Cruising from Up River YC to Upnor on the Medway

Thinking about taking your boat to the Medway? Here are some tips and useful information from Island Dreamer’s recent trip.

You can reserve a berth on the Medway YC hammerhead only £15 per night
Medway Yacht Club at Upnor – view from the club hammerhead

Why go?

  • A challenge in terms of planning your trip to take advantage of the tides and weather – two potential routes
  • Lots to see from the river, though not all of it is pretty until you reach Upnor with its wooded northern bank, riverside village and castle.
  • A major sailing centre with Medway Yacht Club at its heart, welcoming visiting yachtsmen who can book ahead and reserve a space on the club hammerhead.
  • Only £15 a night, rafting up is permitted for club groups.
  • Excellent meals at the yacht club Wednesday, Friday Saturday and Sunday.
  • The spacious clubhouse enjoys commanding views of the river and the club has a friendly relaxed atmosphere that would suit URYC members.
  • Interesting riverside walks with several pubs along this section of the Saxon Shore Way

Prefer a Marina?

Chatham Marina is accessed via a lock: operates 24 hours

Chatham Marina is a short distance up the river on the port side. It is immediately adjacent to the riverside Copper Rivet Gin Distillery – bar open every day. 5 minutes walk away from the Dockside shopping centre (see: There are several restaurants and pubs that overlook the marina and they are far enough away not to disturb you on your boat. A few minutes from the marina, on the way to the shops there’s a bus stop where a shuttle bus takes you to the heart of historic Chatham. It runs every 20 minutes even on Sundays. It takes under 10 minutes to arrive at Chatham Railway before returning to the dockside shopping complex.

Within 10 minutes walk of the marina there’s the Historic Dockyard Chatham or the multiplex Odean cinema. So you will never be stuck for something to do at this MDL ‘Five Anchor’ marina. Its not cheap, costing £32.40 per night for an 8 – 9 metre boat. However, with so much to see locally and easy access to Chatham and historic Rochester, its a popular destination with visiting yachts.

At busy times, typically near high water when yachts arrive on the flood, don’t be surprised if you have to wait 30 minutes to access the marina as the lock only accommodates four typical 12 metre yachts at a time.

HMS Victory was built at Chatham Dockyard


The Medway is nearer than you might think

If your boat has a draft of 1 metre or less, provided you pick a highish tide at the weekend you can sail via Havengore. This gives you a short cut to Kent. The firing range does not operate at weekends and its a relatively short hop across the Thames to the Medway near high tide.

Did you know, via Havengore, Queenborough inside the River Medway is under 14 miles sailing from Yokesfleet Creek?

If your boat draws up to 1.5m it is still possible to use this route at the top of big spring tides. However, if your draft is much over a metre you will probably have a larger boat which would offer you the option of ‘going the long way round’ via the Whitaker Channel and reaching Upnor or Chatham Marina in one day rather than two.

Boats taking the Havengore route will more sensibly choose Queenborough as their day one destination. This is the nearest small boat port within the Medway. Stopping at Queenborough overnight avoids punching the ebb tide all the way up the river to Chatham/Upnor.

If you want more detailed information about the Havengore route, check out this link:

Its strongly recommended to call the Bridgekeeper who is very helpful, particularly confirming the depth of water over the bar at the entrance.

If you wish to receive ‘on the day’ bridge status advice, you can contact the
Bridge keeper on 01702 383436 or VHF Channel 72, call sign “Shoe Bridge”.

The long way round

The ‘classic route’ to the Medway is to leave Up River YC within an hour of high tide. Take the ebb down to the Inner Whitaker buoy, skirt around the northeast corner of the Maplin Sands and then take the flood tide all the way to Chatham. From Up River, at an average speed of 5 knots over the ground, you will take at least 4 hours to get to the Inner Whitaker Buoy before you ‘hang a right’ and then another 5 hours to arrive at Chatham.

Most people making this trip will drop down to Burnham / anchor in the Roach overnight and leave the next morning. If you have adverse winds when sailing southwest around the Maplin Sands, a more realistic destination for day one is Queenborough.

Coming Back

Havengore Route

Check out this video of a 20 footer crossing the Maplin Sands and the Broomway and then through the bridge to the deep water of the Roach and Crouch. You may say if they can do then so could anyone with a shoal draft boat. In fine weather this is certainly the case.

Creek sailor is another great resource to check out this shortcut to the Rivers Roach and Crouch:

Returning via the ‘Classic Route’

The tidal difference between High and Low water times at Burnham compared to key waypoints for this trip are a significant part of your route planning.

Average differences compared to HW Burnham

  • Hullbridge +15 minutes
  • Whitaker (Beacon) -30 minutes
  • Entrance of the Medway (Sheerness) +20 minutes
  • Queenborough +25 minutes
  • Chatham/Upnor +30 minutes

This means, for example, that taking the flood tide from the Whitaker to Chatham gives you over 7 hours of favourable tide. Whereas, when returning from Chatham or Upnor (i.e. the same trip in the opposite direction), you’ll get 5.5 hours approximately before low water and perhaps a maximum of 6 hours before the tide is running against you. So it’s essential to get a move on, especially if the wind is from the Northeast.

In Island Dreamer we left an hour before high water Chatham as we had to tack from Shoebury to the Inner Whitaker Buoy. Fortunately in ideal conditions for the boat. If the wind had been significantly over 12/15 knots we would have delayed our departure as a 20 knot NE wind over a strong ebb tide can make sailing around the Maplin an uncomfortable slog.


It’s well worth visiting the Medway. In addition, for shoal draft boats especially, there are ample destinations to visit on the way back. The Swale that runs behind the Isle of Sheppy from Queenborough to Whistable offers several potential places to visit if you are prepared to dry out.

Entrance of Chatham Marina – waiting pontoon to port of the open lock gates


Below is reference material from QinetiQ who operate the firing range and all MOD facilities at Foulness

Havengore Bridge – A guide for marine vessels
If you’re thinking of sailing in the area of Maplin/Foulness Sands (which surround the live firing Range at MOD Shoeburyness), and intend to use Havengore Passage to reach the inner waterways of the River Roach/Crouch (or reverse journey), we strongly advise you to familiarise yourself with the restrictions on passing through Havengore Bridge. The following information will help you plan a successful journey:

  1. Havengore Bridge is only passable when the MOD Shoeburyness Range is NOT
  2. The MOD Shoeburyness Range is normally active Monday to Thursday from
    06:00 to 16:30 and Friday 06:00 to 12:30. The “ACTIVE” status of the Range is
    signalled by the flying of a RED FLAG on the bridge and at intervals around the
    perimeter of the site. Please note, Range operational hours are not fixed and
    MOD/QQ reserve the right to operate earlier/later and at weekends. Unusual
    hours/days of working and unplanned closures are notified on our website.
  3. The Bridgekeeper is on duty for 2 hours either side of high tides, during daylight
    hours, 365 days a year and can be contacted for basic bridge status advice (see
    No.5 for contact details).
  4. If you wish to plan your journey in advance and would like advice from the
    Range about using the bridge on a particular day, please contact our Careline on
    0800 0560108 or email us at
    Please be aware that information supplied in advance is subject to change and
    that QinetiQ cannot provide navigational advice.
  5. If you wish to receive ‘on the day’ bridge status advice, you can contact the
    Bridgekeeper on 01702 383436 or VHF Channel 72 (see No.3).
    Further information on the MOD Byelaws, sailing safely in the vicinity of the Range and using the bridge can be found on our website at
    If you would like to receive marine email alerts, please email us at
    You can also follow us on Twitter @SHB_Alerts