Navigational tips and beauty spots around the north-east coast of the Isle of Wight.
There is a very shallow channel through the Ledge called the Run, often visible because of the stream of beige, muddy water issuing forth from it. At the point where The Run exits the Ledge, you’ll find the wreck of the Empress Queen, a 370ft paddle steamer that used to ferry 2,000 passengers across the Channel at 21 knots. In February 1916 she was bound to collect troops when she hot the Ledge. All 110 crew were rescued but the wreck, like the Ledge itself, continues to snare the unwary. One of those was Barracuda of Tarrant, star of the 1980s TV show Howard’s Way, which was returning from a Channel race in May 1988 before dawn when she mistook West Princessa buoy (Q9 (15s)) for Bembridge Ledge (Q3 (10s)).
The Ledges dry at low tide and you need to pass outside easterly cardinal Bembridge Ledge to keep safe soundings. Even that far offshore you can expect soundings of 5-10m because, just as The Needles has The Bridge, Culver Cliff has Culver Spit. Northwest of Culver Spit is the Princessa Shoal, who western extremity is marked by the westerly cardinal West Princessa. You will find at least 6-10m across the shoal but in any sort of breeze you can expect rougher water. The safest route is to leave West Princessa close to starboard and Bembridge Ledge close to port. A useful back bearing is to line up the edge of Culver Cliff with Gatcliff, the third notch in the skyline at Appuldurcombe. At night, keep most but not all of Shanklin’s lights in sight.