club Racing Buoys, whilst crossing Groomsport Bay and give Ballymacormick Point half a mile clearance before heading for Bangor Harbours initial fix. Once again keep an eye out for Racing Marks whilst crossing Ballyholme Bay, the bay immediately east of Bangor Bay itself. Closing in on the initial fix you will find Bangor Bay is approachable from all directions and clear of obstructions.
FOR THE FINAL APPROACH
From the initial fix the North Breakwater with the red concrete pillar, Red Light. Iso R 12s 9m 14M, at its head will be clearly visible. It is advisable that you make berthing arrangements with the marina before commencing the final approach as once inside the harbour you will be too occupied finding a berth to manage the VHF; Channel 37/80 Call sign "Bangor Marina".
The entrance to the Harbour is between two grey concrete breakwaters. The North Breakwater extending west-northwest from the eastern side and behind is the Pickie Breakwater extending 120 metres from the western shore. Expect to find two unusual dolphins standing off the head of the Pickie Breakwater that carry its lights on fixed Green poles, 2F. G (vert) 3M upon the outside.
Enter between the two breakwaters and the marina opens on your starboard side behind the Pickie Breakwater and enclosed by the Central Pier (QW at the pierhead). Turning sharp to starboard, leave the green pole Fl. G. 3s to starboard and enter the well lit marina. Please note that the fairways do channel and vessels carrying a draft should stay in the middle at low water.
Proceed inside between Pickie Breakwater and the ends of pontoons ‘H’, ‘G’ and ‘F’ and turn to port to continue between ‘F’ and the western shoreline . Once at the third Fl.G Light comes starboard abeam you will be at pontoon E, turn to port where you will find the visitors berths on the south facing fingers of pontoon E.
Yachts may lay alongside the north breakwater for a short period of time but do not leave the vessel unattended and be prepared to move if requested.
What are the tides here?
Today's local tide estimates are based on High Water Belfast +0020
Today's Belfast tides — High water: 07:42, 20:21, Low water: 01:29, 14:00
Today's Dover tides — High water: 07:48, 20:13, Low water: 02:25, 14:56 (From Tide Times)
High Water Dover +0007, as Belfast get Dover tides
MHWS 3.2m MHWN 2.7m MLWN 0.9m MLWS 0.3m
Tidal planning for vessels approaching Belfast Lough is essential. Vessels approaching from the south will encounter tides that run hard in the sounds. Likewise vessels approaching from east, or outside the island group, will encounter races with overfalls as they close in upon the Copeland Island group. At the eastern tip of Mew Island the ‘Ram Race’ initiates and extends 1.5 miles south-by-southeast on the flood and up to 1.75 miles north-by-northwest on the ebb.
From Dover HW +0455 to -0115 (Belfast HW +0510 to -0100) the tide floods southeast. Donaghadee Sound’s spring streams can in places reach up to 4.5 knots in both directions making a favourable tide transit a prerequisite for most leisure craft. Streams largely follow the direction of the channel but it should be noted heavy tide rips in a big seaway may cause overfalls to occur across the southeast end of Donaghadee Sound. From the entrance of Strangford lough however, through to the inner passage, the stream is comparatively weak, not averaging more than 1.5 knots on springs.
Copeland Sound tides are not as strong but still attain rates of up to 2.5 knots with Spring tides. This is however not the preferred channel owing to the two challenging and unmarked rocky shoals called ‘Platters’ and ‘Ninaen Bushes’, the latter with less than a metre of cover situated out half a mile off from the north-east point of Copeland Island. Eddies are very strong elsewhere all around the islands group.
Outside the islands the tides turn about one hour later. On the south going flood a vast eddy forms to the south of Mew Island. This circles back upon itself in the five miles area between the entrance to Donaghadee Sound and Ballyferis Point. Hence the streams off Donaghadee Harbour are 1.5 kn rotary in a clockwise direction on the flood. However when this vast circular eddy of water courses around to collide with the flood tide to the south-southeast of Mew and the ill-famed Ram Race shows its true colours. Thus the area is at its worst after the recirculation on the second half of the flood circa HW Dover -0230 to +0015 or about local HW (HW Belfast -0215 to +0030 or about local HW). Likewise the north-northwest race occurs on the latter half of the ebb from HW Dover +0330 to +0630 (HW Belfast +0345 to +0615 or about local LW).
Northern approaches are less complicated however tidal stream remain very strong running up to 5 or 6 kn off salient points to the north of Belfast Lough.
Between Black Head and White Head tidal streams are negligible with light current, the flood running in and the ebb out of the lough off Carrickfergus. In the middle to outer half of the lough tidal streams rotate and are always less than 1 knot.
What facilities are available?
Bangor Marina is Northern Ireland's biggest and most prestigious offering all facilities 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Visitor pontoons have electricity supply and water. The toilets, showers and a laundry room are situated on the ground floor of Bregenz House with Laundry tokens and washing powder available at the Marina office plus an iron also. You will also find a payphone in the amenities corridor in Bregenz House and BT Openzone wireless broadband access is available for purchase throughout the marina area.
Fuel, Gasoil (red diesel) and unleaded petrol are available on the fuel pontoon 24 hours a day where a pump out station is located, please contact the marina office for service. Bottled gas can be obtained at the chandlery and there is a boatyard service on site catering for al repairs with a 50 tons lift out capacity plus a slipway for launching smaller boats. For all else the marina is situated on the bottom of the main street of Bangor, a prosperous town.
Bangor is just 22 km (13.6 miles) east from the heart of Belfast City Centre on the A2. It has excellent transport connections via trains and bus service to connect to Belfast city and from there on to any location in Ireland. Flights to domestic and international destinations operate from Belfast City and Belfast International Airports. There are frequent ferry crossings from Belfast and Larne.
What emergency contacts are there?
Belfast Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC). Operational Area: Northern Ireland/ Irish Republic Border, Lough Foyle to Northern/Irish Republic Border Carlingford Lough. Belfast Coastguard (MRSC) VHF Ch 16, liaises closely with IRCG. Emergencies are worked on 16, 67 and working channel.
Alternatively, or if ashore, phone 999 and 112 and ask for ‘Marine Rescue’. Police, Fire and Rescue are also available on this number. Belfast (MRSC) may be contacted directly on +44 2891 463 933. HM Coastguard's Marine Rescue Sub Centre and a RNLI Atlantic 85 Lifeboat are both based at the Marina.
Other useful contacts in this area:
Bangor Marina Tel: +44 28 9145 3297
VHF Channel 37/80 Call sign "Bangor Marina" (24 Hours) A continuous watch is maintained on Channel 11 for Bangor Harbour.
Police: +44 2890 650222
Customs (confidential); +44 800 595000
Doctor on call (outside normal hours): +44 2891 822344
Hospital (Newtownards): +44 2891 812661
(Ulster, Dundonald): +44 2890 484511
Any security concerns?
Secure access is provided by card or Personal Identification Number (PIN) to operate the Bregenz House door lock. Visitors are provided with a current PIN at the time of registering their visit.
What navigational resources are available for this area?
British Admiralty 1753 ‘Belfast Lough and Approaches’, scale of 37,500:1, including ‘Donaghadee Sound’ scale of 15,000:1 and ‘Bangor Bay’ scale of 17,500:1. Imray chart C62 – ‘Irish Sea’ plus Discovery Ordinance Survey map 15 (Belfast - scale of 1:50 000) also cover this area. OpenStreetMap provides local maps that include relief details plus walking and cycle routes for this locality.
With thanks to:
Charlie Kavanagh - ISA/RYA Yachtmaster Instructor/Examiner - navigation and sail training available - details here: http://www.sailsoutheast.com/'>www.sailsoutheast.com/'>http://www.sailsoutheast.com/
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