For those relatively new to this estuary and for those who have been around for a while.....

Here’s my quick guide to this fascinating, sometimes challenging, river. A river which repays ongoing study!

  1. Around HW we have an almost land-locked lake. Its 3-4 miles long, and about ¾ mile wide.
  2. We can sail excellent races and good cruises on this short-lived lake, provided the weather holds fair.
  3. However, HW doesn’t last that long. The river’s characteristics change throughout the tidal cycle.
  4. The river’s characteristics vary considerably depending where you are on the river.
  5. The river’s characteristics vary with wind strength and direction.
  6. Sandbanks, channels and channel depths can change with time: by river action, by storm action.
  7. Near the club, the tide can ebb or flow quickly. The rate of flow at springs can be more than double that at neaps.
  8. Downstream, around buoy 17, say, the tide can flow even quicker, and in several directions. Unused mooring buoys can get submerged by the flow.
  9. Around Warren Point (the narrowest part) it can flow so fast that you can actually HEAR the water flows tumbling over each other.
  10. Upstream of SYC, the river eventually gets narrower, and there are many moorings at Topsham. Further on, upstream of the M5 bridge, the river is ‘inland’ and is almost permanently on the ebb, with the wind effected by land or buildings.


All tidal rivers have special characters of their own. Don’t expect to immediately understand every little feature of the Exe, but try to comprehend its main characteristics and moods, so that you can make sound safety decisions.
For example, if you are venturing downstream for the first time, choose a neap tide....

Roger