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Nick Ardley  

Charlet Hadleigh Ray/Benfleet Creek

• Click to view full size Chart

This is an area not used by many sailing vessels, or by motor craft for that matter, other than vessels that live that way. Most vessels head out into the expanse east of Canvey Point, when on some days, when a northerly or southerly breeze is blowing, an interesting passage can be made, up to the Benfleet Yacht Club and back, on the tide. It also makes an excellent direction to sail when the wind is a little stronger! 

Wild life levels are extremely high and a huge number of different species, that inhabit our locale, can be viewed at leisure as you pass by.

The chartlet that I compiled some time ago has been up-dated to reflect some changes. These will continue to be monitored to ensure that the information is as accurate as is possible.

It should be noted that the buoys laid by the Benfleet Yacht Club do not indicate the true extent of available water to navigate within.  The reason for this, I have been told by the BYC is because of their large number of deep draft vessels.

The survey was compiled by walking the seawall and looking at the creek after the tide had gone noting; the position of the buoys, in relation to the rill; mud banks; type of bank and slope etc, etc. 

The chartlet starts at the BYC No.1 Green Buoy to the eastern tip of Marks Marsh Island (the low lying marsh island to the south of Two Tree Island) and ends just to the west of BYC eastern dinghy launching pontoon – the start of their bank side moorings.

The contours that are shown bare no relation to depth of water; they typically show slope steepness of banks.

With the tide at 4.7m (Thames VTS) I have witnessed gulls standing on an area of High Mud, still uncovered, on the southern side, south west of the Old Salvation Army Jetty. So beware of this – it has risen markedly over the last few years. This is also true for the Horse to the north of the eastern end of Marks Marsh Island.

Benfleet YC boats can leave at about the same time as ‘Island’ boats can – but have the (up to) 3 nautical miles to traverse before reaching open water.

Most of you that know my vessel, Whimbrel, know that she is of moderate draft of say 0.8m (2’6”) – I do however use the centre plate and generally operate up in this area with a draft of at least 1m to 1.2m, when tacking. It’s a useful depth sounder!  

Pilotage Details

From the end of Smallgains Creek there are two passages to the area off Two Tree Island slipway;

Follow the buoys laid by Southend Corporation to the north of Bargander Sand. This passage has filled in over the past few years and completely empties before low water.

Follow the vessels/mooring buoys in the deeper channel to the south of Bargander Sand – this is banana shaped, it curves round the sand bank towards Two Tree Island slipway. To the south is a steep bank that rises to the mud flats and marshes on the Canvey Island side. This then becomes a fairly steep to bank along the southern side of the waterway. The northern edge has a flatter incline.

At HWS’s, Bargander sand has no more than 2.5m of water over it, at its highest point. 2 hours before a mid range high water there is less than a metre.

From the area south of Two Tree Island slipway there is generally sufficient water to traverse north to south of the moorings. Watch the depth on the Two Tree Island side! (Note: the shallower draft boats tend to be over in this area). 

On the way up to Marks Island, the extent of the moored vessels generally dictates the available water for sailing. 

BYC vessels tend to follow a general course (motoring) on a line, 100 deg/280 deg, between the beacon on the outer end of the Two Tree Island slipway and a position well to the east of the No.1 Green Buoy at the eastern end of Marks Horse Marsh.  This is the general course of the gutway. The mud horse extends eastwards from the No.1 buoy some distance.

On the approach to Marks Horse Marsh an area of apparent open water (devoid of yacht moorings) can be seen just prior to, and to the east and north of the No.1 Green Buoy – This is the mud Horse - do not be tempted to go here unless you want a cup of tea – or a quiet night! The tide rushes through, so one can be pinned aground. On a quiet day the ripples from the tidal over-fall can be clearly seen.

The deep water passage runs between the Green Cans and Marks Marsh Island. There are no port hand buoys along here.

A passage through, what I have termed, the ‘Swatch’ is much more amenable for sailing and has more than sufficient depth to tack between the edge of Two Tree Island marshes and the Horse. Use the depth sounder until sure of yourself. At about 1 ½ hours before HW – mid range tides, some 2m – 2.5m of water stretches across this swatch, with plenty right up to the edge of the marsh. The edge of the marsh of Two Tree Island generally has at least a 1m drop.

Note: At the marsh edge south of the eastern bird watching hut is an old marker stump, visible as you pass, but not on the way back.  It is close into the bank and in a shoal area of cord grass. I have not considered it a hazard – just be aware – especially on the top of the tide when it can be covered. (This has all but disappeared into the marsh grasses by 2011.)

By the No. 3A Green Buoy, bank to bank sailing can be enjoyed.

At the western end of Marks Marsh, the buoyage heads for the northern bank (and the old jetty).  Beware of the southern end of the area of High Mud – another Horse – plenty of water lays to the south of No. 4, 6 and 8 Red Buoys. To the north bank, one can tack virtually up to the marsh edge under the seawall. Good water continues up to a post on this north bank, roughly in line with No.10 Red Buoy.

At the No.8 Red Buoy, the channel moves generally SW to the southern bank.

Note the Yellow Race Buoy – used by BYC dinghy fleet. The creek bed in this area is wide and, generally, is a shallow basin.

The bank along the edge of the Canvey Island marshes is steep to. The Green Buoys are more or less in or on the northern edge of the rill. The mud bank slopes gradually to the marsh edge on the northern side.  Note the White Race Buoy. It is relatively shallow over in that direction. By 2011 a shallow swatch had appeared along the northern marsh edge just to the south of the race buoy. (Note: the tide will have made for some 1/2 to 1 hour by this time since leaving Smallgains depending upon speed over the ground.)

Once the BYC outer trot moorings are reached, unless a fair breeze exists, sailing further is not advisable… When able, I generally sail straight down between the two trots, where there is some 1.5m of water, 1 hour before HW mid range tides.

The deep water channel, buoyed passage, turns to the northern bank from No.11 Green Buoy. It is then buoyed with Reds and Greens on both sides. A seriously high bank of mud creeps sits in midstream, just to the north of the two mooring trots, culminating in a high mud bank (Horse), upon which a post is sometimes set immediately in the vicinity of No. 20 Red Buoy. So Beware. The post is not always in place…

From No.20 Red Buoy, the channel turns sharply south. And at No. 17 Green Buoy, it again turns back to a westerly direction. From this point, the clear water runs between the moorings along the marsh edge and the trot.

With a fair breeze, it is possible to sail up past the BYC, turn prior to reaching the pontoons of Dauntless Boat Yard and sail back to Smallgains. It is possible to complete this in time to reach ‘home’ waters at or just after HW.

Weather note: In fairly strong winds of NW- ENE 4-5, or 6, it can become gusty and fluky off the hills – but it makes for a grand sail.

Disclaimer! This information is what it is and I take no responsibility for inaccuracies, changes or any other matter. I will endeavour to post changes as and when noted.


Bon Voyage.

Nick Ardley



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