Foynes provides complete protection from all winds and may easily be described as the most sheltered location on the Shannon Estuary. It offers safe access as it is well lit and all dangers are well marked. Although subject to the challenges of the Shannon currents, it can be approached at all points of the tide, night or day. The harbour may be entered either from west through the preferred main deep water channel or from northeast by a buoyed channel.
Please note there is a 3kn ebb stream through the Foynes anchorage. Due to the greatly increased commercial shipping the anchorage for visiting yachts is limited.
Keyfacts for Foynes Harbour
SummaryA completely protected location with safe access.
LWS draught4 metres (13.12 feet).
Today's tide estimates
|HW 00:00||LW 05:40|
|HW 12:13||LW 18:19|
Position and approaches
Haven position52° 36.880' N, 009° 6.790' W
Foynes yacht club pontoon.
What are the initial fixes?The following waypoints will set up a final approach:
(i) Foynes Harbour initial fix
52° 37.120' N, 009° 7.850' W
The sets up and approach to the harbour’s preferred western entrance. The initial fix is set on the East Jetty’s leading lights and the 15 metre contour. It is on the in-line alignment of 107.9° that leads through the centre of the channel.
(ii) Shannon Entrance Initial Fix
52° 32.528' N, 009° 46.944' W
This is the position of the Shannon Entrance marker, the Ballybunnion North Cardinal Marker Lt Buoy, VQ Fl. 6m.
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How to get in?
The 'Sybil Point to Loop Head' coastal description provides approach information to the suggested initial fix. Vessels approaching from the south should select the northbound sequenced description; vessels approaching from the north should select the southbound sequence; western approaches may use either description.
Either description may be used for the River Shannon where the forty three miles from the entrance to Limerick City are detailed.
From the Shannon Entrance initial fix it is simply a matter of following the river's extensive array of navigational aids upriver that include lighthouses, light beacons, leading lights and light buoys. Owing to tidal races and the nature of the channel, especially in the upper reaches beyond the River Fergus, the run may not necessarily proceed from buoy to buoy. As such it is highly advised that a stranger should gain an understanding of the rivers’ characteristics by using a good set of charts in conjunction with our coastal description.
Leisure craft are obliged to give way to commercial shipping when operating within the river and estuary. All commercial vessels transiting the Shannon Estuary operate a listening watch on VHF Channel 11 and it is strongly recommended that leisure craft do also. If when encountering commercial traffic any uncertainty should arise; the key to safety is good communications by using Channel 11 to clearly indicate respective intentions.
There are two entrances to Foynes’ inner harbour; from west, having a least depth over the bar of 8.1 metres, and from east having a least depth of 2.1 metres. The western entrance is the primary commercial channel and is very well marked with buoys, perches and leading lights. Being the preferred channel the Foynes initial fix supports this approach.
Vessels approaching from the west will find the entrance to Foynes located between the spit, that extends 400 metres from the west extremity of Foynes Islands, and a bank that encircles the shore of the mainland. The entrance channel is marked by lighted and unlit buoys and indicated by a white directional sector light on 107.9° (possibly slightly moved for changes in channel) on the ‘East Jetty’.
Foynes Front - leading light Oc 4s 34m 12M position: 52° 36.794’N, 009° 06.130’W
Foynes Rear - leading light Oc 4s 39m 12M position: 52° 36.753’N, 009° 05.910’W
By day follow the markers guiding a passage down the middle of the channel, or by night follow the ‘East Jetty’ leading lights into harbour.
The key to the western entrance to Foynes is in avoiding the shoal water that extends off both the island and the shore upon approach. From Poultallin Point, off the mainland shoreline to the south of the entrance channel, the outer limit of the shoal extends out almost quarter of a mile. This is marked by the No.1 Poultallin marker on the outside and the inner No.3 Poultallin Point on the edge of the drying area; by night all southern or mainland markers are Q.G.7m2M.
Likewise from Battery Point, upon the west end of Foynes Island, the shoal has rocks in its southern edge and it runs out 400 metres to the southwest. This is marked by the No.2 Battery Point and the inner No.4 Carrigeen marker; by night all northern or Foynes island markers are Q.R.7m2M.
Between these marks the channel decreases from 10 to a maintained 7.8 metres of water. Midway along the channel the shores approach to about 200 metres from each other until, at the southern end of the inner harbour, the channel again widens.
The next markers to be seen on the southern side are the No. 5 and the Colleen Point marker and the channel is clear once past these buoys. Once passed the Colleen Point beacon, the 250 metre long yacht club pontoon will be seen and landing slips to the west of the town on the starboard side.
Vessels approaching from the east require more care than the western entrance as it is shallow to the northeast of Foynes Island. The approach is through a channel that is situated between extensive mudflats and rocks on each side of two marker buoys that are not lit.
On first approaches a conspicuous memorial cross will be seen standing on the high ground to the south side of Foynes Island. Beneath it Saint Senan's Hospital may be easily identifiable by its flat-roofed building situated to the south of the railway station. The first leg of the northeast approach should be on a line of bearing 215° of Hospital towards the Long Rock marker buoy. During this first approache 2.4 to 3.4 metres of water will be found mid-channel.
The Long Rock starboard buoy is in about 3.4 metres of water and situated to the west of a patch of rocks that border the channels eastern side of the same name. Leave the Long Rock buoy to port whilst entering.
About 400 metres further on from this is the Elbow Rock port buoy situated in 5 metres of water. This marks an outlying rock at the southern edge of foul ground on the island side called the Elbow Rock. Leave this to starboard.
Continue on 100 metres towards the East Jetty and the channel is clear to make towards the moorings or the pontoon.
The pontoon can accommodate approximately 8 visiting boats, 4 club boats, the club crash-boat and 12 dinghies. All other boats are kept on swinging moorings on the southeast side of Foynes Island. Yacht owners are advised to consult the HM as there may be spare moorings.
Alternatively you may anchor there in stiff mud, as close as possible to the more southerly moorings so as not to obstruct vessels using the east entrance - buoy the anchor. In strong northwest to southwest winds it is best to anchor east of Foynes Island’s Gammarel Point.
What's the story here?Foynes, or Faing in Irish, is a small town and very busy commercial port. The harbour’s history dates back to 1837 when it was first surveyed as a potential development location for a sea port. The West Quay wall, that is berth No. 1 today, was the original berth that was constructed nearly a decade after that original survey in 1846. From this beginning the harbour went on to be continuously developed and thrived as a major deep water seaport. Today it functions as a base for the servicing of offshore oil exploration as well as a commercial harbour for the import and export of bulk and general cargo. It is operated by the Shannon Foynes Port Company (SFPC) that operates all the Shannon Estuary ports.
Despite this maritime mainstay Foynes briefly achieved its moment of international fame in aviation. For unlikely though it may seem, in the years between 1939 and 1945, this was the key location in the advance of worldwide capability of aviation. During this period land-based aircraft lacked sufficient range for Atlantic crossings and seaplanes were the first viable craft. As such Foynes was the last safe all weather location on Europe’s eastern shore for seaplanes.
Surveying flights for operations were made by Charles Lindbergh in 1933 and a terminal was begun in 1935. The first transatlantic proving flights were operated on July 5, 1937 from Botwood, Newfoundland and Labrador on the Bay of Exploits. The first commercial passenger flight, on a direct route from the United States to Europe, landed on the 9th of July 1939. Following this event, services to New York, Southampton, Montreal, Poole and Lisbon followed. The first non-stop New York service operating on June 22nd 1942 took 25 hours 40 minutes. Foynes quickly became one of the biggest civilian airports in Europe during World War II. Yet all of this growth was dramatically halted in 1942.
By then the range of land based craft had extended and with it came the construction and opening of Shannon Airport in 1942. Traffic to Foynes collapsed and the flying-boat station was closed in 1946. The former terminal was turned into a college for the learning of the Irish language in 1954. However in 1980 the Port Trustees purchased the building and in 1988 leased a portion to a Flying Boat Museum that exists today. The lasting legacy to the world of Foynes bright moment of global aviation fame is ‘Irish Coffee’. The invention came about here, it is said, in order to alleviate the suffering of cold wet weather passengers had to endure during its aviation days in the 1930s and early 40s.
This museum is a must visit today for all visiting boatmen. It has as a central feature a full replica, as no original remains intact today, of a Boeing 314 flying boat. Visitors may step aboard the replica and see what it was like to fly during the 1940s. It is a special experience to place ones hands on the big boat’s wheel and see the passenger cabins that were not dissimilar to that of a train of the time, rather than a plane of today. The Foynes Flying Boat Museum contains much other memorabilia from that era, including the original radio and weather room along with its equipment.
Those who would like to stride out into some beautiful scenery backstopped by spectacular views should also consider Knockpatrick Gardens whilst passing Foynes. Located 2 km (1 mi) from Foynes towards Limerick it is an award winning 3-acre (12,000 m2) garden that enjoys an ideal location overlooking the estuary. The dwelling house stands over 200 metres above road level, with the surrounding garden descending from this high point. It is divided into levels with pools and water features surrounded by the vibrant colour of a profusion of plants surrounded by many large mature trees.
From a sailing perspective Foynes is the best anchorage in the Shannon Estuary making it an ideal safe haven for yachtsman. Furthermore, as the Shannon Estuary is approximately 50 miles long it is not possible for leisure craft to traverse it on one tide. Hence the broadly midway positioned Foynes is an ideal stop-off point; it is not far off the beaten track, and a good night’s sleep with a very good bite to eat may be totally assured.
What facilities are available?Water is available on the quay and you will find all the services of a small town, with a population of 600 and a busy commercial port. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, grocers, butchers and so on plus a garage with petrol and diesel, doctor, post office, etc. Foynes town folk have been found to be very accommodating to visiting boats.
The yacht club pontoon has the usual facilities during the season including a modern clubhouse with bar, dance floor, toilets and showers. There is a wintering compound for 30 yachts and a launching slip. Foynes is about 25 miles west of Limerick city on the N69 "coast road" and a regular bus is available. This is also the main gateway to Shannon Airport.
Any security concerns?Never an issue known to have occurred at Foynes.
With thanks to:Burke Corbett, Gusserane, New Ross, Co. Wexford.
The above plots are not precise and indicative only.
The following video presents a promotional video by the Shannon Foynes Port company with good aerial shots of the river Shannon and the port of Foynes.
The first 30 seconds of this video presents an view of the pile moorings at Foynes near the Yacht Club.
The following video presents a local interest piece about the Flying boat museum at Foynes.
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