Devon, along with Cornwall, are the two counties that lie on the peninsula in south west England. They are bordered on the north and west by the Atlantic Ocean and on the south by the English Channel.
These are great waters for yacht charter, reasonable weather with in the main good winds, a dramatic coastline and numerous rivers set in beautiful valleys to explore. A two week charter will enable the yacht and crew to cover most of the south coast of Devon and Cornwall. But the area also lends itself too much shorter charters. Dartmouth is a good base for exploring Torbay with Brixham and Torquay to the east. And to the west Salcombe, Newton Ferrers and Plymouth can be reached comfortably within one day.
Another popular idea is to charter the boat from this area and then cross the English Channel to the Channel Islands, the island of Alderney is the closest. This is a personal thing but in my opinion and I've been involved in a couple of these adventures as crew, only to see them aborted because of the weather or mechanical problems with the boat. Unless you are building passage miles for an RYA exam or need that Channel crossing in your logbook, if you want to sail in the Channel Islands then charter the yacht in the Channel Islands and fly there from your local airport.
Devon lies to the north and east of Cornwall. Inland are two National Parks. In the south lies the bleak granite tableland of Dartmoor. And Exmoor in the north with its wooded valleys and rolling green hills. In addition several parts of Devon have been designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty; the Blackdown Hills, the coastline between Lyme Regis and Exmouth and between Bolt Head and Bolt Tail, the estuaries and valleys of the Yealm, Erme, Avon and Dart rivers, most of the north Devon coastline, the towns of Salcombe and Dartmouth and Slapton Sands; The main rivers of the county are the Tamar, which forms most of the boundary with Cornwall, the Tavy, the Plym, the Dart, and the Teign. All rise on Dartmoor and flow south into the English Channel. The Exe rises in Somerset, but its runs mainly through Devon. Many relics of the prehistoric British, Druid, and Roman cultures, such as limestone caves and hill forts, have been found in the county. The county's main city is Exeter with its well known cathedral and university. The Cathedral of St Peter was built between about 1280 and about 1369 in a Gothic style. It is noted for its unusual transept towers of Norman design.
Eating - Try Devon clotted cream with scones and strawberry jam. Cornish pasties, pastry surrounding a filling normally of meat and vegetables. Originally produced as food for the local miners to carry underground. Variations include fillings of fish or a sweet filling rather than savoury. Or a combination, start eating at the savoury end and continue through to the sweet course at the other end.
In the main the climate is moderate and damp. Atlantic frontal systems predominate bringing frequent precipitation and good breezes. Storms are common outside of the summer months and the prudent yachtsman will keep a close eye on the weather.
Torquay lies on the northern shore of Torbay. It began as a small fishing village and has grown into what is now primarily a resort town. Together with Paignton and Brixham it makes up the borough of Torbay, which is known as the "English Riviera" due to its mild climate and sub tropical vegetation. Historical landmarks in the town include Torre Abbey, a 17th and 18th century house built on the remains of a previous abbey and the copper domed Pavilion, which was originally a ballroom. Evidence of prehistoric human habitation can be seen nearby at Kent's Cavern, a stalactite cave where flint and bone implements have been discovered that date from over 400,000 years ago. Cockington Village is only a short walk from Torquay Seafront. See thatched cottages dating back to medieval times.
The harbour and marina are accessible at all states of the tide.
Brixham lies on the southern shore of Torbay. The old port is still an active fishing centre and home to a busy fish market. The Heritage Museum provides an insight into life at the end of the 19th century, with a collection of old photographs as well as exhibits on trawling and associated industries such as boat building, chandlery and cooperage maritime trading. Berry Head, with its Napoleonic Fort, offers good views up and down the coast.
Brixham marina offers berths to visiting yachts.
Dartmouth lies on the western bank of the River Dart. The majority of the town's half timbered houses date from Elizabethan times. The Cherub, an inn, dates from the 14th century. The Butterwalk was built in 1635-40 with intricate wooden carvings and a frontage supported on granite columns. Dartmouth Castle is a mile from the town centre towards the mouth of the River Dart. It was built largely in the 15th century. There are views from the battlements across the river. The Greenway Estate is a mile upriver from Kingswear. The gardens, farm and woodland and river frontage are owned by the National Trust. There are walled gardens, arboretum a fernery, and woodland walks overlooking the Dart. Species include azaleas, camellias, magnolias, rhododendrons and a profusion of wildflowers in spring, particularly bluebells. The towns' Museum is housed in a merchant’s house dating from 1640. It has a comprehensive collection of material covering the maritime history of the town. The famous Britannia Royal Naval College sits high above the river. The Royal Regatta in late August/early September has everything from aerobatics, rowing events, yacht and dinghy races and fireworks displays. And don't forget to take a look up the River Dart; there are visitor's moorings at Dittisham, a lovely little village only a few miles upstream.
Dartmouth has several marinas offering berths and yachts can also berth on the town quay. The river also has a number of moorings for visiting yachts. It and the marinas can be entered at all states of tide
Salcombe's main street, Fore Street, runs parallel to the waters edge, with alleyways up the steep hillside to the rest of Salcombe, or to small quays dotted along the estuary foreshore. There are good walks along the riverbank. The East Portlemouth ferry goes across the estuary to the beaches of Smalls Cove, Mill Bay and Sunny Cove. Take a walk along the dramatic cliff path to Gara Rock. Visit Overbecks Museum with its exotic coastal garden, rare plant species and views of the Salcombe Estuary. The Maritime and Local History Museum has a collection showing shipbuilding and ship wrecks. Salcombe Estuary is a site of Special Scientific Interest and in spring and autumn the sand and mud flats of both the Salcombe and Avon Estuaries are packed with birds.
On entering the estuary there is a sand bar that runs across the river and entrance has to be timed to ensure there is adequate depth of water across the bar. There are leading marks to follow on both entry and exit. Once over the bar follow the marked channel into Salcombe harbour. The harbour has many moorings. Those available to visiting yachts are marked with a "V". Harbour officials will visit the boat.
Newton Ferrers has moorings on the river. The village is unspoilt and very attractive.
Plymouth possesses a fine natural harbour and is the site of the Royal Naval Dockyard. Plymouth has an aquarium, a zoo, several museums, and a university. Rich in nautical history, during the 16th century it became a base for Sir Francis Drake. In 1588 the English fleet, with Drake captaining one of the ships sailed from Plymouth Harbour to meet the Spanish Armada. The Armada was roundly defeated, but the part the weather played in that defeat is sometimes overlooked. In 1620 the pilgrims going to settle in the “New World” left from Plymouth aboard the Mayflower. Mayflower Marina stands on the famous Plymouth Hoe in the heart of the city of Plymouth. Shelter is excellent. The marina is accessible in all states of tide. There are other marinas, moorings and anchorages within the harbour.
This report is written to provide general information for people considering or preparing to charter a yacht in Devon. There is brief information and marinas, harbours, moorings and anchorages you may wish to visit during your charter.
More detailed information on this location can be found in our Cruising Guide. All this said, the prudent skipper, prior to embarking on the charter, will make sure the yacht is furnished with the appropriate, up to date, charts and pilotage notes for the area they are intending to sail in.