The north coasts of Devon and Cornwall are not crowded with safe ports, which makes Padstow in the Camel Estuary a significant stopover for yachts rounding the Lizard to – or from – destinations in Wales, Scotland or the farther reaches of the Bristol Channel.
It’s not just a place ‘on the way’ to somewhere else though, as many cruisers from Welsh and Cornish ports have Padstow on their list of summer cruising options.
Padstow Harbour is a welcoming and sheltered haven with good access in most weather conditions, unless the wind becomes unruly from the west. That’s when the notorious and aptly-named Doom Bar begins to live up to its reputation – one that includes at least 500 shipwrecks recorded since the early 1800s.
The sandbar is composed of marine sediments rich in calcium, and the Camel Estuary – navigable on the tide all the way to Wadebridge if you stick to mid-channel and can take the ground on arrival – has long been dredged for agricultural and navigation purposes. More than 10 million tonnes of sand are estimated to have been brought ashore in the last century, and a seabed conveyor keeps bringing more.
The dredging industry is part of the reason that Padstow is still a working commercial port, handling bulk cargo ships of up to 2000 gross tons. It’s a busy fishing port, too, which has developed a specialism for tasty lobster and crab –which of course may be sampled ashore.
Picturesque Padstow is also a tourist honeypot thanks to its charming inner harbour and bustling town facilities, which, along with the wonderful local beaches, makes it a great destination for family visits of a few days or more.
There are no annual or seasonal berths for yachties as poor weather makes Padstow a less than ideal winter base for leisure boating, so the facilities are geared for visiting summer vessels. With so much to see and do in the locality, it’s no wonder that so many sailors return year after year to sample its unique delights.
There’s no marina at Padstow, but the Harbour Commissioners operate the harbour with a strong focus on the needs and requirements of leisure users. As well as welcoming visiting yachts, that means catering for the multitudes of small power and sail boats that use the Camel estuary and Padstow Bay – there are numbers of drying seasonal or holiday moorings for small craft outside the harbour.
There’s a drying outer harbour, but visiting yachts are generally accommodated safely behind the tall inner harbour lock gates, where depths of 3-4m are maintained.
There are a handful of seasonal moorings available for <5m local boats (via a waiting list), but otherwise berths are allocated to visitors on a short-term basis – the maximum allowable stay under normal circumstances is one month.
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