Passage plan for Douglas to Luce Bay - east side


This passage can be completed using just chart 2094.

The key consideration on this passage are:

Charts and Pilot Books

If undertaking your planning at home, have a quick look at the Admiralty's list of notice to mariners for any significant updates to the chart edition. By way of illustration during 2003/2004 there have been changes to moorings, buoys, and target floats, and warnings of the presence of shoaler water than charted.

I always find it useful to read up on a destination in at least two pilot books (if available). It has been evident on one or two occasions that the author has never visited the port by boat, or has ignored a drying harbour - indicating an unwillingness to explore in their fin keeler perhaps !

Generally, the anchorages in the bay are poorly described in the various cruising guides, with the exception of East Tarbert Bay, Drummore and Port William. Hopefully, the Cruising Notes, Luce Bay will help provide some supplementary information and photos on the anchorages within Luce Bay.


In due course I will describe how each waypoint is used during the passage. The bearings shown against each waypoint, is the bearing and distance to that waypoint from the previous waypoint in the matrix. Note that I have omitted the bearing to Maughold Head in the matrix - for reasons which will become clear in the description of the passage plan. But I have calculated it just the same, as I use the distance between waypoints function of the GPS to confirm that the way points have been input correctly. It's a good habit to get into - see Using Waypoints for other tips on good practice.






Douglas Battery Pier light - - - -

Banks Howe


2.0 miles

54 10.00

4 25.00

0.6 miles ENE of Maughold Head* - - 54 17.80 4 17.60
2 cables west of Whitestone west cardinal 345T 7.0 miles 54 24.60 4 20.60
1.2 miles ENE of DZ6 340T 14.3 miles 54 40.00 4 30.00
DZ5 yellow special mark 318T 7.2 miles 54 43.10 4 34.85
DZ4 yellow special mark 330T 2.2 miles 54 45.00 4 36.80
DZ3 yellow special mark 324T 2.0 miles 54 45.45 4 38.70
DZ2 yellow special mark 306T 3.2 miles 54 48.40 4 43.20
DZ1 yellow special mark 298T 2.0 miles 54 49.85 4 47.80

*Maughold Head waypoint from Banks Howe waypoint lies on a bearing of 030T 9.0 miles, useful for checking the accuracy of your waypoint detail inputting entry using the GPS facility to calculate bearing and distance between two given waypoints - but if you followed this bearing during the passage you would pass through Clay Head. You could if you prefer, simply insert another waypoint into the passage plan - say 0.5 mile due east of Clay Head.

Tidal Streams

Having a quick look at the available tidal stream information (IOM - Tides, Directions and Anchorages, Macmillan Reeds Nautical Almanac 2004 - pages showing tidal stream data for the NW England, and the tidal diamonds on Admiralty chart 2094) indicates that we will be punching a foul tide to Maughold Head averaging around 1.0 knot, then  a fair tide of 0.5 to 1 knot across Ramsey Bay toward the Whitestone buoy, then as we cross open water toward Luce Bay we have an athwartship west going tide up 3 knots gradually weakening as we draw in  toward the coast. On the East side of Luce Bay we can expect a weak foul tide running southward parallel to the shore. At 5 knots, we would expect the 48.8 mile journey to take about 10hrs:

If we leave Douglas at HW-1 we should reach the Point of Ayre at about HW+3. That leave's 3 hours of west going tide whilst we cross to the Scottish coast and if we have been carried westward too far it should not matter too much as the tide will be slack for an hour before turning eastward.  With luck, we should reach Stairhaven at about 2 hours after low water. (i.e. around HW-4).

For this passage we need to ensure that the wind will be offshore at our destination which lies in a bay whose mouth lies to the open to winds with a southerly component. That means we are looking for E/NE winds persisting for the period that we intend to stopover. With an E'ly wind a modern cruiser should just be able to work its way up the island's east coast close hauled on starboard, otherwise or with a NE'ly wind it will be a case of motoring as far as Maughold Head.

Daylight hours are conveniently long mid summer, in the autumn and winter (end of Oct onwards) when the hours are somewhat shorter we will be looking for a weekend where the HW falls early morning and early evening. It doesn't matter if its dark when we depart from Douglas as negotiating the east coast for a few hours to the sun comes up shouldn't present any problems. If it's winter time, it will be helpful to have daylight for negotiating the east side of Luce Bay. The chart indicates the presence of unlit mooring bays (near Stairhaven).

Now we have checked that it's feasible and that we will have daylight hours for moving around within Luce Bay, its time to construct our passage plan.

The Plan




Leave Douglas at HW-1 From the outer channel green lateral set course for the Banks Howe waypoint, or keep the red light on Battery Pier on a back bearing 0f 234T.


2.0 miles

Once at the Banks Howe waypoint, continue on 054T keeping the waypoint on a bearing of 234T until 1.2 miles from it. The red light on Battery pier should still be visible on a clear night on 234T.


1.2 miles

Then make for the waypoint off Maughold Head. A useful check to make to confirm that you are on a safe track clear of all coastal hazards is to check that the bearing of Maughold light is never more than 022T.


7.9 miles

From the Maughold waypoint, set course for the Whitestone waypoint. Finally there will be a fair tide - but in an E'ly breeze and shoal water we can expect it to be quite lumpy as we head toward the Whitestone buoy cardinal, grp flsh 9. 345T 7.0 miles
The tide will be running hard across the Point of Ayre, so until well clear of the Point temporarily set course to make NNW until clear of it. We can expect to see quite a lot of white water in the vicinity if their is a moderate breeze blowing.

Once clear of the race off Point Of Ayre, set course for the waypoint ENE of DZ6 special mark, off the east side of Luce Bay. Don't forget to make allowance for the fast running west going tide, which may carry you westward for 6 miles at springs before finally slackening as you close with the coast.






14.3 miles

Follow the coast to your chosen anchorage, the furthest of which on this side of the bay is Stairhaven. If daylight hasn't yet materialised, the lit yellow special marks conveniently provide a number of short legs which keep you clear of the coast.




DZ4 330T 2.2
DZ3 324T 2.0
DZ2 306T 3.2
DZ1 298T 2.0
From DZ1 be wary when approaching Stairhaven of unlit steel mooring buoys in the anchorage. - 0.7
  - 48.8

The Contingency Plan

Whilst you will have obtained the latest weather information just prior to setting off it is always prudent to get an update prior to settling into an overnight anchorage - particularly in those such as found within Luce Bay which will be uncomfortable or dangerous in a slight shift in the wind direction.

Crossing the bay may not be practical, with a possibly strong foul tide across the mouth of Luce Bay, and navigation within the bay confined to inshore of the special marks - where making a passage round the head of the bay would be ill advised due to unlit structures. So obtain the latest forecast when about to enter Luce Bay.

Should you be caught out in in an exposed anchorage with the wind shifting east of south, and unable to take advantage of any shelter in East Tarbert Bay, Drummore or Port William, your may find your choice of alternate destination decided by the direction of the tidal stream at the mouth of Luce Bay. For example, with a west going tide, shelter from the south can be found be making for Belfast Lough, shelter from the east/north east by making for Port Logan. With an east going tide, shelter from west to north east can be found in the anchorage off the Isle of Whithorn or with winds from the south it may be possible to run up the Dee estuary to Kircudbright, or perhaps whilst heavy seas may be starting to roll into the estuary you may be able to find some shelter in the lee provided on the north side of Ross Island. For Isle of Man based boats on a weekend sail, the only practical alternative may be a wet sail back to the Island.

The prudent skipper will already have considered such potential eventualities and have a passage plan ready for the alternate destinations.

For supplementary information use the following pages:

Weather                              Link to list of available sources of meteorological information

Cruising Notes, Luce Bay       Provides description of the anchorages within Luce Bay.