Colne (River) inc. Brightlingsea and Pyefleet Creek

Pilotage information.. on your phone

Courtesy Flag

Flag, Red Ensign


Inner Bench Head Buoy: 51:45'.96 N 001:01'.75 E


Admiralty 3741, SC5607

Rules & Regulations

4 Knts speed limit Brighlingsea, No anchoring Brightlingsea. 8 Knts speed limit in Colne.


Some Commercial Traffic, Shallows in the Colne Bar Area, Avoid oyster Beds in Pyefleet Creek.

Tidal Data Times & Range

HW Dover +0055 Brightlingsea, MHWS 5.0m MHWN 3.8m MLWN 1.2m MLWS 0.4m  

Admiralty Easy Tide Forecasts

7 Day Weather Forecast

Contacts  Harbour Office  01206 302200 or VHF #68

The River Colne offers the sailor a choice of anchoring in Pyefleet Creek....

... or using the harbour facilities of Brightlingsea (which now include a small fully serviced marina) giving one a complete range of choice. 

The harbour authorities at Brightlingsea can provide moorings and pontoons for visitors at most times, but they can get overwhelmed on busy summer weekends. The town can provide most day-to-day needs, and there is a wealth of boating experience on hand too.

The Pyefleet anchorage is arguably one of the most popular spots on the East Coast for yachtsmen looking to get away from it all.

The intrepid gunk holer could push his way up the river past Wivenhoe and as far as Colchester, but facilities and safe places to stop are a bit thin on the ground. This guide only covers Brightlingsea and nearby areas.

Some commercial traffic still uses the Colne and Brightlingsea especially around high water, but basically most of the area is turned over to leisure use. The scrap metal business which operated from Olivers Wharf is no longer there but negotiations   for different contract have been entered into.  They also have about half a dozen boats which service the Off Shore Wind Farm.  It appears that the construction of wind generators  is largely complete so the industrial activity in the Colne opposite Brightlingsea is no longer evident.

Approach involves pretty much the same area as approaching the Blackwater.

This part of the world is extremely flat and featureless so you won't get much help from the lay of the land.  All the channels are well marked by buoyage, but it is very easy to mistake one seamark for another with possibly serious consequences... the sands in this area (and the Thames estuary) are rock hard and unforgiving should you end up pinned on them by the wind. Pilotage advice now follows:

The best general advice for handling this kind of area is to have your passage plan well worked out in advance, with courses planned (taking into account tidal cross sets if required) and a clear list of the buoyage you are expecting to pass in the order you will encounter it. It would also be wise to plan to be making your final harbour entry before half tide ebb. When you are following your plan you will probably see plenty of other buoyage..... the best advice is to assume nothing, follow your preplanned course and tick-off the buoyage on your list as you pass and positively identify it. The other alternative is a set of carefully chosen and checked waypoints.

Approach from the north-east through the Wallet is straightforward enough, keep a safe distance offshore but not too far as to put you on Gunfleet Sands, then identify and approach the northerly cardinal Knoll (Q) Buoy. Head north west leave the green conical Eagle (Q.G) close to starboard, then continue on the same course and approach the green conical buoy Colne Bar (Fl(2)G.5s). Once past this buoy a turn can be made to the NNW and the buoyage leading into the Colne is picked up. Be mindful that shallow water lies on your starboard side, and that there is more depth to play with on the port side. Simply follow the pairs of red and green buoys on a generally NNW course and enter the River.

If emerging from the Blackwater it is possible to cut the corner a bit with a suitable rise of the tide.

If approaching from the Southend area via the Middle Deep or East Swin channels (which run parallel to one another, divided by a shallow patch) a swing northwards can be made once abeam the S.Whitaker green conical buoy (Fl(2)G.10s) which will bring you to the Swin Spitway Buoy (Iso.10s). Steering NNW from here will bring you to the spherical red-and-white Wallet Spitway buoy (Lfl.10s), and easing the course to NW will then bring you to the northerly cardinal Knoll buoy mentioned above. There is a least depth of 1.5 m at CD between the Swin Spitway Buoy and the Wallet Spitway Buoy, but with drying banks or either side so care in this area will be necessary.

In this approach you will be sailing across the tide, so you need to know which way the tide is pushing you and apply suitable corrections to your course.

The main thing is to end up in the vicinity of the northerly cardinal Knoll (Q) buoy, locate the green conical Eagle (Q.G) buoy lying to the WNW, and leave this to starboard. Continuing on a generally NW course will bring you to the green conical Colne Bar buoy, and entry can be made as described above.


After passing fairly centrally between the red can buoy No. 10 (Fl.R.3s)....

... and the green conical buoy No.13 a northerly course will bring you to a southerly cardinal buoy that marks the entrance channel to Brightlingsea.

See the latest large scale chart provided.

At this stage you should call Brightlingsea Harbour. The whole area is under the control of the Brightlingsea Harbour Commissioners and they will allocate you a berth, probably on one of the pontoons across from the village unless there is room in the Marina. Contact them on VHF channel 68 callsign Brightlingsea Harbour Radio, telephone 01206 302200. NB There are no services on the pontoons whereas in both Marina basins you have access to normal marina services.

Brightlingsea Spit (Q(6)+LFl.15s) buoy is left on your port side, and a green beacon (Fl(2)G.5s) that lies just to the SE is left to starboard. The entrance channel is narrow and there is a shallow patch just as you enter with 0.5m over it at CD. Many of the moorings within Brightlingsea have less water than this anyway. It has been reported that the SCM and the green beacon may be a little out of position and the deeper water is closer to the beacon than the SCM so you are advised to keep to the starboard side inbound at anything less than quarter tide.

Leading marks are established on the shore, showing clearly on the chart, and consist of boards with the red and white stripes on them. They are lit by fixed red lights for night entry too. The harbour advise that it is best to identify these whilst still out in the Colne and, when on line, make your approach. The correct leading line is 41°T and this is spot on for the deeper water; when you get nearer the green conical buoy (Fl(3)G.5s) in the channel leave the lead in lights and pass close to that buoy, adjusting your course to the E to locate and identify the northerly cardinal beacon marking the start of the visitors mooring pontoons that run down the southern arm of Brightlingsea Creek. Leave the Cardinal Mark to starboard and enter Brightlingsea Creek, following the pontoons. There isn't much water, the channel is narrow and the tides can run hard.

There is a video that you can access HERE

If you arrive after hours find a spot in the visitors area at the western end of the twin pontoons; if there is not room there, occupy any other empty berth. Local berth holders have a "Back Tonight" board to display if they intend returning. A link to their useful website is provided below:

All moorings here will involve a dinghy mission ashore or use of a water taxi. Prices per night here work out at £17.00  for up to 23ft, and £20 for between 24 ft to 32ft and so on. There are discounts for a week's stay.

There is a water taxi which can be contacted on #68. It operates until 2300 on a Friday and Saturday nights otherwise it finishes in the first dog. £1.50 per person per trip or get £10 worth of tokens from the harbour office

Brightlingsea Marina is now under the management of the Brightlingsea Harbour Commisioners and enquiries should be directed to the Harbour Office  (01206 302 200 and VHF #68

Located on the North side of the channel entering Brightlingsea harbour, you will find Brightlingsea Marina.

This marina is now under new management with dedicated staff on hand seven days a week to assist visiting yachtsmen. The day to day running of the Marina is now under the control of Brightlingsea Harbour Commissioners.

Berths can be booked on #68 or by ringing 01206 302200 Charges for a 10 metre boat (2022) work out at £28.00 which includes shore power, water and Wi-Fi which is available on all the pontoons. Note that the extra £5.00 payable above the fee for a pontoon mooring out in the creek is more than covered by the water taxi fare.There are discounts for a week's stay.  Plenty of photos of the new marina are now in the gallery. PLEASE NOTE - there is a sill at the entrance to Brightlingsea Marina that is 1m above chart datum. A tide gauge at the entrance shows the level of water over the sill

Marina facilities include free electric, free water, free Wi-Fi, walk ashore access. Shower facilities can be found in The Colne Yacht club. There are public toilets in the development and also a convenience store (A&J’s).

 A new restaurant, No.1 Harbour Square was opened in April 2014 offering all day food and evening meals. The bar is located overlooking the Marina with spectacular views. There are chandlers, boat traders, sail makers, pubs, fish & chip shop, Indian restaurant & Chinese take away available within a short stroll together with most things a visiting yachtsman could want.

The Northern arm of Brightlingsea Creek is not for visitors and occasional coasters use the quay. No anchoring is allowed anywhere within the Brightlingsea harbour area, and in any case the creeks are too crowded, narrow and shallow to even consider this.

Facilities in Brightlingsea covered shortly...


Pyefleet Creek.

This popular anchorage lies more or less opposite the entrance to Brightlingsea creeks. If coming in from seawards pass the Cardinal buoy showing the entrance to Brightlingsea, leaving this well on your starboard side and continue in a generally north-westerly direction.

A red buoy (Fl.R) marks a wreck lying inshore of it, and this is left on your port side. A generally north-westerly course followed by a WNW course will take you into Pyefleet Creek. NB the Q.R No 12 buoy is a PHM for the River Colne Chanel and has nothing to do with navigating into Pyefleet Creek The run of the Creek itself is marked by moorings as you turn in to it.

Anchorage used to be had anywhere within this Creek right up to Pewit Island, an area of saltings on your starboard side. The Colchester Oyster Fishery has now laid buoys in the creek which have taken up most of the free space that used to be available for free. You have to contact the Fishery in advance to use one of these buoys and pay them £10 for the privilege. (Thanks to our member for this information who found that there was no room in the inn last summer) We have found a telephone number for them which is 01206 384141 and this year (2022) they are charging £15 per night.  They do say that you can order oysters  and crustaceons from them when you book and collect them ashore when you arrive!! Once into this Creek however you will need to look out for oyster beds. You mustn't ground or anchor on these, and they are all clearly marked by buoyage.

In general it is peaceful and safe anchoring here as the holding ground is good, but in strong wind against tide conditions (East or West) it can get rough.

Further information :

"One of the East Coasts best anchorages lies just across the Colne from Brightlingsea, Pyfleet. This shallow and sheltered creek which has its own oyster beds has a great variety of birds including Harriers, Avocet’s, Godwits, Curlews etc. and other wildlife including occasional seals, Sunsets can be amazing and no matter how busy it is there always seems to be room for one more.

If you want a peaceful bolthole, this is the place to be; even the local gunnery firing range on the nearby marshes don’t seem to be able to disturb the peace.  Do not stray too far though when the red flags are flying, you may find yourself at the centre of unwanted attention and target practice.  There is nowhere to land or any facilities whatsoever here, just yachtsmen and the wildlife."

Daytime anchorages are possible to the north of Mersea Stone, to the edge of the channel and mindful of the wreck. Coasters use the Colne so if you do decide to stay the night here you will need an anchor light.

Further up the Colne...

For those of an explorative nature with shoal draft craft it is possible to explore much further up this River, past Wivenhoe and Rowhedge as far as Colchester. The problem is finding somewhere suitable to berth, close enough to facilities to make the trip worthwhile. It is hoped in the future to cover this area more thoroughly.

Useful Info:

"The river is navigable on the tide right up to Colchester but gets very shallow now that dredging has stopped along with almost all commercial traffic to Colchester, Rowhedge and Wyvenhoe since the closure of the wharfs and docks at these towns and cessation of all ship building leaving the river almost free to pleasure vessels. There is still a good trade in sand and gravel by barge from Rowhedge so beware of these craft travelling up river on the tides, you will usually hear them well in advance as steel sand barges are not the quietest vessels around."    

Craft able to take the ground (in soft Mud) are welcome to berth at Wivenhoe Sailing Club pontoon. 4/6 berths subject to tide/draft. This is just below the Colne Barrier on the North bank of the Colne." The berths dry to soft mud and are accessible a couple of hours either side of HW; ideally you would be bilge keeled or flat bottomed but they say that "moderately deep keeled boats will sit upright in the mud". There is water on that pontoon and you can obtain a key to the yacht club to use their facilities - and it's all free of charge as the berths have been provided by Colchester Borough Council with EU funding to encourage you to visit them! They have a website (below) and their telephone number is 01206 822132 but you won't be able to book a berth as it's first come first served.

We are told by Fatboyfred that there is a free pontoon at the Hythe at Colchester but I suspect he may mean the one on King Edwards Quay as you won't get a masted yacht under that bridge before the Hythe

Updated March 2022

In Brightlingsea there are a fair number of facilities for a visiting yacht, and now the small Marina is in action, alongside berthing too.

If on the pontoons or a mooring and not fancying messing around with dinghies, there is a water taxi service on VHF channel 68, telephone mobile 07733 078503. This operates all year round whilst the harbour Office is open, during the summer months Friday and Saturday evenings until 11 PM, and Sundays up to 9 PM. During the school summer holidays the taxi operates all days of the week. The fare for the water taxi is £1.50 per person per trip; that is £3.00 a round trip ashore for one - for a crew of four you're talking £12.00.    Water is obtainable for the boat alongside at the Colne Yacht Club's jetty. Best check with the harbour authorities first.

Diesel is available direct to vessels from the Fuel Barge located adjacent to the Pioneer Sailing Trust at Harkers Yard. Contact the Harbour Office to make arrangements to purchase fuel and to check current prices. . There are two chandlers in town and calor and camping gas are available. Public toilets will be found ashore as well as places to dispose of your rubbish and even waste oil. Holding tank pump outs can be arranged by the harbour authorities.

The Colne Yacht Club welcomes visitors arriving by boat and has showers and toilets available. Their restaurant and bar has nice views. A link to their website is provided below:

Scrubbing posts are available and can be booked via the harbour staff. Otherwise nearby boatyards can handle most problems... check the directory.

Trailer Sailers and PWC users can make use of Brightlingsea Town Hard with charges of up to £20 a day for jetskis, less for boats. The wide gravel hard has access at all tidal range, contact the harbour authorities for full details on 01206 302200, and there are details on their website.

Remember if in a speedy boat the 4 kn speed limit in the Brightlingsea harbour area, and the 8 kn speed limit in the Colne until you clear out past the green conical buoy No.13.

Provisioning in the town is taken care of by several supermarkets including Tesco's Extra, the Co-op and a Spar. All the usual smalltown shops will be found including butchers, bakers and newsagents. Banks can be found and cash machines will readily disgorge your cash to oil the wheels of consumerism. (Which in this part of the world is maybe not so much " in your face" as in certain areas of the South !) Transport is covered by regular buses (maybe less regular in the evenings and Sundays) to Wivenhoe and Colchester, for railway connections to London.

Brightlingsea Port

Although Brightlingsea has a long shipbuilding history, it was never particularly developed for sea traffic, although it does have a small port.

The port came to prominence in the 1984-85 Miners' Strike, where attempts were made to import coal through the Port (as with the small port at Wivenhoe further up the river Colne). In Easter of 1984 the first cargo of coke was discharged here and over the next 12 months in excess of 300,000 tons of solid fuel was imported across Olivers Wharf. The port was picketed almost from the beginning by miners from both South Wales and Kent. The pickets were never able to prevent cargo being discharged and lorries loaded. During the miners strike the port continued to be built with 3 NAABSA berths available by early 1985.

'The Battle of Brightlingsea'

Brightlingsea port came to national prominence again in the 1990s with an attempt to use the port again for a controversial cargo. 'The Battle of Brightlingsea' is the name given to a series of protests against the live export of animals from the town for slaughter in Europe. Many people believed that the conditions in which the animals were exported were cruel and inhumane. The protest began on 16 January 1995 and ended 25 October 1995. During this nine month period, over 150 convoys passed through the town, and 250,000 animals were exported, of which 24 died, 28 were destroyed by M.A.F.F. and 38 were unable to be exported. 598 people were arrested by the police of which 421 were local residents. The campaigners eventually won and the live exports ceased. There were over 1,000 complaints made against the police and the estimated cost of policing the protest was over £4,000,000.

The Mignonette and Canibalism

In 1867 the yacht Mignonette was built by Aldhous yachts in Brightlingsea[2][1]. The Marionette foundered on its way to Australia in 1884. In desperation, three of the four shipwrecked crew killed and ate the sickest member, a practice known as the custom of the sea. The subsequent trial, R. v. Dudley and Stephens, established the common law principle that necessity is not a valid defence against a charge of murder.

Bateman's Tower

Bateman's tower was built in 1883 by John Bateman as a folly for his daughter to recuperate from consumption. The tower is sited on Westmarsh point at the entrance to Brightlingsea Creek on the River Colne, and is often mistaken for a Martello Tower. During The Second World War the original roof of the folly was removed so that the tower could be used as an observation post by the Royal Observer Corps. In 2005, a restoration project funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund took place to restore the tower to its original condition, including the fitting of a replica of the original roof, refurbishing the interior of the tower and also painting the outside.

The tower is now used by many local sailing organisations to administrate races. During race days, the public can visit the tower, whose new roof makes it a popular gallery from which to watch races.

Brightlingsea open air swimming pool

Brightlingsea open air swimming pool was built in 1933 and is one of the few remaining lidos (open air swimming pools built mainly in the art-deco period) still in use in the UK. Brightlinsea Lido was originally a salt water pool, but is now a two-level non-heated freshwater facility. The pool has recently been threatened with closure, but local opposition to this seems to have saved it. The pool comprises a 15m children's pool and 50m main swimming pool. The facility is still popular with both residents and visitors of the town to this day.


The Wivenhoe and Brightlingsea railway opened in 1866 and was a branch line that operated rail services from the nearby town of Wivenhoe into the town centre of Brightlingsea.

The service unfortunately fell victim to the Beeching cuts in the 1960s, and was eventually axed in 1964 supposedly prompted by the high maintenance costs of the swing bridge over Alresford Creek, which was necessary to allow boat traffic to the many sand and gravel pits in the area.

The station building was located on the southern side of Lower Park Road where the town's community centre now sits. It stayed in place for four years after the railway's closure until it was destroyed by fire in 1968.

The visible relics of the railway's presence today are the Railway public house and micro-brewery, and the old embankment which is now a footpath. It is possible to walk along virtually the whole length of the former route from very near the site of the old station in Brightlingsea along the old embankment to the site of the former swing bridge. This makes for a pleasant, scenic walk alongside the River Colne with its the ecologically interesting salt marsh environment.

Alresford station on the Colchester to Clacton Line is now the closest railway station to Brightlingsea.

Being almost totally surrounded by the Colne Estuary, Brightlingsea Creek & salt marsh, Brightlingsea's road links are unusual for a town of its size, with only one road linking the town with the outside. During the North Sea Flood of 1953 Brighlingsea was cut off from the outside, though the town itself was not as severely affected as some neighbouring communities.


The town has an active recreational boating scene. Brightlingsea Sailing Club runs an active competitive sailing programme, and has produced many champions at international and Olympic level. The Colne Yacht Club caters mainly to cruising members. It has an active cruiser racing fleet.

Brightlingsea Regent FC (formerly Brightlingsea United) plays its matches at North Road in the Essex and Suffolk Border League. Brightlingsea Cricket Club plays home matches at the Recreation Ground, and competes in the Two Counties Championship during the summer months. The Rugby Club plays its matches at Strangers Corner.

Brightlingsea One Design

The Brightlingsea One Design is a class of wooden dinghy designed in 1927 by Robbie Stone of Stone's shipyard 

The boats are of clinker construction, originally planked in elm and later boats in mahogany. The boats numbered 5x boats are constructed in GRP.

Boats 1 - 14 were built before the war. The use of the symbol 'C' on the sail has never been fully explained, although it is thought to stand for the river Colne.

The last wooden boat built, C32 'Avocet', was built in 1989 by Malcolm Goodwin.

The numbers do not run in sequence. The Stone built boats are 1 - 30 (27, 29 & 30 by T. C. White). 31 was built by John Mullins and 32 by Malcolm Goodwin. Another series starting at 40 was built in West Mersea. The new GRP boats built by John Mullins are 5x and 75 was the only boat built by the Aldous yard.

In 1951 a new rig was designed for the boat, and caused a split between the advocates of the new rig and the supporters of the old. The class raced as two different fleets until the end of the 1950s, when most of the boats racing converted to the new rig.

The new rig has no bowsprit, a shorter boom and a taller mast. This rig is to be seen on most of the boats sailing today, although C28 has an original rig. Two other boats are expected to fit the original rig after restoration.

In 2004 C1 'Jean' was relaunched 77 years after being built as the BOD prototype, after a ten year restoration by Malcolm Goodwin.

In 2007 the first GRP BOD C51 'Greta' built by John Mullins was launched.

The text on this HISTORY page is covered by the following licence

For the hungry and thirsty crew foraging ashore, Brightlingsea is ready and able to provide.

The yacht club as already mentioned provides meals and can get busy at weekends, so advance booking may be wise.

Otherwise all kinds of food are available from fish and chips, through pub meals to bistros and Indian food.

If you are used to eating late, Spanish-style, you may find things in this part of the world run a little earlier than you may like. Best not to get waylaid in the pub too long..

A couple of links are provided below for further investigation:


Eating Out:

Restaurants & Places to Eat in Brightlingsea - Tripadvisor

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