Ways to Explore the Coast Under Sail

Explore the UK Coast of Maritime Britain

As an island nation I think we sometimes take our coastline for granted in the UK. The Germans and the Dutch get it. You see them striding along our SW Coast Path in awe of the rugged terrain, scenery and mining history. In Scotland the Americans and Canadians can’t wait to get ashore and stand within a ruined castle or bronze age fort. The East Coast has a mystique, oysters and big skies that draws the French, art lovers and gourmets. We Brits generally head for the beach.

As sailors there is a temptation to only think of the coast as a series of headlands to get around and bays to sail across to get to the next port. If the wind dies we might make a foray close to the shore to find a beach to anchor off, but how often do we truly connect with the coast and the communities that live there?

Mostly its about time and priorities. What do you want from a sailing voyage?  Do you want to get intimate with a stretch of coastline…. or just gain an appreciation of a coastal landscape as a backdrop whilst having a cracking good sail?

More than Just Looking at the Scenery – Connect with the Coastal Culture

If you are visiting the UK, or if you live here and are looking for a different way to explore your own country, then we think a sailing holiday where you live on board with a skipper as your guide is the best way to connect with our incredible coastline. Helping sail a historic sailing ship or wooden you can relate to the everyday folk from past centuries that fished, traded and set off to find new lands. If you want a more contemporary understanding of UK coastal communities then why not get involved in delivering small cargoes between local producers, cafes and restaurants along the coast on Grayhound.

Unloading wine in Charlestown - the port used in BBC Poldark series.
Unloading wine in Charlestown – the port used in BBC Poldark series.

So what type of Classic Sailing voyage will give you the coastal adventure you are looking for? We think there are 3 types:

Voyage Type 1: Coastal Wandering Voyages

  • Are you the sort of person who seeks out the sea and coast to chill out and decompress from a frenetic life?
  • Do you want a break from tight itineraries and deadlines?
  • Is the only ‘rush’ you want is when a good breeze pips up and everyone rushes to set more sail?
  • Do you want to have time to wander lonely as a cloud along a shoreline once the ship is safely anchored?
  • Prefer not to beat to windward when there is a more inviting destination you could head for on a beam reach?

Then we recommend you choose a ‘coastal wandering voyage’ on our website.

We have only just coined the phrase, but we think the search term ‘Coastal wandering’  most aptly applies to voyages that start and finish at the same port. You could get the same relaxed style of anchorage hopping on a voyage along the coast between a start and end port, but only if there are spare days built in for flexibility if the winds are on the nose.

The magic works particularly well in a location where the boat crew are local experts on what to see and do. It can be a short break in Suffolk or Cornwall or a week long ‘tour’ around favourite Hebridean islands and mainland lochs.

We also have similar coastal wandering voyages that have no particular itinerary in other locations around the world. This is where a vessel and crew are in home waters or have developed a seasonal base they visit regularly. They know the seas and the coastline and have tested some adventures you can do ashore themselves. They can’t wait to show you their favourite sailing ground.

Coastal Wandering Voyages – UK & Europe 


Agnes anchored off Mullion Cove on the Lizard
Agnes anchored off Mullion Cove. There are sea caves.

Voyage Type 2: Meet the locals in Coastal Ports on a Cargo Voyage

We wish to dispel the perception that the sailing cargo voyages on Grayhound Sailing Lugger are all about crossing the channel. In actual fact the 90-100 mile Channel crossing can be all too brief. Grayhound skipper Marcus is rather efficient at picking the right weather window to make a fast passage and you might be back in coastal waters within 11-12 hours.

On a 7 day voyage you then have quite a bit of coastal sailing in Brittany or the West Country, with the perfect excuse stop in small ports, anchor for a swim or drop off a small cargo and meet the locals.  In particular the voyages beginning in Douarnenez and sailing to Cornish Ports via the Isles of Scilly create a real sense of purpose and you can meet the café, restaurant, farm shop owners that have the vision to buy organic French Wine with a low carbon footprint. You can be proud that the cargo you delivered was transported by wind, tide and your physical sail handling efforts.  Many of the cargo buyers have waterfront premises like Dibble and Grub on Porth Cressa Beach in the Scillies. A cause for a wee celebration in every port we think.


3 -10th Sept 2018 – Grayhound – Penzance to DZ


17 – 24th Sept 2018 – Grayhound – DZ to Falmouth 


Hard not to attract local attention delivering Devon Ale by sailing lugger
Hard not to attract local attention delivering Devon Ale by sailing lugger

Voyage Type 3: Coastal Journeys Under Sail

Coastal Journeys are a type of Classic Sailing voyage that follow the coast. They start in one port and end in another offer a real exploration journey where there are new sights around every headland. You won’t get bored on these coastal voyages as they generally intend to stop on route (unlike an ocean voyage) and there is a shared sense of purpose to get to the next new port or anchorage. It might involve night sailing or entering or leaving a port in the dark to catch a tide. There will be potentially more challenge and navigational choices to make. The ports visited may be new to the skipper so more detailed pilotage is needed. These voyages are great for intermediate sailors and those interested in voyage planning choices and navigation. The also appeal to romantic beginners and those who feel a sailing vessel should be travelling somewhere rather than anywhere. 

The voyage might involve night sailing or entering or leaving a port in the dark to catch a tide. Expect longer days sailing or overnight passages and a watch keeping system so everyone gets structured rest periods. There will be potentially more challenge and navigational choices to make. The ports visited may be new to the skipper so more detailed pilotage is needed. These voyages are great for intermediate sailors and those interested in voyage planning choices and navigation.

You do need to read each voyage description carefully as there is a big range in the coastal journey type voyages from summer cruising to epics. Generally the more miles there is to cover between start and final end port, the longer the passages are likely to be between intermediary stops. This is why we have resisted calling them ‘coastal hopping voyages’ because the ‘hops’ could be quite exciting sailing and blur the line between coastal and offshore passages.

The Classic Sailing office team try to give you an idea of the pace of the voyage, likely length of the passages and where you might stop in the timescale in our website voyage descriptions, but they can only ever be our experienced guess of what might be in the actual skippers plan that week.


Coastal Sailing Voyages Around the UK


With a coastal voyage that aims to sail from A to B, the skipper will have ‘getting there in time for the end date’ at the back of their mind. Plans can change frequently with weather forecasts, and he or she will also be looking to maximise opportunities to have a great time on route. As guest crew you need to have a flexible approach to go with every sail change, or decision to use the ‘donkey’ (engine) if that is the only way to make progress. As all our vessels are there for you to have a holiday on these journeys, they are generally designed with plenty of time to get to the end port in a pleasant way but the pace of the voyage will be more challenging and hours sailing typically longer than our coastal wandering voyages.

Tall Ship Tecla in Scotland every Spring
Tall Ship Tecla in Scotland every Spring

When does coastal sailing become ‘offshore’ ?

If a voyage from A to B involves sailing more than 12 miles from the coast (i.e. a point where you might start to go out of sight of land) then it becomes an offshore passage rather than an inshore coastal passage.  A lot of our voyages that take you on a journey between ports, involve a mix of coastal hopping in sight of land and longer offshore passages like Land’s End to Pembrokeshire or a Channel crossing before exploring Brittany coast or delivering cargoes. 

If you are relatively new to sailing or prone to seasickness, then choosing the right coastal journey is not always easy. This is when you would really benefit from ringing Mel, Becky, Debbie or Adam for a frank assessment of what voyage might be best to ‘stretch you’ but not stress you. Ring 0044(0)1872 580022

Or you can read more via the link below about whether you might be ready for a coastal passage making voyage, including a realistic discussion on seasickness.


Coastal Sailing Journeys as your Next Sailing Experience



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