Rick Channon shares his experience of berthing at four marinas in and around Falmouth.
Falmouth and the wider Fal Estuary, located on the south coast of Cornwall, is not only home to a large local yachting fraternity, but is also a popular destination in its own right.
There is a vibrant boating industry centred around Falmouth, and it is home to the internationally renowned Pendennis shipyard, which builds and refits superyachts, as well as the boat builders Rustler and Cockwells.
There are four marinas on the Fal Estuary, three of which are in or around Falmouth and one in a rural setting a mile up river at Mylor.
There are about 500 boats berthed across the marinas with at least 100 visitor berths available for visiting craft – more at peak times if you don’t mind rafting up!
I have used all four marinas and each has its own identity and character. They are all professionally run and I would not hesitate to recommend any of them to visitors – but how do you choose which to use?
They all have similar facilities such as showers and laundries, have access to diesel and water, have or are close to cafés and restaurants, all have Wi-Fi, are similarly priced and are all accessible with at least 2m of water at LWS.
There are however specific subtleties that might direct you to one or another, and a favourite very much comes down to personal choice.
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Port Pendennis Marina
VHF: Ch 80
Tel: +44 (0)1326 211211
This is a great little marina with two parts; a tidal outer marina of just four pontoons with finger berths and an inner marina beyond a lock gate nestled snugly in an enclave of modern marina houses. Visitors would generally use the outer marina and tie up alongside A or B pontoons or perhaps be put on one of the annual berth holder’s finger pontoons while they are away. The inner marina is extremely sheltered and safe, but most berths here are annual.
The outer marina is relatively sheltered in anything but a north to north westerly and there is little passing traffic. Here you are right in the hub of Falmouth’s waterfront, below Events Square. It is easy to locate beside the National Maritime Museum with its easily identifiable tower. There are no hazards to the approach apart from numerous ferries that operate from the nearby quays. If you are berthing at low tide on the innermost pontoon (D), keep close to the pontoon as it shallows significantly alongside the museum.
Pendennis Marina is perhaps the best on the estuary for large yachts and can even cope with superyachts given warning, although you will feel just as at home in a 30-footer. You can book a berth in advance, which is recommended, as there are not many visitors berths and at busy times like Falmouth Regatta spaces are at a premium.
Facilities are good and there are even tennis courts if you need exercise. Although there is no fuel berth, it is available a stone’s throw away on the fuel barge at Falmouth Haven. In spite of being in the heart of town you feel safe and secure. The three-minute walk back from the centre of town takes you along an elevated walkway around the museum, through a coded gate, over the lock gates and down onto the pontoons. This gives the marina a rather nice feeling of exclusivity.
VHF: Ch 12
Tel: 44 (0)1326 310990
Falmouth Haven is perfectly located between all the action on the water and the lively town centre. It is situated towards the southern end of the town’s waterfront and is sheltered by the town itself and the dock’s large wharfs. It is exposed, however, in a NW to a NE blow and the outer pontoon does get a bit of chop from passing traffic.
However, you could not ask for a better location for a marina. You simply walk up the gated ramp, pass the small shower block and you are in the centre of town with all it has to offer. There is also a chandlery and sail maker on the doorstep. The pontoons are arranged in a reverse E with finger pontoons for about 40 annual berth holders. Visitors will berth alongside the shared pontoons and rafting up is the norm if there are more than 20 or so visitors.
This marina is popular with the sailing fraternity, particularly the classics, and gets extremely busy at peak times so don’t expect a high degree of privacy, but if you want a buzzing location then this is for you.
I stayed here in September when there were only a few visitors and I had a peaceful night’s sleep. However, be warned – Falmouth’s principal refuelling berth is on the outside pontoon which is also shared by the local pilot boats so there could be activity at any time. If you use the northern-most pontoon then you will be well away from any disturbance.
All the usual facilities are provided but to my mind Falmouth Haven is more a group of pontoons than a full blown marina, which gives it its casual and friendly feel.
Premier’s Falmouth Marina
VHF: Ch 80
Tel: 44 (0)1326 316620
This marina is one of Premier’s nine marinas that it operates along the South Coast of the UK. It is situated 1nm NW of Falmouth Docks on the Penryn River. The river channel is well marked between the moorings with large red and green buoys and there is a minimum of 2m LWS all the way up – although the marina cautions a little less.
However, be careful as you approach the marina as there is a shallow mud bank just off the marina entrance which actually splits the main channel from the marina channel. It is a little disconcerting as you have to go to the port side of a red buoy but this actually marks the main river channel (the marina channel is marked with a signed post). Don’t be put off – if you keep close to the outer pontoons you will be fine.
The marina is split into two halves with the inner half being accessed over a drying cill but has 1.5m depth three hours either side of high tide. The cill retains 2m of water under the inner pontoons. The outer part of the marina is permanently accessible from the river and all berths retain ample water at low tide.
This marina has a very professional feel and there is a broad mix of motor and sailing yachts. The newly refurbished washrooms are great, there is a small on-site chandlery, a restaurant, launderette, water (bring your own hose!) and electric. There are diesel fuel pumps on the outer pontoon.
It is not actually possible to reserve a berth at this marina as it caters principally for annual berth holders, however when these berths are vacated visitors can use them. Call an hour or so before you arrive and you will get an idea if you can be accommodated. I’ve always got in, even in busy periods. While this marina is a 20-minute walk from the town centre it retains a semi-urban feel yet the views across the creek to the north are picturesque, giving it a tranquil atmosphere.
Mylor Yacht Harbour
VHF: CH 80
Tel: 44 (0)1326 372121
This marina is a mile further up the Fal in a beautiful location on the western side of the Carrick Roads. There are some 200 annual berths and room for about 25 visitors before you are asked to raft up. The visitors’ pontoon is on the eastern arc of the marina, which also hosts the fuel berth for petrol and diesel.
Access to the marina is well buoyed and has a minimum depth of about 2m at LWS. The shallowest point is just outside the dredged fairway so if you have a deep keel just be cautious as you leave the main Carrick channel and head the 200m towards the red and green buoys marking the marina channel.
In spite of its position on the estuary the marina is very sheltered from anything but strong northerlies to easterlies, and the visitors’ pontoon is a very robust structure that absorbs most swells, provided you are on the inside – indeed many annual berth holders feel comfortable leaving their boats here all year.
There is a very relaxing feel to Mylor with nothing but trees and water around – and yachts, hundreds of them! Although rural, Mylor is self-sufficient, with two restaurants, a cafe and a welcoming yacht club on site. As well as the excellent marina facilities and a well-stocked chandlery there are also extensive boatyard facilities that can cope with most marine jobs. To me, the strength of Mylor is its beautiful location, holiday feel and direct access to some of the finest yachting waters in the South West.
First published in the October 2020 issue of Motor Boat & Yachting.