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Christchurch / Mudeford

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General details:

Christchurch Harbour and Avon Beach, Mudeford provide two very different sailing locations a few hundred yards apart. You can either sail in the Harbour, or you can sail at Mudeford off the sea front at Avon Beach, as shown below:

christchurch harbour & avon beach

This could actually be two separate location reports because each of the two locations are completely different in terms of facilities available etc with little similarity in conditions.

Christchurch Harbour itself is a shallow water "safe" location - however I use the word safe with great caution - the harbour and feeding river (Avon) represent a very large tidal area, the tide comes in and out through the very narrow harbour entrance [known locally as "The Run"] and thus creates an extemely fast current in the entrance itself and also a stong current in the 100 yards or so nearby the harbour entrance when a spring tide is flooding out. If you do get swept out, stay calm and don't fight the current. Once you are out you will be able to swim ashore at Avon beach once you are out of the main race.

At low tide the harbour dries out in most areas, consequently you are better off sailing around high tide, particularly during spring tides.

Prior to sailing in Christchurch Harbour it is well worth walking around the headland, down towards Avon Beach to familiarise yourself with the landscape so you can plan what to do should you get swept out of the harbour. Another good look out point is from the upper balcony of the sailing club on the quay accessed by the spiral fire escape by the phone box.

Avon Beach, Mudeford is a typical open water sailing location with the associated cross shore currents and waves. What makes Avon Beach particularly interesting from a windsurfing perspective is that the waves come in parallel to the beach but the prevailing south westerly wind comes cross shore - leading to beautiful starboard tack jumping conditions when things are working well.

At the end of the headland at the far end of the car park are the shops, toilets, RNLI center etc. There is also a fish stall which attracts people from miles around. Alas I don't like fish so can't give it a recommendation but I get the impression it is very good and worth the visit on its own.

Highcliffe Sailing Club, located on Mudeford Quay, welcomes all sailors - including sailboards - as full or temporary members. Changing rooms with showers and a bar which is a cheaper than the pub next door. Mainly open at weekends when there is dinghy racing but access to changing throughout the week. Currently there are proposals from existing members to create a sailboard section - there already being a number of dinghy sailors who also boardsail. This is very definately a members club (with no blazer or tie brigade).

Christchurch Harbour

Christchurch Harbour is a very shallow tidal harbour, this has the advantage that there are a lot of places where you are in your depth and the disadvantage that you have a high risk of running aground, particularly in light winds with large fins etc. Unfortunately the silt in the water means it is very hard to see the bottom and assess whether or not you are in your depth.

The main launching point is off to the edge of the harbour, so you have to negotiate your way around various moored yachts in order to get out into the open area of the main harbour itself. Once out in the harbour there are no moored boats, however you do have to watch out for the main "shipping" channel that runs through the harbour and is very busy with yachts during the summer months.

Avon Beach

Avon Beach is a sandy beach right on the sea front and offers some fantastic sailing in the right conditions - South Westerly with a good swell in the channel.

Just off the beach is the shipping channel providing the entrance to the harbour. On a summer's day this can get very busy with the various yachts heading in and out of the harbour. The main windsurfing line takes you perpendicular straight across the channel, so be prepared to give way to the boats in the channel itself.

There is a strong cross shore current along the beach. In light winds when it is hard to water start this can be significant. The beach itself is very long so the chances are you will come ashore safely but may have to resign yourself to a long walk back to the car park. It's possible to get the bollards unlocked so that you can drive down the beach and recover kit should it come to that.

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Directions to the right place:

There are a number of roads leading towards Mudeford/Christchurch off the A35/A37. Take your pick and head past Mudeford on towards the sea front. The final turning (to Avon Beach) is right on a ninety degree bend in the road. If you wish to sail in Christchurch Harbour the turning is signposted shortly before or shortly after the bend depending which direction you're coming from.

Click here for Mudeford Quay/harbour car park,

or here for Avon Beach car park.

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How the winds work:

Christchurch Harbour is sailable in all wind directions and my experience is that it is gusty in all directions.

Launch spot Wind Direction Comments
Christchurch - Mudeford (Avon Beach) N Cross off. Gusty
Christchurch - Mudeford (Avon Beach) NE Cross shore. Watch out for being swept into the harbour entrance
Christchurch - Mudeford (Avon Beach) E Cross on, but no other details
Christchurch - Mudeford (Avon Beach) SE Dead onshore, but no other details
Christchurch - Mudeford (Avon Beach) S Cross on, but no other details
Christchurch - Mudeford (Avon Beach) SW Cross shore, starboard tack conditions. Can be very good
Christchurch - Mudeford (Avon Beach) W Cross off. Probably gusty
Christchurch - Mudeford (Avon Beach) NW Dead offshore. Probably gusty
Christchurch Harbour N Gusty
Christchurch Harbour NE No details
Christchurch Harbour E No details, but should be less gusty than other directions
Christchurch Harbour SE No details, but should be less gusty than other directions
Christchurch Harbour S Good. Gives the longest runs across the harbour
Christchurch Harbour SW Good. Gives the longest runs across the harbour
Christchurch Harbour W Gusty, but no other details
Christchurch Harbour NW Provides the cleanest wind in the harbour for flat water blasting back and forth between the sailing Club and Hengistbury Head
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Tidal conditions:

HW springs tend to occur around 09:00 - 10:00 (21:00 - 22:00). HW neaps around 16:00 (GMT).

Christchurch Harbour should be avoided at low tide - it dries out.

Avon Beach, Mudeford can be sailed in all states of the tide - I'm not sure how long the walk is on a low spring tide.

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Strong currents near the harbour entrance.

Don't sail amongst moored boats, there are a couple underwater.

Running aground in the harbour.

Cross shore currents off the sea front.

Parking charges in both of the car parks.

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Toilets, Cafe, car parks at both locations.

There is a small windsurfing shop on the main road (Spot-on-water) inbetween the two locations.

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B&B's / campsites

I am not sure of specific recommendations here, Christchurch will have an abundance of B&Bs, there is also a static caravan park inbetween the locations - I don't know if you can rent static vans there. Failing that, the New Forest is only a short drive away with a large array of facilities.

The Pines Hotel is close to the harbour and has a restaraunt and licensed bar downstairs. Sea Point B+B is practically on the harbour. Christchruch tourist info have the full list of accommodation.

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Pubs and eateries

The Woolpack at Sopley is a twenty minute drive away. It provides excellent food and beer. Make sure you book during the summer months. There is also a good B&B in walking distance if you fancy a session.

The Haven House Inn is on Mudeford Quay does excellent pub grub.

Up the road is the Nelson Tavern (very Local!) and the Ship in Distress which is an award winning seafood restaurant. All are within walking distance of Christchurch centre where there are loads more pubs and restaurants.

Another very highly recommended restaraunt is The Rising Sun in Purewell.

There's a chippy just up the road (towards Christchurch) from the harbour.

The Cafe on Avon Beach is superb but a bit expensive. Recommend the Mega Breakfast! (much better than the cafe on Mudeford Quay).

The Haven House pub on the quay has good food - again pricey but the portion sizes are good. Chilli and rice is recomended.

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Content supplied by. Updates from Iain Hunter - Oct '03, and P Bell, Sailing Sec (Tel 01202 250876), Dec '03. Simon, Nov 2011. Thanks to all.

Note: All comments and opinions mentioned in this section of the site are the personal opinions of the various contributors. Inevitably, one person's favourite may be another person's least favourite.

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This page last updated: 6th Nov, 2020.

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