Although the entry to the harbour is free from dangers, and Holyhead Bay itself offers an essentially benign and safe sailing opportunity for anyone, the outer approaches can be difficult in heavy weather. From the south and west, the overfalls off Southstack need caution and a favourable tide.Here tides of up to 5 knots each (at Springs) meet over uneven ground, creating overfalls and whirlpools which can be dangerous to smaller vessels.
In strong breezes (F6+), the overfalls and races can extend for up to seven miles towards Holyhead Deep to the northwest. Approaches from the north are protected by The Skerries, an isolated group of rocks and islets, with 5 – 7 knots of tide and associated rips and overfalls, offlying rocks and strong tides demand vigilance. From the east, the approach is generally made between the Skerries and Carmel Head – a particularly vicious patch of troubled waters in strong wind over tide conditions.
Under normal conditions, whilst due regard must be paid to the strength of the tide, sea conditions should not trouble any well-found vessel.
Depths range from 15mts. at the entrance, to 6mts. approaching the marina and sailing club. Buoys and lights mark the principal channels and fairways used by commercial vessels which have right of way within the harbour. It is not permitted to approach the inner harbour without the permission of Port Control.
When closing the harbour, make for the Breakwater Head (marked by a 21m high white tower with black band), allowing a half cable offing for the foundations (see illustration). Leave the Spit buoy to starboard and maintain this offing from the breakwater until the marina is closed.
Tides and Currents
Though the approaches to Holyhead are beset by strong tidal currents (up to 6 knots) Holyhead Bay itself is relatively quiet with less than 2 knots. Within the harbour, it is virtually slack water all the time and, with no stream disgorging into the marina, there is never a need to allow for cross tides or currents.
Holyhead tides – spring range 4.9mts, neap range of 2.4mts, HAT 6.3mts., LAT 0.0mts.. Outside the harbour entrance the tide strength can be over 2 knots at springs but inside the harbour there is a gentle clockwise circulation of less than a quarter of a knot.
There are few dangers, in virtually any conditions, within the confines of Holyhead Bay, as defined by:
North of North Stack
East of Langdon Ridge South Cardinal buoy (VQ(9),10s.
South of Carmel Head
West of the line joining Carmel Head, Bolivar Starboard hand buoy, Clipera Port hand buoy
To arrange a visitors’ berth, call ‘Holyhead Marina” on Channel 37 (M) after rounding the harbour breakwater. If the Office is closed, except in easterly winds, visitors should head for the Visitors’ Berths on the Outer side of the breakwater.
Holyhead harbour, being a harbour of refuge, may be entered in all weather conditions and at all states of the tide. Please call ‘Holyhead Marina’ on Channel 37 for berthing instructions after passing the Spit buoy.
The waters of North Wales can, in the right circumstances, be quite delightful. Working with the tides and wind leads to quick, comfortable passages, and sheltered, swell free, anchorages – with good food in uncrowded pubs. and restaurants.