This quintessential English village on the River Dart in Devon offers an anchorage with excellent shelter, says Ken Endean
Devon’s River Dart epitomises West Country cruising, with a mixture of harbour bustle and glorious inland scenery, and there are several pleasant anchorages, although the needs of commercial vessels impose restrictions.
Off Dartmouth town, the designated anchoring area is fairly small and partly obstructed by mooring anchors. It also feels distinctly crowded if some visitors anchor with long warps rather than short chains.
Further upstream, Dittisham has long been a popular destination, with an all-tide landing and visitor moorings, but busy river ferry traffic means that anchoring in front of the village is prohibited.
Further north, off Stoke Gabriel, the main channel runs close to the eastern shore and there are three visitor buoys but they are often occupied. The harbour authority also discourages yachts from anchoring near them because excursion boats run up and down the channel.
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Even so, this is such an idyllic corner of England that it’s worth taking some time finding a spot to drop the hook.
Skippers who make good use of tide tables and an echo sounder should find adequate depths on the other side of the channel.
Mid-river, opposite Stoke Gabriel Creek, the charted depths are between 0.7 and 0.1 m, but at neap tides most yachts will be able to float in more than 2m at low water.
Last year, we anchored our twin-keeled Sabre 27 London Apprentice here, and lay in a minimum of 1.6m on a moderately neap tide.
During springs, this patch will only suit shoal-draught boats but there are better depths further west, close to White Rock. Only a few yachts bother to investigate these positions, so there is generally lots of swinging room.
In stormy weather, these anchorages provide excellent shelter – particularly near White Rock, where we once sat out a full gale.
Stoke Gabriel also has a landing pontoon, a village shop and a water tap by the pontoon, so it is possible to top up essentials while waiting for a lull. In fine weather, the estuary and the settlement are utterly delightful and this is a good place to linger for a day or two.
The public pontoon, adjacent to the old mill dam, enables dry-shod landing at all but the lowest tides, and the River Shack restaurant on the quay will feed the crew very efficiently.
Alternatively, if you call at the Church House Inn, any mutinous sailors can be put in the stocks.
During the sunny weather of 2018 we took a walk up the valley by a shady lane, where cattle were cooling their hooves in the stream, and returned via a cider farm.
We also strolled through the community orchard, where we collected windfalls for an apple pie and could not resist picking the mulberries that were being overlooked by the locals.