From 1 1/2 hours before until 4 hours after high water a westerly stream runs across the harbour entrance. The easterly stream begins 1 1 /2 hours before low water and continues until 2 hours before high water. These flows are in evidence a little earlier as the shore is closed.
At spring tides the mean height above chart datum of high water is 5.6 metres and of low water 0.7 metres. During neap tides the mean height above chart datum of high water is 4.5 metres and of low water 1.5 metres.
The level of Littlehampton bar which extends 600 metres southwards from the end of the West Pier is 0.8 metres above chart datum. The depth of water covering the bar can thus be calculated by subtracting 0.8 metres from the height of water indicated on the tide boards situated within the harbour. Tide boards are metric, marked in units of 20 centimetres and coloured white, red, black, red, black. When approaching the harbour the tide board on the West Pierhead can be read from sea with the use of binoculars. Consideration should be given to the sea state and allowance made for swell over the bar.
On closing the harbour from seawards, a safe approach can be made by bringing the leading lights into line on a bearing of 346o True.
From abeam the West Pierhead a course favouring the east side of the fairway should be made to allow for the westerly set.
Once past the East Pierhead, keep the flashing green light on Fisherman’s Quay ahead while keeping to the starboard side of the channel.
During spring tides, if approaching the harbour by night, it is wise to plan arrival within 3 hours either side of high water. Tide tables are available from the Harbour Office.
The harbour limits extend for six miles from the sea to the old bridge road at Arundel although navigation is possible for small craft as far as Stopham Road Bridge, a distance of 20 miles. There are, however, several low bridges to negotiate if attempting this passage and at low water shallows will be found at Warningcamp, Ford, North of Stoke Bridge, the Black Rabbit Hotel and in the vicinity of Offham Bridge.
Mariners attempting this passage will find it most rewarding in that there is an abundance of flora and fauna to observe.
Tidal differences on the river are +25 minutes at Ford, +50 minutes at Arundel, +1 hour 30 minutes at Houghton Bridge and +4 hours at Pulburough. In view of these tidal differences, to make the best of your time, leave Littlehampton one hour before high water and transit up river on the flood stream. This will give you an hour in the Old Swan at Pulburough before you must depart Littlehampton. Delaying your return will increase the risk of grounding in the shallow areas.
Tide gauges are situated at Littlehampton on the West Pier, Speedboat Steps, the Scrubbing Piles, Town Quay, the footbridge and Railway Wharf. There are also gauges at Arundel between the two road bridges, adjacent to Houghton Bridge, at Greatham Road Bridge, the Old Swan Bridge and Stopham Road Bridge. Littlehampton tide gauges are set to Littlehampton Chart Datum and all others to Ordnance Datum.
This information has been provided from the Littlehampton Harbour Boards website. You will find their link on our marina section.