How Long Does It Take to Cross the English Channel By Boat?

August 10, 2022 4 min read

One of the most exciting adventures you can have is sailing and getting across the English Channel. The feeling of being far from land and out on the water is truly incredible. But it's important to consider how long it takes to cross the English Channel by boat, as well as the weather conditions. Here's how to plan ahead and keep track of the time.

Sailing Vs Ferrying

One of the biggest differences between sailing and ferrying to cross the English Channel is the route. If you are sailing for the first time, you'll need to find an experienced skipper to help you navigate the rough seas. There are also several factors to consider before setting sail. It's best to check the weather forecast and pick a port with favorable conditions. For the first time, you'll want to consider stopping in Poole or Needles instead of Cherbourg, since these are convenient for sailing and also close to Brittany and Normandy.

The first thing to consider is safety. Make sure the boat is in good condition and has binoculars and seasickness pills, as well as courtesy flags and drinking water. The English Channel is much more volatile than the Mediterranean, so you need to be prepared for any potential issues. Compared to drowning, hypothermia is more likely to kill you on a boat.

Choosing a Crew

One of the most important aspects of crossing the English Channel by boat is choosing the right crew. This is particularly important when sailing during the summer months. During these months, the English Channel is extremely busy with more than 600 commercial ships crossing each day. To ensure a safe crossing, you should consider the tidal rates. The tidal range of August is larger than the mean. Choosing a crew with sufficient experience is essential.

Choosing a crew is a difficult task, and if you're new to sailing, you need to make sure that you pick a team with the right skill set. Your crew should have Day Skipper qualification or Competent Crew status. Before sailing, make sure to give your crew a comprehensive briefing so that they know what to expect and what to do if something goes wrong. For instance, they should be informed about the route and weather conditions, as well as how to use safety equipment such as binoculars and emergency radios. Children should also be included in the briefing.

Planning Ahead

While crossing the English Channel by boat is possible, planning ahead for conditions is crucial. The prevailing south-westerly winds and tides must be considered, and you should plan your passages accordingly. You should also consider fallback routes. A route from Poole to Alderney may include waypoints on the Cherbourg approach, which can easily be diverted during a freshening southerly.

If you plan ahead, you should take note of the lanes that are recommended for ferries, fishing boats, and ships. While these may seem convenient, you might find that they don't always follow them. That means you might end up with a late arrival or an unreachable destination. Hence, it is best to consult a nautical chart and plan ahead to avoid this situation. If you know what the lanes are, you can decide how to use them to avoid being stuck on them.

Keeping Track

Keeping track of how long it takes to reach your destination by boat is a crucial part of navigating the Channel. A steady course is critical as the English Channel can become rough in the blink of an eye. Luckily, there are plenty of good opportunities for favorable sailing conditions, such as in the ports of Poole and Cherbourg. However, it is important to be aware of other ships, and make sure to adjust your speed if necessary. If you are heading upstream, aim to arrive a mile or so ahead of the stream to avoid it.

To make it easier to navigate, the English Channel has two traffic separation schemes (TSS). One flows from Dover Strait up to Rotterdam while the other leads towards Felixstowe. In fact, there are thirteen ferries that cross the channel, and one of them is solar powered. AIS, the automated system for tracking ships, allows boaters to stay on top of the speed and direction of other shipping.

Keeping Track of the English Channel By Boat

One of the most challenging aspects of crossing the English Channel by boat is keeping track of your position. Keeping track of your position requires that you know your current location at least an hour in advance. You must know which direction to steer your vessel and what to do if you deviate from the course. In order to be successful in your voyage, you should aim to arrive at your destination a mile upstream from the original course. You can then avoid the stream for the last few miles.

You should also consider the English Channel's width. Although it is not wide, it becomes narrower as you cross. Crossing The Channel by boat is a good idea, but keep in mind that many famous solo swimmers actually swam this distance. Throughout history, this narrow waterway has served as a barrier and a route for peopling Britain. Keeping track of the English Channel by boat is important for safe passage and enjoyment of your voyage. If you're planning to cross the English Channel by boat, keep in mind that the distances will vary.

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