Swatchways Migrate Eastwards

Several years ago, I experimented at low tide to see where there’s the deepest water in the Raysand Channel. Sailing through on Idle Flite and now Island Dreamer, I have left the current buoys further to port each year when sailing south from the Blackwater or Brightlingsea back to the Crouch.

Consequently. I wasn’t surprised to read this winter that the Crouch Harbour Authority plan to revise the buoyage marking this short cut to the Blackwater. Keep an eye out for the CHA Notice to Mariners when or if they move the navigation buoys.

I have found research which clearly shows the deepest water in the Raysand Channel and Swin Spitway have moved to the east. This is a natural function of how mud and sand are deposited from the River Crouch which is the dominant source of sediment that shapes the sandbanks and shallows between Holliwell Point and the windfarm.

Raysand Channel

Click here for Raysand Channel soundings 2022

You will see from this (download a copy and zoom in) that the best course when sailing south is to leave the Raysand Middle buoy well to port and head for the Buxey No2 buoy (North Cardinal) whereas heading straight for the Raysand (yellow buoy) takes you over a high spot.

Worth knowing: if you want see the largest seal colony in this area. On the chart you’ll see a ‘hump’ that dries over 2m above chart datum roughly Southwest of the Raysand Yellow Buoy and almost opposite the Crouch No1 buoy.

I have seen 100 seals here in early summer, numbers vary, however I have rarely seen fewer than 25 seals at this location. The chart shows the water is reasonably deep and you can anchor off in 2 m of water and have a good view of the seals both ashore and occasionally swimming around your boat. A good time to arrive is about 1.5 hours before low water. 

Swin Spitway

See the recomended waypoints to find the deepest water. Taking the traditional transit line between the red and white buoys risks putting your cruiser in very shallow water, not something you will want to do if it’s breezy. Wind over tide waves make touching the bottom a possibility at low water if your course is not significantly toward the windfarm side of the existing transit line.

Click here for Swin Spitway soundings 2022



The Raysand Channel soundings also confirm that there is more than enough depth nearer high water taking a course significantly to the West of the ‘official’ Raysand Channel sailing from/to the Crouch No3 buoy. This takes you to the North of the 2m ‘humps’ (the southern one beloved by the seals) and enables you to ‘cut the corner’ into the Crouch.

This is useful if arriving a bit late from the Blackwater ie less than 2 hours either side of high water.

The Raysands soundings chart is also useful if you are heading to Bradwell and arrive at the entrance of the Crouch about an hour before high water and want to spend the evening at Bradwell.

A favourite trip of mine. We sail from our mooring soon after the boat floats. Punch the tide to Holliwell Point provided the wind direction is favourable. Then, following the 3m depth line using our echo sounder, take a gentle curving course across the Raysands and along the edge of the Dengie Flats, then across the St Peters Flats, until heading into the Blackwater about an hour after high water.

If you want to know more about taking advantage of your bilge keel yacht to take a shortcut to Bradwell, check out this earlier post giving full details.