Today's local tide estimates
LW 04:08, HW 10:12
LW 16:22, HW 22:37
NNW Force 6, Partly Cloudy, 5°C
Direction N, height 0.0 metres, period 0.1 seconds, significant wave height of 0.3 metres.
Summary* Restrictions apply
A completely protected location with safe access.
4 metres (13.12 feet).
Shelter See it »
Marina, moorings, night lights, watched over, urban, edifying, height restriction, strong tides, fees due.
Tap, diesel alongside, petrol alongside, gas, fuel by tanker, electricity, waste disposal, laundry, extensive shopping, supermarket, toilets, hot food, public houses, cashpoint, post office, internet café, doctor, pharmacy, chandlery, haul-out, marine engineering, electronic repair, sail repair, scuba refill, bus, rail connections, airport within 25 km, cycle hire, car hire, tourist information, family recreation.
Haven position? See it »
54° 36.300' N, 005° 54.860' W
Where is that position? See it »
This is position of the Abercorn Basin where the recreational vessel berths are located.
What is the initial fix? See it »
The following Belfast Harbour Initial Fix waypoint will set up a final approach:
54° 41.710' N, 005° 46.225' W
The initial fix is the position of Fairway Light buoy, L Fl 10s, situated between Carrickfergus and Grey Point. This safe water marker leads into the Victoria Channel, a five mile southwest tending fairway through the lough to the harbour entrance that then continues up the Lagan River. The Victoria Channel is well marked by frequently lit buoys and beacons on either side.
Why visit here?
Belfast derives its name from the Irish ‘Béal Feirste’that translates to "mouth of the sandbars". It is the second largest city in the island of Ireland and Northern Ireland’s capital.
Belfast’s human occupation reaches back to the Bronze Age. This is evidenced by The Giant's Ring, a 5,000-year-old henge, located near the city. The remains of Iron Age hill forts may also be seen in the hills that surround the city. However it remained a small settlement of little importance during the Middle Ages that was continually overshadowed by Carrickfergus to the north.
This changed in the 17th century, at the time of the Plantation of Ulster, when Belfast became a substantial settlement. Then, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the city flourished as it played a key role in the Industrial Revolution. It quickly grew to became a commercial and industrial centre of excellence for tobacco production, Irish-linen, rope-making, heavy engineering and shipbuilding. At the end of the nineteenth century, Belfast had established its place as a global industrial centre and became Ireland's pre-eminent industrial city. For a short measure of time it overtook Dublin as the largest city in Ireland.
Dating back to 1613, Belfast Harbour laid the foundations for the cities meteoric manufacturing and commercial growth. It was also the platform from which the city's main shipbuilders, Harland and Wolff, created a ship that would capture the imagination of the world and propelled Belfast onto the global stage. This was the ill-fated RMS Titanic; the most famous sailing vessel in maritime history.
The Titanic was created when the Belfast shipyard was one of the largest shipbuilders in the world, employing up to 35,000 workers, and considered the greatest and most productive. The RMS Titanic was the largest passenger steamship ever built when she set off on her maiden voyage in 1912. Four days into the crossing, from Southampton to New York City, it struck an iceberg and sank in less than three hours. It took 1,517 people with her and is one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history.
Today, Belfast remains a centre for business, industry, the arts, higher education, law, culture and is the engine of Northern Ireland. The development of the ‘Titanic Quarter’ a large scale visitor attraction is planned to pay tribute to Belfast Harbour, the city and the technological talent that made the Titanic engineering world-beating.
Not alone does the Abercorn Basin provide excellent shelter from all winds and safe easy access; but it places a boat man in the heart of this historic city with its extensive facilities within 10 minutes’ walk. It also offers a rare and uniquely historic connection, a berth in the Harland and Wolff cradle of 'Titanic Port'.
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.
Between Black Head and Carrickfergus the shoreline presents itself as a vertical black basaltic rock cliff face with three lit jetties associated with Kilroot Power Station. The first is the Cloghan Jetty located to the south of the easily identifiable 90 metres high white limestone cliffs of White Head, a mile and a half inside Belfast Lough to the south-southwest. This jetty extends out from the shore for more than half a mile and is lit at the end Fl G 3s 2M. Beyond the pierhead a green buoy, QG. 0.5M, resides half a mile off the pier head.
Next is the 350 metres long Salt Jetty off Kilroot, with a light Oc G 10s on its outer end. 0.75M W of the jetty is a 198m high chimney marked by red vertical lights.
Finally there is the Kilroot Jetty unloading berth marked by 2 FG (vert) 6m 2M lights.
Don’t come inshore between Kilroot and Carrickfergus as a drying shoal extends up to 0.5 mile out from the shore. The area should be given a wide berth by making for the initial fix.
Carrickfergus Castle, sitting on a rocky promontory overlooking the seafront, immediately east of the harbour will be highly conspicuous on the north shore. The initial fix is the position of Fairway Light buoy, L Fl 10s, situated in the middle of the lough between Carrickfergus and Grey Point on the opposite shore.
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 the run into the initial fix is straightforward across Belfast Lough’s open navigable waters that have ample depth and are free of dangers.
Approaching from the south Belfast Lough’s northern shoreline presents itself as a vertical black basaltic rock cliff face. This extends out to the 63 metre high rounded knuckle at Black Head where the white eight sided tower resides. The headland of Black Head however is not particularly noticeable from seaward owing to Muldersleigh Hill standing behind it rising to a height of 128 metres one kilometre inland. However White Head, residing a mile and a half inside Belfast Lough to the south-southwest, is more easily identified by the 90 metres high white limestone cliffs it presents seaward. As mentioned above, Carrickfergus Castle, sitting on a rocky promontory overlooking the seafront, immediately east of the harbour will be highly conspicuous.
By contrast the southern shore of the lough is comparatively low and unremarkable except at Grey Point that is a bluff 23 metre high point. From South Briggs keep a watch out for Club Racing Buoys, whilst crossing Groomsport Bay and give Ballymacormick Point half a mile clearance before Ballyholme Bay, the bay immediately east of Bangor Bay. Bangor’s harbour walls plus the towns dominating steeples will be highly visible whilst passing to the north of Bangor Bay.
The initial fix is the position of Fairway Light buoy, L Fl 10s, situated in the middle of the lough between Carrickfergus and Grey Point on the opposite shore.
FOR THE FINAL APPROACH
Belfast Harbour radio maintains Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) for the Belfast Lough area. Transits to and from Belfast Harbour are controlled and managed and before approaching the harbour vessels are required to report to Belfast Harbour radio on VHF Channel 12 or 16 or by telephone on 02890 553504 and advise of their intentions.
The following Belfast Harbour radio contacts are prerequisite for all berthing craft:
1. Two hours prior to arrival at the Fairway Buoy or entry point.
2. Fifteen minutes prior to arrival at the Fairway Buoy or entry point.
3. When Passing No. 12 Beacon (one mile out from the river mouth).
4. When arriving at the berth.
Vessels must maintain a listening watch on VHF Channel 12 whilst in the Harbour limits (the area from the Lagan Bridge to a charted line between Grey Point and Carrickfergus). In this area all recreational vessels must operate under power with sails down. The maximum speed in the Harbour south of Number 12 beacon is 6 knots. The total length of travel from the Fairway Light buoy to the berth is 7.5 miles.
From the initial fix that is the position of the Fairway Light buoy, LFl.10s, the No. 3 Green buoy, Fl (3) G 7.5s plus the No. 4 Red buoy port hand marker Fl (2) R 5s will be seen less than a mile and a half to the southwest and a vessel should proceed to pass between them. After this it is simply a matter of following the frequent light beacons all the way into the harbour - green odd numbered beacons mark the northwest side and red even numbered beacons mark the southeast side.
The dredged channel is the preferred route and the one that the harbour authorities encourage visiting vessels to use. However, provided advance permission is sought and provided by Belfast Harbour radio, it is possible for yachts to enter the fairway between Piles No. 5 and No. 6 where ample depth will be found, up too and beyond these marks. This is not the case inside beacon No. 12. After beacon No. 12 shallow and drying banks on either side of the fairway make it very dangerous to leave the marked channel.
Once inside the entrance to the River Lagan Belfast Docks’ extensive port installations will be seen on both sides. Continue down the Victoria Channel until Herdman Channel will be seen branching off to the north side, and Musgrave Channel branching to the south side. Ignore these side channels and continue on between the heads of West Twin and East Twin Islands, into the Lagan River. The Abercorn Basin will be found just under 1.5 miles from the branch point. It is situated on the southeast, or port hand side, adjacent to the highly conspicuous very large domed Odyssey Pavilion upon Queen's Quay.
The Abercorn Basin pontoons (installed since the Google Image below was captured) are located on the southwest side of the basin immediately adjacent to the Odyssey Pavilion. 240 metres of pontoons supporting 40 berths will be found and the Basin is dredged to 4 metres.
Credit/Debit Card payment must be made on arrival at one of the ticket machines situated on the main pontoon at the base of the entrance bridge. Visitors will be asked to input their vessel LOA, berth number(s) and the planned duration of their stay. Retain the provided receipt as it contains the access gates security code information on the back.
Please note the Abercorn Basin pontoons are a forerunner to a new fully equipped 200 berth marina located right at the heart of Belfast’s Titanic Quarter.
What are the tides here?
Today's local tide estimates are based on High Water Belfast +0001
Today's Belfast tides — High water: 10:11, 22:36, Low water: 04:07, 16:21
Today's Dover tides — High water: 10:10, 22:29, Low water: 05:06, 17:32 (From Tide Times)
High Water Dover +0005, as Belfast get Dover tides
MHWS 3.5m MHWN 2.9m MLWN 0.4m MLWS 1.1m
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?
Drinking water and electricity is provided to all berths, 24hrs daily. Waste and recycling facilities are available at the base of the bridge Public toilets are available in the Odyssey complex during opening hours. Public payphones in the Odyssey complex and paid car parking.
The pontoon is a ten minute walk from the city centre with all the facilities to service an urban population of more than quarter of a million. Thus it has a wide variety of excellent restaurants, bars, shopping, museums, galleries and all other facilities, including a sailmaker, to offer.
Belfast has excellent transport connections via trains and bus service to any location in Ireland. Flights to domestic and international destinations operate from Belfast International Airport, the main regional airport, and George Best Belfast City Airport. There are more than 80 weekly ferry sailings from Belfast to UK ports.
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.
Other useful contacts in this area:
Belfast Harbour Radio on VHF Ch 12 or 16 or +44 2890 553504
Harbour Master Office +44 2890 553015
Belfast Harbour Police on +44 2890 553000.
N.I. Fire and Rescue Service +44 2892 664221 / 999
Any security concerns?
The facility is monitored by CCTV security cameras. Secure access is gained by a gate code which can be found on the reverse of the receipt provided by the fee payment ticket machine.
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:
Michael Evans, Deputy Harbour Master, Belfast Harbour.
Please note inyourfootsteps.com makes no guarantee of the validity of this information, we have not visited this haven and do not have first-hand experience to qualify the data. Although the contributors are vetted by peer review as practised authorities, they are in no way, whatsoever, responsible for the accuracy of their contributions. It is essential that you thoroughly check the accuracy and suitability for your vessel of any waypoints offered in any context plus the precision of your GPS. Any data provided on this page is entirely used at your own risk and you must read our legal page if you view data on this site.